3114. Robert Southey to John Murray, 8 April 1818

3114. Robert Southey to John Murray, 8 April 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 8 April. 1818.

My dear Sir

What I would do about Haydons pamphlett requires no knowledge of the Art, & will have the better effect as manifestly coming from one who is no artist, & therefore above all suspicion of interested motives. I want only to enforce the call for public patronage, – that is to say national & government-patronage, without which the highest branch of the art can only be pursued in this xx country, by men so careless of every thing but their art, that they go headlong to ruin & misery with their eyes open. I want to get pictures into our churches & public buildings, – & to press this upon those xx in whose power it is (& who I verily believe do not want the inclination) by eulogizing them for what they have done, – for what they are doing, – & for what they will do. Not to complain of neglect; – not to reproach the age, or any person or set of person, – but to put them in good humour with themselves by that sort of deserved panegyric {of} which every man will take his share, & so to xx win their good will to the proposals – or rather hints, which will be {are} administered in such a form. Half a dozen pages will do this, – something like a triumphal oration upon the glories of this our Country in this our ages, – & saying that this is the only thing wanting to make us the first people in every thing. [1] 

You had better let me have the Evelyn papers, as was proposed long since. Evelyn both as a man & an author is one of my favourites. [2] 

Courtenays pamphlett did not reach me in time, – but when the proofs of the Melioration of the Poor arrive I will insert something in praise of it, this is a kind of obligation due to a man whom I know & respect & wish to gratify, – when his book will fairly admit of it. [3] 

Your Greenland article [4]  may very likely forestall mine, – for mine would have been drawn in part from Egedes Account of Greenland. [5]  Surely his journal (tho I have never seen it) has been published these fifty years. Greenland & the Moravaian Mission there were my intended subject: no matter if it stand over, or if it be set aside.

You had a poor article upon the English drama some time ago, [6]  – which ought not to preclude a better one – some time hence.

I had nearly forgotten to say express a wish for doing what few other persons would like to undertake, – a wish to notice the Scriptores Rerum Hibernicarum, [7]  – an incomparable book of its kind. I shall have the second volume which is nearly finished as soon as it comes out, & Wynn I believe will procure for me the account catalogue (by O Connor also) which is now printing, of the Stowe manuscripts. I know nothing of Dr O Connor, & nothing of the Marquis of Buckingham, – but this is a munificent xxx act of patronage well xxx directed patronage, & an admirable monument of judicious industry & full erudition: both of which God knows, are so rare, that when they thus occur they deserve all the praise I can give them.

My dear Sir give all the praise in your review that can honestly be given. Why should we not make a man happy, & serve him perhaps essentially at the same time, when we can do it, & at so cheap a rate? – It is both unjust & cruel to withhold from this from an author when he deserves it. – The cursed system of acrimonious criticism has prevailed too generally & too long: keep it for the culprits of literature, for pretenders in xxxx {philosophy} incendiaries in politics, scoffers in religion, – those who lay unhallowed hands upon the ark. These are our natural enemies, & may they always continue so! But any undue severity, any gratuitous attack, – any xxx wound wantonly inflicted makes a man your enemy, when he might as well have been your friend. – Above all let us do ample justice to those who are most obnoxious: – more than justice has been done to Bp Watson [8]  ([MS obscured] him personally) – this is erring on the right side: less than justice was done to Leigh Hunt, [9]  a conceited writer, & a villainous man of the most villainous principles, – but of no inconsiderable powers. Let us differ from the Edinburgh [10]  as much in our principle of criticism as in every thing else.

Believe me my dear Sir

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 11 AP 11/ 1818
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
Watermark: R E & S BATH 1814
Endorsements: 1818 Apr 8 Southey R; Murray 5/10
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 182–184. BACK

[1] After convincing Murray, Southey promoted 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

[2] Southey’s review of Memoirs, Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn (1818) appeared in Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 1–54. BACK

[3] Southey and Rickman’s article, ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 259–308, only mentioned Thomas Peregrine Courtenay, A Treatise upon the Poor Laws (1818) in a footnote (at 287). In ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 79–118, Southey enthusiastically cited the work (at 95–96). BACK

[4] A review, entitled ‘Ancient and Modern Greenland’, appeared in the Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 480–496 (published 9 June 1818), by Francis Palgrave. BACK

[5] Southey had intended to use for his article, Hans Egede (1686–1758), Description et Histoire Naturelle du Groenland (1763), no. 3068 in the sale catalogue of his library. Egede did not keep a journal. Southey’s confusion arose from the fact that much of the contemporary interest in Greenland had been stimulated by the publication of an English translation of a work by Egede’s grandson, Hans Egede Saabye (1746–1817), Greenland, Being Extracts from a Journal kept in that Country, in the Years 1770 to 1773. By Hans Egede Saabye, formerly Ordained Minister in the Districts of Claushaon and Christianshaab, now Minister of Udbye, in the Bishopric of Fuhnen, and Grandson of the celebrated Hans Egede. To which is prefixed, an Introduction, containing some Accounts of the Manners of the Greenlanders, and of the Mission in Greenland (1818). Egede Saabye’s journal had only been published in Denmark in 1816. BACK

[6] It is not quite clear which work Southey is referring to here, but it might be the review of ‘Ford’s Dramatic Works’, Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 482–487, mainly by William Gifford. BACK

[7] Charles O’Conor (1764–1828; DNB), Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores Veteres, 4 vols (1814–1826), no. 2112 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. This was an edition of some of the manuscripts in the library at Stowe. O’Conor was the chaplain of Mary, Marchioness of Buckinghamshire (d. 1812). Her husband, George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham (1753–1813; DNB), provided financial support for the project. The catalogue was Bibliotheca MS. Stowensis. A Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Stowe Library (1818–1819). Southey is being a little disingenuous here – he had not met O’Conor or Buckingham, but Buckingham’s nephew, Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, was one of his best friends and he had promised Wynn he would try and promote O’Conor’s edition. BACK

[8] In the Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 229–253, there was a favourable review, by Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759–1821; DNB), of Anecdotes of the Life of Richard Watson, Bishop of Llandaff; Written by Himself at Different Intervals, and Revised in 1814 (1817). Southey knew Richard Watson, having visited him at his house on the shore of Windermere. He disliked Watson’s Whiggish views. BACK

[9] Leigh Hunt’s The Story of Rimini, a Poem (1816) (1816) received an excoriating review by John Wilson Croker in the Quarterly Review, 14 (January 1816), 473–481. BACK

[10] The Edinbugh Review (1802–1929), the main Whig quarterly review. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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