1635. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 24 May 1809

1635. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 24 May 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 24. 1809.

My dear friend

It is likely that there will be a Review started excluding all contemporary publications, & chusing its subjects from all others, – its title Rhadamanthus. [1]  This is a scheme of mine. I threw it out in a hint to Walter Scott, [2]  & Ballantyne came here on his way from London, commissioned to treat with me concerning it. [3]  The terms proposed are 100 a year for the Editor, ten guineas a sheet for the writers, the place of printing Edinburgh, the mode quarterly 5/ numbers. Definitely settled it is not, but I have little doubt that it will be so. I hope I am not wrong in counting you upon you as my right hand. Scott proposes to bear a part, & will be a very useful assistant, but I reply upon you & upon myself to build up & support the work.

Setting aside the moral advantage that we neither hurt the feelings nor the fortunes of any person, – there will there will be the main advantage of chusing any subject, & never having a dull one forced upon us. As soon as things are compleatly arranged I will write to you stating what subjects are looked out for myself for the first two or three numbers, & you meantime will hit upon what may best suit yourself. I should request from you an article upon political oeconomy, – any branch on which you feel most disposed to write.

Since you heard from me last many events have taken place in my family. I had a daughter born in March, – & yesterday we buried the one who was born last year, – a severer sorrow than perhaps any one who has never experienced it can believe. My little boy has had the croup & been saved from it, – his mother was alarmingly ill during her lying-in – thus you see the house has scarcely been free from sickness. – But for these interruptions you would ere this have heard the Kehama was compleated. [4]  I am in the penultimate section. – You wish the same time had been bestowed upon a subject which had any possibility of becoming popular, – my two next poems will satisfy you in this point, they are to be Pelayo, [5]  & Robin Hood. [6] 

I am afraid the Quarterly will proclaim itself Anti-Jacobine, & in that case of course we part. My defence of the Missionaries attracted much notice, & has made Sidney Smith very angry in the last Edinburgh. [7]  I shall make <him> more angry one of these days xxxxxxxxxx by attacking the Methodists xxxxxxxxxx, & <yet> showing why they must inevitably succeed against such an establishment & such dissenters as ours; <& such opponents as he.> It is neither by invective nor by ridicule that any thing can be done against them, & to oppose them by ordinary orthodox means is as hopeless as it is to present regular armies against Buonaparte, till they are formed upon his own plan. The way must be to split them into Moderates & Jacobines, – to make concessions, to show what are the good principles in human nature to which they owe part of their success, & to borrow their tactics. John Wesley [8]  Life & Works will form one of the first subjects in Rhadamanthus. [9] 

Had we a Cabinet of any ability, I believe that at this moment Buonaparte might receive his death-blow. Being myself for thorough reform, – for Forsyth-ing the rotten tree of the Constitution, [10]  & if that did not do, – for planting a new one in its place, – I care not about the struggle of parties, & grow xxxx to perceive that there is the same utter lack of xxxx common honesty & common talents in both. Of the two I believe I hate the Whigs the worst, for their rascally failings towards Spain, – & of the Whigs Whitbread [11]  for the way in which he always speaks of Buonaparte. M. Wellesley will do something in Spain, having his brother at the head of the army, but there is not vigour in the Cabinet to second him with sufficient force – By the by – that wretched article upon Spain in the 1st Quarterly is by George Ellis. [12]  My opinion respecting that country has never for a moment been shaken. Portugal was three score years under the Philips, – yet all those years they were systematically preparing the revolution which restored to them their own line of Kings. No usurper will ever be safe upon that throne. I am firmly persuaded that there is more real patriotism among the Spaniards than would be found among any other people under heaven.

A letter by this nights post informs me of Harrys marriage. [13] 

God bless you


If Mrs Martin [14]  be at Norwich thank her for me, for the Memoir of Mr Rathbone. [15] 


* Address: To/ Wm Taylor Junr Esqr/ Surry Street/ Norwich/ Single
Endorsement: Ansd 1 June
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4863. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 274–277. BACK

[1] In Greek mythology Rhadamanthus was a wise king who was one of the judges of the dead. Southey’s plans for this periodical were never fulfilled. BACK

[2] For the letter to Scott, see Southey to Walter Scott, 11 March 1809, Letter 1597. BACK

[3] For Ballantyne’s visit, see Southey to John Rickman, 16 May [1809] (Letter 1629), and Southey to Thomas Southey, [16 May 1809] (Letter 1630). BACK

[4] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[5] This poem became Roderick Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[6] Drafts of this poem were not made until late 1823, when Southey began to work on it as a collaborative effort with Caroline Bowles. It was published incomplete, edited by Bowles, as Robin Hood: A Fragment (1847). BACK

[7] When Sydney Smith (1771–1845; DNB), one of the founders of and leading contributors to the Edinburgh Review reviewed the activities of British missionaries in India negatively, Southey opposed his views in the Quarterly Review. Smith’s review of ‘Ingram on Methodism’ appeared in the Edinburgh Review, 11 (January 1808), 341–362, and he reviewed ‘Indian Missions’ in the next issue 12 (April 1808), 151–181). In the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226, Southey reviewed the Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society (published from 1794); [John Scott-Waring (1747–1819; DNB)], Vindication of the Hindoos from the Aspersions of the Reverend Claudius Buchanan, M.A. With a Refutation of the Arguments Exhibited in his Memoir, on the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India, and the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives, by their Conversion to Christianity… By a Bengal Officer (1808); Thomas Twining (1776–1861; DNB), A Letter to the Chairman of the East India Company, on the Danger of Interfering in the Religious Opinions of the Natives of India; and on the Views of the British and Foreign Bible Society, as Directed to India (1807). In his turn, Smith responded in ‘Styles on Methodists and Missions’, in the Edinburgh Review, 14 (April 1809), 40–50. BACK

[8] John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB), Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism. BACK

[9] Though Southey’s plans did not materialise, he published The Life of John Wesley and the Origin and Progress of Methodism in 1820. BACK

[10] Robert Forsyth (1766–1846; DNB), a Scottish lawyer and writer and former associate of the Scottish democrats transported for treason in 1794, who advocated root and branch reform of parliament. See his Political Fragments (1830). BACK

[11] Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815; DNB), Whig politician. BACK

[12] George Ellis [with George Canning] reviewed Exposé des Manoeuvres et des Intrigues qui ont Préparé l’Usurpation de la Couronne d’Espagne, et des Moyens Employés par l’Empereur des Francais pour la Mettre á Exécution…; Traduit de l’Espagnol par M. Peltier [alternative title Affaires d’Espagne] (1808) and Pedro Cevallos Guerra (1760–1840), Conféderation des Royaumes et Provinces d’Espagne contre Buonaparte ([1810]) in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 1–19. BACK

[13] Henry Southey had married Mary-Harriet Sealy the daughter of a Lisbon acquaintance of Southey’s. BACK

[14] Frances Julia Martin, née Smith (dates unknown) born in Norwich, sister of James Edward Smith (1759–1828; DNB) the botanist, who married in 1804 Thomas Martin (1769–1850), first a Unitarian minister in Yarmouth, then a Liverpool merchant and Secretary of the Liverpool Royal Institution. The Martins were members of William Roscoe circle; Southey met them on his visit to Liverpool in February 1808. BACK

[15] William Rathbone (1757–1809), a Liverpool ship-owner and merchant and a Quaker, who opposed the slave trade. Southey possibly refers to his authorship of A Memoir of the Proceedings of the Society called Quakers, Belonging to the Monthly Meeting of Hardshaw, in Lancashire … (1805). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)