3302. Robert Southey to James Gooden, 25 May 1819

3302. Robert Southey to James Gooden, 25 May 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 25 May. 1819

My dear Sir

I am really ashamed when I think how long your letter has remained unanswered. – It arrived at a time when Mrs S. was exceedingly ill after her confinement, – & the length of time that that illness, & other accompanying anxieties rendered me unfit for ordinary business, must be in part my apology.

If you have an opportunity pray express my thanks to Mr Constable [1]  for his civility. I will write to thank him when I have examined the manuscript, which I hope to do in three or four weeks from this time. You will wonder that my third volume should have been so long delayed, but the delay will be accounted for when you see to what a bulk it has grown under my hands. [2]  We are printing the final chapter, which contains a view of the whole country, province by province, xxxx & the general state of manners &c, such as it was at the time of the removal; – as far as my materials enable me to describe it. [3]  How imperfect it must needs be I well know; but this ought not to deter me from doing what I can, nor induce me to withhold the information which it has been in my power to obtain. Abused as the Brazilians & the Portugueze have been, I verily think that the progress of Brazil during the eighteenth century is more surprising than that of the United States, – & that the Brazilians have accomplished more in proportion to their means than the Anglo Americans. The retrospective xx prospect is still more favourable; – no change in the government is required, only a return to its true principles, & the enforcement of good laws, – equally to the advantage of the subject & the sovereign. [4]  The spirit of the age tends to this, & the new Minister [5]  may be expected to keep pace with it. A great deal has been done since the Removal of the Court, [6]  in establishing posts, opening roads, chartering towns, & reducing the last savages who impeded the progress of civilization: – these I speak of as acts of the Ministry <independent of> ; – the impulse which xxxx <has> been given to industry & enterprise by the free trade. [7] 

They are likely soon to have a press at Recife. [8]  This they would have had two years ago, if the miserable attempt at revolution had not been made; – & the moving mind of that conspiracy, P. Joam Ribeiro might at this time have been employed in diffusing useful knowledge among his countrymen by its means, if he had not drawn down destruction upon himself & others. [9] 

I had no share in the paper upon Brougham & the Education Committee, certainly one of the most compleat exposures that ever was laid before the public. [10]  It seems to have done its work. I perceive that you entirely coincide in with me in opinion upon this financial question by which the commercial concerns of the country are so xxxxxxxxx <wantonly> dislocated. [11]  Thus it is, – we must be making difficulties for ourselves, when there were no existing ones, – building a wall, as Sheridan said, for the purpose of running our heads against it. [12] 

Thank you for the offer of Montenegro. I picked up a copy some years ago in London. [13]  – You will shortly receive the whole of your books & MSS with which you entrusted me. [14]  As soon as this work is thro the press I shall set off for London, – where, if you do not take wing during the summer season, I hope to see you in the course of three or four weeks.

fare well my dear Sir

& believe me

Yrs faithfully

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ James Gooden Esqre/ Woburn Place/ Russel Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 28 MY 28/ 1819
Seal: [partial] red wax
Watermark: T.S. STAINS 1815. A small embossed stamp in the upper left corner of 1r, positioned vertically. Crest. BATH
MS: Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester, Robert Southey Papers A.S727. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The ‘Preface’ to History of Brazil (1822) [unpaginated], thanked Archibald Constable (1774–1827; DNB), Scottish publisher, bookseller and stationer, for ‘a collection of original dispatches from the home Government to D. Luiz de Sousa, during his administration of Brazil’. Luis de Sousa, Conde do Prado (c. 1580–1643) was Governor-General of Brazil 1617–1621 in the reign of Philip III (1578–1621; King of Spain and Portugal 1598–1621). James Gooden had brought this manuscript to Southey’s attention. Constable had agreed to purchase it and let Southey make use of it for his History of Brazil. BACK

[2] The third and final volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819) ran to 950 pages. BACK

[3] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 696–879, which described Brazil at the time the Portuguese court fled there in 1807–1808. BACK

[4] John VI (1767–1826; King of Portugal 1816–1826). BACK

[5] Probably a reference to Pedro de Sousa Holstein, Conde de Palmela (1781–1850), Portuguese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, 1812–1817. He had been appointed Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom of Portugal and Brazil, but declined to make the journey to Brazil to take up his post until 1820. BACK

[6] The flight of the Portuguese court to Brazil in 1807–1808. BACK

[7] Brazil had been opened to the trade of other nations in 1808. BACK

[8] A printing press had been imported into Pernambuco in 1815, but a royal licence to publish material had only just been issued before a revolutionary government took over Recife, the provincial capital, in March–May 1817. The new regime made extensive use of the press in producing proclamations, but on its defeat the press was closed and its type sent to Rio de Janeiro. A new printing press was built at the local arsenal in 1821 to produce official pamphlets and a pro-government newspaper. BACK

[9] Joam Ribeiro Pessoa de Melo Montenegro (1766–1817) was a priest who was a member of the provisional government set up by the revolutionaries in Pernambuco, 8 March–18 May 1817. He committed suicide in the town of Paulista after the defeat of the revolutionary forces and the fall of Recife, the provincial capital. BACK

[10] Southey is referring to the review of, among other items, A Letter to Sir Samuel Romilly, M.P. from Henry Brougham, Esq. M.P., F.R.S. upon the Abuse of Charities (1818) and the Reports of the House of Commons Select Committee on the Education of the Lower Orders 1816–1818 (chaired by Brougham), which severely criticised the lack of educational provision and highlighted abuses in educational charities, Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 492–569, published 2 February 1819. The reviewer was John Wilson Croker, with assistance from others. BACK

[11] The House of Commons was debating legislation to recommence the convertibility of paper currency to gold, which had been suspended since 1797. The legislation passed on 2 July 1819 and convertibility was restored on 1 May 1821, but the period 1819–1821 witnessed a fall in commodity prices and rising unemployment. BACK

[12] An adaptation of a bon mot said to be the response of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816; DNB) to the fall of the Ministry of Talents in March 1807: ‘I have heard of people running their heads against a brick wall before, but I never heard of any other people building a wall on purpose.’ For a visual representation, see the satirical print The Groans and Dissolution of All the Talents (1807) by Charles Williams (fl. 1797–1830). BACK

[13] Probably an edition of writings by Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro (1676–1764), Benedictine monk and essayist whose works, notably Teatro Crítico Universal (1726–1739) and Cartas Eruditas y Curiosas (1742–1760), cover a range of subjects, including natural science, law, education, philology, and popular superstition. Southey owned two editions, nos 3297 and 3298 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[14] Southey thanked Gooden for lending him ‘the Life of F. Joam d’Almeida, among other books, and a manuscript Apology for the Jesuits in Paraguay and Maranham, of great importance’ in his History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, p. [v]. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)