2588. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 18 April 1815

2588. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 18 April 1815 ⁠* 

Keswick 18 April 1815.

If I had not heard of the Viscounts birth via St Helens, – I should long ago have dispatched a letter of enquiry, – as it is not altogether a matter of course that these things should go on well. Alfred I suppose is a family name, – otherwise it is one of those so eminently ennobled, that with a refinement upon Mr Shandys system [1]  I should not xxx xx approve xxxxxx xxx of it. – I am glad to hear that you will have less duty in future; – there is now no reason on the score of confinement why you should not travel to the Lakes. Is there no possibility of persuading you to this? The finest things which this Island has to boast both in art & nature are in the North.

You will have received another portion of Brazilian MS. [2]  thro the Doctor. I have been busy of late upon the Jesuits; the want of the earlier authorities Montoya, [3]  Lozano [4]  & Xarque [5]  is a sore evil, especially of the former, who was one of the chief founders of the system. It is not that I want information, – but I want the satisfactory consciousness that of having acquired all that is to be found – & from the original sources. My chapters de moribus Paraguaycorium, [6]  both as to the savages & the super savages who as the carnivorous Spaniards may properly be called, will be very interesting. Besides the excellent materials in Dobrizhoffer [7]  & Azara, [8]  there are good gleanings from Peramas, [9]  & I have some good MS. English & Spanish which you have never seen.

At present I am mostly occupied upon my quarterly ways & means, which must be pretty largely provided for in the next number. There is a catchpenny life of Ld Wellington which Murray is to pay me a ridiculous price for reviewing – 100£. [10]  It is his own offer; – & a doubly advantageous to me, inasmuch as whatever may be worth preservation in the latter half of it will serve to inweave into the future history of the War. I shall have also an article upon Miots Memoirs of the French Expedition to Egypt, [11]  well-timed, because it contains an Eye witness’s account of the massacre at Jaffa, & that Eye witness a Frenchman. [12] 

This Resurrection of the Devil incarnate spirit of Evil will probably induce me soon to publish my Inscriptions; [13]  – it being highly expedient that the character of his Marshals & his soldiers should be exhibited in their <its> proper light. I have now finished 14, being about half the intended series. Here are two of the last which I have written, – Busaco, & Fuentes d’Onoro are the subjects.

Reader thou standest upon holy ground [14] 
Which Penitence hath chosen for itself.
And War disturbing the deep solitude
Hath left it doubly sacred. On these heights
The host of Portugal & England stood
Against the French arrayd, when Massena
Proud of Rodrigo & Almeida fallen,
Prest forward, thinking the devoted realm
Full sure should fall a prey. He in his pride
Scornd the poor numbers of the English foe,
And deemed the children of the land would fly
From his advance, like sheep before the wolf
Scattering & lost in terror. Ill he knew
The Lusitanian spirit! ill he knew
The arm, the heart of England! ill he knew
The Wellington! He learnt to know them here,
That spirit & that arm, that heart, that mind,
Here on Busaco gloriously approvd,
When hence repelld the beaten xxx boaster wound
Below his course circuitous; & left
His thousands for the beasts & ravenous fowl.
The Carmelite who in his cell recluse
Was wont to sit, & from the Skull receive
Deaths silent lessons, wheresoever he walk
Henceforth may find his teachers; he shall find
The Frenchmens bones in glen & grove, on rock
And height, where’er the wolves & carrion birds
Have strewn them, – washd in torrents, bare, & bleachd
By sun & rain, & by the winds of heaven.


The Fountains of Onoro which give name [15] 
To this poor hamlet, were distaind with blood,
When Massena from ravaged Portugal
By the brave nations virtue & the skill
Of Wellington compell’d, against the land
So late deliver’d, desperately made
His last fierce effort here. That day bestreakd
With slaughter, Coa & Agueda ran,
So deeply had the open veins of War
Purpled their mountain feeders. Strong in means
With rest, & stores & numbers reinforced
Came the ferocious enemy, & weend
Beneath the power of their commanding horse
To trample down resistance. But there fought
Against them here with England side by side
The children of regenerate Portugal,
And their own crimes, & overseeing Heaven.
Beaten, & hopeless of success to come
The ruffian Massena withdrew, & left
 [16] These Fountains famous for his overthrow.

Remember me to my Aunt. I long to see the three Bears [17]  The Ursa Major I think is in his sixth year, & will soon be hic-haec-hoc-xing. I have played the schoolmaster to some purpose with Herbert. He finished St Mathews Gospel this morning. – & I have recoverd Greek enough in the process to be reading Pindar. [18]  It is delightful to see how easily children acquire languages, when there no unnecessary difficulties & dispute are interposed. Herbert is scarcely four hours a day at his lessons. He is on a par with any boy of his age in Latin: as forward in Greek as a boy of 14 or 15: We read Luthers [19]  German Testament together & he is also acquiring French & Spanish.



* Address: [deletion and readdress in another hand] To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry <H. B. Withers Esqr/ Manydown/ Basingstoke>
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298; [partial] LONDON
Postmarks: CAP/ 21/ 1815; [partial] 10 o’Clock/ AP 21/ 15 FNn
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Laurence Sterne (1713–1768; DNB), The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759–1767); the eponymous hero’s father, Walter Shandy, has a series of elaborate theories about names and their influence. BACK

[2] History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[3] Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (1585–1652), Conquista Espiritual hecha por los Religiosos de la Compañia de la Jesus en la Provincias del Paraguay, Parana, Uruguay, y Tape (1639). BACK

[4] Pedro Lozano (1697–1752), Historia de la Compañia de la Jesús de la Provincia del Paraguay (1755). BACK

[5] Francisco Xarque (1609–1691), Insignes, Missioneros de la Compañia de Jesus Paraguay (1687). BACK

[6] ‘of the customs of Paraguay’, especially History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, pp. 333–380. BACK

[7] Southey’s source was Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus (1783–1784), no. 843 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] Felix Manuel de Azara (1742–1821 ), Essais sur l’Histoire Naturelle des Quadrupedes de la Province du Paraguay (1801) and Voyages dans l’Amerique Meridionale depuis 1781, jusqu’en 1801 (1805) nos. 89–90 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[9] Josephus Emmanuel Peramas (1732–1793), De Vita et Moribus Sex Sacerdotum et Tredecim Variorum Paraguaycorum (1791), no. 2209 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] Southey reviewed George Elliott (dates unknown), The Life of the Most Noble Arthur Duke of Wellington, from the Period of his first Achievements in India, down to his Invasion of France, and the Peace of Paris in 1814 (1814), Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 215–275. He went on to review a further series of books relating to Wellington in the Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526. BACK

[11] Jacques François Miot (1779–1858), Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire des Expéditions en Egypte et en Syrie (1814), Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 1–55. BACK

[12] The rape and murder by French troops of the population of Jaffa after the city fell on 3 March 1799. For Miot’s first-hand account, Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire des Expéditions en Egypte et en Syrie (Paris, 1814), pp. 140–148. BACK

[13] Southey’s series of Inscriptions on the Peninsular War. Only 18 of the projected 30 poems were completed and they were not collected together until they were published in Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 122–156. BACK

[14] ‘For the Deserto de Busaco’, Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 136–137. The poem commemorates the Battle of Busaco, 27 September 1810, when a combined Anglo-Portuguese force defeated a wave of attacks from the French army invading Portugal. BACK

[15] ‘At Fuentes D’Onorio’, Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, p. 141. The poem commemorates the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, 3–6 May 1811, when British and Portuguese forces defeated the French army’s attempt to relieve the city of Almeida. BACK

[16] Note added in Herbert Hill’s hand: ‘All very well H Hill’. BACK

[17] Herbert Hill’s three eldest sons: Edward, Herbert and Erroll. again. BACK

[18] Pindar (c. 522–443 BC), Greek poet. Henry Huntingford (1787–1867; DNB) published an edition of his poems in 1814, no. 2245 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[19] Martin Luther (1483–1546), German Protestant reformer. He translated the New Testament into German in 1522. BACK

People mentioned

Wellesley, Arthur (1769–1852) (mentioned 3 times)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 2 times)
Hill, Errol (1812–1844) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Catherine (1775–1848) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Alfred (b. 1815) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Edward (1809–1900) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)