1449. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 27 April 1808

1449. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 27 April 1808 ⁠* 

Wednesday April 27. 1808

Yours of Saturday has reached me by this days post, you will see by the date of this how long the a letter is in travelling the other way. On cross roads a traveller easily outstrips the post, – & it is probable that no time would be lost by franking to you thro London.

Tom bore the journey well, – contrary to my expectation. I found all well at home, – the land detachment of books arrived a day before me, & the other two & twenty chests a week afterwards. [1]  It is no little comfort to me to see them safe, & for the first time gathered together. The tea chests just did their duty, a longer journey in the waggon would have shaken them to pieces. For freight of these 22 cases, I paid something less than three pounds, – the carriage from Newcastle made it amount to £9–7-, – surprizingly little for removing above seven & twenty hundred weight, three hundred miles. The carpenter has not yet made his appearance with the new shelves, so that we are literally up to our eyes in books.

I have gone thro Bandini [2]  & the MS. Elogio of Amerigo Vespucci. [3]  the latter has little remarkable except its impudence. The fact is that the Florentines xxx seem determined to support their countryman thro thick & thin, – just as Frenchmen would do. There is one letter in Bandini which was never before printed, & this I take to be the letter the authenticity of which has been suspected, for it makes Amerigo discover the lunar observation. No satisfactory account is given of the original from which this has been printed, & the whole complection of Bandinis life <memoirs> makes me very very suspicious of his honesty. Both he & the Eulogist xxxx takex up a bad cause with such violence that either of them would have xxx recourse to any artifice for the sake of exaggerating their heros merits.

Pasquals book upon the Needle [4]  raised a good deal of expectation in me, – both Rickman & I having long supposed that Raymund Lully & Albertus Magnus [5]  were the authors to be studied by those who wished to discover the real state of science at that time. But I have been thoroughly disappointed. That passage in the Partidas [6]  is at least twenty years anterior to any of Lullys writings & would alone overthrow his claim to the discovery, if any thing like a claim had been made out for him. But the most marvellous thing in the book is the xxxxx <truly> marvellous supposition of the author that the needle points south when south of the line, – a phenomenon which he takes for granted, & then sets about to show that Lully foresaw it.

As yet I am in too much confusion to know what books I have or to pursue my regular employments as methodically as usual. The only deficiency of any consequence seems to be respecting Paraguay but after the first settlement & discovery have been fully related, I think the mere <civil> history of the province may be past over briefly, – so that where only the heads of the subject are touched upon even Charlevoix [7]  may be taken as authority for want of better. In the course of a month I will send the first chapters round to you, as transcribed for the press. They shall go in the first parcel which I send to Longman.

Edith desires me to thank you for the crescent. Is it not possible for you to visit this beautiful place before next winter? From Worcester it is little more than the journey to London, – the distance thro Chester is considerably less. It would be a great satisfaction to have you here when the first proofs arrive, & to show you the labour of many years arranged on yonder shelf.

Harry has taken his first fee – two guineas for pronouncing that a Lady was dying – who verified his an opinion xxx xxxxx two hours after he saw her.

God bless you



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Staunton upon Wye/ Hereford/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Keswick Museum. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 56–58. BACK

[1] Having decided to remain at Greta Hall the previous year, Southey had been steadily arranging for his books, which had been stored by friends in London and the West Country, to be collected together. BACK

[2] Angelo Maria Bandini (1726–1803), Vita e Lettere di Amerigo Vespucci (1745). BACK

[3] This eulogy, denying that Columbus discovered America and promoting the navigational and astronomical achievements of Vespucci (1451–1512), aroused great controversy. It was given by Florentine librarian Father Stanislaus Canovai (1740–1811) and published as Elogio d’Amerigo Vespucci che ha riportato il premio della nobile Accademia Etrusca di Cortona nel dì 15. Ottobre dell’anno 1788. Con una dissertazione giustificativa di questo celebre navigator (1788). BACK

[4] Antonio Raymundo Pasqual (1708–1791), Descubrimiento de la Aguja Náutica, de la Situacion de la América, del Arte de Navegar, y de un Nuevo Método para el Adelantamiento en las Artes y Ciencias (1789). BACK

[5] Ramon Llull (anglicised as Raymond Lully; 1232–1315), a Majorcan philosopher whom Pasqual credited with discovering the compass needle on the grounds that it is mentioned in his Arte de Navegar (1295). St Albertus Magnus (1193/1206–1280), a German Aristotelian philosopher. His Opera Omnia (1651) included works of geography and astronomy. BACK

[6] The Siete Partidas (Seven-Part Code) or Libro de las Leyes, a comprehensive legal code, was complied during the reign of Alfonso X (1221–1284), king of Castile, León and Galicia from 1252 until his death. No. 3610 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Las Siete Partidas del Sabio Rey Don Alonso el Nono (1789). BACK

[7] Pierre Francois-Xavier de Charlevoix (1682–1761), Histoire de Paraguay (1756). BACK

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)