1427. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 12 February 1808

1427. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 12 February 1808 ⁠* 

Feb. 12. 1808.

My dear Coleridge,

De Origine et Progressu Officii S. Inquisitionis, ejusque dignitate et utilitate, Antone Ludovico a Paramo, Boroxense, Archidiaconio et Canonico Legionense.            .            .            .            .             1598, folio. The book is in the Red Cross Street Library. [1]  I read it six years ago, and sent up an account of it within the last six weeks for Dr. Aikin’s Biography, [2]  where it will be in villanously bad company. You will find there that God was the first Inquisitor, and that the first Auto da Fè was held upon Adam and Eve. You will read enough to show you that Catholic writers defend the punishment of heretics, and quite sufficient to make your blood run cold. I have the History of the Portuguese Inquisition to write, and look on to the task with absolute horror. I am decidedly hostile to what is called Catholic Emancipation, as I am to what is called peace.

I have had a correspondence with Clarkson  [3]  concerning the best mode of publishing my Brazilian history; [4]  and what he points out as the best plan is little better than the half-and-half way, and involves a great deal of trouble, and what is worse, a great deal of solicitation. I am a bad trading author, and doomed always to be so, but it is not the bookseller’s fault; the public do not buy poetry unless it be made fashionable; mine gets reviewed by enemies who are always more active than friends; one reviewer envies me, another hates me, and a third tries his hand upon me as fair game. Thousands meantime read the books; but they borrow them, even those persons who are what they call my friends, and who know that I live by these books, never buy them themselves, and then wonder that they do not sell. Espriella [5]  has sold rapidly, for which I have to thank Stuart; the edition is probably by this time exhausted, and, I verily believe, half the sale must be attributed to the puffs in the Courier. [6]  The sale of a second edition would right me in Longman’s books. [7]  Puff me, Coleridge! if you love me, puff me! Puff a couple of hundreds into my pocket!

As for the booksellers, I am disposed to distinguish between Longman and Tradesman nature (setting human nature out of the question): now Tradesman nature is very bad, but Longman nature is a great deal better, and I am inclined to believe that it will get the better of the evil principle, and that liberal dealing may even prove catching. It is some proof of this that his opinion of me and conduct towards me alter not, notwithstanding the spiders spin their webs so securely over whole piles of Madoc and Thalaba. [8]             .            .            .            .            .            .            .

I am strongly moved by the spirit to make an attack upon Jeffrey along his whole line, beginning with his politics. Stuart would not be displeased to have half a dozen letters. Nothing but the weary work it would be to go through his reviews for the sake of collecting the blunders in them, prevents me. He, and other men who are equally besotted and blinded by party, will inevitably frighten the nation into peace, the only thing which can be more mischievous and more dishonourable than our Danish expedition. [9]  I wish to God you would lift up your voice against it. Alas! Coleridge, is it to be wondered at, that we pass for a degenerated race, when those who have the spirit of our old worthies in them, let that spirit fret itself away in silence!

Lamb’s book I have heard of, and know not what it is. [10]  If co-operative labour were as practicable as it is desirable, what a history of English literature might he and you and I set forth!           .            .            .            .

God bless you!

R. S.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 133–135 [in part]. BACK

[1] Dr Williams’s library, housed in Red Cross Street London until 1865, today in Gordon Square. BACK

[2] Southey had compiled an entry for the seventh volume of Aikin’s General Biography (1808) on the inquisitor Luiz de Paramo and his history of the Inquisition. The entry was excerpted in the review of the Biography published in the Annual Review for 1808, 7 (1809), 209–212. BACK

[3] This has not been traced. BACK

[4] Southey’s History of Brazil was eventually published by Longman in three volumes from 1810 to 1819. BACK

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

[6] Stuart had included in The Courier of 20 November 1807, probably at Coleridge’s instigation, an extract from Letters from England, letter 38, concerning the exploitation of the poor in the new commercial and manufacturing towns. On 17 November an extract from letter 36 criticising Birmingham had been published. BACK

[7] A second edition was published in 1808. BACK

[8] Southey’s poems Madoc (1805) and Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[9] The unprovoked attack by Britain on neutral Denmark of September 1807, done to prevent the Danish fleet falling into French hands. BACK

[10] Lamb published in 1808 The Adventures of Ulysses, a version of Homer’s story for boys. BACK

People mentioned

Stuart, Daniel (1766–1846) (mentioned 1 time)
Aikin, John (1747–1822) (mentioned 1 time)
Lamb, Charles (1775–1834) (mentioned 1 time)
Clarkson, Thomas (1760–1846) (mentioned 1 time)