2428. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 27 May 1814

2428. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 27 May 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 27. 1814.

Sir Ch. S. has proposed a very unfit sort of payment: – this however will be easily settled by paying him the sum expended. [1]  – If you should like to compare this cancioneiro with Resende, [2]  which I should wish to do, – Bedford can procure you access to the Kings Library [3]  thro Nicol [4]  who holds some office thereunto belonging. There is a copy xxx xxx there, among a choice collection of the rarest Port: books presented many years ago by Pinto, [5]  & there it is not unlikely that Gil Vicente [6]  might be found. I am especially curious to see this author; – he may turn out to be good for nothing, – or to be the father of the Spanish drama, – & the latter chance is the more likely of the two.

Your neighbour’s inclosure was of the usual kind, – a paper perfectly useless. I have been several times on the point of writing to request that you would acknowledge its receipt for me, & have as often postponed the intention till a more convenient season. A good deal of his restlessness will be removed now, – & when there is an end of all suspence, which there soon will be when the matter is brought before parliament, I hope he will sit down contented with the right of complaining of ill usage as long as he lives. Government will give the Chief a quietus, & probably nothing more. But of this they may be assured that neither friends nor enemies can possibly interest the public upon the subject. [7] 

James Ballantyne prints Roderic, [8]  – a portion of the notes are in his hand to expedite the publication, – as they may be seperately paged without inconvenience. Another month will probably deliver me of it. I have just begun the 20th section, – & according to my present view of the subject, 22 will compleat it. My brother Bards are laudably labouring to put me in better humour with the Carmen Triumphale [9]  by sending <giving me> productions of their own to compare with it. I have a cargo of such things from Murray.

I have tidings of the bust for you at last. [10]  Bedford tells me the artist wishes to keep them ten days longer, – according to which account you will receive yours in about a week.

The corn laws [11]  have not taken up much of my consideration, for if when I take the trouble to understand a question of this kind, it is like writing in sand, – my mind has some xxx seems to have be actually incapable of retaining it. Tom (who is here at present) is very deep in the argument, & attacks xxx all the landholders whom he meets. Upon that common sense view of the matter which a mere statement enables every man to form, I should think it very mischievous, – & rather incline to think that the out of door opposition will put a stop to it.

You have bought Gage cheaply. I have the folio edition which cost me 10/6. His historical matter is a transcript from the old translation of Gomara, – but this does not detract from the authority of the rest of the book. [12]  His own character perhaps does. But it is easy to see when there is any malicious colouring laid on. We owe Jamaica to this man, & he lost his life in taking it. [13]  I am about to review Lewis & Clarkes voya journal, & shall bring together a good deal of curious matter concerning that part of America. [14] 

Two of the new titles have been bestowed undeservedly – Sir John Hopes, [15]  & Sir S. Cottons. [16]  Picton [17]  had a better claim than either, tho he had certainly fairer claims to a halter than to the peerage. – This question of the slave trade is easily settled with France. [18]  But Ld Grenville & Mr Canning must know little of the state of Brazil if they would press it upon Portugal. Were the Prince [19]  to attempt an abolition he would lose Brazil, – whether he will keep it or not after his return, without such an experiment, is perhaps doubtful enough. Ucalegons house is on fire, [20]  & his own is of combustible materials. I should think it good policy on the part of Portugal to give us Rio Grande do Sul, [21]  if it were only to interpose a barrier between herself & Buenos Ayres. As for Madeira [22]  I do not see why we should ask it, or why they should grant.

I have been obliged to return my Dutchmen to Lackington the set being imperfect. [23]  Xxx You can get at his catalogue more easily than I so you had better take out books to the amount, – I forget whether it was three guineas, or three & a half. This will be the only the deduction of back-carriage.

My house is about to be sold over my head, – a xxxxxx an event which is not unlikely in its consequence to set me upon moving at the expiration of my first term. For it seems to me more than likely that whoever purchases it will build upon part of the ground in such a manner as to build me out of some of my prospect, & more of my comfort.

Tell the Marquis I am glad to hear of his good beginnings, & tell the Duke I hope he can say look at the lamb & the lark. The Earl I suppose is now beginning to talk. And how go on the goats? – & the refractory gardiner? the season is coming on when tithe in kind will pinch him. – Have you heard that Evangelical from Penryn is going to distribute bibles & tracks from S Sebastiano to Lisbon. [24]  I wish him a pleasant journey. If he lives to get back we may perhaps have some account from him of the underground apartments in the Rocio. [25]  Love to my Aunt. God bless you



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: 10 o’Clock/ MY 30/ 1814; E/ 30 MY 30/ 1814
Watermark: 1807
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Charles Stuart, Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779–1845; DNB), envoy at Lisbon 1810–1814 had offered to provide Southey with a Portuguese book, from the context a Cancioneiro, or collection of songs. Stuart was particularly interested in the Portuguese playwright and poet, Gil Vicente (c. 1465-c. 1536), and probably wished to establish if any of his works were in the book; see Southey to Herbert Hill, [started before and continued on] 8 March 1814, Letter 2386. BACK

[2] Southey suggests Hill compare Stuart’s book with the Cancioneiro Geral (1516), collected by Garcia de Resende (1470–1536). BACK

[3] The library of over 65,000 volumes assembled by George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB). It was given to the nation in 1823. BACK

[4] The bookseller and publisher George Nicol (1740?-1828; DNB), who was Bookseller to the King, 1781–1820. BACK

[5] Luis Pinto de Sousa Coutinho, Viscount of Balsemao (1735–1804), Ambassador to Great Britain 1774–1788, Prime Minister of Portugal 1788–1801, 1803. BACK

[6] The Portuguese playwright and poet Gil Vicente (c. 1465–c. 1536). BACK

[7] William Barlow (1759–1839), a neighbour of Herbert Hill’s in Streatham. In 1813 Southey was commissioned by the Barlows to write a defence of the conduct of William Barlow’s brother, Sir George Hilaro Barlow (1763–1846; DNB), Governor of Madras 1807–1813. The result was the anonymously published pamphlet An Exposure of the Misrepresentations and Calumnies in Mr Marsh’s Review of Sir George Barlow’s Administration at Madras. By the Relatives of Sir George Barlow (1813). This was a response to the barrister and MP, Charles Marsh’s, (c. 1774–1835; DNB), Review of Some Important Passages in the Late Administration of Sir G. H. Barlow, Bart., at Madras (1813). Marsh stated in the Commons on 27 July 1814 that he would move for an enquiry into Sir George Barlow’s conduct in the next session of Parliament. BACK

[8] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[9] Southey’s first production as Poet Laureate; published in a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. BACK

[10] Southey had sat for a bust in October 1813. The sculptor was James Smith (1775–1815). BACK

[11] A House of Commons committee in 1813 recommended that no corn should be imported into Britain until domestic corn reached a price of £4 per quarter. This idea proved the basis of the Corn Law passed in 1815. It was greatly resented by many urban consumers, who feared it would increase food prices. BACK

[12] The Dominican friar and writer Thomas Gage’s (1603?-1656; DNB) A New Survey of the West Indias (1648); Southey owned an edition of 1655, no. 1191 in the sale catalogue of his library. Gage’s account of the conquest of Mexico drew on Francisco Lopez de Gomara (c. 1511–1566?), Hispania Victrix (1552). BACK

[13] Gage had acted as an informer on fellow Catholics, and his testimony had sent some to the gallows. A servant and defender of the Cromwellian commonwealth, Gage was a member of the English force that seized Jamaica in 1655. He died there the following year during an epidemic of dysentery and malaria. BACK

[14] Southey review of Meriweather Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clarke (1770–1838), Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean (1814), published in Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 317–368. BACK

[15] Sir John Hope (1765–1823; DNB), was created Baron Niddry on 17 May 1814, before succeeding his half-brother as 4th Earl of Hopetoun in 1816. Though he was a very successful soldier in the Peninsular War, Southey probably disliked his role in the Convention of Cintra (1808) and the evacuation of British troops from Corunna (1809). BACK

[16] Sir Stapleton Cotton (1773–1865; DNB), was created Baron Combermere on 17 May 1814. Primarily a cavalry commander, he, too, had been involved in the actions at Corunna. BACK

[17] Sir Thomas Picton (1758–1815; DNB), was another prominent commander in the Peninsular War. His reputation was overshadowed by his controversial term as Governor of Trinidad 1797–1803, which led to accusations of sanctioning torture. He was killed at Waterloo. BACK

[18] The Treaty of Paris, signed on 30 May 1814, ended the war between France and the Sixth Coalition. One of the terms was that France should abolish the slave trade over a five-year period. BACK

[19] John VI (1767–1826; King of Portugal 1816–1826), Prince Regent of Portugal 1799–1816. BACK

[20] Ucalegon was an elder of Troy, whose house was set on fire by the Greeks, Aeneid, Book 2, lines 311–312. The term became a common way of referring to a neighbour whose house was on fire – in this case Portugal’s neighbour, Spain. BACK

[21] The southernmost area of Brazil, which had long been in dispute between Spain and Portugal. BACK

[22] The British had occupied Madeira 1807–1814 to prevent French encroachment. The island was returned to Portugal. BACK

[23] The London booksellers and publishers Lackington, Allen and Co, at this time headed by George Lackington (1777–1844; DNB); Southey had purchased some imperfect Dutch books from him, see Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 2 March 1814, Letter 2384. BACK

[24] The minister was a Mr Smith of Penryn. His journey was reported in the Evangelical Magazine, 22 (February 1814), 155, which asked readers to donate money and to pray for the success of his endeavours: ‘Here new channels of benevolence may be opened; and if the smiles of Heaven descend on the undertaking, Bigotry may receive a more fatal wound’. BACK

[25] The Rocio, Lisbon, a prison used by the Inquisition. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)