3085. Robert Southey to Henry Koster, [c. late February 1818]

3085. Robert Southey to Henry Koster, [c. late February 1818] ⁠* 

My dear Koster,

I thank you for your narrative, you can very well understand how deep an interest it would excite in me. [1]  When you come home, it will form a valuable part of your second volume, [2]  you may look forward to this with good encouragement, Longman writes me word that your second edition is doing well.

You will think it strange that there should be any difficulty in procuring a Chaplain, nor could I have believed it, without so shocking a proof. The Bp. of London informs me that he cannot provide one for Bahia (where the salary is 500£) and that he has a great many appointments in the West Indies which he cannot fill. [3]  He asked me to recommend a person if I knew one. I thought of James White (the brother of Kirke and Neville) and proposed it to him, but if his own inclination had been stronger, his Mother’s [4]  life and state of health would have been objection enough. And here the matter rests. The difficulty arises from a vice in the very nature of our establishment, which I once touched upon in the Q. Review, [5]  – that men go into the Church only at one age, and then because they are bred to it, as others to the Law or the Army: the door is shut (by custom tho not by laws) against those persons among whom the Roman Catholics and the Methodists recruit their most efficient troops, men in middle life, who from deliberate choice, and a conviction of the vanity of worldly pursuits (which oftentimes nothing but affliction and experience will produce) devote themselves to the service of God and their brethren, and are ready to go wherever they may be useful. I am still making enquiry.

My third volume is coming on steadily and well. [6]  Your M.S. concerning the insurrection of 1711 has been very useful, and the next proof will begin with it. [7]  Perhaps you may be able to inform me, in time for the supplementary notes, whether the Bernardo Vieira of these troubles, [8]  were related to Joam Fernandes, [9]  and who were the two persons who were degraded to India, the manuscript was written before the sentence was known, and Rocha Pitta who writes thro thick and thin in favour of the Pernambucans, conceals their names. [10] 

I see my way distinctly to the end, and shall soon be meeting the Moxo and Chiquito Missions from Cuyaba, Matto Grosso and Para – by the Madeira. [11]  Every day I am wishing you were here to see my progress, and observe how my scattered materials fit together. I have collected much curious matter about the Mines, [12]  indeed I believe there will be more original matter in this volume than ever appeared in any similar work: yet I am fully sensible how imperfect it must needs be. All information in printed documents ends with the Jesuits, and except as regards them, fifty years sooner. [13]  After their expulsion the only historical paper I possess relates to a projected revolution in the Minas Geraes in 1792. [14]  To fill up this gap there is nothing but the names of the Governors, so here of course I must bring in the picture of manners etc., and the main difficulty will be to keep within the limits of the volume, for loving the fullest information myself, prolixity of matter (not of manner) is the sin which most easily besets me. [15]  What a relief it will to be when this arduous work is completed, which, God willing, it will be in the course of the summer.

Probably I may have something to send you before this quarto is thro the press, for you know it is my way to have many irons in the fire, the one keeps the other hot, and the same fire serves. By way of episode I am getting on with a life of Wesley, which in itself will be a very considerable work, containing much of our intellectual and religious history for the last hundred years, and following Methodism wherever it has travelled. [16] 

If this application about Maranham [17]  should prove successful, you will very likely be able to obtain information, there, concerning the back settlement, and what has been the effects (perhaps) of the Spanish Missions in the heart of S. America. I suppose, like those of the Portuguese up the Orillana, [18]  they have gone to wreck since the expulsion.

We have had a wet and windy winter which is less disagreeable than a cold one, but it has peeled the rough cast from half the house in Keswick, and this among the rest. We are left to ourselves as usual in these months, and see nobody whatever but Westall, who lodges at the bottom of the garden, and is as much devoted to his pursuits and as unremitting in them, as I am in mine. He has very nearly completed some masterly prints of the Caves in Yorkshire, which will be followed by a series of views of this country; our scenery will for the first time be treated by a man who can do it full justice. [19] 

Calvert is gone to place his eldest son at Harrow, and wishes to let his house. [20] Derwent having left school is gone to act as tutor in a family who live near Ulverstone, a very fortunate situation for the next two years, if anything should enable him to get to Cambridge at the end of that time. [21]  As for public news, the best is that there is none of any interest: – the usual sort of factitious opposition in Parliament, and preparations for a General Election. I am sorry for Mina, very sorry, but by no means sorry that the revolutionary party in Mexico should be suppressed. [22]  That South American war is of such a nature, that we might wish it terminated in any way, but were I to choose the way, it would be by reestablishing the authority of the Mother country: we are sure that old evils would be mitigate, if not removed entirely, and God knows the world wants no more examples of successful Revolution. Let us but keep things quiet, and more good will be done in the next half century than has ever been accomplished in an equal number of years.

All here desire to be kindly remembered,

God bless you,

Robert Southey.


* MS: Instituto Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro; text taken from Sousa-Leão
Previously published: Joaquim de Sousa-Leão, ‘Cartas de Robert Southey a Theodore Koster e Henry Koster, anos de 1804 a 1819’, Revista do Instituto Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, 178 (1943), 53–56.
Dating note: This letter was written shortly after the news of General Mina’s execution appeared in London newspapers on 24 February 1818. BACK

[1] Koster had sent Southey an account of the insurrection of March–May 1817 against Portuguese rule in Pernambuco, of which Koster had been an eye-witness. BACK

[2] Koster’s Travels in Brazil (1816) went into a second edition in 1817, but his death in 1820 prevented him writing a sequel. BACK

[3] Through Koster, the English expatriate community in Pernambuco had sent Southey a letter requesting his help in securing for them a chaplain, rather than directly approaching the church authorities. Discovering that responsibility for such appointments lay with the Bishop of London, Southey was endeavouring to help. BACK

[4] Mary White, née Neville (1756–1833). BACK

[5] Southey’s ‘On the Poor’, Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 187–235 (228–229). BACK

[6] The third volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[7] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, p. vi, thanked Koster for providing a transcription of ‘Guerra Civil ou Sedissoens de Pernambuco Exemplo Memoravel aos vindouros 1710’, no. 3840 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. This manuscript dealt with the Mascate War or ‘War of the Peddlers’ in Pernambuco in 1710–1711, covered in History of Brazil, III, pp. 85–107. BACK

[8] Bernardo Vieira de Mello (1658–1714), leader of the insurrection at Pernambuco in 1710–1711. BACK

[9] Joam Fernandes Vieira (1613–1681), leader of the Portuguese colonists of Pernambuco in their fight against the Dutch in the 1630s and 1640s, was not related to Bernardo Vieira de Mello. BACK

[10] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 106–107. Southey was not able to find out the names of these two rebels and inserted a note condemning the treatment of the rebellion by Sebastião da Rocha Pita (1660–1738), Historia da America Portugeza, desde o Anno 1500 de su Discobrimento até o de 1724 (1730), no. 3624 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[11] The Jesuit mission stations among the Indians of the Brazilian and Paraguayan interior are described in Chapter 34, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 162–210. BACK

[12] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 40–64, 262–285. BACK

[13] The Jesuit order was expelled from Brazil in 1759 and from Paraguay in 1767. BACK

[14] This conspiracy was the Inconfidencia Mineira – the leaders were arrested in 1789. Southey related the events in History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 679–686. The manuscript account Southey employed was ‘Sentenca que os da Alcada do Rio de Janeiro profferiraó contra os Reos da Alta Traicao e Rebeliaó, em 1792 – Praticada nas Minas Geraes’, no. 3848 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[15] The final chapter, Chapter 44, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 696–870, provided a ‘View of the State of Brazil’. BACK

[16] The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[17] Koster was applying for the position of British Consul in Maranhao. The current office holder was Robert Hesketh (1789–1868), British Consul in Maranhao 1812–1832. BACK

[18] The river Amazon. BACK

[19] Westall’s Views of the Caves near Ingleton, Gordale Scar, and Malham Cove, in Yorkshire (1818). Westall next published Views of the Lake and of the Vale of Keswick (1820), with a preface by Southey. BACK

[20] The house that William Calvert had built and wished to let was Greta Bank. BACK

[21] Derwent Coleridge had gone to live with the Hopwood family, well-connected Lancashire landowners, at Summerhill, near Ulverston 1817–1819. Robert Gregge Hopwood (1773–1854) had married in 1805 Cecilia Elizabeth Byng (1770–1854), daughter of John Byng, 5th Viscount Torrington (1743–1813). She was a first cousin of Georgiana Byng (1768–1801), first wife of Lord John Russell, later the 6th Duke of Bedford (1766–1839; DNB). Lady Russell had lived in Lisbon for two years for her health and was known to Herbert Hill. Derwent Coleridge was tutor to the Hopwoods’ sons: Edward (1807–1891); Frank (1810–1890); and Hervey (1811–1881). He continued in this post until December 1819, later becoming an undergraduate at St John’s College, Cambridge. BACK

[22] Marti Javier Mina y Larrea (1789–1817), a leader of Spanish guerrilla forces against the French occupation 1808–1810. He fled Spain after a failed insurrection against the absolutist government in 1814 and sailed to Mexico in May 1816 to join the fight for Mexican independence. He was executed by Spanish forces on 11 November 1817, though this news was not published in the London newspapers until much later, e.g. Morning Chronicle, 24 February 1818. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)


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