1905. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, [started before and continued on 20 April 1811]

1905. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, [started before and continued on 20 April 1811]⁠* 

You judge rightly respecting Brougham’s commission. [1]  A bad poem would not be worth translating, – & to translate a good one would take as much time as writing one myself. Profit is a thing never to be taken into account upon such subjects. I have done with writing verses for money, since I ceased to be Poet to the Morning Post at a guinea a week, [2]  – in which capacity I produced all those pieces of mine in the An. Anthology, [3]  & was better paid for them at that rate than for any other verses, either before or since.

If Brougham makes any direct application to me I will recommend <him> to Sir Abraham Elton’s son, [4]  – who is precisely the fit person for such an employment; he versifies exceedingly well, is fond of versifying, & prefers translation to original composition, thereon forming a just estimate of his own powers.

B. lives 18 miles from hence, but I think it more likely that he will write, than come over. I have passed an evening in his company at Edinburgh, & exchanged cards with him in the street at London, – so that he needs no introduction.

The Quarterly has not reached me. I had written a long article for it (with some help in statistics from a quarter which you would suspect on seeing it) – upon Pasley’s book, [5]  & after I had corrected the proofs, the fear of the Sicilian Embassador [6]  came over Gifford, & my article is at present in the hands of Croker to be trimmed to the taste of the Ministry & of the Queen of Naples. [7]  Part of it would have been made out of date by Massena’s retreat, [8]  so that I am not displeased at the delay, & when Crokers revision comes down to me I shall suit it to the present circumstances of the war. – The account of Luciens poem to which you allude is probably the same which appeared in the Courier; [9]  – the fable seemed to be according to the oldest & most approved receipt, & if the author has written it in French instead of Italian, he has a difficulty to contend with in the nature of the language, which I believe to be insuperable.

For Lucien Buonaparte himself I have a great respect, knowing the character which he bore in Rome, & believing him to be a true lover of liberty. [10]  I shall have an opportunity of seeing him on my way home from the South. We have an acquaintance at Ludlow, who after a two years residence at Keswick, settled there last summer, & is very desirous of seeing us whenever we make a progress like Q Elizabeth. [11]  Now Ludlow lies in a direct line from Bristol to Liverpool.

I am fully sensible of the inconvenience of enlarging the bulk of the Register, – which certainly no person can possibly feel so much as myself: but there was no remedy. [12]  There xxx <are> the materials, & it would never do to make them conform to the volume instead of the volume to them. I have got on strenuously since my last, & shall put the last strokes to it before we start.

Saturday 20 April.

I have a letter this evening from my Aunt Mary [MS missing] me that Mr T. Southey is gone after his brother John, having left part of his property to Mr Wm Oliver of Bristol, [13]  – & the rest to his man Tom. [14]  None of his relations are mentioned in the will. My poor Aunt is very much wounded, – & this is the only thing cause of regret.

No tidings of Brougham

God bless you



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Postmarks: 10 o’Clock/ AP 23/ 1811 F.Nn; E 23/ AP 23/ 1811
Seal: Partial, green wax
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Brougham had written to Hill to enquire whether Southey would be willing to translate Lucien Bonaparte’s (1775–1840) as yet unwritten epic Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Délivrée (1814). The commission was refused. BACK

[2] Southey had ceased regular employment for the Morning Post in 1799, though he did contribute a few poems on an occasional basis until 1803. BACK

[3] The Annual Anthology (1799–1800). BACK

[4] The poet, translator and occasional reviewer for the Quarterly Review, Charles Abraham Elton (1778–1853; DNB), son of Revd Sir Abraham Elton (1755–1842; DNB). BACK

[5] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). Southey’s review was deemed by Gifford to be ‘perfectly incorrect and dangerous’ with the result that the version published in the Quarterly Review, 5 (May 1811), 403–457, was much altered by Croker, in consultation with Gifford and Murray; see Jonathan Cutmore, The Quarterly Review Archive. Southey received help with the ‘statistics’ from Rickman. BACK

[6] Fabrizio Ruffo, Prince of Castelcicala (1763–1832), Sicilian minister to the Court of St James 1802–1815. Southey disliked the Bourbon regime in Sicily that Castelcicala represented, both for its reactionary nature and its unwillingness to fight the French. BACK

[7] Maria Carolina of Austria (1752–1814), Queen and de facto ruler of Naples. BACK

[8] The French general, André Massena (1758–1817), whose retreat from Portugal into Spain began on 13 March 1811. BACK

[9] The account of Charlemagne (1814) published in the Courier, 11 April 1811. BACK

[10] Lucien Buonaparte opposed many of his brother’s policies as Emperor and lived in exile in Rome 1804–1810. Southey believed he had warned Coleridge to flee the city in 1806 in order to avoid imprisonment by the French. He was captured by the British in 1810 and was living at Thorngrove in Worcestershire. BACK

[11] Elizabeth I (1533–1603; Queen of England 1558–1603; DNB), famed for her royal progresses during which she would be lavishly entertained by a series of aristocratic hosts. BACK

[12] Southey had invested more time and energy into his work for the Edinburgh Annual Register than he had anticipated and his contributions greatly exceded, in terms of length, those of the previous year. Ballantyne was concerned enough about the length of the historical section to insist that Southey explained himself to the readers in a prefatory note; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), [v]–vi. BACK

[13] Probably William Oliver (1775–1830) of Hope Corner, Taunton. BACK

[14] Servant of Thomas Southey (surname and dates unknown). BACK