1506. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 12 September 1808

1506. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 12 September 1808 ⁠* 

My dear Uncle

Men who have little to do with the Press seem to be so fond of it when they are once in, that there is no getting them out of it. Frere has made a months business of what ought to have been only a week; the proofs travel Heaven knows where to hunt him thro Mr Hammond, [1]  revises after proofs & cancels after revises. [2]  However I am very much & very truly obliged to him, & my book is greatly increased in value by his communications. I look daily to see it advertised. You may have seen my old letters announced [3]  – I devoted a week to the corrections, weeding them with righteous relentlessness, & inserting such pertinent matter of fact & antiquity as the books at hand supplied. A supplementary chapter about the Bierzo will show you what we lost by not halting a day or two at Villafranca & Ponferrada. But I live in hopes to see Spain & Portugal once more, & go where I will to know what is to be looked for in the neighbourhood. Landor is gone as a volunteer among the Spaniards.

Gifford, who is acquainted with my old schoolfellow Bedford, has been talking to him upon the fitness of my being sent to Spain, to write the history of what is going on there; – & the first intimation I had of this was that he had undertaken to speak about it to Canning & Frere. [4]  I have no wish to go, especially for that specific purpose, having history enough in prospect; – but if an offer were made me which it would be expedient to accept, the desire of seeing the country once more, & of picking up books would induce me to go I believe, great as the sacrifice would be of departing from home. There is little probability that any thing will come of this, nor am I desirous that it should. Yet if any thing advantageous should be offered, my own comforts shall not stand in the way.

I have made a discovery which would interest Lord Somerville [5]  & the Duke of Bedford, [6]  – that the merino sheep were originally exported from England. Here is the passage, which occurs in the Centon Epistolario del Bachelles Fernan Gomez de Cibdareal. Ep. 73. [7] 

Two persons are quarelling before Juan 2 of Castille, & one of them says in scorn que non fuera figo de juez de pastores. E esto dixo por motejo, ca Juan Sanchez de Tovar deriva de Fernan Sanchez de Tovar, Juez de la Mesta e Pastoria Real. E Fernan Sanchez el de Berlanga le respuso en la presencia del Rey, que bien le entendia la punta, mas que no era buen ballestrero, e fablaba contra de si mesmo; ca Fernan Sanchez que a locallado ser Juez de pastores motejaba, tanto bueno como el era ca era primo del aguelo del Fernan Sanchez de Berlanga, e fuera Vasallo del Rey de que se pasaba en el tiempo antes, a Richohome: e el cargo de la Juzgaduria e Alcaydia de Mesta fue habido siempre de Fidalgos de honor e a Fernan Sanchez de Tovar se lo dio el Rey Don Pedro, levandolo a Juan Tenorio su Repostero mayor, e su Alconera mayor, que era tan bueno como Gomez Carrillo; e que el Rey D Alfonso, quando se traxeron la primera vez en las naves carracas las pecoras de Ingalaterra a Espana, principio este oficio en Inigo Lopez de Orozco, de quien vienen por x parte de madre el mismo Pedro Laso e su padre Inigo Lopez de Mendoza; e que sabido quell mesmo deriva de Juez de pastores, moteja como querra. [8] 

Which Alfonso is meant I do not know, perhaps I shall be able to hunt it out. [9]  The fact is curious because it seems to prove that the quality of the wool has been affected by the climate, & that consequently a few generations in this country will bring xxxx <these sheep> back to what they originally were.

Paper will now fall in price, since the ports of Holland are open for exportation. This revolution in Spain has so effectually destroyed Bonapartes plans of war upon our commerce, that he will probably let things xxxx xxx fall into their old course as soon as he decently can do it. I have scarcely a fair weeks work to come to the Acclamation, [10]  & the volume [11]  had perhaps better conclude with the subsequent treaty. This is my idle season, when I see friends, acquaintances & strangers, boat about on the Lake, & lay in exercise & health for to last me during my long hybernation. If it were possible to get to Lisbon, I would forego the advantage of earlier publication for the sake of seeing Anchietas grammar, [12]  & getting the Life of Almeida, [13]  – his life ought to furnish some account of the first migration to Paraguay, & of the first descent of the Aymares, a dreadful race of savages who are described in your MSS. MS. of Ribeiro [14]  as xxxx frequently desolating the settlements on the S of the Orellana, & on the great rivers on that side. Muris, he calls them, but they must be the same people. One volume of your Relacam Annual [15]  gives the best account of them; – Every thing we want will now be turning out at Lisbon, & I verily believe as mere matter of speculation it would answer to go over & buy xxx books to make an auction of in London.

You ought long ere this to have had your large copies paper copies, & with them, Whites Remains. [16]  His tutor Mr Catton [17]  dined with me yesterday. You would be surprized to know how much credit I have got for that book, & how many friends it has made me. Mr Catton talks of putting up a tablet to his memory. He had no notion how deeply the poor fellow was infected with Calvinism till his letters appeared, & has no doubt that it contributed to wear him out, & hastened his end. What is to stop this dry rot in the Establishment!

– It appears by the Old Spanish Poems that their pronunciation had none of those sounds which now distinguish it from the Portugueze. It is curious how they should have adopted them. Ximena for instance is spelt with Sc instead of X. & the ll is unknown.

– I more than half wish that the Factory [18]  may take you back with them, & that I may get something to take me over with you & settle me there.

God bless you


Sept. 12. 1808


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Staunton upon Wye/ Hereford
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. 86–89. BACK

[1] Probably George Hammond (1763–1853; DNB), a fellow diplomatist of Frere’s. BACK

[2] Proofs of Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808), which contained three of Frere’s translations from the Poema del Cid in an appendix. BACK

[3] Letters Written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797), reissued in a 3rd expanded edition as Letters written during a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal (1808). BACK

[4] Frere had been Britain’s ambassador to Portugal while Southey’s uncle had lived there; from 1808–1809 he was ambassador to Spain. BACK

[5] Southey’s distant relation by marriage John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB). BACK

[6] John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766–1839; DNB). It was, however, his father, Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford (1765–1802) who was famed as a sheep breeder and member of the Board of Agriculture. BACK

[7] The letter in question was one of one hundred written by the personal physician of John II (1405–1454), King of Castile from 1406 to 1454. The letter contains gossip about the turbulent politics of Castile at that period, and the passage in question is a debate about which of two nominees should be sent to carry assurances of safe passage from the king to a third party. Centon Epistolario del Bachiller Fernan Gomez de Cibdareal: Y Generaciones y Semblanzas del Noble Caballero Fernan Perez de Guzman (1790). BACK

[8] In the letter from which this passage is taken the writer reports on an incident in the never-ending upheavals of John II’s reign. It is written after John II had arrested Pedro Manrique de Lara, Adelantado and second-placed counsellor in the royal council. Manrique’s sons then began to stir up their followers to revolt. The King then sent for Fadrique Enriquez de Mendoza, Admiral of Castile, who was an ally of the arrested Adelantado. The admiral refused to come unless the king sent a third party to make a sworn oath to the Admiral that he would ensure his safe passage to and from the court. The King referred the matter to the Council. The Council recommended that Gomez Carrillo should be sent to the Admiral. The King had named Juan Sanchez de Tovar. A debate ensued as to which of the two men should go, particularly involving Fernan Sanchez el de Berlanga and Pedro Laso de Mendoza, who were related to one another. Pedro Laso said in the King’s presence that Gomez Carrillo was a son of a royal doncel [a man who began serving as a royal page and then passed into the military amongst whom the donceles were a corps with certain privileges] and grandson of the cup-bearer of King Enrique, connected to Lope de Carrillo – a doncel and master of the hunt for King John I – and that he [here begins the passage quoted by Southey:] ‘was certainly not descended from a judge of shepherds. This was said because Juan Sanchez de Tovar is descended from Fernan Sanchez de Tovar, judge of la Mesta é Pastoría Real. [The Spanish Honrado Concejo de la Mesta/ Honored Council of the Mesta was a powerful association of sheepbreeders and shepherds in the medieval Kingdom of Castile.] And Fernan Sanchez el de Berlanga answered him, in the presence of the king, that he understood by the point that he was not a good crossbow man and spoke against him thus. That the Fernan Sanchez who he was censuring by identifying him as a judge of shepherds was also a cousin of the grandfather of Fernan Sanchez de Berlanga, who was a royal vassal and had become a wealthy man: and the offices of the courts of the Mesta were always held by honourable gentlemen but the King Don Pedro had given this office to Fernan Sanchez de Tovar, raising him to offices in the royal house including that of his chief falconer, which was just as good as Gomez Carillo; and when the carracks brought the sheep first from England, the King Don Alfonso, first conferred this office on Inigo Lopez de Orozco, from whom the mother of the same Pedro Laso is in tenth part descended and his father Inigo Lopez de Mendoza; and the same is descended from a juez de pastores’. BACK

[9] Alfonso XI (1311–1350), King of Castile, León and Galicia. BACK

[10] The acclamation in 1640 of Joam IV (1603–1656), as King of Portugal and the Algarves. BACK

[11] The first volume of the History of Brazil (1810). BACK

[12] Southey was eventually sent a copy from Brazil of this book: Joseph de Anchieta (1534–1597), Arte de Grammatica da Lingoa mais usada na Costa do Brasil (1595). BACK

[13] Simão de Vasconcellos (1596–1671), Vida do Padre Joam d’Almeida da Companhia de Jesu, na Provincia do Brazil (1658). BACK

[14] Francisco Xavier Ribeiro Sampaio (1741–1812?), colonial official, wrote a manuscript Diário da Viagem que em Visita e Correição das Povoações da Capitania de S. José do Rio Negro Fez o Ouvidor e Intendente Geral da Mesma, no Ano de 1774 e 1775 (1775). BACK

[15] The Jesuit Relations of their missions in South America, published annually from 1632 in Latin, French and Italian. On the Aymores see volume 1 of the History of Brazil (1810), p. 378. BACK

[16] Southey had arranged for Hill to be sent the new 1808 edition of his 1797 Poems, the Annual Anthology (1799–1800), and The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham (1807); see Southey to Herbert Hill, 9 August 1808, Letter 1488. BACK

[17] Thomas Catton (1758–1838; DNB), tutor of St John’s College, Cambridge, praised in Southey’s Remains for his fatherly solicitude towards White. BACK

[18] From 1792–1807 Hill had been chaplain to the British factory at Lisbon. BACK

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