3738. Robert Southey to David Laing, 19 October 1821

3738. Robert Southey to David Laing, 19 October 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 19 Oct. 1821

Dear Sir

When I wrote to thank you for Montgomerys Poems, [1]  I did not know to whom I was writing. A note which Mr Henry Robinson left for me during my absence, made me first apprehend that you are the Mr Laing with whom I had half an hours pleasant <conversation> in 1819, when I laid my hand on two books relating to Brazil, after having for many years sought them in vain. [2]  And I now learn from Mr Feldborg that this apprehension was right.

I am much obliged to you for your offer of assistance in my Quaker-collections, & shall be very thankful for any materials with which you can supply me. The materials for a view of the rise & progress of Quakerism must be picked out from a prodigious mass of rubbish. [3]  But the object is worth the labour; & interesting facts are not unfrequently found where they are least to be expected.

Whenever you may be disposed to make this place in your way to or from London, I shall be very glad to have an opportunity of showing my sense of your civilities. Present my remembrances to your father. [4]  I learnt the curious device which Whitefield used for his seal, from the letter which he gave me. [5] 

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ David Laing Esqr/ Edinburgh
Seal: red wax: design illegible
MS: Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections, The Laing Collection. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Geoffrey Bullough, ‘Southey and David Laing’, Times Literary Supplement, 1681 (19 April 1934), 282 [in part]. BACK

[1] The Poems of Alexander Montgomery: With Biographical Notices, by D. Irving (1821). The volume, a presentation copy from Laing, was no. 1981 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; see Southey to David Laing, 29 August 1821, Letter 3720. BACK

[2] Southey had visited Laing’s Edinburgh bookshop during his Scottish tour of 1819. He had found there two books he had long sought. The first was Marin le Roy de Gomberville (1600–1674), Relation de la Rivière des Amazones (1682), no. 7 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library – the book was a translation of Cristóbal Diatristán de Acuña (1597–c. 1676), Nuevo Descubrimiento del Gran Río de las Amazonas (1641). The second volume Southey purchased was Francois Cauche (1616–1699), Relations Veritables et Curieuses de l’Isle de Madagascar et du Bresil (1651), no. 2363 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Laing had offered to supply materials for Southey’s planned, but unexecuted, life of George Fox (1624–1691; DNB), the founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers). BACK

[4] The bookseller and publisher William Laing (1764–1832; DNB), whom Southey had first met in Edinburgh in 1805. BACK

[5] George Whitefield (1714–1770; DNB), leader of the Calvinistic Methodists. As Southey explained in The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism, 2 vols (London, 1820), II, p. 599: ‘The device upon Whitefield’s seal was a winged heart soaring above the globe, and the motto Astra petanius. The seal appears to have been circular, and coarsely cut. A broken impression is upon an original letter of his in my possession, for which I am obliged to Mr. Laing, the book seller, of Edinburgh.’ BACK

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