3195. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 18 September 1818

3195. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 18 September 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 18 Sept. 1818.

My third volume [1]  is now about half way thro the press (42 sheets are printed. My profits last year {(ending at midsummer)} upon the two former volumes were 56£ for the first, 4–16– for the second. Of the second rather more than half are gone, of the first 102 are left, & these will probably be carried off when the concluding volume appears. I fear there will be a good many copies wasted by the first volume having devolved into ignorant or careless hands. However the likelihood of the works coming to a second edition in my time seems greater than I had xxx expected. The clean sheets came to me the other day, & there is a great satisfaction in looking over them. The arrival of the Corographia Brazilica [2]  was so just in time, that it would make up for many ill chances in life. – In your translation [3]  of the Voyage up the Madeira you have not noticed the name either of the writer, or of the Commander of the Expedition: – the latter I conclude to {have been} xxx Joam de Sousa e Azovedo, [4]  whom the Corografia calls a famous Sertanista, [5]  & who went previously from M Grosso to Para by the R. Tapajos. Tonight I send off a continuation of the Chapter, [6]  – I have now nearly finished it, & a great deal of curious matter it contains.

I have just turned over the leaves of the Acta Sanctorum; [7]  the five or six first volumes I obtained many years ago from a public library, & made good use of them: all the rest are new to me. The worthy editors seem, a little like myself, never to have been content with the enormous work which they had undertaken to perform, but upon every possible opportunity to have enlarged it by some gratuitous labour. Among these supererogatory works is a very curious code of Majorcan laws, with a series of as curious engravings, from the ms. exhibiting the whole household of the King of Majorca in their costume & employments. [8]  – It is indeed a singularly valuable body of historical & antiquarian xxx research, certainly the most laborious work that has ever yet been produced by any body of men. My copy is a very fine one, – the bookseller [9]  at Brussels said it was the finest he had ever obtained. It belonged to the Franciscan Recollects [10]  at Ghent. I shall make great use of it in due time.

Kehama & Roderic are both at this time in the press. [11]  The latter has done great things for me, – that is to say, it has set me on the right side of Longmans books. Upon the whole it has brought me not less than 700£. – It will take probably a full years sale before the new edition clears its expences, but my Life of Wesley will be out for the spring sale, [12]  & I hope that will supply any the deficiency. And whenever I can finish my Tale of Paraguay I may calculate upon immediately selling an edition of 2000. [13]  But in truth I would willingly have done with poetry, & confine myself to those subjects for which I possess advantages that are not likely soon to meet in any one person.

Wilberforce is expected in Keswick to day, – with his wife, [14]  & his sons, [15]  & his daughters, [16]  & his sons friends, & his daughters friends, & his men servants, & his maid servants. Sir George & Lady Beaumont are here. He knew this country before I was born, & passed a summer in it soon after his marriage three & forty years ago. And both he & Lady B. enjoy it as much now as ever they did. I expect a guest next week whom perhaps you may have heard the Doctor mention, – his name is Chauncey Townsend, – a youth with every imaginable advantage that nature & fortune can bestow. Old Townsend the traveller was his great-Uncle, [17]  – from him he has acquired a taste for mineralogy, & that taste will take me some tough walks among the mountains.

We have had no drought in the North, – nothing indeed could be more favourable than our weather, or finer than our harvest. But I fear you will suffer dreadfully in the spring. What is become of Blackstone [18]  that he has not yet made his appearance? Gen. Peachy is looking out for him also, so that he will have a bed if he shall arrive at the same time with Chauncey Townsend.

Lord Lowther drank tea with us last week, – bringing over Wordsworth to introduce him, – for I had never seen him before. The xxx only other great person whom I have seen was the Grand Murray himself, on his way to Edinburgh; – he I believe is the very grandest personage among mankind, now that there is no longer a Grand Mogul. [19]  There ought to be an article of mine upon Evelyns Journal in his next number, & another upon the means of improving the people. [20]  – I am about to write upon the Copy right bill, – & upon the New Churches. [21] 

Love to my Aunt & the children. How is your rheumatism? I hope it has not returned, & that your strength is rallying. My Aunt Mary was coming down to me this autumn, but the hot weather brought on an illness, & she now looks forward to a journey in the spring.

God bless you



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: 10 o’Clock/ SP 21/ 1818 FNn; E/ 21 SE 21/ 1818
Seal: red wax, design illegible
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 171. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 97–99 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). 750 copies of the first volume were printed, followed by 750 copies of the second and third volumes. The first volume sold out by mid–1820 and this volume only was revised and reprinted in 1822. BACK

[2] Manoel Aires de Casal (1754–1821), Corografia Brazilica, ou Relação Historico–Geografica do Reino do Brazil (1817), no. 3252 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] ‘Voyage up the Madeira in 1749, with a MS. Map’, no. 3849 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 359–360, related some of the journeys of Joao de Sousa Azevedo (dates unknown). But, as Southey’s book makes clear, he was not the leader of the expedition on the Madeira, which is described at History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 349–359. BACK

[5] A Brazilian term for an explorer of the wild forested interior; see Manoel Aires de Casal, Corografia Brazilica, ou Relação Historico-Geografica do Reino do Brazil, 2 vols (Rio de Janeiro, 1817), I, pp. 309–311, from which Southey incorrectly assumed that Azevedo had led the Madeira expedition of 1749. BACK

[6] Chapter 37, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 299–373. BACK

[7] The massive collection of hagiographies entitled Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), which Southey had purchased in Brussels in 1817. They became no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. He had bought the 6–volume abridged version in 1815, no. 152 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] ‘Ad Leges Palatinas Iacobii II Regis Majoricarum etc’, Acta Sanctorum, 53 vols (Antwerp and Brussels, 1643–1794), 3 June (1701), pp. 1–82 (engravings between pp. 10–11). This was a code of laws enacted by James II (1243–1311; King of Majorca 1276–1311). BACK

[9] Jean-Baptise Ver Beyst (1770–1849), well-known Brussels bookseller. BACK

[10] The Recollects were a reformed branch of the Franciscan friars. BACK

[11] The fourth editions of The Curse of Kehama (1810) and of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) appeared in 1818. BACK

[12] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[13] A Tale of Paraguay (1825), published in an edition of 1500; it sold poorly and realised less than £80 in profits in the first year. There was no second edition. BACK

[14] Barbara Wilberforce, née Spooner (1777–1847). BACK

[15] William Wilberforce (1798–1879), later a barrister and MP for Hull 1837–1838; Robert Wilberforce, later a clergyman and writer; Samuel Wilberforce (1805–1873; DNB), later Bishop of Winchester 1870–1873; Henry Wilberforce (1807–1873; DNB), later a journalist. BACK

[16] Barbara Wilberforce (1799–1821); Elizabeth Wilberforce (1801–1832). BACK

[17] The geologist and travel–writer Joseph Townsend (1739–1816; DNB), whose publications included A Journey Through Spain in the Years 1786 and 1787; with Particular Attention to the Agriculture, Manufactures, Commerce, Population, Taxes, and Revenue of that Country (1791). Southey had met Townsend in London in 1797; see Southey to Joseph Cottle, 9 April 1797, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 210. BACK

[18] Frederick Charles Blackstone (1795–1862), a relation by marriage of Hill. Blackstone’s mother was Margaret Bigg-Wither (1768–1842), a sister of Hill’s wife Catherine. Blackstone became Rector of Worting, Hampshire 1819–1831, Southey’s uncle Herbert Hill having held this living since 1815 (i.e. deputising as parish priest until such time as Blackstone was ready to take up his duties) – Blackstone was a Fellow of New College, Oxford and was not ordained until 1819. Southey had met him in Switzerland in 1817 during his continental tour. BACK

[19] The Grand Mogul was a British term for the ruler of the Mughal empire; at this time, Akhbar Shah II (1760–1837; Mughal Emperor 1806–1837), though he had lost most of his authority to the British East India Company. BACK

[20] Southey’s review of Memoirs, Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn (1818) appeared in Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 1–54. His article ‘On the Means of Improving the People’ appeared at 79–118 of the same issue. BACK

[21] Southey’s ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 196–219. His review of Haydon’s New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818) was held over until Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–91. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)