1779. Robert Southey to John Murray, 26 May 1810

1779. Robert Southey to John Murray, 26 May 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 26. 1810

My dear Sir

Last night on my return home after an absence of about three weeks I found your letter, which had arrived a few hours before me. An interval of idleness, dissipation, & that sort of discomfort which I always feel when disturbed from my ordinary course of life, has made me hungry after quiet employment. I shall clear off a load of letter writing tomorrow, & begin upon the Tongatabou book, – of which I will send off a reviewal in the course of next week. [1]  That done I will fall to work totis viribus [2]  for your 7th number. [3] 

Believe me I am truly grateful for your assistance in my historical pursuits. The MS. history of Lima [4]  would be a treasure to me, – so would the Descripcion de las provincias pertenecientes al Arzobispado di Lima. [5]  The whole of the Mercurio Peruano [6]  I have seen, & gutted of all that it contains to my purpose. A second volume will compleat the history of Brazil. [7]  I have no intention of treating any other portion of S American affairs, – tho there is ample room for histories of Mexico, of Peru, & of the Nuevo Reyno de Granada, [8]  subjects independent of each other, & rich in interest materials. My plan is confined to Portugal & all its dependencies, & this perhaps is as much as I have any reason to calculate upon life for accomplishing, – if so precarious a thing as life could be calculated upon at all. I have however got thro more th not less than half my task. The history of the mother country [9]  will fill three volumes, – that of its conquests in Asia, two, – & a supplementary one will probably be required for its African & insular possessions. This done, – if I live to do this, my wish is to conclude my historical labours with a history of the Monastic Orders, [10]  – which I think I could render equally amusing & important.

My part of the Register [11]  was compleated before I went from home, but there remain three or four sheets of it unprinted. I have no doubt that the perfect independence with which it is written will be far more beneficial to the work, than any thing could have been which displayed the spirit of a partizan.

Scotts poem [12]  is a very delightful one. I prefer it to both his former stories. [13]  My own [14]  lingers in the press, which I am not sorry for, as people if it came out too close upon his, would be comparing two things utterly dissimilar; – & as I have the disadvantage of a mythology known only to a few, – a story tho perfectly in keeping with that mythology, more wild & extravagant than has ever yet been attempted in prose or rhyme, – & a xxx mode of versification sure to offend because it is original, – these need no other impediments.

believe me my dear Sir

Yours with respect

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Mr Murray/ Fleet Street/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E / 29 MY 29/ 1810
Endorsement: 1810 May 26/ Southey R Keswick
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42550. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] George Vason (1771/2–1838), An Authentic Narrative of Four Years’ Residence at Tongataboo, One of the Friendly Islands (1810), used by Southey in his review of Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands, Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 24–61 (esp. 36–37); Southey’s more detailed appraisal of Vason is in Quarterly Review, 3 (May 1810), 440–455. BACK

[2] ‘With all [my] might’. BACK

[3] The Quarterly Review, 4 (August 1810). It contained (pp. 1–24), Southey’s review of the Observador Portuguez (1809). BACK

[4] Unidentified. BACK

[5] ‘Descripcion de las Provincias Pertenecientes al Arzobispado di Lima’; no. 3645 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, inscribed in his hand: ‘This book of which perhaps a duplicate is nowhere to be found, was given me by Mr Murray; it contains the fullest account which has yet been published on the old Vice-royalty of Peru, province by province. The information was obtained from the respective Corregidores, and printed for many successive years in the Lima Almanack, from whence some curioso cut out the whole collection, and formed them into this most valuable volume’. BACK

[6] Mercurio Peruano (1790–1795), the first newspaper published in Peru. BACK

[7] Southey was mistaken; two further volumes of his History of Brazil appeared, in 1817 and 1819 respectively. BACK

[8] Modern Colombia and parts of Venezuela. BACK

[9] Southey’s long-planned, but never completed, ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[10] This was planned, but never completed. BACK

[11] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810). BACK

[12] Scott’s The Lady of the Lake (1810). It sold over 20,000 copies in the year of its publication. BACK

[13] Scott’s The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805) and Marmion (1808). BACK

[14] The Hindu romance The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

People mentioned

Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)