3546. Robert Southey to John Murray [fragment], 28 October 1820

3546. Robert Southey to John Murray [fragment], 28 October 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 28 Oct. 1820

My dear Sir

I am sorry to hear the cause of your long absence from town, & that so little benefit to Mrs Murrays [1]  health has been derived from it.

Some weeks ago I wrote to you, & I have no doubt that the letter shared the same fate with one written about the same time to Bedford, which never reached him. You had sent me two Huntingtonian books, which were nothing more than separate portions of his works; [2]  but at the end was a list of Publications sold by his son in St Giles’s, [3]  from which I selected the following titles of works furnishing matter either for the present article or the Book of the Church, [4]  which is in steady progress [remainder of MS page missing]

The peninsular war may be estimated at three volumes of from 6 to 700 pages, such pages as the H: of Brazil: [5]  – but there will be no marginal references, & the notes at the bottom may be printed so as to take up the least room.

Thank you for the Sketch Book, – it is very clever, very amusing, & in an excellent spirit: [6]  – And for knickerbocker, [7]  – this I should think will hardly bear transplantation from its native soil.

You ask me concerning the times, a subject on which, living in perfect peace, & out of the sphere of the prevailing madness, I am little qualified to form an opinion, – except indeed the opinion which I have long held that things must be worse before they are better. The Whigs will go on as they have begun till an explosion takes place, & then we shall see who among them are fools & who traitors: the traitors will be five to one: but the fools are those who have most weight to throw into the scale, provided the balance be not destroyed. I shall probably have something for you when it is time; – some preventatives & remedies to suggest, – but we must wait for the proper season. – I expect that my book of Dialogues [8]  will produce some [remainder of MS page missing]

impression now, & some good in time. I mean to sweeten it that it may go down, – with descriptive sketches of this country, & a few poems, so that there may be something for various tempers. Westall has made some sketches for it. [9]  And I shall spare no pains in the composition, designing to make it a that my reputation hereafter for political sagacity should rest upon this work.

The Book of the Church [10]  will so certainly do good, that I feel a sense of duty among my motives for delaying it no longer. I could send you a portion now; but it will be better to advance farther, that I may more accurately estimate its extent, – the subject might easily tempt me to be more diffuse than I intended

You will really serve as well as oblige me, if you let me have a duplicate set of proofs of my articles, [11]  that I may not lose the passages, which Mr Gifford, in spite of repeated promises, always will strike out. In this last paper [12]  among many other mutilations, the most useful fact in the essay, for its immediate, practical, application has been omitted, & for no imaginable reason (– the historical fact that it was the reading a calumnious libel which induced Felton to murder the D of Buckingham.) [13]  – When next I touch upon public affairs for you, I will break the Whigs upon the wheel.

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqre/ Albemarle Street/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 31 OC 31/ 1820
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
Endorsement: R Southey Esq/ Oct 28. 1820
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42552. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Samuel Smiles, A Publisher and His Friends. Memoir and Correspondence of the Late John Murray, with an Account of the Origin and Progress of the House, 1768–1843, 2 vols (London, 1891), II, pp. 111–112 [in part]. BACK

[1] Murray’s wife Anne (1782–1845), née Elliot. BACK

[2] Southey’s review of The Works of the Reverend William Huntington, S. S. Minister of the Gospel, at Providence Chapel, Gray’s Inn Lane, Completed to the Close of the Year 1806 (1811) appeared in Quarterly Review, 24 (January 1821), 462–510. BACK

[3] S. Huntington (dates unknown) of 55 High Street, near St. Giles’s Church, sold his father’s works and other religious publications. BACK

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

[5] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832) and History of Brazil (1810–1819). The latter had contained marginal notations and also endnotes. The three volumes of the History of the Peninsular War contained 806, 807 and 936 pages respectively, so Southey, as usual, underestimated the length of his work. The volumes also contained marginal references. BACK

[6] Washington Irving’s (1783–1859) The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819), a collection of essays and short stories. Murray had taken on the publication of a British edition in 1820. BACK

[7] Irving’s satirical A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker, first published in 1809; Murray published an edition in 1820, and had sent Southey a copy, no. 1486 in the sale catalogue of the latter’s library. BACK

[8] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). BACK

[9] Westall produced the following six sketches of Lake District scenes that were engraved for Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols (London, 1829): vol. I: ‘Druidical Stones near Keswick’, ‘Derwentwater, Bassenthwaite-water, and Skiddaw, from Walla Crag’, and ‘Derwentwater from Strandshagg’; and vol. II: ‘Crosthwaite Church and Skiddaw’, ‘Greta Hall, Derwentwater, and Newlands’, and ‘Tarn of Blencathra’. BACK

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

[11] i.e. Southey’s articles for the Quarterly Review. BACK

[12] Southey’s review of Benjamin Haydon, New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818) appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591, published on 5 October 1820. BACK

[13] John Felton (c. 1595–1628; DNB) murdered George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628; DNB). Felton gave two different explanations of his motives: that he had been passed over for promotion and was owed money by the government; and that the House of Commons’ Remonstrance of 28 June 1628 had convinced him Buckingham was an enemy of his country. However, Sir Henry Wotton (1568–1639; DNB), A Short View of the Life and Death of George Villers, Duke of Buckingham (London, 1642), p. 23, reported a conversation that Felton had only three hours before his execution, in which Felton stated he was motivated by ‘a certain libelous book written by one Eggleston a Scottish Physitian, which made the Duke one of the foulest monsters on earth’. BACK

People mentioned

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)