2687. Robert Southey to John Murray, 23 December 1815

2687. Robert Southey to John Murray, 23 December 1815 ⁠* 

Keswick. 23 Dec. 1815

My dear Sir

I can send you xx no article but that upon Alfieri & Italian Tragedy for your next number, & this will not be a long one. [1]  A long paper is with me a full months work – I do not mean to say dogged work, for what is done doggedly can never be done well – but is the main business of a month, & whatever else can be done xx <during> that time is only as recreation by means of change. At this time my poem gives me full employment.

I have read Sir J Malcolms book, the first volume with disappointment, the second with much pleasure & instruction. It is as a traveller & not as an historian that the author excels, & he would have done better to have formed his materials into a “View of the present state of Persia with researches into the history of that country.” In the historical part the information is xxx almost exclusively oriental, – when Roman & Byzantine writers might have supplied some interesting detail: & xxxx there is that want of detail & circumstance the absence of which is as much the fault of xxx modern historians, as the redundance of them is that of the middle-age chroniclers. There can be no better book for a Reviewers purpose. It is a principle with me <in reviewing> to say nothing more of the defects of a book which adds to our store of knowledge, than just suffices xx for making the understanding reader perceive that I perceive them. I happen to be well read respecting Persia, & can draw up an article which will be attractive in itself, & likewise serve the book, – some such assistance I should apprehend it is likely to want. [2] 

You know I have long had in mind an essay for which the Poor: Society furnish the text, it has long been begun, & many materials for it are in their place among my Quarterly memoranda books. [3]  But your last nights letter certainly suggests something which might with much propriety form the subject of a prior essay. [4]  Send me Simonds book if it not be in any other hands you will know the book I mean, tho the author has not affixed his name, & I do not remember the title of the work, – the French-American who married John Wilks’s niece, & is Uncle in law to Jeffreys wife. [5]  Knowing Jeffreys hand in the advertisement by the peculiar pertness of the xxx style I at once discovered the author. Whom I had seen at my own house, & been pleased with. I have two or three accounts of England by foreigners (the letters from Albion which I took up one day in town are a palpable imitation of Espriella [6] ) – by looking at them all I may find matter for an interesting paper speaking of England as they see it, & as it is. Let me have the Persians travels for this use also. Aby Taleb is his name? or Abu heaven knows what. [7] 

The other subjects before me are Salts Travels (too long delayed) [8] Hollands  [9]  – Gregoires Sects. [10]  Huntington, [11]  & the English Drama, – for the latter I should be glad of the collection of Old Plays which is publishing in numbers; [12]  You see there is enough before me – to say nothing of minor articles. I had forgotten the Ludus Litterarius, which is really an important subject, – this must wait till the Pestalozzi book arrives from Brussels. [13] 

Your mention of Sir Hugh <Hew> Dalrymple [14]  reminds me of an interpolation in that part of my last article which I did not see before it was xxx struck off: an abominable interpolation, – for not content with going in direct opposition to xxx the opinion which I had expressed, it stigmatizes that opinion as factious. When I write to Mr Gifford I shall mention this, & require that no insertion be xxx xxx <made> in any paper of mine from henceforth, unless I shall have it had been <be> submitted to my perusal. The passage relates to the Convention of Cintra; xx if it be any satisfaction to the writer to make me appear to the world like a man who flatly contradicts himself, & says one thing to day & another tomorrow, – that satisfaction he will have. For the argument which he has used in defence of the Convention is ridiculously futile, & as such I shall <must> expose it in writing the history of that deplorable transaction. [15] 

I spent two hours in very interesting conversation with Mr Frere the last morning of my stay in town, during which time I learnt a good deal from him, & was confirmed in many conclusions which I had previously formed. [16]  It was a great satisfaction to me to find how generally we agreed in opinion respecting the affairs of Spain. As soon as I am a little more at leisure I shall correspond with him upon those parts of the history in which his knowledge will detect any error that I may have committed. At present my main objects must be <now> to compleat this poem which is called for by my official character, & which feeling myself obliged to write I xx enterd into xxx xxx con diligenza, [17]  & contrived to give it a form which enables me to pursue it con amore; [18]  secondly, to carry my Hist: of Brazil thro the press. [19]  These things done I shall be ready to start immediately in the press with the Peninsular War; & from the advantages which I possess xxx already, & the channels of information which are open to me I have no doubt but that this work will have a degree of authenticity about it, such as xxx <scarcely any> former history has ever possessed. [20]  Xx In xxx xx unity of subject, & in every thing which xxx gives diginity & permanent xx interest xx it has the advantage over every other. Of course I am speaking only of the subject, – Is there not a Military History of these times published by Goddard [MS missing] some extent? [21] 

Your MSS respecting Tongataboo has not reached me. [22]  – My first vol. of Par[MS obscured] is in the quarto form, – this in answer to a question in one of your former letters. Do not forget to send me the third vol. of the Somers Tracts, I shall then have twelve volumes, – is this the whole, or will the original plan be compleated of making fourteen? [23]  How much better might the same capital have been adventured upon a collection of historical memoirs!

Believe me my dear Sir

yrs very truly

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 26 DE 26/ 1815
Watermark: WW & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: 1815 Dec. 23/ Southey Robt Esq
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 130–133. BACK

[1] Charles Lloyd’s translation of The Tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri (1815); reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 14 (January 1816), 333–368. BACK

[2] Sir John Malcolm (1769–1833; DNB), The History of Persia (1815); no. 1661 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. The review of Malcolm in the Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 236–292, was by Reginald Heber, not Southey. BACK

[3] Southey’s article on ‘the Poor’, Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 187–235. BACK

[4] This new article was on recent accounts by foreign visitors of tours of Britain; it was published in Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 537–574. BACK

[5] Louis Simond (1767–1831), Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain, During the Years 1810 and 1811 (1815). Simond was married to Frances (dates unknown), a niece of the radical agitator John Wilkes (1725–1797; DNB). The Simonds had visited Edinburgh in late 1810, accompanied by their niece Charlotte Wilkes (d. 1850). During the visit Charlotte had met Francis Jeffrey, whom she married in her home city of New York on 1 October 1813. Simond’s Journal was one of a series of travel books reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 537–574. BACK

[6] Letters from Albion to a Friend on the Continent, written in the Years 1810–1813 (1814), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 537–574. Southey’s letter notes its indebtedness to his own Letters from England (1807); narrated by the fictitious Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. BACK

[7] Abu Talib Ibn Muhammed Khan, Isfahani (1752–1806?), Travels of Mirza, Abu Taleb Khan, (commonly called the Persian Prince,) in Asia, Africa, and Europe during the Years 1799, 1800, 1801, and 1802 (1810), transl. Charles Stewart (1764–1837; DNB); it had already been noticed by Reginald Heber in Quarterly Review, 4 (August, 1810), 80–93. Southey was probably requesting a copy of the revised second edition of Stewart’s translation, published in 1814. It did not feature in his review of travel books, Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 537–574. BACK

[8] Sir Henry Salt (1780–1827; DNB), A Voyage to Abyssinia (1814). Southey did not review it for the Quarterly. BACK

[9] Probably Holland’s Some Account of the Lives and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, and Guillen de Castro (1806); the second edition of 1817 was reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 1–46. BACK

[10] Henri Gregoire (1750–1831), Histoire des Sectes Religieuses (1810), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 28 (October 1822), 1–46. BACK

[11] William Huntington (1745–1813; DNB), Works (1811), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 24 (January 1821), 462–510. BACK

[12] Charles Wentworth Dilke (1789–1864; DNB), Old Plays (1814–1815); an edition of 1816 was no. 2058 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. It was a continuation of Robert Dodsley’s Old English Plays, being a Selection from the Early Dramatic Writers (1744–1745). Southey did not write an essay on English drama for the Quarterly. BACK

[13] Andrew Bell, Elements of Tuition, Part III: Ludus Literarius, the Classical and Grammar School (1815), a Madras system (i.e. one in which advanced students were used to instruct more junior pupils) for teaching the classical languages, originally formulated by Bell in 1808. Southey clearly intended to compare Bell’s methods with those of the Swiss educational reformer, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827), whose works included How Gertrude Teaches Her Children (1801). The ‘Pestalozzi Method’ argued that children should learn through activity and through things, rather than words. As part of this, children should be free to pursue their own interests and draw their own conclusions. The book Southey had purchased in Brussels was probably Marc Antoine Jullien (1775–1848), Esprit de la Methode d’Education de Pestalozzi (1812); no. 1291 in the sale catalogue of his library. He did not write the projected article for the Quarterly. BACK

[14] Sir Hew Whitefoord Dalrymple, 1st Baronet (1750–1830; DNB). As commander of British forces in Portugal he had played a crucial role in agreeing to the Convention of Cintra (30 August 1808) under the terms of which the defeated French were allowed to evacuate their troops from Portugal. Recalled to Britain shortly afterwards, he attempted to shift responsibility for the Convention onto Sir Arthur Wellesley, his subordinate. Although a government appointed board of inquiry absolved all involved in the treaty, Dalrymple never held a senior command again. BACK

[15] Southey was deeply unhappy with the treatment of his review of a series of books on the Duke of Wellington, Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526. The article had been altered by Croker, after Wellington himself had intervened; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 15 December 1815, Letter 2682. Southey particularly objected to the interpolation on p. 476, which defended the Convention of Cintra (1808) as ‘giving a presage of the extraordinary military foresight of Wellington’. BACK

[16] Frere had been Minister Plenipotentiary to the Central Junta in 1808–1809 and advised Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB) to advance on Madrid, or, if necessary, to retreat through Galicia rather than Portugal– advice that led to the disastrous retreat to Corunna. Southey had defended Frere in Edinburgh Annual Register for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 86–108. BACK

[17] ‘With diligence’. BACK

[18] ‘With love’. The poem was The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[19] The two final volumes of The History of Brazil appeared in 1817 and 1819 respectively. BACK

[20] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[21] A History of the Campaigns of the British Forces in Spain and Portugal (1812–1813); published by Thomas Goddard (fl. 1805–1815). BACK

[22] Possibly an unpublished MS or MSS Murray had asked Southey to give an opinion on. Southey had expertise in this area, having previously reviewed George Vason (1771/2–1838), An Authentic Narrative of Four Years’ Residence at Tongataboo, One of the Friendly Islands (1810), Quarterly Review, 3 (May 1810), 440–455. BACK

[23] John Somers, Baron Somers (1651–1716; DNB), A Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts, edited by Walter Scott and published in 13 volumes from 1809–1815. Southey’s copy was no. 2613 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

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