3201. Robert Southey to John Murray, 7 October 1818

3201. Robert Southey to John Murray, 7 October 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 7 Oct. 1818

My dear Sir

Your pay is very liberal, [1]  & the price which I receive for my writings is by no means a matter of indifference to me, but it can make no difference in the manner of my writing. The same diligence, the same desire, – & the same power (whatever that may be) were brought to the task when you paid me ten guineas per-sheet, as xxx when you xxx raised it to 100£ per-piece. This last is a great price, & it is very convenient to me to receive it. But I will tell you with that frankness which you have always found in my correspondence & conversation, that even at that price I may suspect my time might be more profitably employed (as I am sure it might be more worthily) than in writing for your Journal at the even at that price.

You yourself offered me 400£ for the journal of my last years tour on the continent. [2]  It would have taken me much less time to have prepared that for the press than to have written four papers for the QR. [3]  You offered me 1000 guineas for a {blank verse} poem not exceeding Thomsons Seasons [4]  in length. I could produce that poem in less time than I could write ten papers for the QR, & with tenfold more satisfaction. With the plans & preparations which have been lying by me for years & ripening during that time, I could in the course of twelvemonths produce a poem of the calibre of Roderick or Kehama, [5]  & I leave you to judge what price I should be entitled to demand for it at this time, with the reputation which those poems have obtained for me, aided as it undoubtedly is by that for which I am beholden to your Review. Less time than is required for ten articles in the QR. would suffice for the Age of George 3: [6]  – which I am confident would prove a standard book. – The QR. can do perfectly well without me, & when I shall have compleated those papers which are now in hand, it will be better that I should become only an occasional contributor at long intervals.

I shall send off the Catacombs ushered in by the New Churches as soon as a crowd of visitors will allow me. [7] Wilberforce is here inter alios. [8]  – Pray send me the last number [9]  without delay, – for the sake of two parcels which have long been lying at your house to travel in company with it.

The Brougham Papers are not in a state for circulation, – nor should I indeed chuse to circulate privately what upon mature deliberation I had determined not to publish. [10] 

You ask why I will not assist you in Blackwoods Magazine? [11]  It would be a sufficient answer that you {it} stands in no need of any new assistance, – & that I have no time. But the truth is that however useful the Magazine may be in exposing a set of miscreants, who if they succeed in what they are aiming at would send both you & me to the scaffold, I have a mortal dislike to that sort of personal warfare: & tho I heartily approve of the political principles of the Magazine, I disapprove as heartily the principle of personality upon which it is conducted. You know that I am consistent in this. My hands are clean from any thing of the kind. As far as regards myself I have know not that I have any cause of complaint. I have seen no numbers of the work except those which Mr Blackwood [12]  left here. – I am obliged to him for some other civilities of that kind, – & my disposition towards you is what I am sure you cannot doubt.

My Hist. of Brazil is now drawing fast towards its close. [13]  I shall not leave home till it is finished, & then I shall go to Sir H. Bunburys & afterwards to Major Moore, – upon the same errand, – to make use of their papers respecting the peninsular war. [14]  We will have the first sheet printed when I am in London & then we shall proceed steadily & well. I see by the New Monthly Magazine that some works have been published in Spain by Francisco de Olivares which we must procure: they are a “The War up in Catalonia” – “Anecdotes of Chiefs employed in the Catalonian War,” & Memoirs of the Spanish Monarchy from the Reign of Ferdinand & Isabella to the Usurpation of Joseph Buonaparte. [15]  Send me also Llorentes Hist. of the Inquisition. [16]  I perceive by this Magazine [17]  that the last volume contains matter which was not in the Manuscript that I read, – relating to the Prince of Peace, [18]  & to Josephs Minister Urquejo. [19] 

Farewell my dear Sir & believe me


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 10 OC 10 /1818
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
Watermark: R E & S BATH 1814
Endorsement: 1818 Oct 7 Southey, Rob
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551. AL; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had received £150 (and advice from Murray on how to plan his articles) for his review of Memoirs, Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn (1818), which appeared in Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 1–54, and his essay ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, which also appeared in Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 79–118 (published 26 September 1818). BACK

[2] Southey never published the journal of his three-month continental tour in May–August 1817. BACK

[3] The Quarterly Review. BACK

[4] Southey began, but did not finish, such a poem, entitled ‘Consolation’. Sections were published after his death as ‘Fragmentary Thoughts Occasioned by his Son’s Death’ in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 93–95, and ‘Additional Fragment, Occasioned by the Death of his Son’, Poetical Works of Robert Southey. Complete in One Volume (London, 1850), p. 815. The models for this poem were two other works in blank verse: Edward Young (1681–1765; DNB), Night Thoughts (1742–1745) and William Cowper (1731–1800; DNB), The Task (1785). James Thomson (1700–1748; DNB), The Seasons (1726–1730) exceeded 5,000 lines. BACK

[5] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) and The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[6] Southey did not write a history of the reign of George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB). BACK

[7] Southey’s review of Haydon, New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818) appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591. His review ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’ appeared in Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 359–398. BACK

[8] ‘Among others’. BACK

[9] Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), published 26 September 1818. BACK

[10] On 30 June 1818, Brougham, campaigning for the parliamentary seat of Westmorland against the candidates favoured by Wordsworth’s patron, the Earl of Lonsdale, was reported to have attacked Southey and Wordsworth from the hustings. Southey decided to retaliate by publishing a pamphlet attacking Brougham and revealing his political opportunism. But he had second thoughts and only parts of the ‘Tender Epistle’ were published, minus Brougham’s name, in the second edition of Carmen Triumphale (London, 1821), pp. 45–53. BACK

[11] Murray had taken a stake in the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, which was renamed Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1817–1980). BACK

[12] The magazine’s founder William Blackwood and Murray had visited Southey at Keswick earlier in 1818. BACK

[13] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[14] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[15] New Monthly Magazine, 10 (October 1818), 222–223. The works mentioned in this article do not seem to exist. BACK

[16] Juan Antonio Llorente (1756–1823), Histoire Critique de l’Inquisition d’Espagne (1817–1818), no. 1738 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[17] New Monthly Magazine, 10 (October 1818), 259, giving details of the fourth and final volume of Llorente’s work. Southey had read it in manuscript for Murray, in order to determine whether it was worthwhile to produce an English translation. BACK

[18] Manuel de Godoy y Alvarez de Faria (1767–1851), Prime Minister of Spain 1792–1798. BACK

[19] Mariano Luis de Urquijo (1769–1817), Prime Minister of Spain 1808–1813 under Joseph Bonaparte (1768–1844; King of Spain 1808–1813). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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