3529. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 29 August 1820

3529. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 29 August 1820⁠* 

I have a very fine copy of Ant. Nebrissensis, [1]  which as it contains the other works you mention, is probably the same edition as yours – Granada 1545 – a specimen of singularly fine printing. It is one of my Brussels purchases & I thought it cheap at thirty francs.

Pople gets on with the reprint of the first vol, [2]  – & I with the additions & corrections to it, the former being considerable both in number & value. – Yesterday I sent up the first chapter of the Peninsular War, [3]  – which goes to Bulmers press because William Nicol [4]  has entered into partnership with him, & this gives me facilities for conveying some of the proof sheets occasionally to Herries & one or two other persons, who have ex-officio knowledge concerning pxx certain parts of the history, & may set me right if I am under any misapprehension.

My Aunt Mary arrived a fortnight ago, in good health & good equable spirits, & looking remarkably well for her years. She is very much pleased with the country, & has set you an example which ought to be followed for a journey of three hundred miles in this country is nothing, when you are about it. C’est le premier pas qui coute. [5] 

Poor Mr Davies! [6]  – If Mr Jones the first [7]  should happen to be at Streatham, it would be of use to me if you could learn from him some particulars concerning the state in which he found Zaragoza, [8]  – that is – what proportion of the city was destroyed in the two sieges, & more especially whether the Cathedral, & the famous church of S Engracia were demolished.

It is very strange that I have never been able to ascertain the real mischief which was done at Alcobaça & Batalha. [9]  I have heard the most contradictory accounts, & it is quite impossible to know how to chuse between them.

I am going to print that account of Lope de Aguirre [10]  in a little volume per se, if I can get a history of Venezuela by Oviedo y Baños, [11]  which contains some curious documents concerning it. Do you think your friend Murdoch [12]  has the book? I looked for it without success at Holland House, & at Gooden’s, which were both likely places. – The story is a very remarkable one, & unlike any other event in history. I should like therefore to make the account as compleat as possible, & having added Piedrahita Hist. de Nuevo Reyno de Granada [13]  to my collection since it was written, Oviedo y Banos is the only authority wanting; – but – I apprehend it is the most important of all.

The younger Westall is making for me half a dozen views in this immediate neighbourhood to ornament a volume of Dialogues, [14]  which being upon grave subjects concerning the past stages, x present state & prospects of society, I mean to relieve with descriptive passages, – & after the manner of Boethius [15]  with occasional pieces in verse. The dialogue is a difficult form of composition, but it has its advantages. I have nearly finished the second, & am thus far well pleased with my progress.

We have seen fewer strangers than usual, – which may perhaps be owing to the pending business in Parliament. [16]  That business I am inclined to think will do as much good as there was at one time reason to apprehend that it might occasion immediate evil. The glaring guilt & infamy xxx may make a great number of deluded persons perceive the evil intentions as well as the bad faith of those who have so impudently deceived them. And if Government take advantage of the opportunity xxx at the turn of tide, the most mischievous of the newspapers have had rope given them, & have noosed themselves to its hands. I hope also it may lead to the organization of a strong civil force, now we have found that the constables staff is a weapon which may be trusted more safely than the bayonet. [17] 

Love to my Aunt, – my namesake, – the Dutchess Georgiana, & good little Alfred. The elders I suppose are returned to school.

God bless you


Tuesday 29 Aug.


* Address: To/ The Revd. Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry.
Stamped: KESWICK/ xxx
Postmark: [partial] 10 o’Clock/ SP. 1/ 1820; E/ 1 SE 1/ 1820
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 199. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Antonio de Lebrija (1441–1522), Rerum a Ferdinando et Elisabeth Hispaniarum Regibus Gestarum Decades II (1545), no. 1925 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey had bought the book from Jean-Baptise Ver Beyst (1770–1849), a celebrated Brussels bookseller. BACK

[2] The second edition of the first volume only of the History of Brazil (1810–1819), published in 1822. BACK

[3] History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), I, pp. 3–62. BACK

[4] William Nicol (d. c. 1855), printer and bookseller. The History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832) was printed by Thomas Davison (1766–1831), the usual collaborator of its publisher John Murray, not by Nicol. William Bulmer (1757–1830; DNB) was a well-known printer of high-quality publications. On his retirement in 1819, William Nicol took over his business. BACK

[5] ‘It is the first step which costs’. BACK

[6] Reynold Davies (1752–1820), Curate of Streatham and a neighbour of Herbert Hill, had died on 29 July 1820. BACK

[7] Probably a reference to one of two famous brothers who served in the Peninsular War: Sir John Thomas Jones, 1st Baronet (1783–1843; DNB) and General Sir Henry David Jones (1791–1866). BACK

[8] Zaragoza endured two sieges from French forces in 1808–1809, leading to over 50,000 deaths. The city’s two cathedrals and the Basilica of Saint Engracia survived. BACK

[9] The medieval Alcobaca and Batalha Monasteries in Portugal. BACK

[10] Southey’s The Expedition of Orsua; and the Crimes of Aguirre (1821), originally intended to be part of the History of Brazil (1810–1819) and first published in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.2 (1812), i–l. BACK

[11] José de Oviedo y Baños (1671–1738), Historia de la Conquista y Población de la Provincia de Venezuela (1723), no. 3605 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[12] Possibly John Murdoch (1747–1824; DNB), teacher, translator and authority on French literature and language. BACK

[13] Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita (1624–1688), Historia General de las Conquistas del Nuevo Reyno de Granada (1688), no. 3615 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[14] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). Six engravings from Westall’s views appeared in the book. BACK

[15] Southey’s model was Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c. 480–525), De Consolatione Philosophiae, a dialogue between the author and the character of Lady Philosophy, consisting of both prose and verse. BACK

[16] The Second Reading debate had begun on 17 August 1820 of a Bill of Pains and Penalties to deprive Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821; DNB), George IV’s estranged wife, of the title of Queen and to dissolve their marriage. The Queen’s case was supported by the majority of radicals and many Whigs, and while the Bill just passed the House of Lords on 10 November, the government declined to introduce it into the House of Commons. BACK

[17] A battalion of the 3rd Regiment of Guards in King’s Mews had mutinied on 15 June 1820, complaining of poor conditions; and Queen Caroline was reported to be very popular in Guards Regiments. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Mary (1750–1838) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Georgiana (1816–1873) (mentioned 1 time)
Gooden, James (1773–1851) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Alfred (b. 1815) (mentioned 1 time)
Westall, William (1781–1850) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Catherine (1775–1848) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 1 time)
Holland House (mentioned 1 time)