2135. Robert Southey to John Murray, 14 August 1812

2135. Robert Southey to John Murray, 14 August 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Aug 14. 1812

My dear Sir

Thank you for the Calamities. [1]  Our friend D’Israeli has made more suo  [2]  a very amusing book, upon which I rather want convenient leisure than inclination to make a suitable comment. Shall I postpone the Spanish Ballads [3]  for this more popular subject, & give wings to his work? – I should like to enlarge a little upon the subject of Literary Property, on which he has touched, in my opinion, with proper feeling. Certainly I am a party concerned, – I should like to say something upon the absurd purposes of the Literary Fund [4]  xxx with its despicable ostentation of patronage; & to build a sort of National Academy in the air, in the hope that Canning might one day lay its foundations in a more solid manner. – And I could say something on the other side of the picture, showing, that altho literature in almost all cases is the worst trade to which a man can possibly betake himself, it is the best & wisest of all pursuits for those whose provision is already made, & of all amusements for those who have leisure to amuse themselves. It has long been my intention to leave behind me my own Memoirs, as a post obit for my family, – a wise intention no doubt & one which it is not very prudent to procrastinate. [5]  Should this ever be compleated it would be a exhibit a case directly in contrast to D’Israelis view of the subject. I chose literature for my own profession, – with every advantage of education it is true, but under more disadvantages perhaps of every other kind than any of the persons in his catalogue. I have never regretted the choice. The usual censure ridicule & even calumnies which it has drawn upon me never gave me a moments pain, – but on the other hand literature has given me friends among the best & wisest & most celebrated of my contemporaries it has given me distinction, – if I live twenty years longer I do not doubt that it will give me fortune, & if it pleases God to take me before my family are provided for, I doubt as little that in my names & in my works they will find a provision.

Blanco’s is an able & interesting article, [6]  – wonderfully free from any thing which could betray the foreigner, – & because he is a foreigner free from any of those affectations & barbarisms with which modern English is over-run. – Dr Eveleigh & his friends may <will> be pleased with the account of his sermons, [7]  – every body else I suspect would be as well pleased if the four pages which it occupies had been devoted to any thing else, – even to more Greek, which has its value for some; tho for one only in ten thousand. Articles of classical erudition are beyond a doubt necessary now & then for the character of the Journal, but I think it would be prudent to avoid all divinity subjects, except upon important occasions. Roscoe is properly handled, [8]  & I feel no commiseration for Mrs Barbauld. [9]  Warburton [10]  is a very able article tho, in my judgement, full of errors. It astonished me to see his Julian [11]  called convincing, – & the writer when he refers to Meursius [12]  as having the Warburtons Index for the xxx erudition which he has brought to bear upon the mysteries, should have referred to Terrasson [13]  also as the source of his hypothesis. [14]  My own article is the worse for some omissions. [15]  There was a passage from Babœufs [16]  papers showing in what manner the soliders were to be seduced; – perhaps it was thought dangerous, – I rather judged it useful as a warning. I miss a tribute of praise to Me Roland [17]  which would have given a made the impartial judgement of the writer more apparent, & I regret the alteration of one word which converts into praise of Mr Pitt a sentence carefully constructed for the purpose of avoiding any such meaning, without in any degree offending his friends. I wrote whatever may have been the merits of the pilot, – it stands transcendant as may have been &c. This is a vexatious alteration. [18]  Among my friends I never make any secret of what I write in the Quarterly, & they know, that except as far as regards the measure of the Union, I have no respect for the memory of Mr Pitt. – To them therefore I must enter into a mortifying explanation, – or be content to lie under the intolerable imputation of having belied my own principles.

I want to give you a Life of Wesley, [19]  – the history of the dissenters must be finished by this time & will supply <afford> an opportunity [20] 

believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

R Southey.


* Address: To/ Mr Murray/ Fleet Street/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 17 AU 17/ 1812
Watermark: IPING/ 1806
Endorsement: 1812 August 14th/ Southey. R –
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42550. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 37–39; Samuel Smiles, A Publisher and His Friends, 2 vols (London, 1891), I, pp. 237-238 [in part]. BACK

[1] Isaac D’Israeli, Calamities of Authors; Including some Inquiries Respecting their Moral and Literary Characters (1812), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 8 (September 1812), 93–114. Southey’s article touched on many of the matters mentioned in the first paragraph of his letter, including copyright. BACK

[2] ‘In his usual manner’. BACK

[3] This proposed article was not written. BACK

[4] The Royal Literary Fund, a benevolent society for authors, set up in 1790. BACK

[5] Southey did not write his ‘Memoirs’. BACK

[6] Blanco White’s review of William Walton (1783/4–1857; DNB), Present State of the Spanish Colonies; Including a Particular Report of Hispanola, or the Spanish Part of Santo Domingo (1810), in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 235–264. BACK

[7] John Eveleigh (1748–1814; DNB), Sermons on Various Subjects (1810), reviewed in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 293–297. BACK

[8] Roscoe’s A Letter to Henry Brougham, Esq. M.P. on the Subject of Reform in the Representation of the People in Parliament (1811) and An Answer to a Letter from Mr. John Merritt on the Subject of Parliamentary Reform (1812), reviewed in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 265–281. BACK

[9] Barbauld’s Eighteen Hundred and Eleven. A Poem (1811), reviewed in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 309–313. BACK

[10] An appraisal of an edition of the Works of William Warburton (1698–1779; DNB), in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 383–407. BACK

[11] William Warburton, Julian: or a Discourse Concerning the Earthquake and Fiery Eruption (1750), praised in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 404. The book was a very controversial endorsement of the idea that divine intervention stopped Julian (331–363; Roman Emperor 361–363) rebuilding the Temple at Jerusalem. BACK

[12] Johannes Meursius (1579–1639), Dutch classical scholar. See Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 400, on the debt Warburton’s work on the Eleusinian Mysteries in his Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated on the Principles of a Religious Deist (1737–1741) owed to Meursius. Warburton suggested that the final secret revealed to the initiates of the Mysteries was the existence of one God; and that Book 6 of the Aeneid was a ‘figurative description’ of the Eleusinian Mysteries. BACK

[13] Jean Terrasson (1670–1750), French classical scholar, priest and author. BACK

[14] Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 404–405, 407. BACK

[15] Biographie Moderne: Lives of Remarkable Characters who have Distinguished themselves from the Commencement of the French Revolution to the Present Time (1811), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 412–438. BACK

[16] The French revolutionary and early socialist thinker François Noel Babouef (1764–1797). BACK

[17] The French revolutionary and writer Marie-Jeanne Roland de la Platiere (1754–1793). Southey had long admired her. BACK

[18] The offending sentence about the late Prime Minister William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB) was in Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 413. BACK

[19] Southey’s biography of John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB), the founder of Methodism, appeared in 1820. BACK

[20] Southey’s review of David Bogue (1750–1825; DNB) and James Bennet (1774–1862; DNB), The History of Dissenters, from the Revolution in 1688–to the Year 1808 (1812); Wilson’s History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches (1808–1814); Neal’s History of the Puritans (1812), in Quarterly Review, 10 (October 1813), 90–139. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)