3138. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 May 1818

3138. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 May 1818 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

Harry Inglis has sent me a list of Spanish MSS. which the proprietor wishes to sell in one lot, & I believe he supposes that I am as rich as himself, & therefore able to purchase them. But on the probability that they may be sold separately, I wish you would look at one of them for me. They are at Bigg’s. 54 Parliament Street. [1]  & you can easily ascertain whether No 53 Historia de los Avipones be a translation of Martin Dobrizhoffers History of the Abipones (which is one of my delights) – or if it be an original work by some other Jesuit, as very probably it may be, – perhaps by the Jesuit Joseph Brigniel. [2]  If it be an original I should not think five guineas too much to give {for} it, & this is estimating it more by my love for old Dobrizhoffer; & my desire for collecting every thing relating to South America & especially the centre of it, than by the marketable value (as I should suppose) of such a manuscript.

There is another work in the Catalogue which may be of great value. No 58. Oviedo’s History of the Indias. He wrote this in 50 books, of which only 21 were printed, but the whole work was known to exist in Nicolas Antonios time: he however says it was in 7 volumes, & this catalogue makes it in 3, – a difference of hand writing may explain this. [3]  You can look at it & see how many books it contains. If it were compleat – I am afraid to say what I would give for it, – & what I was going to say, – there must be a limit even to literary covetousness – & I believe I ought to take the chance of borrowing it from the purchaser however {whoever} he may be. – Yet if it went for so little as ten pounds I should be angry with myself that it should fall into the hands of one less acquainted with its value, & less likely to make use of it. – Lord Holland is a likely man to purchase the whole collection.

There is a report at Como that the Princess of Wales & five of her rascals have been poisoned. [4] 

I shall send up your number of the Satirist by Senhouse on Wednesday next, [5]  & with it a third portion of Wesleys Life, [6]  which will go something more than half thro the first volume. And now as it is better that I should be employed in going on with this life, than in talking with you thro the broad nib of a worn out pen, – good evening.

God bless you


Keswick 23 May. 1818

Our weather is superbe – magnifique


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 26 MY 26/ 1818
Endorsements: 23 May 1818; 23 May 1818
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] James Bigg (dates unknown), bookseller. BACK

[2] As Southey to John Murray, 9 June 1818 (Letter 3149), reveals, the manuscript turned out to be a Spanish translation of the Latin account of the Jesuit missions in Paraguay by Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus, Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784), no. 843 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Josef Brigniel (1699–1770), also a German, was Dobrizhoffer’s fellow Jesuit missionary in Paraguay. BACK

[3] Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478–1557), Historia General y Natural de las Indias, of which the first part was published in 1535. The remaining sections were not published until 1851–1855. Nicolas Antonio (1617–1684) discussed Oviedo’s work in his bibliography Bibliotheca Hispana sive Hispanorum (Rome, 1672), p. 424. BACK

[4] Southey was kept informed of goings-on in Italy by his friend Landor, whom he had visited there in June 1817. Princess Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821; DNB), estranged wife of the Prince of Wales, had been living at Como with an entourage of servants, with one of whom she was thought to be having an affair. The Rome newspapers of 15 May had carried reports that it was being rumoured that the servant in question, Bartolomeo Pergami (1783/4–1842), had been poisoned; see the Morning Post, 8 June 1818. However, Southey’s poisoning story came from Landor in a letter of May 1818; see John Forster (1812–1876; DNB), Walter Savage Landor: a Biography, 2 vols (London, 1869), I, pp. 441–442. BACK

[5] Bedford had sent Southey ‘Mr M’Kerrell and Mr Brougham’, The Satirist; or, Monthly Meteor, 11 (September 1812), 208–227. Robert M’Kerrell (1761–1841), a textile merchant and manufacturer in Paisley, had on 28 May 1812, given evidence to the House of Commons committee enquiring into the Orders in Council system, which enforced a trade blockade on territories controlled by France. The Whig opposition were campaigning for its repeal, on the grounds that it harmed British manufacturing. Brougham denounced M’Kerrell (though not by name) in the House of Commons on 16 June 1812, claiming he had told the committee that textile workers were overpaid and ‘oatmeal and water were good enough for Englishmen.’ M’Kerrell denied he had said this and published an acrimonious exchange of letters between himself and Brougham in The Times of 20 July 1812. Southey had been collecting material that could be used against Brougham in his election campaign in Westmorland. BACK

[6] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)