995. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, [started before and continued on 4 December 1804]

995. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, [started before and continued on 4 December 1804] ⁠* 

Why might a man compare the shores at Schaffhausen [1]  to a chamber pot? – because he might say to the river – is it not you Rhine? – Having let my joke, I proceed to your question which is of a more serious character.

The best mode of promoting the civilization of Hindostan would be by permitting Europeans to colonize there. if you prove this you will lose the prize, inasmuch as to prove it would be to convict the East India Company of impolicy. the first question therefore must be answered by resolving it into the second & showing, as is in truth the fact, that the best way of promoting the civilization of the Hindoos is by converting them. the phrasing of the question may thus conveniently be altered without any violence, & only one query remain to be solved. [2] 

It is affirmed by many writers & by many English East Indians that it is impossible to convert a Hindoo. if any religious body be incapable of converting to Xtianity it is the Moslem, because they believe exactly all that is reasonable of our belief, & only chuse to have the unreasonable part of their own xxxxx instead of ours, – that is speaking of doctrinals, & doctrinals are all that are attended to in the business of conversion as it has hitherto been managed. But the Hindoos did submit to be sprinkled in great numbers by the Jesuits – when they found it their interest. On the Mohammedan conquest many became Mohammedans because it broke the fetters of their cast system – so Barros [3]  says expressly, who is for the history of Hindostan the very first authority, – & he says likewise that Alboquerque [4]  became exceedingly popular among the Hindoo women because he would not suffer the widows to burn themselves with their dead husbands. In proof that interest will always bear down superstition take two instances. On the Malabar coast it was the custom to have that a Rajah should reign no longer than his predecessor lived in a who was a sort of priest in a pagoda, as soon as he died the Rajah took his place in the temple, & his nephew (– for such was the mode of succession for a very singular reason) reigned in his stead. The first Rajah of Cochin [5]  whom the Portugueze found obeyed this law (his name was Trimumpara,) the second preferred keeping the throne, he did so under protection of the Portugueze, & what makes as much to your argument, the people made no opposition to this breach of a religious custom. [6] 

The Poleas of the Malabar coast are the most degraded of all their casts. in Dalrymples Oriental Repertory you will find some account of the wretched state to which this damnable superstition has condemned them. [7]  A body of these men were at work in the woods near Cochin, when a party of Naires  [8]  in the Zamorims [9]  service effected the passage of the river. It was during the war when Du Duarte Pacheo [10]  with a handfull of Portugueze defeated the whole power of Calicut & laid the foundation of the Portugueze empire in India. But his efforts almost miraculous as they were, would have been frustrated that day, if the Poleas had not been driven to despair at the approach of the Naires. They turned upon them, like stags at bay, tho at other times they would have deemed it blasphemy to lift up their eyes towards so superior a cast. the Naires however were palsied by their superstition & actually fled before a handfull of wood cutters & suffering themselves, tho tenfold in number, well armed, & excellent soldiers, to be cut down by these woodmen without resistance, & thus Cochin was saved.

Superstition therefore even among the Hindoos will yield to interest, but it is the interest of all the oppressed casts to become Xtians, & the oppressors are every where the few. As for the Bramins let them alone – convert those who pay the Bramins & who support them – & the business is done. Xtianity would increase the temporal comforts of all. prove this by detailing the inconveniences of the Brahminical ritual. spiritually considered it is a better bargain. In my Review of the Baptist Periodical accounts you will see a case in point wherein a penitent (in the Hindoo sense I use the word) confessed this & acted upon it. [11] 

Read the Institutes of Menu by Sir Wm Jones, [12]  & look into the Asiatic Researches, [13]  at such papers as touch upon your subjects. the best travels are those of Bernier, [14]  & of Pietro della Valle – the latter are translated in one folio volume, & Sir Thomas Roes [15]  account will be found in the same volume. [16]  look too in Picart for accounts of the Brahminical system by Abraham Roger & by Lord, [17]  & in Lentot & Osborns Collection (which I believe is called Churchill)  [18]  for Baldæus. [19]  all good books. Of modern writers Sonnerat [20]  contains most but he is a systematic traveller – i.e. a man without eyes ears or heart. Craufords Sketches of the Hindoos [21]  contain something. Tennants Indian Recreations [22]  almost nothing at all. Hodges [23]  is worth reading. I learnt many images from his book. Grandpré [24]  a French dog. Stavorinus [25]  an honest Dutchman, to me exceedingly useful – but not worth consulting on your particular subject. So long a list will not terrify you if you have the true Southey pace in reading. As the prize is to be written for by older men than yourself they will carry it by palaver, for in these things the matter goes for little, if I may judge by Oxford prize essays. but you may as well try – for you will be well paid for the labour by the quantity of knowledge which you will gain in the research [MS torn] may very likely win at Edinburgh which will be some credit.

Soldiers are the worst missionaries. Priests indispensable but not the best. the Civil Government should be the great agent. admit a converted Hindoo to the privileges of an Englishman, & the whole system will crumble like snow in the sunshine. never mind his sincerity – for you can make sure of his children.

So much for that. the great Bellygerent [26]  has broken off his bargain – so you may slide down Latrigg [27]  another year, & go to Wastwater. [28]  – The Small Pox is in Keswick & we are in quest of the cow pock matter. [29]  if none is to be got I shall apply to you for some. Edward is at Bristol or was. We hear from Eliza that he had called on Charlton the manager [30]  in full uniform, bragging away & offered to drive him to Bath in his gig. Most likely he is with his Aunt but this is only a guess. I see nothing of the Fourcroy you enquire for, [31]  I will write to London for the extract from the Cambrian Register for 1796 Vol 1. [32]  Lafiteau  [33]  is one word – not as you have spelt it.


Tuesday. – I am more alarmed than ever about Tom. the Whitehaven paper of today in noticing the death of the Master of the Galatea who was killed in the action, says that the first Lieutenant fell also. [34]  I see some reason to doubt the accuracy of other particulars in the paragraph – but none for doubting this, however I have written to London, tho in truth with little hope. God bless you Harry!



* Address: For/ H. H. Southey Esqr./ to the care of Mr Guthrie – Bookseller/ Nicholson Street/ Edinburgh/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: DE/ 1804/ 6
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG.1996.5.54. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 299–302 [in part].
Dating note: written over several days. BACK

[1] A city on the river Rhine in northern Switzerland. BACK

[2] See Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 21 November 1804, Letter 991. BACK

[3] No. 3180 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Joao de Barros (1496–1570) and Diogo de Couto (c. 1542–1616), Decadas da Asia dos Feitos, que os Portuguezes Fizeram na conquista, e Descubrimento das Terras, e Mares do Oriente (1778–1788), in which the Portuguese presence in India is discussed (see Decads I and II). BACK

[4] Afonso de Albuquerque (1453–1515): conqueror, governor and finally Viceroy of Portuguese possessions in East India, 1509–1515. BACK

[5] The town of Cochin, now Kochi, Kerala, India, colonised first by the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century. BACK

[6] A discussion of the alliance between the Portuguese and Trimumpara may be found in Barros and de Couto, Decadas da Asia dos Feitos, Decad I, book 8, and Decad II, books 1–4. BACK

[7] Alexander Dalrymple, Oriental Repertory (1791–1808), 2 vols (1791–1808), II, pp. 545–7. BACK

[8] The nairs were the elite Hindu caste in Kerala, filling military and governmental posts. BACK

[9] Zamorin, the English form of Saamoothirippād or Saamoothiri, was the title used by the Eradi Nair rulers of the erstwhile state of Kozhikode (Nediyirippu Swarūpam) located in Kerala. BACK

[10] Duarte Pacheco Pereira (1460–1533), the sea captain who extended Portuguese conquests in India and Africa. BACK

[11] Southey’s reviews of Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society (1800–1801) appeared in the Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 207–218, and the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 189–201. BACK

[12] Sir William Jones (1746–1794; DNB), Institutes of Hindu Law; or, the Ordinances of Menu, According to the Gloss of Culbuca (1796). BACK

[13] The journal of the Asiatick Society of Bengal was first published in 1788 under the title Asiatick Researches, or, Transactions of the Society Instituted in Bengal, for Inquiring into the History and Antiquities, the Arts, Sciences, and Literature of Asia. BACK

[14] François Bernier (1625–1688), Collections of Travels through Turkey into Persia and the East-Indies. Giving an account of the present state of those countries. As also a full relation of the five years wars between Aureng-Zebe and his brothers. ... And a voyage made by the Great Mogul (Aureng-Zebe) with his army from Dehli ... to the Kingdom of Kachemire ... Together with a relation of the kingdom of Japan and Tunkin ... To which is added a new description of the Grand Seignior’s Seraglio and also of the Kingdoms that encompass the Euxine and Caspian Seas (1684). BACK

[15] Sir Thomas Roe (1581–1644; DNB): diplomat and Ambassador to Mughal India, 1615–1619. BACK

[16] No. 2894 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Pietro della Valle (1586–1652), The Travels of ... P. della V. into East India and Arabia Deserta. ... Whereunto is added a relation of Sir T. Roe’s Voyage into the East Indies (1665). BACK

[17] Bernard Picart (1673–1733), The Ceremonies and Religious Customs of the Various Nations of the Known World (London, 1733) contains A Dissertation on the Religion and Manners of the Bramins. Extracted from the Memoirs of the Rev. Abraham Roger, a Hollander, III, pp. 344–405, and A Discovery of the Sect of the Banians. Containing their History, law, Liturgy, Castes, Customs and Ceremonies. Gathered from their Bramins . . . By the Reverend Mr. Lord, III, pp. 305–340. BACK

[18] A Collection of Voyages and Travels was originally produced for and published by John (c.1663–c.1714; DNB) and Awnsham Churchill (1658–1728; DNB) in four volumes in 1704; the third edition of 1744–1746, owned by Southey, featured additional volumes collected by Thomas Osborne (bap. 1704?–1767). BACK

[19] Phillippus Baldaeus (1632–1672), A True and Exact Description of the Most Celebrated East-India Coasts of Malabar and Coromandel, as also of the Isle of Ceylon ... Also a most Circumstantial and Compleat Account of the Idolatry of the Pagans in the East Indies, in Churchill, A Collection of Voyages and Travels, III, pp. 511–624. BACK

[20] Southey’s edition was Pierre Sonnerat (1748–1814), Voyage to the East Indies and China; ... Between the Years 1774 and 1781 (1788). BACK

[21] Quentin Crauford (1743–1819), Sketches Chiefly Relating to the History, Religion, Learning and Manners of the Hindoos (1790). BACK

[22] William Tennant (1784–1848; DNB), Indian Recreations, Consisting Chiefly of Strictures on the Domestic and Rural Economy of the Mahommedans and Hindoos (1803). BACK

[23] William Hodges (1744–1797; DNB), Travels in India, During the Years 1780, 1781, 1782, and 1783 (1794). BACK

[24] Louis Maria Joseph, Count O’Hier de Grandpré (1761–1846), A Voyage in the Indian Ocean, and to Bengal ... To which is added a Voyage in the Red Sea, including a description of Mocha, and of the trade of the Arabs of Yemen (1803). BACK

[25] Southey’s edition was Johan Splinter Stavorinus (1739–1788), Voyages to the East Indies (1798). BACK

[26] Mr White (dates unknown), a local man who negotiated to buy Greta Hall from the builder and owner of the house, William Jackson. BACK

[27] A fell near Keswick. BACK

[28] A lake lying to the west of the fells Scafell and Great Gable. BACK

[29] To provide inoculation. BACK

[30] Charles Charlton (1779–1829) was an actor and, from 1795, Deputy Manager of the Theatre Royal, Bath. From 1805–1827 he was its manager. BACK

[31] As Harry Southey was studying medicine, this is probably by Antoine François, Comte de Fourcroy (1755–1809): French doctor and chemist, author of many works on medicine, chemistry and entomology. BACK

[32] The Cambrian Register, the journal edited by William Owen Pughe. BACK

[33] Joseph Francois Lafiteau (d. 1740), missionary to French Canada and author of Moeurs des Sauvages Américains, Compares aux Moeurs des Premieres Temps (1723). BACK

[34] The Cumberland Pacquet and Ware’s Whitehaven. Thomas Southey’s ship, HMS Galatea, a fifth-rate 32-gun frigate, had, on 14 August 1804, made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British sloop of war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe. Of the 90 men sent on the mission, 65 were killed or wounded, and Southey suspected that his brother was among the dead. Thomas had been the first lieutenant but was absent from the raid because he had been placed under arrest. Charles Hayman (d. 1804) was made first lieutenant in his stead and died in the attack. BACK

People mentioned

Fricker family (mentioned 1 time)
Tyler, Elizabeth (1739–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Guthrie, John (d. 1824) (mentioned 1 time)
Jackson, William (1748–1809) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Edward (1788–1847) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)