3028. Robert Southey to William Wilberforce, 11 October 1817

3028. Robert Southey to William Wilberforce, 11 October 1817⁠* 

Keswick 11 Oct. 1817

My dear Sir

The statesman [1]  with whom Mr Francis [2]  lodged when he was in this country has called on me to day to enquire his address, – which I have promised to obtain for him thro your means. You will, I think, be pleased to know wherefore it is wanted. – Mr Francis has left so good an odour in the family, that this honest Cumbrian wishes to send him a pot of honey as a mark of respect & remembrance.

Koster has sent home details of the insurrection in Pernambuco. [3]  When the insurgents found their cause desperate they determined to set fire to the city, & to massacre their prisoners; – & it is very possible that these horrors would have been perpetrated, if it had not been for his interference. It is a dismal story. One of the leaders was his most intimate friend; – I had had some communication with him thro Koster, & was expecting from him papers upon some important subjects connected with the history of the country. He was a man of very superior abilities, much greater knowledge than is usually found among the Portugueze, good intentions, a noble spirit, & a generous heart. But he xxx ran from the miserable superstitions of popery into a more deplorable state of utter unbelief, – he was possessed by that revolutionary spirit which even at this time is propagated every where by the English press, – & he perished at last by his own hand, rather than yield himself to the Executioner. [4] 

Koster has been useful in another important matter; – owing to his exertions the English at Pernambuco have engaged to provide for a Chaplain & have written to request that one may be sent them. [5]  I am both grieved & surprized at finding learning that there should be a difficulty in finding persons properly qualified who will accept of such situations. – He is going on with his compendium of the history of the Abolition, – & I am perfectly sure that no other could lead so speedily & certainly to set the public mind in Brazil right upon this momentous subject. [6] 

Believe me my dear Sir

yrs with sincere respect

Robert Southey.


* Endorsement: Pte/ Mr Southey asks/ Francis’s directn/ & abt H. Koster
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Unidentified. In the Lakes, a statesman was a yeoman farmer who possessed hereditable customary tenure with certain traditional rights. BACK

[2] Clement Robert Francis (1792–1829), nephew of James Burney and friend of Wilberforce. Southey had met him in the Lakes in 1815. Francis was later a clergyman and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. BACK

[3] An attempted revolution against Portuguese control in the Brazilian province of Pernambuco, March–May 1817. BACK

[4] Joam Ribeiro Pessoa de Melo Montenegro (1766–1817), a priest who was a member of the provisional government set up by the revolutionaries in Pernambuco, 8 March–18 May 1817. He committed suicide in the town of Paulista after the defeat of the revolutionary forces and the fall of Recife, the provincial capital. BACK

[5] Southey was somewhat puzzled to find that the letter requesting a chaplain was sent to him, rather than directly to the church authorities, in particular the Bishop of London who had responsibility for such appointments. BACK

[6] Henry Koster had argued against slavery in Brazil in his Travels in Brazil (London, 1816), pp. 445–456. Southey had suggested to Wilberforce that the African Institution should support Koster’s translation of Clarkson’s History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament (1808) into Portuguese in an effort to counteract pro-slavery views in Brazil. BACK

People mentioned

Koster, Henry (1793–1820) (mentioned 3 times)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)