2377. Robert Southey to John Murray, 7 February 1814

2377. Robert Southey to John Murray, 7 February 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick 7. Feby. 1814

Dear Sir

I have gleaned a few picturesque circumstances respecting the Battle of the Nile from Willyams’s book, [1]  – made some important additions to the history of the Copenhagen expedition [2]  from Mr Crokers communications, & taken from the British Review al the little which was to my purpose. The article in this Review would have been altogether worthless had it not been for the original letters, [3]  Nelsons letters & dispatches ought to be collected & published, <in one body> under the title but probably the time is not yet come when this could be done without disclosing past state secrets, or viol injuring private feelings; & till it can be done compleatly it ought not to be done at all

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr
Endorsement: Southey Esqr/ 7 Feby 1814
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The letter deals with changes Southey was making for the second edition of The Life of Nelson, published later in 1814. These included using information from Cooper Willyams (1762–1816; DNB), A Voyage Up the Mediterannean in His Majesty’s Ship the Swiftsure: One of the Squadron Under the Command of Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson … With a Description of the Battle of the Nile on the First of August 1798 and a Detail of Events that occurred subsequent to the Battle in the Various Parts of the Mediterranean (1802). Willyams had been Chaplain on HMS Swiftsure and present at the battle. His account, illustrated with his own drawings, was regarded as authentic and valuable. BACK

[2] The events surrounding the Battle of Copenhagen, 2 April 1801. BACK

[3] A review of Southey’s Life of Nelson (1813), in British Review, 5 (October 1813), 167–196 (esp. 185–194), had included a series of previously unpublished letters by Nelson. Southey’s description of the review as otherwise ‘worthless’ could have been prompted by its description of his ‘political paradoxes … [as] stale and revolting’ (176), sustained attack on his portrayal of Nelson’s moral character and dismissal of his claims that the Life was an appropriate manual for young sailors: ‘In truth, Mr. Southey should have recollected that there are passages, lamentable passages in the Life of Lord Nelson, which require in a faithful historian of his younger days (particularly in one who writes for the benefit of youth) a more than ordinary caution’ (173). BACK

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