2398. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 3–6 April 1814

2398. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 3–6 April 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. April 3. 1814.

My dear Tom

I fear it is a long time since you have heard from me. My days are so filled up that many things are necessarily left undone. Roderick [1]  is now my main business. 144 pages are printed, – which reach the 12th book, & I know last night I finished the 16th. I shall put the printer to work upon the notes most probably while I compleat the poem. The extent will be 20 or 21. You see I am in soundings, & it will not be long before I shall be in sight of land. – Meantime that I may be ready with my exercise I have laid down the timbers of a poem upon the Young Princess’s marriage, it will consist of three parts, – of which the first is written; & the second begun. [2]  Tis in the six syllable stanza of Gualberto, [3]  – only that the last line is not always an alexandrine. I am pleased with what I have done, & more pleased with the conception of what remains to do, – the form of the second part is allegorical, & instead of compliment it takes a high moral strain of exhortation delivered by certain personages, real & imaginary, among whom will be Liberty, Religion, Old Ocean (a friend of yours) & a brother of his who wields the sword instead of the trident, Clarkson, Dr Bell, & to bring up the rear Death. – persons who may without any startling incongruity meet in a dream. – Should I go on as I have begun it is likely to be a striking poem.

The Doctor is in the press with his book upon Consumption. [4]  I had the first proof a few days back. It is very well written, & if the matter be as good as the manner seems to be (of which I have no reason to doubt) it will do him great credit, & probably as much good as he expects from it.

The new edition of Thalaba [5]  is on the way to me. It differs from the last only in having the stanzas (or rather paragraphs) numbered, to prevent the printer from ever again running two into one, – & in the lapidary arrangement of the lines, like Kehama. [6] 

April 6

It will not be difficult to make your history [7]  as compleat as it ought to be. After having done all that is possible at home, you must pay the Doctor a visit in order to make use of the Public Libraries, & I will then obtain access for you to such Government records as may be needful. But instead of confining yourself to the year 1700, the work ought to be carried down to the end of the existing war.

At different periods certain chapters or introductions will be required upon subjects which a chronological arrangement of mere facts cannot include. Thus at the beginning there should be as compleat <an> account of the as can be collected of the state of the inhabitants at the time of the discovery. The negroes will afford matter for another chapter, the slave trade for another & finally a chapter upon the present state & future prospects of these islands. I see very distinctly in what manner the book may be made better than any of its kind, & remain a model for such works. The notes should all be translated; & the original added where there is a neccessity for producing the actual words of an author as authenticated evidence, – or if it be desirable for any peculiarity of expression.

I have suspected that Rochefort is the original of Davis, – but on the other hand the translation was certainly made from an anonymous work, & I cannot discover that Rochefort ever published an edition without his name. [8]  Boucher de la Richarderie in his Bibliotheque Universelle des Voyages [9]  does not clear this up. Like all other Catalogues of this kind, tho excellently useful, it is exceedingly imperfect. Labat [10]  is a hateful fellow, – & yet a most entertaining & valuable writer. He is what his portrait represents him; – a thoroughly sensual Frenchman, with the blessed advantage of being a Dominican friar to boot, – believing no doubt about as much in St Dominic [11]  as I do. But he has likewise all the cleverness of the French character & was moreover an <man of> indefatigable observation. You judge too hardly in calling him a vile plagiarist; – his historical retrospects are abstracts from Du Tertre, [12]  but the bulk of the book is his own. I allow him to be hateful – & yet I do not hate him. There is a certain resemblance to xxstaff Falstaff [13]  about him, <the oddity of> which is heightened by the his being a friar. After he left the W Indies he was stationed for some years in Italy & wrote eight volumes more respecting that country which are exceedingly curious. [14] 

You must bring your papers here & take a spell at Herrera, [15]  Oviedo [16]  & Gomara. [17]  Whatever Spanish books may exist concering these islands (there is one I know about Puerto Rico [18] ) I will ask Abella to collect for me at Madrid. There are is much about Cuba in the proceedings of the Cortes. [19]  Come when you like, – xxx next month the leaves will be out, & the water fit for bathing.

I expect daily to hear of the Bust, – casts could not be made while the frost lasted. [20] 

My nephew & namesake is not yet out of his squabship. The others are in good kissing trim, & I wish they were all nearer, or that the communication were more direct. – As for getting a ship you may rest assured that official applications never produce any thing better than official answers: – in your case I think they are much better let alone.

Love to Sarah – God bless you



* 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. 348–350 [in part]. BACK

[1] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). The final poem extended to 25 Books. BACK

[2] Southey, as Poet Laureate, was expected to write on the forthcoming marriage of the Prince Regent’s only child Charlotte. In December 1813 she had become engaged to the Hereditary Prince of Orange, William (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849), the husband selected for her by her father and his advisers. Southey started the required poem (The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale) but in the event it was not needed as the engagement was broken off in June 1814. The Lay was recycled in 1816 to celebrate Charlotte’s marriage to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (1790–1865; DNB). BACK

[3] The ballad ‘St Juan Gualberto’, Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1800), 1–19. BACK

[4] Henry Herbert Southey, Observations on Pulmonary Consumption (1814). BACK

[5] The third edition of Thalaba the Destroyer appeared in 1814. BACK

[6] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[7] Tom Southey’s Chronological History of the West Indies (1827). BACK

[8] John Davies (1625–1693; DNB), The History of Barbadoes, St Christophers, and the rest of the Caribby Islands (1666), no. 715 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. The book was a translation of Charles de Rochefort (1605–1683), Histoire Naturelle et Morale des Iles Antilles de l’Amerique (1658). BACK

[9] Gilles Boucher de la Richarderie (1733–1810), Bibliothèque Universelle des Voyages (1808); no. 2438 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

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

[11] St Dominic (1170–1221), founder of the Dominican Order. BACK

[12] The missionary and botanist Jean-Baptiste du Tertre (1610–1687), Histoire Generale des Antiles habitées par les François (1667). Southey copy was no. 2828 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[13] Sir John Falstaff, the disreputable knight in Henry IV, Parts One and Two and the Merry Wives of Windsor. BACK

[14] Voyages du P. Labat de l’ordre des ff. precheurs, en Espagne et en Italie (1731); no. 1579 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[15] Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1559–1625), Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano (1601–1615). Southey possessed an edition of 1728, no. 3563 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[16] José de Oviedo y Banos (1671–1738), Historia de la Conquista, y Poblacion de Venezuela (1723); no. 3605 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[17] Probably The Conquest of the Weast Indies (1576), an English translation of Francisco Lopez de Gomara (c. 1511–1566?), Hispania Victrix (1552). BACK

[18] Probably a reference to Inigo Abbad y Lasierra (1754–1813), Historia geografica, civil y natural de la isla de San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico (1788). BACK

[19] Diario de las Discusiones y Actas de las Cortes, 1810–1813 (1811–1813), no. 3288 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[20] James Smith (1775–1815) had sculpted a bust of Southey in 1813. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)