3110. Robert Southey to John Murray [fragment], 3 April 1818

3110. Robert Southey to John Murray [fragment], 3 April 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 3 April 1818.

My dear Sir

Thank you for the Congo-Journals: – a dismal story! [1]  However much what you say about politics might accord with my own inclinations now that the foreign enemy is subdued, & we have obtained something like a respite from the domestic one, I have yet my doubts how far the total withdrawal of at such topics would suit the interests of your Review. For it must not be forgotten that the Review has fought its way up by fighting the battles of the country & of the Government. Depend upon it that your silence would be highly satisfactory to the Edinburghers, [2]  & highly to their advantage, – there is no occasion to seek for political subjects, & it would be worse than folly to enter into mere party questions, – but upon momentous points (remember that we are living in perilous times!) – your Review is a great power in this country, which is felt & feared as well as hated by a set of wretches who are not the less dangerous because they are at once low & loathsome: & that power ought not to lie idle when it can be employed to counteract their machinations, still more to {less when it can} encourage the well-affected, & prepare the way for measures which upon which the very xxxxxxx of preservation of society may depend.

I say this without the slightest reference to any papers which you might possibly suppose that I had planned upon political subjects. And now let me state what I am preparing for you.

First a short article upon Haydons pamphlett on the Encouragement of Painting. This is an object which I have it much at heart to promote, & your Review, as I said just now, is a great power in the country. [3] 

Monachism in G Britain – an historical article for which I have some rare materials at hand, & shall have more whenever my long expected books from Brussels arrive. [4]  The end of this paper is to enforce the fitness, practicability & necessity of forming some such modified institutions for women, a most important subject.

Greenland & the Moravian Missions. [5]  George 3. [6]  Portugueze Africa, [7]  – Huntingdon the Sinner Saved, [8]  {New Zealand} [9]  – & the Catacombs. [10]  Subjects you see in abundance. – Besides which there are subjects enough in French, Spanish, Portugueze & Italian literature to which I am fully competent & for which the materials are at hand, – for I have a richer library than ever was possessed by so poor a man. With regard to English literature if I live to clear off the works in hand, which three or four years will do, I shall think seriously of writing the literary history of England upon a wide scale such as the subject requires. [11] 

Your last number was a very entertaining one upon the whole. But it is unfortunate that Barrow who is so able a man, & himself so admirable a traveller will allow no merit to any book of travels. I am told by men upon whose judgement & nautical science I can implicitly rely, that Lt Chappells book is really an able & meritorious work. [12]  And on former occasions Barrow has more than once spoken cruelly of travels which I had read with great profit & great delight & should have praised accordingly, had they past thro my hands. The only thing which can raise the reputation of the Q. R. is to correct its temper [remainder of MS missing]


* Watermark: [partial] R E & S
Endorsement: 1818 Apr Southey
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551. AL; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, p. 181–182. BACK

[1] James Hingston Tuckey (1776–1816; DNB), Narrative of an Expedition to Explore the River Zaire, Usually Called the Congo, in South Africa, in 1816, Under the Direction of Captain J.K. Tuckey, R.N. To Which is Added, The Journal of Professor Smith; Some General Observations on the Country and its Inhabitants (1818), published by Murray. Tuckey, and most of the officers and scientists, had died of fever during the expedition. BACK

[2] The Edinburgh Review (1802–1929), the main Whig quarterly journal. BACK

[3] Southey reviewed in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591, Haydon’s New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818). BACK

[4] Southey’s article ‘British Monachism’ appeared in the Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 59–102. He was expecting the arrival of the massive compendium of hagiographies, the Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), which became no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[5] A review, entitled ‘Ancient and Modern Greenland’, appeared in the Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 480–496 (published 9 June 1818), but it was by Francis Palgrave, not Southey. BACK

[6] Southey’s proposed overview of the reign of George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB) was not written. BACK

[7] This article was not written. BACK

[8] William Huntington (1745–1813; DNB), a coalheaver turned Calvinist preacher, who believed he would, on Judgement Day, be revealed as a prophet. Huntington became a popular, and rich, preacher in London, despite being accused of antinomianism. Southey’s review of The Works of the Reverend William Huntington, S.S. Minister of the Gospel, at Providence Chapel, Gray’s Inn Lane, completed to the close of the Year 1806 appeared in Quarterly Review, 24 (January 1821), 462–510. BACK

[9] Southey did not write on New Zealand in the Quarterly Review. BACK

[10] Southey’s article ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’ appeared in Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819),359–398. BACK

[11] This project was not realised. BACK

[12] John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), Murray’s main reviewer of travel writing, had, as was his wont, found fault with the author in his review of Lieutenant Edward Chappell (1792–1861), Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson’s Bay, in His Majesty’s Ship Rosamond, Containing Some Account of the North-Eastern Coast of America, and of the Tribes Inhabiting that Remote Region (1817), Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 199–223. BACK

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