3241. Robert Southey to John Murray, 6 February 1819

3241. Robert Southey to John Murray, 6 February 1819 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

I have been desired to trouble you upon two subjects, – luckily there will not be much trouble in either: – first, did you some time ago receive a poem submitted to you by an anonymous Lady, – concerning which poem I had previously written? [1]  – And if you have received it, as probably you have, – am I to tell the Authoress that you do not deem it advisable to publish it? [2]  this will probably be the answer, – but let me be told to communicate it, when you can spare time.

Secondly: there are two newspapers published at Kendal, the one Broughamite, [3]  that is to say thoroughly Jacobinical, the other is the one which De Quincey edites, – employing in this manner time, talents, & knowledge worthy of a much better direction. [4]  Your Review is advertised in the Kendal Chronicle, which is the Jacobine paper, & which never notices the Review except to abuse it. And it is not advertised in the Westmorland Gazette. Now I am asked if it be not in my power to get this advertisement in future transferred from the wrong paper to the right one: – & my answer was that I would represent the matter to you.

Having thus dispatched the business of my letter, – I thank you for Antar, [5]  which is exceedingly curious. Some booby in the New M. Magazine has been abusing it, with about as much reason as he might have <if he had> abused the Author for not writing it originally, his En <in> English. [6]  We have no other picture of Arabian manners in that age (except indeed the Moallakat, [7]  where the pieces have too little narrative to afford much matter of fact) – this therefore is a most valuable accession to our knowledge of stores.

The reviewal of Samor is the best poetical criticism (in my judgement) that has yet appeared in your Journal, [8]  – this, might be no great commendation, – for some of your critics have written in as bad a spirit, & with as little comprehension of the primary laws of poetry, as Jeffrey himself. But this paper is right in feeling & in principle; – Mathurin is properly exposed, [9]  – tho the manner of the exposure ha is the same as has lost its novelty. – The paper upon Sir R Phillips is as heavy as the Knight himself. [10]  – Upon the Northern Courts [11]  two things occur to me. p. 386 – Brown seems to have alluded to a most extraordinary fact, which his Reviewer disbelieves, [12]  – but which I perfectly well remember to have read of in some Magazine or Ann: Register some thirty years ago, – the fact being ten or twenty years older than my recollection of it. Either in Denmark or Sweden, there were a set of fanatics who actually murdered children in order to secure to themselves a death of repentance; – & the madness was put an end to by condemning them to perpetual imprisonment, with severe treatment. [13]  – In the next page the Scandinavian Letters are believed to be authentic. They are not authentic, but were written in London, by a Dr Thomson, for whom in his Obituary Account they were claimed. You probably know something of him, for I believe he was concerned in the English Review, [14]  – the first publication, by the bye, in which I was attacked with malignity – at the very commencement of my career. It was a piece of gratuitous malice, proceeding from Polwhele. [15]  – The Egyptian article very curious. [16]  – Did Bellamy deserve an answer? And was it prudent to be put upon your defence twice in one Number? [17]  – may I ask who reviewed Sir R. Wilson? [18]  About Wilson there can be only one opinion, – but justice is not done to his movement upon C. Rodrigo. [19]  It was a movement which by its boldness imposed upon the French, – & I happen to know that the opinion which I had formed upon that point, agrees what with Frere’s, his authority would have great weight with me on most subjects, but there can be no better upon this, – or rather there can be none so good. The last article enough would make Brougham hang himself, if he were capable of feeling shame, or doing so good a thing. [20] 

In the French translation of the official Spanish History of the war I am noticed a with a comical blunder by the translator no doubt. The Edinburgh Register is alluded to in the text, & named in a note; – & the Translator as I suppose taking it for granted that the praise must be intended for a work of which he had heard, & not for one of which he had never heard, alters it boldly to Edinburgh Review. The passage in the text contains a commendation of which I am proud; because I know that the one part is deserved, & have good reason to think that the other is so coming from that quarter, where they are best able to form a judgement. The author of the register is praised as being distinguished for the justness of his views, & the independence of his opinions. Of course you will understand that this relates to the view I had taken of the operation, & political events in the peninsular. [21] 

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

R Southey.

Keswick. 6 Feby 1819


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqre/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 9 FE 9/ 1819
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
Watermark: None
Endorsement: 1819 Feb 6/ Southey R –
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42552. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 197–199. BACK

[1] Bowles’s ‘Ellen Fitzarthur’, which Southey had drawn to Murray’s attention for possible publication; see Southey to John Murray, 9 June 1818, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Five, Letter 3149. Murray had expressed a cautious interest, and Bowles had then sent her manuscript to him. BACK

[2] Murray did reject Bowles’s poem; see Southey to Caroline Bowles, 18 March 1819, Letter 3268. BACK

[3] The Westmorland Advertiser and Kendal Chronicle (1811–1834) was a weekly newspaper which supported the Whigs and Henry Brougham’s candidacy for Westmorland in 1818 and 1820. BACK

[4] The Westmorland Gazette, founded in 1818 and edited by De Quincey, July 1818–November 1819. BACK

[5] Antar, A Bedoueen Romance. Translated from the Arabic by Terrick Hamilton (1819). BACK

[6] New Monthly Magazine, 13 (January-February 1820), 12–18, 152–161. The review’s author was the Austrian orientalist Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (1774–1856), who complained about the lack of information about ‘the discovery and state of the copy [of Antar], the extent and value of the romance, or the nature of the translation itself’ and ‘whether it is a literal or free translation, whether of the whole or of extracts’ (14). BACK

[7] A series of seven Arabian poems. When undertaking preparatory research for Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Southey had read them in translation in The Works of Sir William Jones, 6 vols (London, 1799), IV, pp. 244–335. For Southey’s notes on them, see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 106–107. See also, Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [30 August 1801], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Two, Letter 603. BACK

[8] Henry Hart Milman’s epic Samor, Lord of the Bright City (1818), reviewed by John Taylor Coleridge in Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 328–347. BACK

[9] Charles Robert Maturin (1780–1824; DNB), Women: or, Pour et Contre (1818), reviewed by John Wilson Croker in Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 321–328. BACK

[10] ‘Sir R. Phillips, on the Phenomena of the Universe’, Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 375–379, a short and humorous piece that took aim at Phillips’s conceit in attacking Newtonian physics: ‘His [Phillips’s] mind, unfettered by prejudice, unincumbered by knowledge, can at one glance, and apparently without any remarkable expenditure of thought, see through the fallacies of those systems of philosophy which have till now deluded the world, and dive into the secret foundations of nature. He has kindly and boldly determined to communicate his discoveries to the world’ (375). Phillips, a strict vegetarian, was notoriously careful about his diet. BACK

[11] ‘Brown’s Northern Courts’, Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 379–390; a review of John Brown (d. 1826?; DNB), The Northern Courts, containing Original Memoirs of the Sovereigns of Sweden and Denmark, Since 1766 (1818). BACK

[12] The reviewer had disagreed with Brown’s statement that ‘“many instances should occur in Sweden of honest and respectable persons” committing crimes with a view to place themselves in a predicament where they may fairly be entitled to the aid of clergy, and thereby ensure their future salvation’, Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 386. BACK

[13] Southey had correctly recalled reading about cases of suicide-murder in eighteenth-century Denmark. His source was probably the Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1767, 4th edn (London, 1786), p. 164: ‘Within these few years a set of people have been discovered in Denmark, seized with a disorder of mind that is extremely dangerous to society. This is an imagination, that, by committing premeditated murder, and being afterwards condemned to die for it, they are better able, by public marks of repentance and conversion, as they go to the scaffold, to prepare themselves for death, and work out their own salvation. A little while ago, one of these wretches murdered a child out of the same principle. In order, however, to take from these wretches all hope of obtaining their end, and to extirpate the evil, the king has issued an ordinance, by which his majesty forbids the punishing them with death; and enacts, that they shall be branded in the forehead with an hot iron, and whipped: that they shall afterwards be confined, for the rest of their days, in an house of correction, in order to be kept there to hard labour; and lastly, that every year, on the day of their crime, they shall be whipped anew in public.’ BACK

[14] Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 387. William Thomson (1746–1817; DNB), Letters from Scandinavia: On the Past and Present State of the Northern Nations of Europe (1796). Thomson owned the English Review from 1794–1796. His obituary in the New Monthly Magazine, 7 (April 1817), 267, attributed the ‘Scandinavian Letters’ to him. BACK

[15] The loyalist writer Richard Polwhele (1760–1838; DNB). Southey refers to his hostile review of Southey and Lovell’s Poems (1795), English Review, 25 (March–April 1795), 230–232, 389–393. See also, Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 8 December 1815, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Four, Letter 2678. BACK

[16] ‘Antiquities of Egypt’, Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 391–424; a review of Observations Relating to Some of the Antiquities of Egypt, from the Papers of the Late Mr. Davison (1817) by John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB) and Thomas Young (1773–1829; DNB). BACK

[17] John Bellamy (1755–1842), The Holy Bible, Newly Translated from the Original Hebrew (1818), an ambitious and highly-controversial return to the Hebraic texts in order produce a brand new version of the Bible, had been reviewed in the Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 250–280, as confirming all the reviewer’s ‘worst anticipations’ (253). Bellamy had issued A Reply to the ‘Quarterly Review’ (1818); and this was the book noticed in Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 446–460, by William Goodhugh (1799?–1842; DNB). It attacked Bellamy’s arguments and challenged him to ‘prove to us that the received sense of Scripture is erroneous, and his new discoveries true’ (447). BACK

[18] ‘Sir R. Wilson’s Letter to the Borough Electors’, Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 478–492; a review of Letter from Sir Robert Wilson to His Constituents in Refutation of a Charge for Dispatching a False Report of a Victory to the Commander in Chief of the British Army in the Peninsular in the Year 1809; and which Charge is Advanced in the ‘Quarterly Review’ (1818). The author was William Carr Beresford (1768–1854; DNB), with material supplied by the Duke of Wellington. BACK

[19] Sir Robert Wilson (1777–1849; DNB), radical MP for Southwark 1818–1831, had commanded the Loyal Lusitanian Legion of Portuguese troops in the Peninsular War. In December 1808 he advanced to Ciudad Rodrigo in Spain and maintained his position despite the retreat of the main British Army to Corunna. Southey believed Wilson’s actions prevented the French advancing on Lisbon, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 498–500. BACK

[20] ‘Mr. Brougham – Education Committee’, Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 492–569; a review of, among other works, A Letter to Sir Samuel Romilly, M.P. from Henry Brougham, Esq. M.P., F.R.S. upon the Abuse of Charities (1818) and the Reports of House of Commons Select Committee on the Education of the Lower Orders 1816–1818, of which Brougham was Chairman. The Committee severely criticised the lack of educational provision for the poor and highlighted abuses in educational charities, including leading public schools. The review was by John Wilson Croker, among others. BACK

[21] Histoire de la Guerre d’Espagne contre Napoleon Buonaparte, Par une Commission d’Officiers de Toutes Armes Établie a Madrid, Auprès de S. Ex. Le Ministre de la Guerre; Traduite de l’Espanol, Avec Notes et Éclaircissemens (Paris, 1818), p. 265, described Southey as ‘an English writer, known for the elegance of his style, the justice of his insights and the independence of his ideas’. The book had misattributed Southey’s writings to the Edinburgh Review, rather than to the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)