1563. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 10 January 1809

1563. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 10 January 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick. Tuesday. Jany 10. 1809.

My dear Tom

A book of Kehama, after a long interval, was sent off four or five days ago, which will introduce you to Lorrinite the Enchantress. [1]  I have had a cold which for the last fortnight has made me lie in bed till breakfast time & so the poem has stood still. It has not however proved one of my wicked cattarhs & is I believe pretty well gone off, so that I am rid of it cheaply.

Biddlecombe wishes you were at Portsmouth, where he will at any time go to see you, if you cannot go to see him, & where he has friends to whom he shall be glad to introduce you.

I have corrected five sheets of the Brazil, & am now hard at work in transcribing & filling up skeleton chapters, that in particular contains every thing concerning my friends the Tupinambas that has not been inadvertently said before. [2]  I wish you were here to hear it as it gets on. There is a great pleasure in reading these things to any one who takes an interest in them, – & like our toast at the morning <breakfast> they seem the better for coming in fresh & fresh. I made an important discovery relative to De Lery, [3]  one of my best printed authorities, this morning. This author who tho a Frenchman was a very faithful writer, translated his own French into Latin, & I used the Latin edition in De Bry’s Collection, – you remember the book with those hideous prints of the savages at their cannibal feasts. [4]  Wm Taylor laid hands on the French book & sent it to me, – it arrived last Thursday only, – & I in transcribing with my usual scrupulous accuracy, constantly referred to the original, because I knew that when an author translates his own book he often alters it, & therefore it was probable that I might sometimes find a difference worthy of notice. Well – I found my own references to the number of the Chapter wrong, – for the first time it past well enough for a blunder, tho I wondered at <it> a little, being remarkably exact in these things – the second time I thought it very extraordinary, – & a third mistake made me quite certain that something was wrong, but that the fault was not in me. Upon examination it appeared that a whole chapter, & that chapter the most important as to the historical part of the volume, had been omitted by De Bry, because he was a Catholick, De Lery a Hugonot, & this chapter exposed the villainy of Villegagnon [5]  who went to Brazil expressly to establish an asylum for the Hugonots, when there was won over by the Guises, apostatized, & then ruined a colony, which must else inevitably have made Rio de Janeiro now the Capital of a French, instead of Portugueze Empire. The main facts I had collected before, & clearly understood, – but the knavery of a Roman Catholick Editor had thus nearly deprived me of my best & fullest authority, & of some very material circumstances, for nobody has ever yet suspected this collection of being otherwise than faithful, tho it is now more than two hundred years old. See here the necessity of tracing every thing to the fountain head when it is possible.

Your niece who is collecting all the seals which come to me requests that you will be pleased to make a very fine impression upon your next letter. Herbert never sees a ship in a picture without saying that Uncle Tom lives in a ship. Emma just tottles alone for a few steps, but is afraid to set off, – & there will be another by Gods blessing early in the spring, who is to be called Danvers if a boy, – if a girl I know not what. [6] 

What you xx said about transports I reported to Bedford, [7]  he made enquiry & understood the objection came from the Navy Captains, who did not like ever to have their ships encumbered, or to feel as if they were transports. I repeated this to Coleridge & Wordsworth, & thro them it has reachd Stuart, & got into the Courier, [8]  whether or not with effect time will show, – but there is nothing like sending so obvious a truth afloat, – it will find its way sooner or later. I see the Captains are petitioning for an increase of pay, – they will get it to be sure, & then the increase must extend to you also.

Things in Spain look well. Bonapartes bulletins [9]  prove beyond all doubt that every heart is against him, & his threat of taking the crown himself is the perfect frenzy of anger. Sir John Moores [10]  movements backwards & forwards, have been mere moves at chess to get gain time, & wait for a blunder on the part of the adversary – so Bedford tells me, – & his intelligence is good coming from Herries – who is Percevals Secretary, & Gifford who is in Cannings confidence. Moores is a very able man, & is acting with a boldness which gives every body confidence that knows him. He will beat twice his own number of Frenchmen, & I do not think greater odds can be brought against him. It bodes well that in this fresh embarkation the officers are desired not to take more baggage than they can carry themselves. At him Trojan! – We shall beat him Tom upon Spanish ground. Let but our men fairly see the faces of the French in battle, & they will soon see their backs too. The Grenvilles & Foxites are likely to seperate upon the question of peace. [11]  Canning hankers after the Grenvilles, & would do much to bring them in with him instead of his wretched associates. They are not popular, but if they had courage to xx make a home charge upon the Duke of York, [12]  & insist upon his removal as a preliminary & sine quâ non of their going in, – that measure would win them a popularity which would carry them in in spite of every obstacle. God bless you. We have been dining upon a Netherhall goose, – a better never was eaten, – & have a Turkey from the same quarter in the house.

yrs RS.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought/ Plymouth Dock
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 207–210 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama (1810), Book 11. BACK

[2] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. The Tupinamba, one of the main ethnic groups of Brazilian indigenous people, are described in chapter 7. BACK

[3] Jean de Léry (1536–1613), Histoire d’un Voyage fait en la Terre du Bresil (1578), was no. 1709 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] The collection of travel narratives published by Theodor and Johann Israel De Bry (1528–1598), Peregrinationes (1598–1613). BACK

[5] Nicolas Durand, de Villegaignon (or Villegagnon) (1510–1571), who invaded Brazil in 1555 to claim it as a French colony, with a group of Huguenots who were escaping Catholic persecution and some Catholics. Disgusted by disputes between the Protestant and Catholic colonists, Villegagnon condemned some of the Calvinists to death, withdrew his support, and returned to France. In 1558 the colonists were defeated by the Portuguese. BACK

[6] Bertha Southey was born 27 March 1809. BACK

[7] For this letter, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 20 December 1808, Letter 1557. BACK

[8] The Courier for 5 January 1809 laments the fact that merchant ships are used to convey troops, when ‘we have upwards of 1100 ships of war, one-fourth of which are at least always in our ports or our coasts’. BACK

[9] French bulletins and decrees by Napoleon were published in The Courier newspaper at regular intervals. BACK

[10] Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), Scottish General with a long and varied military career. He was also MP for Lanark Burghs 1784–1790. After the controversial Convention of Cintra (1808), Moore was given the command of the British troops in the Iberian peninsula. He was fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna. BACK

[11] Factions within the Whig party who were followers of the policies of Charles James Fox or William Wyndham Grenville. BACK

[12] Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), Commander in Chief of the army. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Netherhall (mentioned 1 time)


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