3769. Robert Southey to John Taylor Coleridge, 21 December 1821

3769. Robert Southey to John Taylor Coleridge, 21 December 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 21 Dec. 1821.

My dear Sir

A neighbour of mine who has one son at Oriel, & intends to place another [1]  there, has enquired of me what Mr Arnolds [2]  terms would be for giving this second youth a years preparation; – no readier way of obtaining the information occurs to me than by applying to you for it. – The youth in question has been always under private xxxxxxx tutorage, – is of slow capacity, but of the best disposition in the world. The elder brothers tutor [3]  has advised this measure, to which the father is much inclined having seen Mr Arnold when he was in this country.

Since the commencement of the revolution in Portugal, I have dreaded its consequences in Brazil for John Mays sake. [4]  The evil has fallen upon him, & there is this comfort that when the worst has happened, then hope begins again upon a new score. I do not say to him how incorrigibly imprudent his brother appears to have been, & how unpardonably regardless of his welfare & happiness. [5] 

What a melancholy consideration it is that the Spanish Americans would at this time, from the state of the mother country, have acquired all that they wanted, without a struggle, – & that the unutterable crimes & miseries of the last twelve years might have been spared! [6]  – They were, as the Brazilians are now, in a situation wherein they had nothing to do, but to let things take their course, the event, as far <as> they were concerned, not being doubtful.

I have just reprinted the first volume of my Brazilian history, having I hope materially improved it, at great expence of labour. [7]  The corrections which I had to make were very few, the additions very considerable, fr chiefly from documents which were either not published, or not accessible to me, when it was first composed.

I have now nearly finished the first volume of the Peninsular War, – which I suppose the booksellers will publish without waiting for the other two; but this depends upon them, – it is to me a matter of indifference. [8]  The first volume comes down no farther than the battle of Coruña, the events of that year requiring more detail than those of any other two. [9]  There is a great deal which will be altogether new to the English reader.

I am also about to send to the press the long promised Book of the Church, – which is a sketch of our Church History. [10] 

Your Genevese beauty was much admired here. [11]  They came in an unlucky season, but made good use of the few lucid intervals that the weather afforded. We have had a succession of storms since August, – never (I think) three days together without one; & with more rain than was ever remembered. – If I recollect rightly the Great Storm at the beginning of the last century [12]  was preluded by such a succession of heavy gales. Whether I shall see you in the spring is doubtful. I am not willingly locomotive, & therefore more disposed to feel that I cannot without inconvenience be so long absent from my desk. – You are going on well I hope. We are as well as could be wished – my little boy promising & thriving to my hearts content. He never can be to me what his brother would have been, – the course of years renders that impossible. – But I am thankful indeed for him, & only hope that I may not be too full of hope, – & build with too much confidence upon the sand.

God bless you –

yrs affectionately



* Address: To/ John Taylor Coleridge Esqre/ 2. Pump Court/ Middle Temple
Endorsement: 1821/ Decr 29th/ R. Southey Keswick
MS: British Library, Add MS 47553. ALS; 5p.
Previously published: W. Braekman, ‘Letters by Robert Southey to Sir John Taylor Coleridge’, Studia Germanica Gandensia, 6 (1964), 119–120. BACK

[1] Raisley Calvert (1803–1838), later a clergyman; he did not attend Oriel, but went instead to Queen’s College, Oxford. BACK

[2] Thomas Arnold (1795–1842; DNB), a close friend of John Taylor Coleridge’s since their university days. Arnold had been elected to a Fellowship at Oriel College in 1815 and had augmented his income by private tuition of undergraduates. A crisis of faith decided him against taking holy orders, and he took on a private school, in partnership with his brother-in-law, at Laleham, Middlesex. BACK

[3] Unidentified. BACK

[4] An army revolt in Porto in August 1820 led to the election of a Cortes in December 1820 and demands that the monarchy return from Brazil, where it had fled in 1807–1808 following the French invasion. John VI (1767–1826; King of Portugal 1816–1826) arrived back in Lisbon on 3 July 1821 and eventually agreed to a new liberal Constitution in October 1822. John VI appointed his son, Pedro (1798–1834; Emperor of Brazil 1822–1831), as Regent in Brazil and Pedro summoned an elected advisory council to represent the different Brazilian provinces. These events eventually led to the separation of Portugal and Brazil on 7 September 1822, but Brazil did not become a republic or disintegrate. BACK

[5] William Henry May (1785–1849), May’s younger brother and business partner in Brazil. BACK

[6] The French invasion of Spain in 1808 had severed many of the mother country’s links with its Latin American colonies and, from 1810 onwards, a series of conflicts had been waged to secure the colonies’ independence from Spain. BACK

[7] A revised second edition of volume one of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819) was published in 1822. The other two volumes of the History did not go into second editions. BACK

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

[9] The first volume of the History of the Peninsular War (1823) ended with the evacuation of British troops from Corunna in January 1809. BACK

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

[11] An unidentified acquaintance of John Taylor Coleridge from Geneva, a city he had visited in 1814. BACK

[12] The ‘Great Storm’ of 26 November 1703, caused significant damage and loss of life in the south of England. It was attributed to, amongst other things, divine vengeance and was the subject of Daniel Defoe’s (1660?–1731; DNB), The Storm, or, a Collection of the most Remarkable Casualties and Disasters which happened in the late Dreadful Tempest, both by Sea and Land (1704). BACK

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