1695. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 15 October 1809

1695. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 15 October 1809 ⁠* 

I have got from an Edinburgh Catalogue the Historiale Description de l’Ethiopia, Anvers 1558 – a title tempting enough to make me send for it tho I suspected it might be what it has proved – a translation of Fr. Alvares.  [1]  It is however translated from Ramusio [2]  – who it seems collated the printed copy with a MS. which he borrowed from Damiam de Goes, [3]  & finding them very different, composed his version from the two. Prefixed are two letters by Andres Corsal, [4]  – a Florentine who sent out in the same fleet with Mathias & Duarte Galvam. [5]  These also are from Ramusio.

From the same Catalogue I have procured Urretas Hist. of Ethiopia, [6]  – but this incomparable liar also published two histories in two succeeding years, [7]  & this is not the one which Geddes describes. [8]  I am inclined to think however that they are not different works as would appear by Nic. Antonio, [9]  but that he amplified the second edition with a stuffing of fresh lies, & altered the title. This copy like several other books which I have picked up, bears the stamp of the Lamoignon Library. [10]  Mr Walpole [11]  sold some of his books two or three years ago, & there was a copy among them which Elmsley bought but most of the books, & this among the rest, had been materially injured by being put in miserable half-binding & their leaves nicely cut – to make them sell the better.

Expensive as Azara is, when it came down to me, I found it necessary to purchase it. [12]  He is the Envoys brother, [13]  & past many years – indeed the whole summer of his life in Paraguay, as one of the Commissioners of the Demaracation. The two last volumes are merely concerning <the> ornithology of that country, very unfairly coupled after the manner of Mezentuis & his vol. of travels. [14]  These are full of curious information, & to my purpose. Indeed they form an important acquisition to my stock of materials. The atlas contains maps upon a very large scale, & a few good prints of natural history. The Travels have never been published in the original, but Azara communicated with the French Editor, & sent him the maps & plans. He has been a very observing man & xxxx as a self-taught naturalist a very extraordinary one, but you feel no sort of liking for him. His book however perfectly represents the state present state of that country. I suppose all that is wanting is the far more interesting & animated work of Dobrizhoffer. [15] 

My intention about the bibliography was to affix to each volume its own portion, lest the whole might seem to occupy too large an appendix. But there will not be room for it in the first volume. the additional notes were numerous. The xxx xxx xxxx two last chapters were sent off before your letter reached me, so that your opinion respecting the insertion of Texeiras voyage was anticipated. [16]  The common story of the suppression of Acunas book [17]  must be false, because if it were true M Rodriguez [18]  would never have been permitted it to incorporate it in his work which was published not very long after, – & because the same story is told respecting Acosta [19]  – in like manner by his French translator. Obviously therefore it is the trick of a French bookseller, – There is a worthless book about the Orellana, [20]  by a Count Pagan, of which I have a translation. [21] 

Potenji [22]  is substituted for Rio Grande, – I have added a supplementary note about the Anta, [23]  expressing a suspicion that I have been misled by insufficient authorities – & that it is not amphibious. Its being called the Hippopotamus of America in Bewick [24]  deceived me, – for certainly I cannot find the assertion supported by my Spanish authorities, they only say it swims well. Will you look in the Noticias Part 2 Cap 46. [25]  Not doubting its amphibiousness at the time I did not look to have my findings either refuted or confirmed. Hxxxx xxx you will be surprised to find it mentioned there that this beast was domesticated. I never disbelieve any thing merely because it surprises me – most likely the Anta was broken-in xxx by the first settlers before horses & kine were to be had, – & being found less profitable or less tractable was disused when they became numerous. – This which is in a note ought to have been in the text, [26]  – but in collecting miscellaneous information it is almost impossible to arrange it in such a xxxx manner as that nothing shall be overlooked.

We ought to get what books we can from Lisbon, before the French get there again which by the help of such precious Ministers as we have had & are likely to have they will probably do as soon as affairs are settled in Austria. When I was at Durham there came a letter from Seely [27]  with the dry sentence ‘tell Mr Hill I cannot get any of the books he wants. Some of them must always be to be had, & the rarest are more likely to be in the market now than at any former time – I sent a list to Cadiz about six weeks ago, by a young man who will make good search both there & at Seville.

In the first Quarterly the Articles as far as I know them are this – 1. G. Ellis, 2. Walter Scott, 3. Hopper, 5 Turner 7 (I believe) Gifford, 11 Barre Roberts – a cousin of Bedford 13 & 15 & 16. W. Scott. [28]  In the second, 1 & 7 Scott, 12 Gifford, 14 Robert Walpole – who has got himself into as scrape by it 17 Ellis & the conclusion by Canning. [29]  These are all I know – being at this distance from town. Both Hebers, Coplestone the Oxford Poetry Professor, & Sotheby [30]  – a Divinity Dr Ireland [31]  & Joanna Baillie [32]  were among the persons whose names were sent to me as contributors – but I cannot tell as yet what they may have done. The third number has not reached me. The work I suppose will amend now that Canning & Frere have leisure to amuse themselves with it [33]  at present they tell me my articles are the best – & I am inclined to believe them. In writing upon the S African missions I expect to derive something from D’Anvilles [34]  papers when they reach me. The Hist. des Naufragios [35]  will enable me to give a better view of that part of Africa than has yet been done

I believe nobody talks so much about your son as mine does for he is all day long asking about his cousin Edward ee as he calls him–& when he is to go in a Post Chaise & see him


Oct 15. 1809


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Staunton upon Wye/ Hereford
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Francisco Álvares (c. 1465–1536/1541): Portuguese missionary. Southey owned a Portuguese copy of his narrative Verdadera Informacāom das Terras do Preste Joam (1540), no. 3305 in the sale catalogue of his library, as well as the French translation he refers to here, Historiale Description de l’Ethiopie (1558), which was no. 37 in the catalogue. BACK

[2] Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485–1557), Delle Navigationi et Viaggi (1556–1588), no. 2382 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Damião de Goes (1502–1574), Fides, Religio, Moresque Aethiopum (1544). BACK

[4] The Italian explorer Andrea Corsali (b. 1487). Two of his letters were included in Ramusio’s Delle Navigationi et Viaggi. BACK

[5] The Portuguese diplomat Duarte Galvão (1435–1517) who was employed at the court of Manuel I (1469–1521; King of Portugal 1495–1521). Manuel’s reign was notable for creating a vast overseas empire and sponsoring missions to the new Portuguese colonies. In 1513 Galvão brought the Ethiopian ambassador, Mathias (or Mateus, also known as Matthew the Armenian (d. 1520)) to Lisbon to strengthen religious ties between the countries. BACK

[6] Luis de Urreta (c. 1570–1636), Historia Eclesiastica, Politica, Natural, y Moral de los Grandes y Remotos Reynos de la Etiopia, Monarchia del Emperador, llamado Preste Iuan de la Indias (1610). This was no. 3777 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Urreta’s other history was Historia de la Sagrada Orden de Predicadores, en los Remotos Reynos de la Etopia (1611), a continuation of his earlier one of 1610. BACK

[8] Michael Geddes (c.1647–1713; DNB), The Church-history of Ethiopia (1694). BACK

[9] Nicolás Antonio (1617–1684) was a Spanish bibliographer, who published several editions of his Bibliotheca Hispana. BACK

[10] The Lamoignons were an illustrious French family, with many generations since the sixteenth-century being engaged in politics or jurisprudence. BACK

[11] Robert Walpole (1736–1810), envoy to Portugal, or his son Robert Walpole (1781–1856; DNB), classical scholar. BACK

[12] Felix Manuel de Azara (1742–1821) was a Spanish soldier, engineer and naturalist. Southey was particularly interested in his writings on Paraguay and owned copies of his Essais sur l’Histoire Naturelle des Quadrupedes de la Province du Paraguay (1801) and Voyages dans l’Amerique Meridionale depuis 1781, jusqu’ en 1801 (1809), nos 89 and 90 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[13] José Nicolás de Azara (1730–1804), was the Spanish ambassador in Paris, where he died. BACK

[14] The Latin form of the name of the traveller and natural historian used to designate several species of butterfly found in Brazil and observed by him. His original name has not been traced. BACK

[15] Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), a German Jesuit, worked in the village colonies into which the Jesuits gathered the Indians of Paraguay, an account of which he published in his Historia de Abiponibus (or History of the Abipones) (1783–1784). BACK

[16] Pedro Teixeira (d. 1641) was a Portuguese explorer who became, in 1637, the first European to travel up the entire length of the Amazon, an expedition which helped extend Portuguese colonial possessions there at the expense of Spain. Southey did insert a description of the voyage in his History of Brazil (1810), chapter 18. BACK

[17] Cristóbal de Acuña (1597–1676?), a member of Texeira’s expedition, published Nuevo descubrimiento del Gran Río de las Amazonas (1641), translated into French as Relation de la Riviere des Amazones. Avec un dissertation sur la riviere des Amazones pour servir de Preface (1682). The translator, Marin le Roy de Gomberville (1600–1674), claimed that King Philip IV of Spain (1605–1665), to whom Acuña presented the work, wanted it suppressed because its geographic information might aid the recently-independent Portuguese in taking the Amazon basin as their colony. BACK

[18] Manuel Rodríguez (1633–1701), El Marañón y Amazonas (1684). BACK

[19] José de Acosta (1539–1600), Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias (1590). Southey’s copy was no. 3220 in the sale catalogue of his library. Acosta’s work was translated into French in 1617 under the title Histoire naturelle et morale des Indes, tant Orientales, qu’Occidentales. BACK

[20] The Amazon river was initially named after the Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana (1511–1546). BACK

[21] Blaise François Pagan, Comte de Merveilles (1604–1665), An Historical & Geographical Description of the Great Country & River of the Amazones in America (1661). BACK

[22] The Potenji River in Brazil, named thus by Southey in his History of Brazil, but named the Rio Grande (or ‘Big River’) by the first colonists. BACK

[23] The South American Tapir (also called the Brazilian Tapir, or Lowland Tapir) is known as the Anta in Portuguese. BACK

[24] Thomas Bewick (1753–1828; DNB), A Cabinet of Natural History, Containing Pretty Pictures of Birds, Animals, Fishes, Reptiles, Serpents & Insects Embellished with Engravings on Wood, by Thomas Beswick (1809). BACK

[25] The sale catalogue of Southey’s library records the manuscript ‘Noticias do Lago Xarayes’, by an anonymous traveller, bound in with other miscellaneous manuscripts in one volume (no. 3849). BACK

[26] Southey discusses the anta in his History of Brazil (1810), p. 634. BACK

[27] Richard Sealy (c. 1752–1821), a wealthy Lisbon merchant who was Henry Southey’s father-in-law. BACK

[28] In the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809) article 1 was George Ellis’s [with George Canning] review of Exposé des Manoeuvres et des Intrigues qui ont Préparé l’Usurpation de la Couronne d’Espagne, et des Moyens Employés par l’Empereur des Francais pour la Mettre á Exécution…; Traduit de l’Espagnol par M. Peltier [alternative title Affaires d’Espagne] (1808) and Pedro Cevallos Guerra (1760–1840), Conféderation des Royaumes et Provinces d’Espagne contre Buonaparte ([1810]) 1–19; article 2 was Walter Scott’s review of Robert Hartley Cromek (1770–1812; DNB), Reliques of Robert Burns, Consisting Chiefly of Original Letters, Poems, and Critical Observations on Scottish Songs (1808), 19–36; article 3 was John Hoppner’s (1758–1810; DNB) review of Anecdotes of Painters Who Have Resided or Been Born in England: With Critical Remarks on their Productions, by Edward Edwards, Deceased, Late Teacher of Perspective, and Associate, in the Royal Academy; Intended as a Continuation to the Anecdotes of painting by the late Horace Earl of Orford (1808), 36–49; article 5 was Sharon Turner’s [with John Shore, 1st Baron Teignmouth (1751–1834; DNB)] review of Charles Wilkins (bap. 1749–1836; DNB), A Grammar of the Sanskrîta Language (1808); William Carey (1761–1834; DNB), A Grammar of the Sungskrit Language, Composed from the Works of the Most Esteemed Grammarians; to Which are Added Examples for the Exercise of the Student, and a Complete List of the Dhatoos or Roots (1804); and Henry Thomas Colebrooke (1765–1837), Grammar of the Sanskrit Language (1805), 53–69; article 7 was Isaac D’Israeli’s (1766–1848; DNB) review of Thomas Zouch’s (1737–1815; DNB), Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Sir Philip Sydney (1808); article 11 was Barré Charles Roberts (Bedford’s cousin) review of John Pinkerton (1758–1826; DNB), An Essay on Medals; or an Introduction to the Knowledge of Ancient and Modern Coins and Medals, especially those of Greece, Rome, and Britain (1808) in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 112–131; article 13 was Southey’s The Chronicle of the Cid (1808), 134–153; article 15 was Walter Scott’s review of John Barrett’s (1753/4–1821), An Essay on the Earlier Part of the Life of Swift, by the Rev. John Barrett, D. D. and Vice Provost of Trinity College, Dublin. To which are Subjoined Various Pieces Ascribed to Swift, Two of his Original Letters, and Extracts from his Remarks on Bishop Burnett’s History (1808), 162–177; article 16 was Walter Scott’s review [with William Gifford] of Sir John Carr’s (1772–1832; DNB), Caledonian Sketches, or a Tour through Scotland in 1807 (1808), 178–193. BACK

[29] In the second number of the Quarterly (May 1809), article 1 was Walter Scott’s review of Thomas Campbell (1777–1844; DNB), Gertrude of Wyoming, a Pensylvanian Tale, and other Poems, 241–258; article 7 was Scott’s review of Richard Cumberland (1732–1811; DNB), John de Lancaster: a Novel, 337–48; article 12 was John Ireland’s (1761–1842; DNB) and William Gifford’s review (possibly with George Canning) of Sydney Smith’s (1771–1845; DNB) Two Volumes of Sermons (1809), 387–98; article 14 was Robert Walpole’s review (1781–1856; DNB) with William Gifford (and possibly George Canning) of Gould Francis Leckie (1760–1850), An Historical Survey of the Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, with a View to Explain the Causes of the Disasters of the Late and Present Wars (1808), 405–419. Leckie had run a farm in Sicily in 1800–1807 and advocated anglicizing Sicily and similar islands in order to increase British trade. The review by Walpole led to Leckie’s published response in return, entitled A Letter to the Rev. R Walpole, in Answer to his Criticism on the State of Sicily (1809); article 17 was not by George Ellis; it was a review by Sharon Turner, George Canning and William Gifford (possibly with Friedrich von Gentz (1764–1832)) of the Proclamation of the Archduke Charles to his Army, the Declaration of War by the Emperor of Austria, and the Address of the Archduke to the German Nation, 437–455. BACK

[30] William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), poet and translator. BACK

[31] John Ireland (1761–1842; DNB), dean of Westminster. BACK

[32] (1762–1851; DNB), the Scottish dramatist, friend of the Aikins and of Scott, had visited Southey in Keswick in 1808. BACK

[33] Canning and Frere were now out of public office and so had more time to devote to the Quarterly. BACK

[34] Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville (1697–1782), geographer and cartographer, who was appointed ‘géographe du roi’ to King Louis XV (1710–1774). His manuscripts, which are housed at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, are largely unstudied. BACK

[35] No. 3476 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Bernardo Gomes de Brito (1688–1760?), Historia Tragico-Maritima: em que se Escrevem Chronologicamente os Naufragios que Tiveraõ as Naos de Portugal, depois que se poz em Exercicio a Navegaçaõ da India (1735–1737). BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)
Heber, Richard (1774–1833) (mentioned 1 time)
Elmsley, Peter (1774–1825) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Edward (1809–1900) (mentioned 1 time)