3093. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 15 March 1818

3093. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 15 March 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 15 March. 1818.

Mr Greenough (an Ex M.P.) has lent me a Guarani Grammar & Dictionary, both printed in one of the Reductions, & as such the greatest typographical curiosities which have ever yet fallen in my way. [1]  As I possess two Tupi grammars, [2]  I shall bestow a little time upon them, sufficient to show the character of these languages. They are evidently much ruder than the only two xxxxx negro languages [3]  with which I can compare them, – so much so, as to confirm me in the opinion that Africa the barbarous xxxxxxxxxx <Institutions> in Africa are proofs of former civilization. Humboldt in this last translated volume speaks of the American languages; [4]  – his views are always wide, but his knowledge is not always deep.

Dr Nott, whom you may know something of, as he dates from the Close, Winchester [5]  offers to lend me Lozano’s Hist. of Paraguay. [6]  Better late than never. Dobrizhoffer came to hand a fortnight ago, in good time, & I am reading him thro, more at leisure, & with more knowledge of what to appropriate, than when I borrowed the book ten years ago. [7]  Of all my numerous documents this is by the far the most amusing: – it is indeed one of the most curious & interesting books that I ever perused, – yet it has never been translated into any language except German, – partly perhaps because those persons who live by the trade of translating are not fond of meddling with Latin. [8] 

I thought I had told you of my writing to Ostervald from the inn at Manheim. That letter was to give him such an account of his friends, as I should have done vivâ voce had I met with him; – in speaking of you, I told him what use had been made of your collections respecting Brazil, & added that if he would inform me thro what channel they might be conveyed, the books should be sent to him; – this it was which produced the letter from his nephew at St Quintins. [9]  I sent Roderic with it, & Kosters Travels. [10] 

My Critic in the Quarterly, if he intended to do me a kindness, had much better have left me alone. [11]  There is much meaning in the old proverb that prays God to protect us from our friends. He has exemplified in his reviewal the sort of history which he thinks I ought to have written, – a caput mortuum [12]  of results. He has had no other knowledge of the subject than what he gathered from the book before him, – & in one or two places has contrived to misunderstand that.

I sent off a farther portion of mss. [13]  yesterday, in hope of spurring Pople, who keeps me upon a short allowance of proof sheets. I am finishing a chapter respecting the insurrection in Paraguay & expulsion of the Jesuits 1720–30. [14]  matter which must be compressed as much as possible. Charlevoix [15]  is my only authority. I learn from him that Ulloa touches upon the subject, but I have only the translation of Ulloa, which has been mutilated, & of course, the parts which are wanted, have been left out as useless. [16]  These Jesuit-matters I have blended with the proper business of Brazil, so as to show the connection when I can. – I am yet unable to understand why the Portugueze should have been desirous to exchange Colonia for the Uruguay Reductions; – or having consented to the exchange, why they should have been drawn back from it. [17]  Dobrizhoffer supposes G. Freire to have been the prime adviser of this measure; & says that he proceeded in the expectation of finding rich mines in the ceded territory; but that when he found this expectation disappointed then he endeavoured to annul the arrangement. [18]  This is not likely, – the Paulistas [19]  knew the mining ground better.

My box is not yet come. [20]  There is a life of Carlos 3. [21]  in it, in Italian, which may possibly contain some useful information respecting the Anti-Portugueze feeling with which he began his reign, & the expulsion of the Jesuits. Next to Peramas, [22]  Dobrizhoffer is the best printed authority upon this subject, – but I have a rich ms. of Goodens, [23]  which includes the proceedings in Maranham as well as Paraguay. It is really surprizing to see the quantity of materials upon such a which are collected in such a corner of the world as this, respecting so distant a part of xxx it, & those materials all of them so rare, & some of them unique. I anticipate the pleasure of writing the peroration.

We are going on well, thank God; – & I, nothing the worse for having my fire side propensities favoured by bad weather. Your hurricanes have not extended to us. I hope the air of Hampshire agrees with my namesake, & the other Orsini. [24]  Love to my Aunt.

God bless you


Lord Holland, I hear, is much pleased with the manner in which his book has been treated. [25]  – I am vexed to see how the D. of B. [26]  in the madness of faction flounders from one folly to another! – Derwent Coleridge is gone as tutor to some little boys, whose mother (Mrs Hopwood) is the sister of your friend Lady John Russell. [27] 


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Worting Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: 10 o’Clock/ MR 18/ 1818 FNn
Seal: red wax, design illegible
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 165. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] See Robert Southey to [George Bellas Greenough], 10 April 1818, Letter 3116. Southey returned the books and Greenough donated them to the British Museum. They were two works compiled by a Jesuit missionary to the Guarani people and printed in South America: Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (1585–1652), Vocabulario de la Lengua Guarani (1722) and Arte de la Lengua Guarani (1724). BACK

[2] José de Anchieta (1534–1597), Arte de Grammatica da Lingoa mais Usada na Costa do Brasil (1595), no. 1530 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; Luis Figueira (1573–1643), Arte da Grammatica do Lingua Brasilica (1621). Southey acquired an edition of 1687, no. 3396 in the sale catalogue of his library. He had also seen an edition of 1795, edited by Jose Mariano da Conceicao Velloso (1742–1811), which he had been lent by the merchant Thomas Kinder (c. 1781–1846), who had lived in South America 1808–1810. BACK

[3] Southey possessed Henry Brunton (d. 1812), A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Susoo Language (1802), no. 1231 in the sale catalogue of his library (Susu is a trade language of coastal Guinea). It is not clear what the other ‘negro language’ was of which he possessed some knowledge; it might have been Sranan Tongo, the creole language of Surinam, described in Henry Bolingbroke (1785–1855; DNB), A Voyage to the Demerary (1807), a book that had been revised and edited by William Taylor; see Southey to John May, 5 December 1810, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Four, Letter 1835. BACK

[4] Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent During the Years 1799–1804, 6 vols (London, 1814–1826), III, pp. 207–302, no. 1463 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. The translator was Helen Maria Williams. BACK

[5] George Frederick Nott (1767–1841; DNB), scholar, theologian and Prebendary of Winchester Cathedral 1810–1841. Herbert Hill’s parish of Streatham was in the Diocese of Winchester and his wife’s family were from Hampshire. BACK

[6] Pedro Lozano (1697–1752), Historia de la Compañia de Jesús en la Provincia del Paraguay (1754–1755). Southey thanked Nott for the loan of this book in History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. vi–vii, recording that Nott was unknown to him. BACK

[7] Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus, Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784), no. 843 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey had made extensive transcriptions from a copy that Scott had borrowed from the Advocates Library, Edinburgh in early 1809. BACK

[8] Dobrizhoffer had published in Latin but was a German speaker. A translation into German was produced by Anton Kreil (d. 1833), Geschichte der Abiponer, Einer Berittenen und Kriegerischen Nation in Paraquay (Vienna, 1783–1784). Southey encouraged first Derwent and then Sara Coleridge to translate Dobrizhoffer into English, and the latter’s Account of the Abipones was published by Murray in 1822. Southey reviewed it positively in the Quarterly Review, 26 (January 1822), 277–323. Southey’s 1825 poem A Tale of Paraguay was based on Dobrizhoffer’s narrative. BACK

[9] On 23 December 1817 (Letter 3056), Southey had apprised Herbert Hill of his letter to Jean Frederic Ostervald (1773–1850), a Swiss who served as British charge d’affaires in Portugal in the early 1790s. His nephew was possibly M. Harlè (dates unknown), a merchant at St Quentin. BACK

[10] Southey’s epic poem, set in Spain, Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814); Henry Koster, Travels in Brazil (1816). BACK

[11] The second volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819) was reviewed in Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 99–128, by Reginald Heber. BACK

[12] Literally the ‘Dead head’; the worthless remains left over from an experiment in alchemy. BACK

[13] Southey was sending to the printer copy for the third and final volume of his History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[14] Chapter 35, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 211–245. This dealt with the Revolt of the Comuneros 1720–1725, 1730–1735, a series of insurrections against Jesuit influence by local landowners and peasants. BACK

[15] Pierre Francois-Xavier de Charlevoix (1682–1761), Histoire de Paraguay (1756), no. 645 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[16] Antonio de Ulloa y de la Torre-Giralt (1716–1795) travelled to South America in order to compile a confidential report for the Spanish government on the state of its colonies. After the voyage he pubished Relación Histórica del Viaje á la América Meridional (1784). Southey owned the English version, Voyage to South America (1806), no. 2927 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[17] Here Southey goes on to discuss the contents of Chapter 39, History of Brazil, 3 vols (1810–1819), III, pp. 442–504; in particular the Treaty of Madrid (1750) between Spain and Portugal, as part of which Portugal gained seven Jesuit settlements on the left bank of the River Uruguay and gave up its claims to ‘Nova Colonia’ or Sacramento, in modern Uruguay. This part of the Treaty was reversed in 1761, only to be reinstated in 1777. BACK

[18] António Gomes Freire de Andrade (1685–1763), Governor and Captain-General of Rio de Janeiro 1733–1763. Southey discusses this suggestion at History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 449–450. BACK

[19] Inhabitants of Sao Paulo who explored the interior of South America in the 17th century. BACK

[20] The box containing Southey’s book purchases in Milan in June 1817. BACK

[21] Francesco Becattini (c. 1740– c. 1820), Storia del Regno di Carlo III di Borbone (1790), no. 142 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Charles III (1716–1788; King of Spain 1759–1788) was responsible for war against Portugal in 1762–1763 and the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. BACK

[22] Josephus Emmanuel Peramas (1732–1793), De Vita et Moribus Sex Sacerdotum et Tredecim Variorum Paraguaycorum (1791), no. 2209 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[23] Southey thanked Gooden for lending him ‘the Life of F. Joam d’Almeida, among other books, and a manuscript Apology for the Jesuits in Paraguay and Maranham, of great importance’ in his History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, p. [v]. BACK

[24] Herbert Hill’s final child, born on 10 November 1817, was christened Robert Southey Hill. The ‘Orsini’ were the baby’s older siblings. BACK

[25] Southey’s review of Lord Holland, Some Account of the Lives and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, and Guillen de Castro (1817) was published in Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 1–46. BACK

[26] John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766–1839; DNB), a prominent Whig, had sent £100 to aid the defence costs of William Hone, who was prosecuted by the crown in three separate trials 18–20 December 1817 on the grounds that his radical satires, which parodied the Church of England’s litany and the Athanasian Creed, constituted blasphemous libel. Furthermore, when he learned that Thomas de Grey, 3rd Lord Grantham (1781–1859) had, on political grounds, been appointed Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire in preference to himself, he resigned his Deputy Lieutenancy for the county in a letter to Grantham of 17 February 1818 that became public; see the Morning Chronicle, 11 March 1818. Nevertheless, the Duke had appointed Herbert Hill as Rector of Streatham, so Southey’s remarks were a little injudicious. BACK

[27] Derwent Coleridge lived 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). However she was a first cousin, rather than a sister, 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). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


JSON What's this?
As you're browsing RC, you might see small buttons scattered on various pages. These buttons let you download that page's content in a ready-to-use data file! Learn more on our RC Data page.