3220. Robert Southey to John Murray, 18 December 1818

3220. Robert Southey to John Murray, 18 December 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 18 Dec. 1818

My dear Sir

I return all the papers which came in your last inclosure, having, as you will see by the proof, made some use of them, & especially in a note for the gratification of Mr Baber. Upon that subject I have added a little (from your letter) – to what Turner had inserted; – & I suspect Mr Baber will have no very pleasant sensations when he sees {peruses} the next number of the Q.R. [1]  I am very glad you sent the article to Turner, – we are now safe about the points of law which are stated. He had struck out what was said of Sir Egerton Brydges “high family” because Sir E.had failed in establishing his claim to the Chandos Barony: [2]  – I have however restored the words, because he is still of the same family, – the words themselves give a peculiar force to the sentence (the epithet generous relating to them) – & moreover the passage will be peculiarly gratifying to poor Sir Egerton, who is sadly sensitive to praise or censure, & really in this affair deserves all the praise that we can give him. I have no acquaintance with him. [3]  But I know that it is doing your Journal good service to gratify an individual when it can be done with perfect fitness, as it is doing it some injury ever to offend or exasperate one without goo just cause.

This puts me in mind of Morris Birbeck. Your statement about his leaving his farm was flatly contradicted in the Times, – & in the style of Times-politics, – which are more rascally than even those of the M Chronicle. [4]  Now I happen to know have heard something of this said Morris from very good authority. He lost 8 or 10,000£ by a speculation in soap, – in allusion to which his landlord Lord Onslow made this epigram, –

Had you ta’en less delight in
Political writing
Nor to vain speculations given scope,
You’d have paid me your rent,
Your time better spent.
And besides, – wash’d your hands of the soap. [5] 

This man has not been treated a whit more severely than he deserves. But with regard to Fearons book, which Longman has just sent me, the case is different, – that book in my judgement should be reviewed in such a temper, as not to produce irritation in the author. America itself has half-cured him, & there never could be a better opportunity for a conciliatory paper, – a temperate but cogent address to men, like him, who dislike the state of things at home, they know not why, – & when they begin to suspect that they have taken up false notions in the heat & indiscretion of youth, are restrained by a false shame from acknowledging their error. [6]  – I was very sorry to see the way in which Keats was handled, [7]  – just commendation, & kind reproof may find their way to the understandings of such men thro their hearts, & not only set them right in matters of taste, – but save them perhaps from destruction.

I shall presently send you the Catacombs [8]  – I am now going on totes viribus [9]  toward the conclusion of Brazil, & of Wesley also. [10]  So that when I see you in the spring I shall have cleared off every thing, & start for the Peninsula [11]  without incumbrance.

believe me

Yrs very truly



* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
Watermark: R E & S BATH 1814
Endorsement: 1818 Dec 18 Southey, Rob
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s article, ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 196–213 (209). Here Southey severely criticised Henry Hervey Baber (1775–1869; DNB), Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum 1812–1837, for serving a writ on Murray because his firm had been dilatory in sending to the British Museum copies of four books it had published, as the Copyright Act (1814) required. Southey made use of a good deal of material provided by Murray for this article, including Murray’s testimony to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Copyright Act (1818). BACK

[2] Three of the pamphlets reviewed in Southey’s article in his ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’ were Sir Egerton Brydges, Reasons for a Further Amendment of the Act 54 Geo. III. C. 156. Being an Act to Amend the Copyright Act of Queen Anne (1817); A Summary Statement of the Great Grievances Imposed on Authors and Publishers, and the Injury done to Literature, by the Late Copyright Act (1818); and A Vindication of the Pending Bill for the Amendment of the Copyright Act, from the Misrepresentations and Unjust Comments of the Syndics of the University Library at Cambridge (1818). Brydges had litigated, from 1790 to 1803, when his case was rejected, to prove that he was the heir to the Barony of Chandos. The litigation brought humiliation upon him when it appeared that some of the evidence he produced was forged. Despite the rejection, Brydges continued to style himself per legem terrae Baron Chandos of Sudeley. BACK

[3] Southey may not have met Brydges, but he had corresponded warmly with him: see Southey to Brydges, 10 May [1807], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part 3, Letter 1320. The reference to Brydges’s ‘high family’ did not appear in Southey’s review. BACK

[4] Both The Times and the Morning Chronicle (1769–1862) were anti-government daily newspapers. The Times, 23 October 1818, carried a letter flatly contradicting the assertions (by William Gifford) in Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 54–78, which reviewed the recent writings of Morris Birkbeck (1764–1825; DNB). In particular, The Times rebutted the claim that Birkbeck had emigrated to America without settling his obligations as a tenant of an estate at Wanborough, Surrey, which he leased from George Onslow, 1st Earl of Onslow (1731–1814; DNB). Birkbeck came from a Quaker family based in Westmorland and was a radical. Leaving his farm, he travelled to France and published Notes on a Journey through France (1814) and in 1817 emigrated to Illinois, bought public land there and in 1818 established a new town – Wanborough. His Notes on a Journey in America from the Coast of Virginia to the Territory of Illinois (1817), a book designed to inform would-be emigrants, and notable for its radical views, went through eleven editions in two years. BACK

[5] This anecdote and rhyme reported by Southey were incorporated into a note to John Barrow’s (1764–1848; DNB) review of Henry Bradshaw Fearon (c. 1793–1842), Sketches of America. A Narrative of a Journey of Five Thousand Miles Through the Eastern and Western States of America (1818), Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 124–167 (161–162). Fearon was a Unitarian and a radical, but was not uncritical of America. BACK

[6] Southey’s advice was not heeded and the review of Fearon’s book was notably hostile. BACK

[7] The notorious review of John Keats (1795–1821; DNB), Endymion (1818) in Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 204–208, was by John Wilson Croker. BACK

[8] Southey’s article ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’ appeared in Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 359–398. BACK

[9] ‘With all my powers.’ BACK

[10] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819) and his The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[11] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

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