3533. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 24 September 1820

3533. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 24 September 1820⁠* 

The Memorandum which I made concerning the expences at Westminster [1]  has unluckily shared the common fate of waste paper; & of its details I can only recollect 45 £ for the board, the sum total I think was 75, Knox having disadvised the needless expence of a tutor. When you see Knox [2]  you will not wonder – from his hurried, nervous, St-Vitus-like manner, that the boys suppose him to be crazy. He is however the best Usher that they have had for many years, xx & will I am sure do every thing in his power to befriend Edward.

I have Ramusio, [3]  & the Oviedo [4]  of whom he gives a translation, is here in the original also, – but in a mutilated state. Oviedo y Baños is a later writer who wrote the Hist. of Venezuela, & lived I believe in the last century. [5]  If Mirandas library could be traced, there certainly would be a copy there. [6]  – Dobrizhoffer [7]  will very soon go to the press. Did I tell you (what is not to be generally told for obvious reasons) – that the translation is the work of xxx Sara Coleridge?

Your story of Mr Legge [8]  is an affecting example of the vanity of riches. He should endow fellowships, or build a College, or better than either, enable Lady Isabella King [9]  to put her Beguinage upon a permanent foundation. By making the best use of his otherwise useless wealth, he would find something to interest him as long as he lives.

Murray has not yet sent me a proof of the Peninsular-war, [10]  which I wonder at as it is more than a month since he has had the first chapter. However I am in no hurry; – I have a good portion of copy (in printers phrase) ready, & am now taking advantage of his delay to provide for my Ways & Means, & to go on with correcting the first vol. of Brazil, [11]  – in which the additions will be if collectively of considerable importance. I expect to have the little Book of the Church [12]  in the press ere long, & certainly to publish it in the spring.

Adamson writes me word that the Portugueze Academy have elected him a member, for his Life of Camoens. [13]  – I x intend to do with that life, what I did with Lord H.s life of Lope de Vega, [14]  which is in other words to do what the author has left undone, – but I must wait for the work of an Academician upon the same subject, which is about to issue from the Academys press. [15]  I shall be very civil to poor Adamson, who has certainly put his infinitesimal fraction of a talent to the best possible interest. But the Academy will not reward my Memoir as they have done his, as I shall not fall down & worship the idol which they have set up. Camoens is a very interesting man & a very sweet poet, but not of the first order & the Lusiad has no pretensions whatever to the rank in which they would place it. [16] 

I am very much pleased that you wish me to finish the Vision of Judgement. [17]  As for encomiastic poems I am as unfit to figure in such compositions, as in a ball. My last years ode [18]  was political, & much to my liking. It will be introduced in my Dialogues [19]  among other things ejusdem generis, [20]  & of other kinds also, ad captandum. [21]  For there are wholesome bitters in the cup which make it prudent to sugar the edges. – I must however think of the Coronation, & perhaps some lucky thought may come into my head when it is least expected. [22] 

Nash has made some excellent portraits of Edith-May & Cuthbert, & of my Aunt Mary, who is grown strikingly like my father, & is xxxxx the freshest & chearfullest looking woman of her years that I every remember to have seen. She went over to the Captains this morning for a few days.

Love to my Aunt. God bless you


Keswick. 24 Sept. 1820.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surrey.
Stamped: KESWICK/ xx8
Postmark: 10 o’Clock/ SP. 27/ 1820 FNn; x/ 27 SE 27/ 1820
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 200. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Westminster School, which Southey had attended 1788–1792. BACK

[2] John William Knox (1784–1862), clergyman, scholar and usher at Westminster School 1806–1821. BACK

[3] Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485–1557), Navigationi et Viaggi (1550–1559). Southey owned an early edition (3 vols, 1588, 1583 and 1556), no. 2382 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[4] Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo (1478–1557), Historia General y Natural de las Indias (1535). The complete work was not published until 1851–1855. BACK

[5] 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

[6] Sebastian Francisco de Miranda y Rodriguez de Espinoza (1750–1816), Venezuelan revolutionary. He had lived in England prior to 1806 and married his housekeeper, Sarah Andrews (1774–1847). BACK

[7] Southey reviewed Sara Coleridge’s translation, An Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of Paraguay (1822) in Quarterly Review, 26 (January 1822), 277–323. BACK

[8] Heneage Legge (1747–1827). He had inherited considerable property from Sir Charles Holte, 6th Baronet (1721–1782), and an Act of Parliament of 1817 had permitted the sale of the estate, allowing him to realise the capital. BACK

[9] Lady Isabella Lettice King (1772–1845; DNB) founded the Ladies’ Association at Bailbrook House, near Bath, in June 1816. It provided a home for orphaned gentlewomen with no income and was duly praised by Southey in his article in Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 96–101. BACK

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

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

[12] Southey’s The Book of the Church (1824). BACK

[13] Adamson’s Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Luis de Camoens (1820), no. 10 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Adamson was made a Corresponding Member of the Portuguese Royal Academy of Sciences (founded 1779) for this work – Southey was not a member of the Academy. BACK

[14] Southey reviewed Adamson’s book in Quarterly Review, 27 (April 1822), 1–39. Southey’s review of Lord Holland, Some Account of the Lives and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, and Guillen de Castro (1817) was published in Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 1–46. BACK

[15] Southey reviewed José Agostinho de Macedo (1761–1831), O Oriente (1814) with Adamson’s book, though here he is probably referring to Macedo’s Censura das Lusiadas (1820). BACK

[16] Luis Vaz de Camões (c. 1524–1580), Os Lusiadas (1572). BACK

[17] Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[18] Southey’s duty as Poet Laureate to produce a New Year’s Ode for 1820; this ode was later published as ‘The Warning Voice. Ode I’ in The Englishman’s Library: Comprising a Series of Historical, Biographical and National Information (London, 1824), pp. 381–383. BACK

[19] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). This book did not contain ‘The Warning Voice. Ode I’. BACK

[20] ‘of the same kind’. BACK

[21] ‘to please the crowd’. BACK

[22] The coronation of George IV was delayed until 19 July 1821; Southey did not write anything for the occasion, though in February 1821 he made a few notes for a projected celebratory ode in a notebook, now at Huntington Library, San Marino, HM 2733, f. 126r. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)