1646. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 27 June 1809

1646. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 27 June 1809 ⁠* 

June 27. 1809.

There was a report raised & propagated with some industry that the yellow fever came from Bulama, [1]  – but it was invented for party purposes & the yellow fever is an old disease, – so old as to be mentioned by Capgrave in the Life of an old British Saint, [2]  – indeed I suppose it differs in little or nothing from the Black Vomit, – that symptom being often its last effect. An account of that expedition to Bulama when the fever is said to have been brought back, has been published by Capt Beaver, [3]  – a man with all the abilities of Robinson Crusoe. It is one of the most interesting books I have ever seen.

That Capt Southey of the Pilot I take to be a lad by name William S. who wrote to Tom about three years ago claiming kin, & whose father keeps a tavern in Upper Brooke Street. [4]  His preferment is therefore easily accounted for, – as a Commission may serve for a receipt in full to a long bill. I hear from Tom frequently, generally once in ten days. He is off Rochefort.

I have had a letter from Walter Scott to this purport – that Canning had a great desire to serve me; – that he talked about it to him & to George Ellis, & would have offered me a situation of 300£ a year in his own department, but that the salary was judged insufficient for the attendance required. This thought therefore was laid aside & Scott was commissioned to devise with me any plan that would suit my own inclinations. He proposes a professorship, – which of course must be in Scotland, – those in our own Universities being fenced about with tests, which I could not overleap even tho the atmosphere of Oxford or Cambridge were less uncongenial. I have however asked Scott if the place of Historiographer cannot be created for me, with a salary of 400£. this I should prefer to any thing else. [5]  For tho Scott speaks of diplomatic situations, & it is not unlikely that I might go as Secretary to Portugal, your removal from that country, takes away one main inducement, & having got my books together, & a family growing up, it must be some great & certain advantage now which to induce me again to unsettle myself. What the Professorships at Glasgow & Edinburgh are worth I know not, neither am I solicitous about them, – if one falls & is offered me it will be time enough to think about it then. They would serve me more effectually by making me Chronista Mor [6]  & letting me stay where I am.

It will be far better to put forth the list of books in John Bells hands, than in Sealys. [7]  The Provas to Seabra’s work we should have, – Vieyras sentence is among them of which you have sent me a MSS. [8]  another of those MSS. is printed among his letters. [9]  Lord Valentia frequently refers to Joam de Castro’s work, [10]  which I believe I formerly mentioned to you, & which I suppose has been published in French. I have Lord Vs travels to review for the Quarterly, [11]  – they give the death blow to Bruce, [12]  who will hence forward be added to the catalogue of Scotch impostors, – a catalogue which I verily believe no other country can equal. In Abyssinia he certainly was, but by the concurrent testimony of all who remember him there, held none of the offices or honours which he bestows upon himself, neither was he present in any of the battles in which he boasts to have borne a part. Worse than this one of his voyages in the Red Sea is pure fiction, & his latitudes & longitudes mere guess work. Salt is gone back to Abyssinia as Embassador to carry a present. [13]  Ld V. thinks a gainful trade might be opened with that country – in which the East India Company do not agree with him. It is not a little curious to see something like the politics of Alboquerques age [14]  coming round again, disputes about Ormuz, – the French fortifying Isle Camaran, & allying themselves with the Moors of the Red Sea, – & an Embassy from the King of England to the Neguz upon the ground of their conformity in religion. [15] 

Our communication thro the Speaker is xxx x at an end during the recess. [16]  I can however still send large packets, – tho not receive them. xxxx x Make up this chapter into a parcel & let it go by the stage, directed to x xxxxx Mr Pople <Printer’s Office.> Old Boswell Court, Strand, London. Have you received the printed sheets? – There is a work in Dulaus Catalogue [17]  with this title Voyage dans l’Amerique Meridonale, par D Felix Azara. Commandant dans le Paraguai depuis 1781, jusqu’au 1801. 4 Vol octvo with an Atlas – I should at once have sent for this…–but the unaccountable price of four guineas has deterred me, so I shall apply to Longmans to borrow it for me. [18] 

I spent a week lately at Durham, – my next visit there is to be timed so as to hit the Residence dinners & the ‘Long Main.’ – Cock-fighting being like Bull-fighting to be seen once in ones life & not more. [19]  Durham itself is a singularly beautiful place, – & the two Libraries belonging to the Bishop, & to the Chapter will tempt me to go there again. I got something there by the Archdukes victory [20]  – for a bottle of Tokay was produced to drink his health upon the occasion. It was the first time I ever met with the wine – yet I distinctly recognized its likeness to a xxx <wine> which you once found at Lisbon with the strange label of Pampo Rodai, [21]  & which you said was Spanish Tokay.



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Staunton upon Wye/ Hereford
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] An island near Sierra Leone, on the West African coast. BACK

[2] John Capgrave (1393–1464; DNB), theologian, and historian who wrote several accounts of saints’ lives. BACK

[3] Philip Beaver (1766–1813; DNB), naval officer, who in 1791 participated in a scheme for colonizing Bulama. The scheme failed and he returned in 1794, publishing his experiences in African Memoranda (1805). BACK

[4] A fashionable street near Hyde Park, London and so a likely watering hole of military officers. BACK

[5] Unbeknownst to Southey, this postion was already filled by Louis Dutens (1730–1812; DNB). On his death, it was given to James Stanier Clarke (1765?–1834; DNB). For Southey’s letter to Scott, see Southey to Walter Scott, 16 June 1809, Letter 1645. BACK

[6] A royal chronicler. BACK

[7] Southey was hoping that books he required from Lisbon could be supplied either by John Bell, or Richard Sealy (c. 1752–1821) a wealthy Lisbon merchant, the father-in-law of Henry Herbert Southey. BACK

[8] José Seabra da Silva’s (1732–1803) Deducçao Chronologica e Analytica (1767). Southey later obtained a copy, no. 2599 in the sale catalogue of his library. He was particularly interested in the ‘Provas’, or references. Seabra’s work included attacks on the Jesuit missionary, diplomat and writer Antonio Vieira (1608–1697) who was exiled and then sentenced to imprisonment for heresy in 1665. BACK

[9] Antonio Vieira, Cartas (1735–1746). BACK

[10] George Annesley, Viscount Valentia (1770–1844), Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, and the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt in the Years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 (1809). Valentia refers to the voyage of the Portuguese naval officer and fourth Viceroy of Portuguese India, João de Castro (1500–1548) on pp. 288, 342 and 343. Southey owned a copy of Castro’s Mappa de Portugal (1672), no. 3250 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[11] Southey reviewed Valentia’s Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, and the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt in the Years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806, in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 88–126. BACK

[12] James Bruce’s (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768–73. Southey reviewed the second edition of 1804–1805, in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 2–16. BACK

[13] Henry Salt (1780–1827; DNB), secretary and draughtsman to Viscount Valentia, whose Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, and the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt he had illustrated and partly written, was sent by the government in March 1809 on a diplomatic mission to the Abyssinian court. BACK

[14] Alfonso de Albuquerque (1453–1515) established the Portuguese empire in the Indian Ocean by taking territory and building fortresses that dominated all the sea lanes to the Atlantic, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and to the Pacific. BACK

[15] Salt’s envoy to the Abyssinian Christians echoed the diplomatic voyages of 1512 and 1513 between Ethiopia and Portuguese Goa; these resulted in the Ethiopian diplomat Mateus (d. 1520) travelling to Portugal and returning home accompanied by Portuguese envoys. BACK

[16] John Rickman, who worked as Abbot’s secretary, was unable to frank mail for Southey when Parliament was not in session. BACK

[17] A. B. Dulau and Co., 37 Soho Square. ‘Dulaus, in Soho Square where there is by far the best collection of foreign books in fxxxx xxx in <that is to be found in> London. One of the partners is an emigrant who was at Lisbon, & used to be a good deal at the Gonnes’; see Southey to the Herbert Hill, 11 November 1809, Letter 1707. BACK

[18] Southey eventually owned a copy of Felix Manuel de Azara (1742–1821), Voyages dans l’Amerique Meridionale depuis 1781, jusqu’ en 1801 (1809), no. 90 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[19] There is still an inn in Durham called the Fighting Cocks; a ‘main’ is a fight between two birds of equal weight. BACK

[20] In the battle of Aspern-Essling (21–22 May 1809), the French attempted to cross the Danube near Vienna but were driven back by Austrian forces commanded by their leader Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen (1771–1847). BACK

[21] Roda is a town on the Ebro, where some of the finest rioja wines are still produced. Tokay is a Hungarian sweet white wine. BACK