3748. Robert Southey to John May, 14 November 1821

3748. Robert Southey to John May, 14 November 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 14 Nov. 1821

My dear friend

I inclose the seventh letter of reminiscencies. [1]  This is making progress, slow indeed, but I hope, sure, – & I feel an increasing interest in the task.

Your last gave me I know not whether most concern or satisfaction, – if that may be called satisfaction which is felt when we see ill fortune admirably sustained. The affairs of the world are in better hands than ours; & were your property saved from the wreck, I should regard the impending evils of Brazil, without anxiety, tho not without sorrow. [2]  The tendency there is to disunion, & if the separate republics into which it is likely to split do not commence hostilities against each other, the deserts which separate them will be the only cause; & intestine commotions will be give each enough to do at home, – especially when we recollect the fearful proportion of the xx black population! The separation of the two countries being now, I think, inevitable (it is the natural & direct consequence of the Revolution at home) the best thing which can be wished for Brazil, is the speedy formation of a federal government, & a Congress. But if this was so difficult in English-America that it could hardly have been effected by any other man than Washington, [3]  aided too by friends worthy of such a man, – what must it be among the Brazilians!

Since my last letter was written, I spent a week at Lowther, & having lamed myself the first day by a quarrel between my foot & my boot, in which skin gave way to leather, past all my mornings (& the morning there reached far into the evening) among the books, at hard work. I found there a most extensive collection of old pamphlets, from James 1st  [4]  downwards. – & extracted from them largely. They added much to my knowledge of Cromwells time, made me fully acquainted with some points of which I had never before been able to obtain satisfactory information, & confirmed, I think in every instance, the view I had taken of that age. It will be Murraylemagnes fault if I do not enlarge the life of Cromwell as was done with that of Nelson. [5] 

At present I am reviewing Dobrizhoffer. [6]  Copies of Sara Coleridges translation are, or are to will be sent to John, & William Coleridge, – both to the chambers of the former because we knew not Williams direction. They will be interested with the book, & will admire the industry & attainments which are displayed in the translation, – a most extraordinary work for one so young.

The History of the Pen: War keeps me also pretty closely employed. 53 sheets are printed, – & I have got so much ahead of the printer [7]  as to have time for executing this Review (a needful part of my ways & means) before he will overtake me.

Your goddaughter & the children, [8]  thank God are well. Edith has not been so, – the stomach is the seat of her ailments, & they produce a deplorable effect upon her spirits at times, – such indeed as to give me serious concern & apprehension. At present she is tolerably well, – & like xx you, I endeavour always to hope for the best, & have a constitution which assists me in so doing. But my pillow is not without thorns, – tho it is only to you that I say it. My brother Tom is preparing a load of cares for me. He has seven children, & another coming, [9]  – & is likely to have as many more. What is to become of them is a thought which sits much more easily upon him than it does upon me.

In Labore Quies. [10]  I think of these things as little as I can, & gain tranquillity by living “labourious days.” [11] My little boy is a delightful creature, – I have taught him to look at the lamb & the lark – (tell Charlotte) - [12]  with great success. Would that you were near enough to look at us! And, in the language of Buonapartes Government, Keswick is three hours nearer London than it was last summer. [13]  Our mail now arrives between 12 & 1 – on the second day.

God bless you. Let me hear from you shortly. Remember me to your fire side, & believe me

Yrs most affectionately

Robert Southey.


* Endorsement: No. 222 1821/ Robert Southey/ Keswick 14th November/ recd. 19th do/ ansd. 24th Decr
MS: Beinecke Library, Osborn MSS File ‘S’, Folder 14143. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] See Southey to John May, 2 September–13 November 1821, Letter 3724. BACK

[2] An army revolt in Porto in August 1820 led to the election of a Cortes in December 1820 and demands that the monarchy return from Brazil, where it had fled in 1807–1808, following the French invasion. John VI (1767–1826; King of Portugal 1816–1826) arrived back in Lisbon on 3 July 1821 and eventually agreed to a new liberal Constitution. John VI appointed his son, Pedro (1798–1834; Emperor of Brazil 1822–1831), as Regent in Brazil, and Pedro summoned an elected advisory council to represent the different Brazilian provinces. These events eventually led to the separation of Portugal and Brazil on 7 September 1822, but Brazil did not become a republic or disintegrate. BACK

[3] George Washington (1732–1799; President of the United States 1789–1797). BACK

[4] James VI and I (1566–1625; King of Scotland, 1567–1625; King of Great Britain 1603–1625). BACK

[5] Southey’s assessment of the life of Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; Lord Protector 1653–1658; DNB) had appeared in the Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 279–347. He was hoping to make it into a separate work as he had previously done with his Life of Nelson (1813), an expansion of his article in Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. This did not happen. BACK

[6] Southey reviewed Sara Coleridge’s An Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of Paraguay (1822) in Quarterly Review, 26 (January 1822), 277–323. The book was a translation of Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784). BACK

[7] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). The printer was Thomas Davison (1766–1831). BACK

[9] Tom Southey’s seven children were: Margaret Hill Southey (b. 1811); Mary Hill Southey (b. 1812); Robert Castle Southey (1813–1828); Herbert Castle Southey (1815–1864); Eleanor Thomasina Southey (1816–1835); Sarah Louise Southey (1818–1850); and Nelson Castle Southey (1820–1834). They were followed by Sophia Jane Southey (1822–1859), who was born on 30 March 1822, and Thomas Castle Southey (1824–1896). BACK

[10] ‘in work is rest’, the motto on Southey’s seal. BACK

[11] John Milton (1608–1674; DNB), ‘Lycidas’ (1637), line 72. BACK

[12] May’s youngest daughter Charlotte Livius (b. 1812). The ‘Lamb and the Lark’ may refer to a children’s book, possibly Lindley Murray (1745–1826; DNB), Introduction to the English Reader: or, A Selection of Pieces, in Prose and Poetry; Calculated to Improve the Younger Classes of Learners in Reading; and to Imbue their Minds with the Love of Virtue (1811). BACK

[13] The government of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821; Emperor of the French 1804–1814, 1815) phrased its official announcements about improvements in communications in this way. In other words, the coach took three hours less to travel from London to Keswick. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Lowther estate (mentioned 1 time)


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