1250. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 28 December 1806

1250. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 28 December 1806 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

Have you got the ‘“Academy of Compliments’”? [1]  I am afraid not. But if you can borrow it, look for all the best & most approved forms of apologies & excuses, & multiply ‘ten thousand pardons’ ten fold, & suppose all these ten times ten thousand excuses to be addressed to yourself by me, as the fit preamble to what I am about to say.

More books, – but hear why & judge if I can keep troubling you, – luckily too it will not be any difficulty to find them.

My Uncle writes to urge me to hasten with all possible expedition the portion of my work which relates to Brazil, the times being as he truly says South America mad. [2]  That box which you received from Mr Murdoch, [3]  & which is now in London was half full of MS.S. relating to that country, – of such importance that by his desire I have offered the information they contain first to Government. Lord Grenville xxx replies that it relates to the wrong side of S. America for their immediate views, – but that so far from wishing to keep any such information private Government would rather encourage me to publish it, & strongly advise me to lay every thing else aside, & come out with my History of Brazil while the state of the public mind & the political circumstance of the world will secure me so great a sale. About this you will say nothing. But it is obvious that I have no time to lose, – & my reason for troubling you is for the few books relating to the subject at Bristol.

They will easily be found, being these. All the MSS. – there are I believe five volumes all in small folio – two of these lettered Memorias Antigas [4]  – the others single volumes – in leather binding. Vida do P. Ancheita. [5]  Vida do P. Antonio Vieyra. [6]  each in folio, both lettered & in dirtyish leather binding. The Novus Orbis of J. de Laet, [7]  a well bound folio – better than my folios usually are; lettered I think Laete Novue Orbis – it is in plain calf – & you may perhaps remember my buying it of Emery & Lansdowne [8]  for half a guinea, a year after they had asked me thrice as much for it. Lastly a folio in parchment which has been made square by inlaying the leaves – lettered if my memory fails me not by poor Tom in black letter Mauritias [9]  – you will instantly recognise it by its size – it is a Latin poem with prints & maps – one of the finest books in my possession. Having done this found these & boxed them off by waggon, refer once more to the Academy of Compliments, & apply all the thanks you can find there to yourself – & then be assured that I do thank you in my heart more heartily than all those forms can express.

I have written to Rickman for all the materials in his hands, & have luckily a large cargo here also. [10]  In a month Espriella [11]  & the Review [12]  will be done – & I shall begin – in another month Palmerin [13]  will be off hand – & then I shall do nothing else till this is afloat – from which I may reasonably expect very considerable profits.

You saw Tom I conclude on his way to Plymouth – as you may suppose I miss him much. Herbert grows but suffers more from wind than ever child was known to do & hardly gets any rest day or night – still he thrives. My daughter is my delight – & would be yours if you were here.

I shall beg Martha when Edith writes, to get some trusty person to wipe all the books from the mould. The price of labour for three or four days will be well laid out.

The extent of this work of mind I cannot well estimate – probably two quartos – honest ones they shall be. I have materials for a far better map than has ever appeared – & shall copy a few necessary prints of costume from the old travellers. I have the plan of the work in my head – which is no little thing, the materials being of so disjointed a nature – but a very curious book it will be, & of great importance. There is but one person in Europe who has such materials, [14]  & his are in great part copied from the very papers of my Uncles – which he has been twenty years collecting –

Ediths love –

God bless you


Dec. 28. 1806.


* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol/ Single
Endorsement: Alvarez Pereyra
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ DEC 31/ 1806
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Academy of Compliments: Being the Rarest and Most Exact Way of Wooing a Maid or a Widow ... With Passionate Love Letters, ... Together With a Choice Collection of Songs (1750?). BACK

[2] The prospective flight of the Portuguese court to Brazil (occurred 29 November 1807) prompted Southey, at his uncle Herbert Hill’s request, to begin a history of Brazil, using papers sent him by Hill and stored by Rickman; see Southey to John Rickman, 23 December 1806, Letter 1247. BACK

[3] A friend of Southey’s uncle Herbert Hill in Lisbon, who had arranged the removal of Hill’s papers to London. His first name and dates are unknown. BACK

[4] A collection of manuscripts concerning Portuguese history; including, to judge by the endorsement of this letter, Fernão Lopes (c. 1385-after 1459),Crónica do Condestável de Portugal (first printed 1526) concerning the national hero Nuno Alvares Pereira, ‘the Holy Constable’ (1360–1431). BACK

[5] Simão de Vasconcellos (1596–1671), Vida do Vener. Padre Joseph de Anchieta, … Taumaturgo do Novo Mundo, na Provincia do Brasil (1672). This book was no. 3798 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library after his death. Anchieta (1534–1597), was a missionary to Brazil. BACK

[6] André de Barros (1675–1754), Vida do Apostolico Padre Antonio Vieyra da Companhia de Jesus, Chamado por Grande (1746). This book was no. 3313 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Joannes de Laet (1581–1649), Novus Orbis seu Descriptionis Indiæ Occidentalis (1633). It was no. 1670 in Southey’s sale catalogue. BACK

[8] A Bristol bookselling and printing business. BACK

[9] Franciscus Plante (1613–1690), Mauritiados Libri XII (1647). No. 2159 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] See Southey to John Rickman, 27 December [1806], Letter 1249. BACK

[11] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[12] Southey was reviewing for the Annual Review. BACK

[13] Southey published an edition of Palmerin of England, by Francisco Moraes in 4 volumes in 1807. BACK

[14] The identity of this Frenchman is unclear. It is likely that he was Abbé Francois Garnier (1722–1804), the long-standing chaplain to the French factory in Lisbon. A less likely possibility is Abbé Jean-Antoine Dubois (1765–1848), a French Catholic missionary in India, whose long sojourn in the southern districts brought him into contact with the legacy of Portuguese Catholic colonialism there. Dubois’s manuscript history of Indian religion was purchased by the East India Company and published in English as Description of the Character, Manners and Customs of the People of India, and of their Institutions, Religious and Civil (1816). BACK