2198. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 4 January 1813

2198. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 4 January 1813 ⁠* 

It is very long since I have heard of you, or written to you, – I have concluded that you are all going on well, & you will have concluded that I am very busy.

I have just been applied to for letters to Lisbon on behalf of a young Clergyman, who very probably may never live to reach it, & at any rate is taking a very awkward course there. He goes out with a friend who has a sloop of war bound to Halifax, as far as Bermudas, & there means to look for a passage either to Portugal or Cadiz. He is described to me as a man of high character at Oxford & among all who know him. Will you give him a letter to Sealy, [1]  or any other person, who, if he lives to reach Lisbon, may do those offices for him of which he will stand in need. His name is Henry Leeves, [2]  – & if you will put the letter in a cover with my compliments on the inside, addressed to Mrs De Quincey, [3]  Westhay, Wrington, near Bristol. – Rickman will get it franked.

This it is which induces me to write just now amid proof sheets & multiplied employments.

I have added a fine book to my collection. Pierre de Marca’s Histoire de Bearne, [4]  – a few years ago three half-crowns would have been its price, – I paid no more for the Marca Hispanica [5]  of the same author in 1802. But this is the age of booksellers. Pierre de Marca has been put in fine covers, & the book has cost me 2.12.6. Did I tell you that I had got Pyrards Voyages? [6]  the first Frenchman who wrote about the East Indies – & the only traveller who has ever (to his cost) given a good account of the Maldives. He is very full of most interesting matter about Portugueze India.

You will get my Life of Nelson [7]  about the first of March. I have just finished the business at Copenhagen, [8]  which by help of a good deal of original circumstance from Capt Quilliam [9]  who was Rious [10]  Lieutenant, my neighbor Ponsonby [11]  who was in the Monarch, [12]  & Tom, [13]  makes an impressive narrative. I have also some original Trafalgariana. [14]  Considering how little fit I was for such a task & how little disposed to it (for it was really forced upon me) I have satisfied myself better than there was reason to expect.

I have touched upon the Catholic Question in this volume of the Register [15]  pointing out as precisely and forcibly as was in my power the inevitable consequences of concession. It would have been well if this could have been in the Quarterly, – but Canning influences that.

My article upon the state of the poor or rather the populace was not in time for the last number, & therefore still remains unfinished, tho the proofs of part of it are now upon my desk, & I must conclude this to attend to them. [16]  What curtailment it may suffer I know not. – at present it is a most faithful & therefore a most frightful picture. I have taken measures for the printer to have the MS. of these things preserved. Bedford looks to this for me. From abroad we are safe enough, – would that we were so at home. And what a stroke is this American triumph at sea! [17]  Sir Alex. Ball [18]  distinctly foresaw it & always dreaded war with America because we should have to fight against our own men, – & those men fighting with halters about their necks. If it were possible that the American Union could hold together for half a century, we should lose the empire of the seas. But that cannot be.

Remember me to my Aunt, & let me soon hear that you are all well. My flock are thriving. Herbert is at this time in high glee at the arrival of his Greek Testament in a parcel from Longman.

I hear nothing of Harry.


Keswick Jany 4. 1813.

Multos et felices! [19] 


* Address: To/The Reverend Herbert Hill/Streatham /Surry
Stamped: KESWICK / 298
Postmarks: 10 o’Clock/JA 7/1813; E/ 7 JA 7/ 1813
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Richard Sealy (c. 1752–1821), Lisbon merchant and father-in-law of Henry Herbert Southey. BACK

[2] Henry Daniel Leeves (1790–1845), a clergyman and the second son of William Reeves (1748–1828; DNB), vicar of Wrington and composer. Henry Daniel Reeves survived his visit to Portugal and later worked in Syria and Greece, where he was agent for the British and Foreign Bible Society. He translated the bible and the liturgy into modern Greek and at the time of the Greek War of Independence sheltered many Greek fugitives in his house, thus saving them from the Turks. BACK

[3] Thomas De Quincey’s mother, Elizabeth (c. 1756–1846; DNB). She had relocated her family from Manchester to Bath in 1796. She moved in evangelical circles, including Hannah More amongst her acquaintance. BACK

[4] Pierre de Marca (1594–1662), Histoire de Bearn (1640); Southey’s copy was no. 1699 in the sale catalogue of his library. It was cited in the footnotes to Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Books 15 and 18. BACK

[5] Pierre de Marca’s Hispanica sive Limes Hispanicus (1688). Southey’s copy was no. 1700 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[6] The French navigator and travel writer, François Pyrard De Laval (c. 1578-c. 1623), Voyage aux Indes Orientales (1679). Southey had borrowed a copy from De Quincey (see Southey to William Wordsworth, [April 1812], Letter 2085). He had either kept this or bought one of his own; see no. 2144 in the sale catalogue of his library. Pyrard was shipwrecked in the Maldives in 1602 and forced to spend five years there as a captive. BACK

[7] Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[8] Life of Nelson, 2 vols (London, 1813), II, pp. 90–153, describing the Battle of Copenhagen (1801). BACK

[9] John Quilliam (1771–1829), First Lieutenant on HMS Amazon and later on HMS Victory. BACK

[10] Edward Riou (1762–1801; DNB), Captain of HMS Amazon. He was killed at the Battle of Copenhagen. BACK

[11] Lieutenant John Ponsonby (dates unknown), who was living at Ormathwaite near Keswick. BACK

[12] HMS Monarch, a third rate ship of the line which suffered 200 casualties at the Battle of Copenhagen, including the death of the Captain, James Robert Mosse (1745–1801). BACK

[13] Tom had served in HMS Bellona at Copenhagen. Amongst the information he supplied was the fact that seventy-five of his fellow crew had been killed when their elderly cannon burst; see The Life of Nelson, 2 vols (London, 1813), II, p. 126. BACK

[14] Material relating to the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). BACK

[15] Southey wrote extensively on this issue both in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.1 (1812), 175–206 and in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 115–139. BACK

[16] Southey’s article in Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. Southey was right – his article was cut and he published his own version in Essays Moral and Political, 2 vols (London, 1832), I, 75–155. BACK

[17] American frigates had considerable success in battles with single British ships in the War of 1812–1814: USS Constitution defeated HMS Guerriere on 19 August 1812; USS United States captured HMS Macedonian on 25 October 1812; and USS Constitution defeated HMS Java on 29 December 1812. BACK

[18] Sir Alexander Ball (1756–1809; DNB), naval officer and civil commissioner of Malta 1803–1809. Coleridge was his secretary and no doubt passed this information on to Southey. BACK

[19] Latin for ‘Here’s to many and happy years’. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)