3442. Robert Southey to John Murray, 19 February 1820

3442. Robert Southey to John Murray, 19 February 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 19 Feby 1820.

My dear Sir

Thank you for your letter & its inclosure. I reckoned upon Marlborough for this number, [1]  & the New Churches for the next. [2]  Let the latter paper have the last place in the number, for which it will be fitted, by its direct bearing upon the diseased opinions of the times.

You have sent me duplicates of Chaboulon de Fleury [3]  & of Burkhardt, [4]  which I will return cum multis aliis. [5]  Burkhardt is an excellent traveller, in every respect.

Oliver Cromwells Book is one of the very worst that was ever made by a dull man, & will hardly be of the smallest use in drawing up a life of old Oliver. [6]  It will serve however for text. The French life [7]  I have not yet examined, farther than to see that some pains have been taken with it, & that even pains-taking French<men> are wretchedly acquainted with our bibliography; – the author conceives De-Foe’s Mem: of a Cavalier to be authentic history, [8]  & knows nothing of what Noble has done. Nobles Cromwell I will return in the next parcel, having a copy of it. I want his Memoirs of the Regicides. [9]  The subject is very good, & much to my liking.

The reign of George 3. is a wide subject, – & I must talk seriously with you concerning it. [10]  Such a work, in its general design, as Voltaires Age of Louis 14, [11]  upon a larger scale in proportion to the greater extent of the subject, is what I have long thought of. A comprehensive & philosophical view of all the revolutions which have occurred during those eventful sixty years, with no more detail than is required for effect: for a detailed history would be a tremendous undertaking, almost beyond any mans strength. But I am sure that a most popular work upon my plan might be produced within the compass of four octavos, or perhaps of three; – a book which every body would read, & which would keep its place. – And this may, & would in all likelihood, be so great an object, that I you & I must consider whether it be good policy to employ as much time in treating it upon a smaller scale for the Review to employ as much time, as would suffice for one third of the work, upon a likely computation.

Antar will be a manageable subject & a good one. [12]  – There is a life of Camoens announced, – upon which I dare say the author has bestowed a great deal of minute labour. I can make a good article upon this subject, – the limits of a review being quite sufficient. [13]  You should consign to me also Prince Maximilian Travels in Brazil. [14] 

Dobrizhoffer calls his book a History. [15]  It will be better to announce it as “An Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian people <in the interior> of South America translated from the original Latin of Martin Dobrizhoffer, one of the Ex-Jesuits, two & twenty years a Missionary in Paraguay.” The best way of describing the nature & value of the book will be by annexing the following passage from my Hist: of Brazil – – “the Abipones have been in one thing fortunate above all other savages; for the history of their manners & fortunes by Martin Dobrizhoffer, a German Jesuit, who devoted the prime of his years to the task of converting them, & in old age after the extinction of his order, found consolation in recording the knowledge which he had so painfully acquired, & the labours which had so miserably been frustrated, is of all books relating to savage life, the most curious, & in every respect the most interesting.” [16] 

I must tell Lord Radstock [17]  what you will not be surprized <to hear,> because you will very well understand the reason of my resolution, – that I have been obliged to make the resolution never of never reviewing a volume of poems.

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

R Southey.

Will you lay by for me a set of proofs of the Marlborough [18]  – that I may have it as it is written. Its great length is a reason for curtailment: but I know not how I could have written it in less compass, the quantity of matter being so great in Coxes volumes. I have avoided throughout all technical details, all general history, & kept as close as possible to Marlborough. Yet it is longer by a full third that you would have wished to have, or I to make it. The length however may show that I never spare time or labour.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqre./ Albemarle Street/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 22 FE 22/ 1820
Seal: black wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
Watermark: W D & Co/ 1819
Endorsement: R Southey Esq / Feby 19. 1820
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42552. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Samuel Smiles, A Publisher and His Friends. Memoir and Correspondence of the Late John Murray, with an Account of the Origin and Progress of the House, 1768–1843, 2 vols (London, 1891), II, pp. 109–110 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s review of William Coxe, Memoirs of John Duke of Marlborough, with his Original Correspondence; Collected from the Family Records at Blenheim, and Other Authentic Sources. Illustrated with Portraits, Maps, and Military Plans (1818–1819) appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (May 1820), 1–73. He did not, as he had hoped, have an article in Quarterly Review, 22 (January 1820), published on 17 March 1820. BACK

[2] Southey’s review of Benjamin Haydon, New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818) and other volumes appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591. BACK

[3] Pierre Alexandre Édouard, Baron Fleury de Chaboulon (1779–1835), Memoirs of the Private Life, Return, and Reign of Napoleon in 1815 (1820), published by Murray. Southey had a copy of the French edition, Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire de la Vie Privée: du Retour et du Règne de Napoléon (1819–1820), no. 563 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[4] The Swiss traveller and orientalist Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (1784–1817). Murray had published his Travels in Nubia (1819) on behalf of the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa. BACK

[5] ‘With many others’. BACK

[6] Oliver Cromwell (c. 1742–1821; DNB), Memoirs of the Protector, Oliver Cromwell, and of His Sons, Richard and Henry. Illustrated by Original Letters, and Other Family Papers (1820). This book provided one of the occasions for Southey’s ‘Life of Cromwell’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 279–347. BACK

[7] Abel Francois Villemain (1790–1870), Histoire de Cromwell, d’après les Mémoires du Temps et les Recueils Parlementaires (1819). BACK

[8] Daniel Defoe’s (c. 1660?–1731; DNB) fictional Memoirs of a Cavalier (1720). BACK

[9] Mark Noble (1754–1827; DNB), Memoirs of the Protectoral House of Cromwell: Deduced from an Early Period, and Continued Down to the Present Time (1787), no. 2040 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; and The Lives of the English Regicides, and Other Commissioners of the Pretended High Court of Justice, Appointed to Sit in Judgement Upon their Sovereign, King Charles the First (1798), no. 2041 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] Southey did not produce the proposed history of the reign of George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB). BACK

[11] i.e. Francois-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), Siècle de Louis XIV (1751), a history of Europe 1661–1715. BACK

[12] Southey did not review Antar, A Bedoueen Romance. Translated from the Arabic by Terrick Hamilton (1819) for the Quarterly Review. BACK

[13] The book was by Southey’s occasional correspondent John Adamson, Memoirs of the Life and Writing of Luis de Camoens (1820); Southey’s copy was no. 10 in the sale catalogue of his library. Southey noticed it favourably in Quarterly Review, 27 (April 1822), 1–39. BACK

[14] The explorer, ethnographer and naturalist, Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied (1782–1867), who had travelled extensively in south-eastern Brazil. He published an account of his journeys, Reise Nach Brasilien in Denjahren 1815 bis 1817 (1820), which was translated into English as Travels in Brazil in the Years 1815 to 1817 (1820); Southey’s copy was no. 1865 in the sale catalogue of his library. Southey did not review it for the Quarterly Review. BACK

[15] Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784). Murray was to publish Sara Coleridge’s translation as An Account of the Abipones (1822). BACK

[16] Southey’s History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, p. 397. Murray took Southey’s advice, advertising An Account of the Abipones thus, and as no. 25 on the list of ‘Works Preparing for Immediate Publication’ that he issued in December 1820. BACK

[17] William Waldegrave, 1st Baron Radstock (1753–1825; DNB), admiral, philanthropist and Governor of Newfoundland, 1797–1800. He was of central importance in helping John Clare (1793–1864; DNB) to publish his Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (1820). BACK

[18] Southey’s review of William Coxe, Memoirs of John Duke of Marlborough, with his Original Correspondence; Collected from the Family Records at Blenheim, and Other Authentic Sources. Illustrated with Portraits, Maps, and Military Plans (1818–1819) appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (May 1820), 1–73. BACK

People mentioned

Adamson, John (1787–1855) (mentioned 1 time)
Coxe, William (1748–1828) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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