1978. Robert Southey to Joseph Blanco White, 4 November 1811

1978. Robert Southey to Joseph Blanco White, 4 November 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov. 4. 1811.

My dear Sir

If you have not received Espriella’s Letters [1]  long before this, it must be the Publishers fault. Your proposed plan [2]  seems to me unexceptionably good, & of your power to execute it no reader of the Español [3]  can doubt. I will give you only one caution, – do not be deterred from entering occasionally into the minutest details because they may be trivial to you, & to your contemporary countrymen; these things will be novelties to us, & they will be history hereafter, even in Spain itself. We in England love that life & reality which fulness of costume gives to representation of every kind, whether in painting or poetry, historical narrative, or the drama. The more of this life-painting that you give us, the more willing will the reader be to follow you in your views & feelings. It is a melancholy thing to reflect how many valuable things have been lost to the world, because the persons who could have told them did not think them worth the telling.

Before I left London I was about to use my endeavours for stopping the abominable calumnies against you, which from time to time found their way into the Times, [4]  – greatly to my surprize, that being the only English newspaper which is thoroughly well conducted upon independent principles. I had however the satisfaction to find that the work had been done, by the very person to whom I applied, – I do not know whether you are acquainted with him, – Mr Henry Robinson, – an excellent man, a thorough friend to all good principles, & one of the best advocates whom the Spaniards have had in England. He was at Coruña for some months in 1808, & gave me tidings which I was rejoiced to hear, that the man who by his writings, both in prose & verse, contributed most to keep up the spirit of the Galicians, was one who had been introduced as a philosopher & a poet to me in 1795. – It was very delightful to me to find that a man who at that time founded his hopes upon France, & entertained views as enthusiastic & ardent as my own, – should have coincided as entirely with <in> feeling with me now, as he did then. – His name is Pardo, – he had been a friar, but had walked to Rome to obtain a dispensation when I saw him, & then lived as a secular Priest. [5]  Robinson showed me some of his poems in the Coruña papers, – they were in a manly stile, not unworthy of Herrera [6]  or Argensola. [7]  & in a high strain of patriotic feeling, – to which the writers of the age of the Philips had xxxx x no pretension. I wish you had them for the Español, – they are very superior to any poetry which you have had there. Shall I endeavour to get them for you?

I hope you will give an account of Walter Scotts poem [8]  to the Spaniards, its beauties of detail amply compensate for the inevitable defect of its plan. – There is a tragedy upon Count Julian at this time in the press, by a friend of mine for whose genius I have the highest admiration. [9]  It is curious that he & I & Scott should at the same time ha[MS torn] taken up the same story as the groundwork of a poem. [10] 

You know something of Pestalozzi. [11]  May I ask, when you are perfectly at leisure, to tell me what his system of education is? – a book which one of his pupils has published in America [12]  is wilder even than the Emilius [13]  itself, & I have not been able to learn any thing of the principle upon <by> which xx xxxxxxxx <he> has made himself so well known on the continent. In England here we have a new principles <system> of the utmost importance, [14]  – & I have xxxx sent over to Abella a concise but more perspicuous account summary of it – than he could else have obtained.

Believe me it will at all times give me great pleasure to hear from you. Next year I rely upon seeing you here

Yours very truly & with high esteem

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ J Blanco White Esqr/ 18. Charles Street/ St James’s Square
MS: University of Liverpool Library, R.P.V.4.45. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Vicente Llorens, ‘Blanco White and Robert Southey: Fragments of a Correspondence’, Studies in Romanticism, 11 (1972), 147–149. BACK

[1] A copy of Southey’s Letters from England, first published in 1807. BACK

[2] Probably for what became White’s Letters from Spain by Don Leucadio Doblado (1822). BACK

[3] El Español, the Spanish-language political journal established by Blanco White, with the discrete encouragement of the British Foreign Office. Published in London, the first number had appeared in May 1810; it ran until 1814. BACK

[4] For example, the attack on Blanco White’s ‘criminal, immoral, and revolutionary conduct’ in a ‘Reply to the False and Injurious Ideas which the 12th number of the Paper called El Espanol conveys of the Memorable Action of the 5th of March, in the Plains of Chiclana’, published in The Times, 9 May 1811. BACK

[5] Manuel Pardo de Andrade (1760–1832). For Southey’s account of him see Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (Bristol, 1797), pp. 22–23. BACK

[6] The Spanish chronicler Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1559–1625). BACK

[7] Either Bartolomè Leonardo de Argensola (1561–1631), Spanish priest, poet and historian, or his brother Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola (1559–1613). BACK

[8] Scott’s The Vision of Don Roderick; A Poem (1811). BACK

[9] Landor’s Count Julian: A Tragedy (1812). BACK

[10] Southey’s contribution was Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[11] The Swiss educational reformer, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827), author of How Gertrude Teaches Her Children (1801). The ‘Pestalozzi Method’ argued that children should learn through activity and through things, rather than words. As part of this, children should be free to pursue their own interests and draw their own conclusions. BACK

[12] Probably Joseph Neef (1770–1854), Sketch of a Plan and Method of Education (1808), the first American-published manual on the ‘Pestalozzi Method’. Neef, who had been teaching in Paris, had been encouraged to settle in America by the wealthy educational reformer and scientist William Maclure (1763–1840). Maclure was later an associate of Robert Owen (1771–1858; DNB) in the utopian experiment at New Harmony. BACK

[13] Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), Émile (1762). Pestalozzi had built on and expanded Rousseau’s ideas. BACK

[14] Andrew Bell’s ‘Madras system’. BACK

People mentioned

Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 2 times)
Bell, Andrew (1753–1832) (mentioned 1 time)
Abella, Manuel (1753–1817) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)