3640. Robert Southey to William Westall, 24 February 1821

3640. Robert Southey to William Westall, 24 February 1821⁠* 

My dear Westall

As you & your brother have interested yourselves concerning Roderick, [1]  in a manner which must needs be very gratifying to me, I ought to tell you that two translations of that poem were published at the beginning of last month in Paris, just at the same time; [2]  & that a third is said to be making ready. [3]  One French critic has declared war against the poem, [4]  & an English or Scotch or Irishman by name Thomas Mulock who lectures upon English poetry in French to the Parisians demonstrates that I am a bad poet, & that I must of necessity be so, because I am a bad Christian, not regenerate, & therefore in a state of reprobation. [5]  On the other hand the cudgels are taken up in defence of the said poem, & what with censure & praise, the one probably as little discriminating & as much exaggerated as the other, the book is becoming somewhat notorious. A few sets of the intended illustrations may perhaps find purchasers at Paris, in consequence.

Your beautiful drawings [6]  are sent back to Murray by this nights mail. They have been detained (as there was no hurry) that they might travel securely in the a quarto volume. [7] 

I have desired Longman to send you a copy of the Vision, [8]  which I suppose will be published in the course of next week. The opening lines happen to describe th a range of mountains which you have given in two of your views, & the precise effect of your evening scene (which, I ought to tell x you, Haydon spoke of with proper admiration, when I shewed it him) I have therefore referred to them in a note. [9] 

Poor Nash had no chance for his life, the Apothecary having entirely mistaken the nature of his disease! He left a very equitable will, dividing his property among his brothers & sisters, with an annuity to his mother. [10]  He once told me that he intended to bequeath to me as a remembrance your drawings of the Cave in India, [11]  – but this intention was not fulfilled. – I have obtained by the favour of his executors one of his little pocket books full of sketches which he made here, & the various portraits which he made of myself & the children. It was a clause in his will that none of his own drawings should be sold. The will was made early in 1815. [12]  – I had a great regard for him, & shall never think of him without affection & regret.

God bless you

Yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

The Ladies [13]  & the Girls [14]  desire their kind remembrances.

Keswick. 24 Feby. 1821.


* Address: To/ Wm Westall Esqre/ 20. Euston Crescent/ Euston Square
Postmarks: 2 o’Clock/ 27 FE/ 1821 ANn; [partial] Unpaid
MS: Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Westalls had suggested that they should produce illustrations for Southey’s Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814); these could then be inspected, purchased and bound into readers’ own copies of the poem. The result was a set of six engravings based on drawings by Richard Westall (1765–1836; DNB) and entitled Illustrations of Roderick, the Last of the Goths. A Poem, by Robert Southey, Esq. from the Drawings of R. Westall R.A. (1824). BACK

[2] Pierre Hippolyte Amillet de Sagrie (1785–1830), Roderic, Dernier Roi des Goths (1821), no. 2700 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; and Antoine André Brugière, Baron de Sorsum, Roderick, le Dernier des Goths (1820), no. 2697 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Probably the material relating to Roderick in Abel Hugo (1798–1855), Romances Historiques Traduites de l’Espagnol (Paris, 1822), pp. 1–32. BACK

[4] Unidentified. BACK

[5] Southey had heard reports from Ann Attersoll of the lecture series on English literature given in Paris in 1820 by the Irishman Thomas Mulock (1789–1869), a failed merchant, political reactionary, and associate of George Canning. Something of the tone of Mulock’s lectures is encapsulated by Thomas Moore, who was in Paris at the time they were given. On discovering that he ‘was to be one of the victims of … [Mulock’s] tomahawk’, Moore put off his proposed attendance at them until a later day, The Journal of Thomas Moore, eds Wilfred Sellars Dowden, Barbara Bartholomew, and Joy L. Linsley, 2 vols (East Brunswick, N.J., 1983), I, p. 367. Moore had earlier described Mulock as ‘a pedantic young Irishman, and a mighty genius in his own estimation’ (I, p. 63). Mulock found ungodliness everywhere and in everyone. He attacked Byron in The Answer Given by the Gospel to the Atheism of All Ages (1819), pp. 43–44 n*; 99–100 n*; 101–102 n*. During his Paris lectures he informed his audience that France was ‘by her follies and her crimes, least and lowest in the scale of European nations … an atheistic land scoured by squadrons of anti-christian missionaries, whose carnal cry is, up with the cross, and down with the bible’, Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c., 217 (17 March 1821), 173. On his return to England in 1821 he became a dissenting preacher in Staffordshire and, in later life, was confined as a lunatic on several occasions. BACK

[6] Westall produced the following six sketches of Lake District scenes that were engraved for Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols (London, 1829): vol. I: ‘Druidical Stones near Keswick’, ‘Derwentwater, Bassenthwaite-water, and Skiddaw, from Walla Crag’, and ‘Derwentwater from Strandshagg’; and vol. II: ‘Crosthwaite Church and Skiddaw’, ‘Greta Hall, Derwentwater, and Newlands’, and ‘Tarn of Blencathra’. BACK

[7] The drawings were sent via Murray, and enclosed in a copy of Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823; DNB), Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries Within the Pyramids, Temples, Tombs and Excavations in Egypt and Nubia (1820); see Southey to John Murray, 24 [February] 1821, Letter 3639. BACK

[8] A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[9] Vision of Judgement (1821), Canto 1, lines 1–21. Southey’s note recorded: ‘THIS effect of twilight, and in the very scene described, has been lately represented by Mr. William Westall, in one of his Views of the Lakes, with the true feeling and power of genius. The range of mountains which is described in these introductory lines, may also be seen in his View of the Vale of Keswick from the Penrith road’ (p. 49). The works by Westall referred to here are ‘Keswick Lake from the East Side’ and ‘Keswick Lake from the Penrith Road’, in his Views of the Lake and of the Vale of Keswick (1820). BACK

[10] Unidentified. BACK

[11] Westall made a number of drawings of the ‘Great Cave-Temple of Elephanta, nr Bombay’ (1803). BACK

[12] Nash’s will was made before he met Southey in an inn at Bruges on 23 September 1815, and so did not reflect his friendship with Southey. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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