2689. Robert Southey to Henry Koster, 28 December 1815

2689. Robert Southey to Henry Koster, 28 December 1815 ⁠* 

Keswick, 28 Dec. 1815.

My dear Koster,

Your letter gives me the greatest pleasure, far greater than if it had told me of the accomplishment of your military schemes. In that case a secret upbraiding would have accompanied you thro life, for no man ever yet sacrificed his duty to his inclinations without paying the penalty of repentance, unless his nature were compleatly brutalized and perverted. I am sure you will be a happier man than if you wore a red coat, I think you will be both a wiser and a better one. You will have enough leisure, and you know how to employ it.

If your journal [1]  had arrived at any other time six hours would not have elapsed before I should have read it with avidity. It came on Christmas Day when we had a house full of company, for the Wordsworths [2]  and Mrs. Lloyd and Miss Alne [3]  made their appearance among us most unexpectedly. The next day came my three tea chests from London, and I have not yet stowed away their contents, nor had my room recovered from the litter into which it has been thrown. I have read about half your journal with very great pleasure, more than is to be ascribed to the deep interest which I naturally take in the subject. I think it very probable, more than probable that you might make it into a book which could be generally interesting, but upon this subject I will write to you fully when I have finished that portion which you have sent me. The only objection to publication arises from the necessity of suppressing anything which reflects upon the personal character of individuals, or could give them pain.

We reached home just in time before the snow began. Edith May appeared to recover strength and spirits as she drew nearer the mountains, and her native air and usual habits of life have produced all the amendment we could expect or wish. We found all well, and Herbert had gone on as diligently with his German testament [4]  as if I had been present.

Two packages of my books have reached London. The one Mrs. Vardon tells me is from Ghent, and the other has the Acta Sanctorum. [5]  Mr. V. having inspected them. I wish I were quite certain that he had not been mistaken in this, but I can hardly think that the Acta Sanctorum (52 folios of large Size) could be contained in the same package with my other purchases from Ver Beyst, [6]  which amounts to above 100 volumes, many of them of large size. Another circumstance which makes me doubt is that Verbeyst was to have drawn on me for payment for this work (500 francs) and I have received no notice of the bill. Be this as it may. I suppose the books are at this time on board one of Mr. Vardon’s ships, and, as soon as they arrive I shall forward your maps, and whatever else of yours may be in the package. Concerning the third package, I have requested Mr. V. would write to Mr. Werth. [7] 

There is an impudent interpolation in the last Quarterly, [8]  offering a shallow vindication of the Convention of Cintra, which I have resented as it deserves. It occurs in those sheets which I did not see before the number was published, and for this I take some blame to myself, especially as the circumstances which interested me so warmly in the latter part of the article, might have given me cause for jealousy respecting the beginning. My comfort is that the passage must appear like an interpolation from its inconsistency to every thinking reader; and that at no very distant time. I shall have the satisfaction of exposing its fallacy when I write the history of that Convention and stigmatize it as it deserves. [9] 

I have been busily employed upon my poem which is to be called The Poets Pilgrimage to La Belle Alliance. [10]  You will recollect another reason, besides the desire of our friends, for giving the battle this name. The subject flows under my hands, just now I have run myself out of breath, and therefore lay it aside awhile while I recreate myself with the Guaranis and the Jesuits. [11] 

Remember me to your father and mother and sister. [12]  All here join in remembrances. It is one good consequence of your present plan that we may hope to see you here again.

God bless you

Yrs sincerely

Robert Southey.


* MS: Instituto Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro; text taken from Sousa-Leão
Previously published: Joaquim de Sousa-Leão, ‘Cartas de Robert Southey a Theodore Koster e Henry Koster, anos de 1804 a 1819’, Revista do Instituto Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, 178 (1943), 47–49. BACK

[1] Koster’s Journal was the basis of his Travels in Brazil (1816). BACK

[3] Miss Alne (dates unknown) was a close friend of Sophia Lloyd in the Lake District. BACK

[4] A German translation of the New Testament. BACK

[5] Southey thought he had bought a complete set of the Acta Sanctorum but received instead the 6 volume edition of 1783–1794, no. 152 in the sale catalogue of his library. He acquired the 52 volume edition, no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library, in 1818. BACK

[6] Jean-Baptiste Ver Beyst (1770–1849) was a famous bookseller in Brussels whom Southey had dealt with on his tour to the Netherlands in autumn 1815. BACK

[7] Engelbert Werth (dates unknown), a German-born merchant and acquaintance of Vardon. Werth drew a plan of the battle of Waterloo for Southey. BACK

[8] Southey’s review of a number of books on Wellington, Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526. He particularly objected to the interpolation on p. 476, which defended the Convention of Cintra (1808) as ‘giving a presage of the extraordinary military foresight of Wellington’. For the fullest account of events, Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 15 December 1815, Letter 2682. BACK

[9] In Southey’s History of the Peninsular War 3 vols (1823–1832), I, pp. 574–610. BACK

[10] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[11] History of Brazil (1810–1819), volume 2 was published in 1817 and volume 3 in 1819. BACK

[12] Koster had six sisters. It is not clear which of them Southey is referring to here. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)