3216. Robert Southey to John Murray, 4 December 1818

3216. Robert Southey to John Murray, 4 December 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 4 Dec. 1818.

My dear Sir

You will see by the paper which I have just dispatched [1]  that I have given your friend Mr Baber [2]  a gentle touch, & dealt with Professor Christian according to his deserts. [3]  I thought of inserting something respecting those fellows who are the disgrace & nuisance of the bookselling business, the fellows who deal in abridgements, & when they cannot steal the works of an esteemed author, steal his name, & wound his reputation in that way, your action about Lord Byron would have been a case in point. [4]  Miss Edgeworth & Dr Moore (Zeluco Moore) have been used in the same manner but {&} there was no redress in their case. [5]  But I left this matter untouched rather than extend the article farther.

I wrote to you about a translation of Dobrizhoffer. [6]  I will tell you (in confidence) what induced me to propose it. You probably are not unacquainted with the manner in which Coleridge has left his sons to shift for themselves, & find their way in the world as they can. The younger is now acting as private tutor to some little boys & will continue in that capacity a year longer. [7]  He has a strong mathematical turn, & a strong desire (in consequence) to try his fortune at Cambridge. Some help we have in view for him, & he is most laudably desirous of helping himself. Now this work of Dobrizhoffers is so good a book & so entertaining that I think there is little risque in publishing it, tho it be three octavos of about 500 pages. I have spoken of it in my Brazil as the best book which has ever been written respecting savage life. [8]  My “Tale of Paraguay” is taken from this book, & will certainly attract attention to it in a considerable degree. [9]  And I would review it so that the reviewal should appear close upon the publication. [10]  – In the course of twelvemonths Derwent Coleridge could accomplish the translation, – & if you either paid him so much for the task, or allowed him a share of the eventual profits, it would enable him the first arrangement would enable him to look on to College with certainty, – the second with reasonable hope, – & he might thus meritoriously & honourably put himself in that way of fortune for which he is calculated, & on which his heart is fixed. – You will consider the proposal as a bookseller, – the explanation is made confidentially to a friend.

Your affidavit & some other papers upon the subject [11]  are inclosed with the article to Mr Gifford. The first part of the Catacombs [12]  will be dispatched in two or three days, – I laid it aside for the Copyright question. After this paper you will do without me for two or three numbers. I shall be employed more to my own advantage & to yours.

When next you send to me, – there is a stray parcel lying in Albermarle Street, which lost the last chance of conveyance.

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey

It was said some time ago in the Times (the most rascally of all newspapers) that Hazlitt xxx had instituted an action against Blackwoods Magazine. I do not believe it. He would not run the risk of having me subpœnaed upon the trial. [13] 

You will tell me when you send the proof, if the statement of your affair treatment by Baber is given as you would wish it.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 7 DE 7/ 1818
Seal: black wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
Watermark: R E & S BATH 1814
Endorsements: 1818 Dec 4 Southey, R; Murray 9/5
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s article on the ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 196–213. BACK

[2] Southey’s article, ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’ (209). Here Southey severely criticised Henry Hervey Baber (1775–1869; DNB), Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum 1812–1837, for serving a writ on Murray because his firm had been dilatory in sending to the British Museum copies of four books it had published, as the Copyright Act (1814) required. BACK

[3] One of the works reviewed by Southey in his article, ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, was Edward Christian (1758–1823; DNB), Vindication of the Right of the Universities of the United Kingdom to a Copy of Every New Publication (1818). Christian was Downing Professor of the Laws of England at the University of Cambridge 1800–1823 and vigorously defended the right of eleven designated public and university libraries to receive free copies of all publications. Southey profoundly disagreed and represented this procedure as a tax on the publishing industry. BACK

[4] The legal case Lord Byron v. James Johnston (dates unknown) in 1816; in which Murray acted on Byron’s behalf to gain an injunction preventing the publication of a work that was to appear under Byron’s name, but which Byron had not written. BACK

[5] Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849; DNB), and John Moore (1729–1802; DNB), author of Zeluco: Various Views of Human Nature, Taken from Life and Manners, Foreign and Domestic (1789). BACK

[6] The 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. BACK

[7] Derwent Coleridge was living 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). Derwent Coleridge was tutor to the Hopwoods’ sons: Edward (1807–1891); Frank (1810–1890); and Hervey (1811–1881). He entered St John’s College, Cambridge, in October 1820. BACK

[8] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, p. 398, described Dobrizhoffer’s work as ‘of all books relating to savage life the most curious, and in every respect the most interesting’. BACK

[9] Southey’s A Tale of Paraguay (1825). BACK

[10] Murray did publish a translation of Dobrizhoffer’s book, but by Sara, not Derwent, Coleridge, An Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of Paraguay (1822). It was reviewed by Southey, as he promised, in Quarterly Review, 26 (January 1822), 277–323. BACK

[11] Southey was returning papers Murray had sent him to compose his article, ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, including Murray’s testimony to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Copyright Act (1818). BACK

[12] Southey’s ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’ appeared in Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 359–398. However, he did not stop regularly contributing to the Quarterly Review. BACK

[13] Hazlitt, resenting a series of personal attacks on his appearance, character and conduct in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine that culminated in ‘Hazlitt Cross Questioned’, 3 (August 1818), 550–552, did sue for libel; the magazine settled with him out of court. The case was referred to in The Times, 21 September 1818, which stated ‘Mr. Hazlitt has directed a prosecution to be commenced against the publishers of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, for an alleged libel upon him in the last number of that work. It is a book filled with private slander.’ Southey felt Hazlitt would fear that Southey might be called to give witness to Hazlitt’s conduct and would relate Hazlitt’s behaviour in Keswick in October 1803, when he fled the town after an incident with a woman in a local inn. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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