2189. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 10 December 1812

2189. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 10 December 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 10. 1812.

My dear Tom

I have been expecting your report upon Andrewes, [1]  – which however there was no reason for awaiting, inasmuch as what you have to consult it for is not to see whether you can do what I have proposed, but how you are to do it. I cannot send you all the books in my possession which appertain to the subject, because I have to write upon the state of Hayti as soon as I can find leisure for it, either for the Quarterly or the Register. [2]  – however one of the main advantages of your work is that you can go on with any part of it at any time, one as well as another, according as you may have materials at hand. I will send off a xxx parcel by the next carrier containing books enough to employ you for some time. Xxx there will be Peter Martire’s Decades – the old translation. [3]  This is the very earliest account of the discoveries, – being as you will perceive written as the news of the discoveries reachd the Court of Castille. Munoz’s history – (all that has been published <of it> I believe), – which where you will find a more methodized & critical account. [4]  Capt John Smiths History, containing our first attempt at settling in any of these islands. [5]  Charlevoix’s history of S Domingo [6]  the two first vols of which you will do well to read after <with> the Spanish accounts, & the two latter are of main importance to your subject. One or two others I shall also find: & perhaps I may as well delay the parcel a few days till I can make any extracts from Labats’ Voyages, [7]  & send them also, – for this will be one of your best authorities.

There should be an introductory chapter upon the original inhabitants of these Islands. Do you open xxx a book for this subject, & collect in it whatever materials you meet with; – in a summary manner, with xxx reference to the authority in every case that they may be referred to when the account comes to be drawn up. I will do the same & collect for you the materials xxx to be found in my Spanish authors. There must be another chapter concerning the Slave Trade & the Negroes. Keep a book for this also. I will revise these chapters for you, or arrange them when they are wanted – And I will give you a final chapter, casting a philosophic eye back over what has happened in these Islands, & forward to what may be expected there.

The subject is much richer than you may perhaps imagine. You will find the undertaking easy when you are fairly got into it, & every day will interest you in it more & more. You will have a good deal to do with the Buccaneers & the Pirates.

Keep a book, as I do, of Bio- & biblio-graphy. That is all particulars relating to the lives of the authors whom you consult, & their works: so that you xx may give in the appendix a biographical account of them, & a critical account of their works. All historians ought to do this.

Should we get you a ship you may carry on your work aboard. For the last fifty years, many of your materials must be gleaned from the Naval Chronicle. [8] 

I must hasten for this nights post. How anxious this intelligence from Russia make me for every newspaper! Gods vengeance seems to be falling upon this pestilent Tyrant at last: for allowing for much exaggeration (tho Kutusoffs letters [9]  have nothing of the braggart about them, & seem to me in every respect better than those of any of his contemporary generals) still it is unquestionable that the French are in actual flight under the most dreadful circumstances: & nine tenths of the army will probably be destroyed before they can reach any secure winter quarters. Well done the Russians & the Cossacks! What a delight will it be for Sir Robert Wilson if he should be in at the death! [10] 

Keep the volume of the Hist. of Constantinople [11]  till there be an opportunity of sending it – the other volumes are here: this was leant Harry for the Crusades. You will do well to read it. – Probably you will be able to find some of the necessary books in the Durham Libraries. I do not know if there be any thing in Purchas [12]  to your purpose, but most probably there will be. Good old Mr Viner [13]  will help you to this book: & perhaps Hakluyt [14]  may be in the same library, – in my next I will tell you what Hakluyt has.

I am in the tenth books of Roderick, [15]  having got on 2500 lines in the poem, this I hope will be half of it, I wish I were getting on faster with your copy – however now that the franking season is returned I shall take a spell at it sometimes.

Our love to Sarah, & my nieces [16]  – I believe you have never been told that as Bertha is Queen Henry the Eighth so Kate is Queen Katharine, – but not Katharine Parr, [17]  – for my Katharine is above par.

God bless you


Wordsworth has just lost a child to the measles. – poor little Tom this is the second in one year. [18] 


* Address: To/ Capt Southey. R. N./ St. Helens/ Auckland
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 309–311 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey had possibly suggested that his brother should consult James Pettit Andrews (c. 1737–1797; DNB), History of Great Britain connected with the Chronology of Europe (1794), no. 166 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. This was an example of the kind of chronological history that Tom Southey might undertake in his work on the West Indies. BACK

[2] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 192–196. BACK

[3] Pietro Martire d’Anghiera (1457–1526). His De Orbe Novo (1511–1530) provides important early accounts of the exploration and colonisation of Central and South America. In this letter, Southey references the English translation by Richard Eden (c. 1520–1576; DNB), The Decades of the Newe Worlde or West India: Conteyning the Navigations and Conquestes of the Spanyards (1555); Southey owned an edition of 1612, no. 1862 in the sale catalogue of his library. (Southey also owned a Latin edition of 1574, no. 1811 in the sale catalogue of his library.) BACK

[4] Juan Bautista Muñoz (1745–1799) was commissioned to write an official account of Spanish involvement in the New World. Part of his researches appeared as Historia del Nuevo-Mundo (1793), the rest were unpublished at his death. Southey owned an English translation of 1797, no. 1263 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[5] John Smith (1562/1563–1616; DNB), The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England and the Summer Isles (1624), no. 2645 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[6] Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix (1682–1761), Histoire de l’Isle Espagnole, ou de Saint Dominque (1730). Southey owned an edition of 1733, no. 574 no. 1263 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] Jean-Baptiste Labat (1663–1738), Nouveau Voyage aux Iles de l’Amerique (1722), no. 1582 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] The Naval Chronicle was an annual account of naval affairs. It had first appeared in 1759 and re-started in 1799. BACK

[9] Accounts of events in Russia from General Mikhail Kutuzov (1745–1813) appeared for instance in the London Gazette, 8 December 1812. BACK

[10] The army officer Sir Robert Wilson (1777–1849; DNB). He had travelled to Russia earlier in 1812 and was a first-hand witness of the campaign against the French invaders. BACK

[11] Possibly a volume of the eight-volume Histoire de Constantinople depuis la Règne de l’Ancien Justin jusqu’a la fin de l’Empire (1672), translated into French by Louis Cousin (1627–1707); Southey’s copy was no. 666 in the sale catalogue of his library. Henry Herbert Southey had conducted research on the Crusades in 1811. BACK

[12] Volumes by Samuel Purchas (c. 1577–1626; DNB), probably Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrime (1625) or Purchas his Pilgrimes (1624–1625). BACK

[13] Possibly Samuel Viner (c. 1740–1815), a minor canon of Durham Cathedral. BACK

[14] Richard Hakluyt (1552?-1616; DNB), The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation (1598–1600), no. 1212 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[15] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[16] Tom and Sarah’s daughters Margaret and Mary Hannah Southey. BACK

[17] Katherine Parr (1512–1548; DNB), the sixth and last wife of Henry VIII (1491–1547; King of England 1509–1547; DNB). BACK

[18] Thomas Wordsworth died on 1 December 1812. His sister Catherine had died of convulsions on 4 June 1812. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)