3571. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 29 November 1820

3571. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 29 November 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 29 Nov. 1820.

I have taken your advice concerning the Vision of Judgement, [1]  & proceeded with it to such good purport, that I have a fair prospect of bringing it to its close tomorrow. It has been tried upon a good many ears, & never without an effect more or less favourable; persons who did not think it possible that the metre could be introduced into our language without producing something forced or ridiculous, having acknowledged that the xxx xxx attempt was <is> succesful. I shall probably soon publish it, with an introductory account of the various attempts which have been made to naturalize the hexameter & other classical metres in the different modern languages, as well as in our own. This with a few specimens will help out a lean book, & extend it to about fifty pages in foolscap quarto. [2] 

The present state of affairs while I am pursuing my usual employments, as if all things were well & as they should be, remind me very much of the year 1800, when there seemed every probability that the yellow fever would make its appearance at Lisbon. Anxious as all persons who suffered themselves to think upon the subject were, & as I myself was, tho at a time of life when such anxieties are more easily put aside than in maturer years, I have often thought how little that frightful apprehension appeared to affect those among whom I lived, – their business & their amusements went on as usual; & the Government itself did not appear more indifferent to the imminent danger, than even the reflecting part of the people. That poor country was spared from the visitation of pestilence; to undergo others not less terrible in their action & perhaps more lasting. [3]  Whether the moral plague which is raging among us will be stayed, or whether it will bring on that tremendous convulsion which so many causes have prepared, & xxx <seems> at this time <to be> accelerating, God only knows. This infernal woman [4]  will raise a rebellion if she can. – King Mob bore his faculties meekly here, & offered no violence to the half dozen houses in the town which were not illuminated. I stood in a conspicuous situation, & thought it not unlikely that my windows might be attacked, in which case I should certainly have faced the assailants, & have tried what fair words & a resolute avowal of opinion would have done. Much to my satisfaction they let me alone.

When next you have an hour to spare in London, call at Nash’s (2 Duchess Street, Portland Place) & look at his portfolio. He has an excellent likeness of Cuthbert, some very good ones of Edith-May, [5]  & a picture of one of our mountain parties which will please you very much.

I have a M.S.S. on the road from the Inquisition at Majorca, containing I believe an account of its proceedings. Col: Shipley [6]  laid hold of it at the wreck & sent it to Wynn, & he sends it to me. It will probably relate wholly to Jews & Moriscoes, – & to those cases which have nothing to do with religious opinions, such as witchcraft, bigamy &c. Something curious might perhaps have been found in their archives concerning Ramon [7]  [MS missing] – but can hardly be expected here.

[MS missing] tolerably well thank God, & I hope the stock of exercise & excitement which I laid in in the South will carry xxx <me> well thro the winter. A thorough shaking of that kind does me a great deal of good. If I could afford the time & the cost, & muster the resolution, I should prescribe for myself a six weeks journey every year.

I have written to Heber to see whether he has Oviedo y Baños [8]  & I am printing the Carmen Triumphale & the three Court Odes in a little volume to range with my other poems; – it will bind up with the Carmen Nuptiale. [9]  – I have written a book of Oliver Newman [10]  since my return. And this reminds me that a certain Mr Sedgwick of New York [11]  has sent me Hubbards Indian War, [12]  supposing it might be useful to me in this work, whereas I happen to possess both the original edition, & the modern one. The book came by the Venus Capt Candler, [13]  & is left with “Messrs John & James Dunlop, Merchants, London” [14]  till called for. Get some of your city friends to send for it, & place it upon your shelves.

Love to my Aunt & the children. God bless you. RS.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surrey.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ 3 DE 3/ 1820; [partial] lock/ E.2/ Nn
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 201. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[2] A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), ‘Preface’ (pp. ix–xxvii), ‘Notes’ (pp. 47–65), ‘Specimens’ (pp. 67–79). It was not published in foolscap quarto, but in quarto. BACK

[3] The French invasion of 1807; the flight of the Portuguese court to Brazil in 1807–1808; and the Liberal revolution in Portugal in August 1820. BACK

[4] Under extreme pressure from George IV, the Cabinet had reluctantly agreed to introduce a Bill of Pains and Penalties into the House of Lords to deprive the King’s wife, Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821; DNB), of the title of Queen and to dissolve her marriage to the King. On the Third Reading of the Bill on 10 November 1820, the government majority had been only nine votes and it had seemed very unlikely the Bill could pass the House of Commons. Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister, therefore had announced the Bill would be withdrawn. As was customary when a national victory was celebrated, many householders put lighted candles in their windows. This occurred at different dates in towns across the country, mostly between 11 November and 16 November 1820; the celebrations in Keswick were on 15 November 1820. BACK

[5] The identity of the portraits is unclear, but they are probably those depicting Edith May in three different dresses, lilac, red and uncoloured, described in Southey to John May, 8 April 1821, Letter 3667. The location of the ‘lilac’ portrait is unknown; the ‘redder’ one is probably the pencil and watercolour sketch now in the collections of the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere; and the ‘uncoloured’ one is in Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. BACK

[6] William Shipley (1778–1820), MP for St Mawes 1807, 1812–1813 and MP for Flint Boroughs 1807–1812. A former soldier, he was Wynn’s brother-in-law, having married Charlotte Williams Wynn (1773–1819) in 1806. In 1813 his huge gambling debts forced him to flee to Majorca and he died in France on 29 November 1820. The manuscript Southey mentions was not in the sale catalogue of his library and he found it of little interest; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 2 December 1820, Letter 3574. BACK

[7] Possibly a reference to Ramon Llull (c. 1232–1315), a Franciscan from Majorca, writer and philosopher. Many of his works were condemned as heretical in 1376. BACK

[8] See Southey to Richard Heber, 25 November 1820, Letter 3566, asking if he had a copy of José de Oviedo y Baños (1671–1738), Historia de la Conquista y Población de la Provincia de Venezuela (1723), no. 3605 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey wanted this volume for his The Expedition of Orsua; and the Crimes of Aguirre (1821), a version of which had first appeared in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.2 (1812), i–l. BACK

[9] A combined second edition of Carmen Triumphale (1814) and Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (1814), published as Carmen Triumphale, for the Commencement of the Year 1814: Carmen Aulica. Written in 1814, on the Arrival of the Allied Sovereigns in England (1821). At 93 pages, this edition was slightly longer than the 77-page Lay of the Laureate (1816). BACK

[10] ‘The Portrait’, the fifth book of Southey’s unfinished epic, set in New England. The completed sections were published after Southey’s death in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 1–90. BACK

[11] Possibly one of three brothers, the sons of the politician and judge, Theodore Sedgwick I (1746–1813): Theodore Sedgwick II (1780–1839); Henry Dwight Sedgwick (1785–1831); and Robert Sedgwick (1787–1841), all of whom practised law in New York. BACK

[12] William Hubbard (1621/2–1704), Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New England (1677) and Narrative of the Indian Wars in New-England (1803), nos 1385 and 1266 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[13] John Candler (1792–1842), an American sea captain, who worked for various Boston shipowners. During the War of 1812 he had been Master’s Mate on USS Constitution. BACK

[14] John Dunlop (1779–1830) and his brother James Dunlop (b. 1781), Scottish merchants and bankers, mainly engaged in trade with America. BACK

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