3666. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 8 April 1821

3666. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 8 April 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 8 April. 1821

I am anxious to hear of you & your household, – of yourself because I am sure you must have been very much shaken by your dismal confinement at Bristol, & of Alfred, Georgiana & my namesake, because they will hardly have escaped from the measles. Edward, I heard from Harry, about a week ago, was doing well. It is a favourable time of year for the disorder (if the season with you be as mild as it is with us) – & xx a good thing to have passed thro so serious a disease, – from which there is no escaping. – I am looking every day for news of Harry’s family, – & not without a certain degree of anxiety, to which I am too prone.

You have probably seen his Doctorship since his friend Sir Wm Knighton [1]  deputed him to convey to me a very civil message from the King. – What a preposterous price the Longmen have put upon the poem! [2]  – just as much again as I should have thought right. The only objections to the metre which have reached me, are a private one upon some theory connected with musical terms & notation, which I do not understand, [3]  & a magazine one as to the difficulty of finding breath to read it; which is the objection of a blockhead, mistaking <reasoning upon> length of line, for <as if it were> length of sentence. [4] 

I am printing in a little volume per se that story of Lope de Aguirre. [5] 

Peter Martyr of Angheria whose Epistles [6]  I am now reading, mentions the paper money concerning which you sent me a passage from his friend & contemporary Ant: Nebrissensis. [7]  I found in his 68th epistle yesterday a passage which have been unknown to the various writers who have discussed the question of the American Origin of Siphilis, – for it sets that point compleatly at rest. The letter is dated from Jaen in Nones Aprilis 1488 to the Greek Professor at Salamanca, Arius L whom he calls Arius Lusitanus, [8]  & it begins thus. In peculiarem te nostræ tempestatis morbum, qui appellatione Hispanâ Bubarum dicitur, ab Italis morbus Gallicus, medicorum Elephantiam alii, alii aliter appellant, incidisse præcipitem, libero ad me scribis pede. Lugubri autem elog<i>o calamitatem, ærumnasque gemis tuas, articulorum impedimentum, internodiorum hebetudinem, juncturarum omnium dolores intensos esse proclamas, ulcerum et oris fœditatem superadditam miserandâ promis eloquentiâ, conquereris, lamentaris, deploras. [9]  – Here then is direct proof that the disease was considered as the peculiar scourge of the age, before Columbus sailed upon his first voyage. [10] 

I cannot believe that the Catholic Bill will pass the H of Lords. [11]  If it should, petitions ought to be addressed to the King, to xxxxxxx xxx xxxxxxx by the two Universities, & by every Dean & Chapter. If it passes Church property will not be worth ten years [MS obscured]. The danger is from the Dissenters, – they will enter the breach, – the Agriculturists will join with them in a cry against Tythes, & the first unprincipled Minister will gladly appoint a Committee who may authorize him to do as Pitt (the worst of all Ministers) did with the Land Tax. [12]  This Catholic question is a legacy which he left us.

We are all well. Love to my Aunt & the children. I hope Edward is quite recovered – Let me hear from you – or from him

God bless you



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry.
Stamped: KESWICK/298
Postmark: 10 o’Clock/ AP. 11/ 1821 F Nn; E/ 11 AP 11/ 1821
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 205. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Knighton was an old friend of Henry Herbert Southey; they had studied medicine together at the University of Edinburgh. Knighton had presented A Vision of Judgement (1821) to George IV. For the king’s reaction, see Southey to William Knighton, 30 March 1821, Letter 3661. BACK

[2] A Vision of Judgement (1821) was priced at 15 shillings. BACK

[3] From Samuel Tillbrook. He published his criticisms as Historical and Critical Remarks upon the Modern Hexameters, and Upon the Vision of Judgement (1822) and Southey responded in his Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), X, pp. [vii]–xxi. BACK

[4] London Magazine, 3 (April 1821), 428–430: ‘The Vision opens with the following lines, which any “reader of poetry” will find little difficulty in managing – the only requisite being breath’ (429). BACK

[5] Southey’s The Expedition of Orsua; and the Crimes of Aguirre (1821), originally intended to be part of the History of Brazil (1810–1819) and first published in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.2 (1812), i–l. BACK

[6] Peter Martyr d’Anghiera (1457–1526), Opus Epistolarum (1670), no. 1902 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Antonio de Lebrija (1441–1522), Rerum a Ferdinando et Elisabeth Hispaniarum Regibus Gestarum Decades II (1545), no. 1925 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Both Lebrija and d’Angheira mentioned the issue of paper money during the siege of Alhama de Granada in 1483–1485, possibly the first use of paper money in Europe. BACK

[8] Arias Barbosa (c. 1465/70–1540), Portuguese scholar and Professor of Greek at the University of Salamanca 1495–1530. BACK

[9] Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, Opus Epistolarum (Amsterdam, 1670), p. 34. The passage translates as: ‘You write to me, of your own free will [literally ‘with a free foot’], that you have fallen headlong into the disease peculiar to our time, which is called by the Spanish appellation ‘bubas’, by the Italians ‘the French disease’, and which some of the doctors call ‘Elephantia’, and others call by another name. But in a lugubrious statement you bewail the calamity and your tribulations; you cry out that your knuckles’ impediment, your joints’ dullness and the pains of all your commissures are intense; with an eloquence that excites pity you tell of the ulcer and the additional foulness of your mouth; you complain, lament and deplore it.’ BACK

[10] Christopher Columbus (1450/1–1506), Italian explorer who was commissioned by the Spanish Crown to sail west across the Atlantic in 1492 and who discovered America rather than Asia. One theory of the origin of syphilis was that it was brought back from America by Columbus. Southey had previously collected information on the disease for his brother, whose university dissertation agreed with the theory that syphilis had an American origin; see Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 24 March 1806, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Three, Letter 1711. BACK

[11] The Roman Catholic Disability Removal Bill was indeed defeated in the House of Lords on 17 April 1821. BACK

[12] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806, created the Land Tax Redemption Office in 1798, allowing landowners to make their property exempt from future land tax payments if they paid a lump sum, equal to 15 years’ tax. He also favoured the removal of all civil disabilities from Roman Catholics and resigned in 1801 when George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB) would not agree to the measure. BACK

People mentioned

George IV (1762–1830) (mentioned 2 times)
Hill, Edward (1809–1900) (mentioned 2 times)
Knighton, William (1776–1836) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Georgiana (1816–1873) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Catherine (1775–1848) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Alfred (b. 1815) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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