1541. Robert Southey to John Murray, 23 November 1808

1541. Robert Southey to John Murray, 23 November 1808 ⁠* 

Keswick. Wedn. Nov. 23. 1808


I shall with hearty good will enter upon a general view of the existing Protestant Missions, tho what I had proposed related only to those in the East, my purpose being to show that the outcry raised against them on is as impolitic & as unphilosophical as it is irreligious; I am no fanatic myself, nor do I believe that salvation is exclusively attached to a belief in the Christian faith; – but th it is only from that faith that any amelioration of mankind is to be hoped for & those institutions of society, & habits of feeling & of action, which are essential to the well-being of nations & individuals, are not communicable by any other means.

The two associations with the History of which I am best acquainted are the Baptist, & the Missionary Society, – it is with this latter that I conceive the Thorntons [1]  & their party to be connected. Their transactions I reviewed at length in the three first volumes of the Annual, & those articles are the first which appeared upon the subject. [2]  With <Upon> the proceedings of the Moravians I am not so well informed, & it will be of service to me if you can procure the first 39 numbers of their account, these which have arrived in your parcel being the first which I had seen. [3]  Loskiels Hist. of their Missions in N America, [4]  & Crantz’s Greenland [5]  I have. These previous numbers, Claudius Buchanan’s book, [6]  & the pamphlets of Waring & Twining [7]  with the various publications to which they have given rise, I shall be glad to consult, & it will be well to have Sidney Smith’s reviewal sent with them, [8]  – that Review never falling in my way. The Quaker accounts I have.

There is another Society which has missionaries in Tartary, but of which I have never seen any account except some brief notices in a few stray numbers of the Evangelical Magazine. [9]  I rather think it is a Scotch society. If x any documents concerning their proceedings could be obtained, they would enable me to render this proposed summary compleat.

I have now Sir to thank you for the pains you have already taken. You will perceive that my intention is to defend the missions, not upon calvinistic grounds, but philosophically, in the spirit & with the feeling of a Christian so as I trust to accord with Mr Giffords views of the subject.

I am Sir

Yours with respect

Robert Southey.


* Address: To Mr Murray/ Bookseller/ Fleet Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ NOV26/ 1808
Watermark: 1807/ JW & BB
Endorsement: 1808 Novr 23 – Keswick/ Southey. Robt/ L.Q.R./ 1st Letter acknowl Re/ceipt of Bks on Missions &/ assign others
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42550. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 492–493. BACK

[1] Henry Thornton (1760–1815; DNB) and his wife Marianne, née Sykes (1765–1815; DNB), members of the evangelical Clapham sect and supporters of the Church Missionary Society. BACK

[2] Volumes 1 (1803) and 2 (1806) of Transactions of the Missionary Society, were reviewed by Southey as the Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands in the Quarterly Review, 2 (1809), 24–61. He had reviewed Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society (1800–1801), in the Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 207–218. In the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), he reviewed Transactions of the Missionary Society (Vol. 1, 1803), 189–201. In the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805) he reviewed Transactions of the Missionary Society (Vol. 2, 1804), 621–634. BACK

[3] Periodical Accounts Relating to the Missions of the Church of the United Brethren, Established Among the Heathen (1790– ). BACK

[4] George Henry Loskiel (1740–1814), History of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Indians in North America (1794). BACK

[5] David Cranz (1723–1777), The History of Greenland: containing a description of the country, and its inhabitants: and particularly, a relation of the Mission, carried on for above these thirty years by the Unitas Fratrum, at New Herrnhuth and Lichtenfels, in that Country (1767). BACK

[6] Claudius Buchanan (1766–1815; DNB), Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India (1805). BACK

[7] John Scott-Waring (1747–1819; DNB)], Vindication of the Hindoos from the Aspersions of the Reverend Claudius Buchanan, M.A. With a Refutation of the Arguments Exhibited in his Memoir, on the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India, and the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives, by their Conversion to Christianity… By a Bengal Officer (1808); Thomas Twining (1776–1861; DNB), A Letter to the Chairman of the East India Company, on the Danger of Interfering in the Religious Opinions of the Natives of India; and on the Views of the British and Foreign Bible Society, as Directed to India (1807). BACK

[8] Sydney Smith (1771–1845; DNB), ‘Indian Missions’, Edinburgh Review, 12:23 (April 1808), 151–181. BACK

[9] Robert Morrison (1782–1834; DNB), a Scottish member of the London Missionary Society, had established the first protestant mission at Canton in 1807. BACK

People mentioned

Gifford, William (1756–1826) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)