3576. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 6 December 1820

3576. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 6 December 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 6 Dec. 1820

My dear Sir

Thank you for your letter, & the books which accompanied it. –– I must reply to it point by point.

My German, tho it be even less than my Dutch (which is little enough) will yet suffice to make out the plain straight forward style of an old narrative. So I shall be very glad to receive the account of the Siege of S Salvador, [1]  – it will be just in time. The latter part of this volume [2]  will be much improved from Dutch authorities, viz – Aitzema, [3]  & Johannes de Laet’s Hist: of the West Indian Company, [4]  – a book of which I had been led to suspect the existence, but never could ascertain it, till I laid my hands upon a copy, in happy hour, at Brussels.

I was always doubtful whether I had xxxxx hit upon the right manner of restoring the name of Stadius to its vernacular form. And if your Dutch copy follows the original (as may reasonably be presumed) the name is Hans Staden. The version which I used is De Bry’s with which I will collate it. [5]  In the case of Lery [6]  I detected an abominable fraud of omission by comparing the authors original with De Bry. [7]  In Hans Staden this is not likely to be the case, as there the same motive for mutilating his narrative did not exist.

My copy of Schmidel is in Barcia. [8]  Your small 4to of which you speak, I have had, & returned it in the late parcel. [9]  – The original of Cabeça de Vaca [10]  I still wish to see, – because, if it be possible, I will take advantage of reprinting the first volume, to affix the Catalogue Raisonné, & make it compleat as far as I can. [11] 

I shall be very glad of the Litterae Annuæ, – the want of which I regretted grievously, in composing the second volume especially. [12]  In correcting the first I have consoled myself by ascertaining from those volumes in my possession that Jarric has drawn largely from that source, & very faithfully. Jarrics original in three volumes I procured at Brussels. [13]  – Thank you for that volume of the Litt: Ann: in which you have written xx my name. This collection is so important to me that I would gladly have purchased it, if Ogle & Duncan [14]  would have sold their collection of Jesuit-books in separate lots. They seemd to be me to be foolish in not doing so, for as a collection it was miserably incompleat, & had indeed no pretensions to be offerd as any thing like a perfect one.

I have Camus’s book. [15] 

Lerius I never had from you, but used De Brys version, [16]  – after which I had his own Latin given me by that strange man Henry White of Lichfield, & two French editions were also sent me by different friends, – one from Norwich, the other from Paris. [17] 

I procured a Latin version of Benzoni from the Redcross Street Library some years ago. [18]  Abbeville I read & extracted from at the Museum: very possibly I might have made more use of him, if I had had possession of the book. [19] 

Before my Vulpine labours can go to the press I shall have much to do in hunting out such tracts as you point out from Rawlinsons Catalogue. [20]  Concerning G Fox’s Will, which is printed in Morgans Phœnix I very much suspect its authenticity. [21]  This however is a point [MS obscured] can be ascertained, & which is worth ascertaining [MS obscured] for if it be genuine, he was far more ign[MS obscured] than St Francis, [22]  & must have been more compleatly a tool in the hands of his law-makers. But this I do not believe: for Penn & Barclay are not men who can be suspected of fraud. [23] 

Can you lend me Abraham Fraunce for the preface to my hexameters? [24]  I thought to have finished them this day, but new matter has sprung up before me. The Preface should contain an account of former attempts in our own & other languages. Pasquier will help me in the French, [25]  & Tiraboschi no doubt in the Italian, [26]  – both these I have. I learn from a grammar that the Bohemians have a translation of the Iliad in this measure, – caught sans doubt from the Germans. [27]  Has it ever been tried by the Poles? the Russians? Danes Swedes & Dutch? [28]  these are questions which William Herbert would be more likely than any other person to answer, if I could propose them to him. [29] 

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs thankfully & truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Richard Heber Esqre/ Pimlico Lodge/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] DE/ 1820
Endorsement: Southey
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 215. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Johannes Gregorius Aldenburgk (1602–1628), West Indianische Reise (1627), an account of the capture of Salvador da Bahia by the Dutch in 1624 and its recapture by a Portuguese-Spanish force in 1625. BACK

[2] Southey was working on a second edition of the first volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819). It was published in 1822. BACK

[3] Lieuwe van Aitzema (1600–1669), Sakem van Staet en Oorlogh in ende Omtrent de Vereenigde Nederlanden (1655–1671) with the continuation by Lambert van den Bos (1610–1698) of 1685–1699 and Aitzema’s Verhael van de Nederlandsche Vrede-Handeling (1671), no. 214 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] Joannes de Laet (1581–1649), Historie ofte Iaerlijk Verhael van de Verrichtinghen der Geoctroyeerde West-Indische Compagnie (1644), no. 1671 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey had bought the book from Jean-Baptise Ver Beyst (1770–1849), a celebrated Brussels bookseller, in 1817. BACK

[5] Hans Staden (1525–1579), German soldier and mariner, who described his captivity in Brazil in Warhaftige Historia und Beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der Wilden, Nacketen, Grimmigen Menschfresser Leuthen in der Newenwelt America Gelegen (1557). Southey read Hans Staden’s story in Theodore de Bry’s (1528–1598) Peregrinationes (1590–1592), no. 717 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, and described him as ‘Hans Stade’ in History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, pp. 175–211. Heber’s Dutch version was Hans Staden van Homborgs Beschryvinge van America (1641). BACK

[6] By the time of his death, Southey’s library contained two editions (1578 and 1585) of Jean de Léry (1536–1613), Histoire d’un Voyage faict en la Terre du Bresil, nos 1709–1710 in the sale catalogue of his library. Léry had been part of the failed French colony in Brazil and was later a Protestant Minister in France. Southey had originally encountered this book in Theodore de Bry’s Peregrinationes (1590–1592). BACK

[7] See Southey to Thomas Southey, 10 January 1809, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Three, Letter 1563. De Bry had omitted some salient facts about why the French colony in Brazil 1555–1567 had failed, especially the conflict between Protestants and Catholics. BACK

[8] Ulrich Schmidl (1510–1579), a German mercenary in the service of Spanish conquistadors, who travelled up the river Plate from Buenos Aires into the interior of Peru and Bolivia. He published an account of his travels as Wahre Geschichte einer Merkwurdigen Reise, Gemacht durch Schmidel von Straubingen, in America oder der Neuen Welt, von 1534 bis 1554 (1557). Southey, whose Spanish was far superior to his German, obtained his version from Andrés Gonzáles Barcia (1673–1743), Historiadores Primitivos de las Indias Occidentales (1749), no. 3312 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[9] Heber had lent Southey the following quarto edition of a Latin version of Schmidl’s narrative, Vera Historia Admirandae cujusdam Navigationis, quam Huldericus Schmidel, ab anno 1534, usque ad annum 1554, in Americam vel Novum Mundum, iuxta Brasiliam et Rio della Plata, Confecit (1599); see Bibliotheca Heberiana. Catalogue of the Library of the Late Richard Heber, Esq. Part the Ninth (London, 1836), no. 633. BACK

[10] Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (c. 1488/1490–c. 1557/1559), explorer of South America. Heber possessed his Commentarios de lo Acaescido en las dos Jornados que hizo a las Indias (1555), Bibliotheca Heberiana. Catalogue of the Library of the Late Richard Heber, Esq. Part the Sixth (London, 1835), no. 2565. BACK

[11] Southey had intended to publish a bibliography of his sources in the concluding volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819). In the end there had not been enough space to do so. He therefore hoped to use the opportunity provided by a revised second edition of the first volume of his History (1822) to insert the bibliography. However, this idea did not reach fruition. BACK

[12] Fernão Guerreiro (c. 1550–1617), Relaçam Annal das Cousas que Fezeram os Padres da Companhia de Jesus nas Partes da India Oriental (1607–1611), nos 3483–3484 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Heber had lent Southey some of the missing volumes from this series, material that had not been available to him when working on the second volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[13] Pierre du Jarric (1566–1617), Histoire des Choses plus Memorables Advenues tant ez Indes Orientales, que autre Pais de la Decouverte des Portugais (1608–1614), no. 1396 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey had bought the book from Jean-Baptise Ver Beyst. Jarric’s work drew on Fernão Guerreiro’s Relaçam (1607–1611), and was translated into Latin in 1615. BACK

[14] Robert Ogle (d. 1823) and James Duncan (d. 1845), London booksellers, whose specialisms included theological books and manuscripts. BACK

[15] Armand-Gaston Camus (1740–1804), Mémoire sur la Grandes et Petits Voyages, et sur la Collections des Voyages de Melchisedech Thevenot (1802); no. 443 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[16] Jean de Léry(1536–1613), Histoire d’un Voyage faict en la Terre du Bresil, which Southey had originally encountered in Theodore de Bry’s (1528–1598) Peregrinationes (1590–1592), no. 717 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[17] Henry White (1761–1836), Sacristan of Lichfield Cathedral, Vicar of Dilhorne, and of Chebsey, and Perpetual Curate of Pipe Ridware. He had assembled a ‘valuable and curious’ library, which was noted for its collection of emblem books. White was a member of the circle around Anna Seward, and probably met Southey during the latter’s visit to Seward in 1808. He was probably the ‘strange fellow’ Southey mentioned as loaning him another book and then requesting its return; see Southey to Herbert Hill, [started before and continued on] 16 February [1810], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Four, Letter 1747. The friend in Norwich who gave Southey the French edition of Jean de Léry, Histoire d’un Voyage faict en la Terre du Bresil, was William Taylor; see Southey to William Taylor, 15 [January] 1809, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Three, Letter 1566. The friend in Paris is unidentified. BACK

[18] Girolamo Benzoni (b. 1519), Historia del Mondo Nuovo (1565). A number of Latin editions appeared from 1578 onwards and Southey had obtained one of them from Dr Williams’s Library, London. BACK

[19] Claude d’Abbeville (d. 1632), Histoire de la Mission des Peres Capuchines en l’Isle de Maragnan et Terres Circonvoisins (1614), which Southey had read in the British Museum, and used in the first volume of his History of Brazil (1810–1819); see Southey to John Rickman, [October 1810], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Four, Letter 1821. BACK

[20] Southey was collecting materials for his proposed life of George Fox (1624–1691; DNB), founder of the Society of Friends. Heber had pointed out some useful material in the Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Rawlinson (1721–1733), which described the collection of Thomas Rawlinson (1681–1725; DNB). BACK

[21] A document purporting to be the ‘Will’ of George Fox appeared in Joseph Morgan (fl. 1730s), Phœnix Britannicus: Being a Miscellaneous Collection of Scarce and Curious Tracts, Historical, Political, Biographical, Satirical, Critical, Characteristical, &c. Prose and Verse (London, 1732), pp. 190–191. The aim of publishing it had been to question ‘Quaker Veracity’ and ‘to convince the World, that he who made this Will, and could not write one Line of True English, is not the Author of any one Page in all those Books which the Quakers have impudently published under his Name’ (p. 190). Southey’s copy was no. 1889 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[22] St Francis of Assisi (1181/2–1226), founder of the Franciscan order. BACK

[23] William Penn (1644–1718; DNB), Quaker leader and founder of Pennsylvania; and Robert Barclay of Ury (1648–1690; DNB), early Quaker theologian. BACK

[24] The ‘Preface’ to Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), p. xxiv, referenced Abraham Fraunce (fl. 1587–1633), a protégé of Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586; DNB) who wrote verses exclusively in hexameters. His efforts therefore could be cited as historical precedents for Southey’s efforts, in Vision, to naturalise the hexameter. BACK

[25] A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), pp. 74–76, noted the efforts of Etienne Pasquier (1529–1615), in Les Recherches de la France, rev. edn (1633), to write hexameters in French. The volume was no. 2171 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[26] Girolamo Tiraboschi (1731–1794), Storia della Letteratura Italiana (1777–1786); no. 2859 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey was wrong, as he explained in A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), p. 79: ‘I found no specimens [of the hexameter] in Italian’. BACK

[27] Johann Heinrich Voss (1751–1826) had translated the Iliad into German hexameters in 1793. The Bohemian translation, which Southey had learned about from a ‘Bohemian grammar’ (A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), p. 79), was possibly that by Jan Nejedlý (1776–1834), poet and professor of Czech language and literature at Charles University, Prague. In 1802 he had translated the first book of the Iliad into Czech and in 1804 published a Praktische Böhmische Grammatik. BACK

[28] Southey did not find examples from any of these languages to quote from in A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[29] William Herbert (1772–1851; DNB), librarian and antiquary. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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