LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 17 December 1803

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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“Dec 17. 1803.
“Dear Tom,

“The news in your letter has vexed me, and, after my manner, set me upon discovering all the consolations that can be extracted from it. First and foremost, that if you go as convoy, you will not be stationed there; and, therefore, to sail at this season into warm weather is no such bad thing. If you go to Jamaica you will find a whole lot of letters, unless they have been burnt at the post-office. As you will keep a keen look-out for all imaginable things, I need give you only one commission, which is, that you do use your best endeavours to bring home a few live land-crabs for me, that I may endeavour to rear a breed in England.

“Do not send off Henry, because it will be lost at the custom-house; keep it till you yourself come to England, and can safely get it ashore; ’tis a good book for a long voyage—very dull, but full of matter, and trustworthy as far as the author’s information goes.

“My review of Miss Baillie was for the Critical; that in the Annual I suspect to be by Mrs. Barbauld, who wrote the review of Chasteaubriand’s Beauties of Christianity, and that infamous account of Lamb’s Play, for infamous it is. Harry’s only article is Soulavie’s Memoirs, and I have never seen the book since this was told me. The rules you lay down will always point out Wm. Taylor.

Ætat. 29. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 241

“I think it possible, Tom, that you might collect some interesting information from the negroes, by inquiries of any who may wait upon you, if they be at all intelligent, concerning their own country; principally what their superstitions are—as Whom do they worship? Do they ever see apparitions? Where do the dead go? What are their burial, their birth, their marriage ceremonies? What their charms or remedies for sickness? What the power of their priests; and how the priests are chosen, whether from among the people, or if a separate breed, as the Levites and Bramins? You will easily see with what other questions these might be followed up; and by noting down the country of the negro, with what information he gave, it seems to me very likely that a very valuable account of their manners and feelings might be collected. Ask also if they know anything of Timbuctoo, the city which is sought after with so much curiosity as being the centre of the internal commerce of Africa. This is the way to collect facts respecting the native Africans and their country. I would engage, in twelve months, were I in the West Indies, to get materials for a volume that should contain more real importancies than all travellers have yet brought home. Ask also what beasts are in their country; they will not know English names for them, but can describe them so that you will know them: the unicorn is believed to exist by me as well as by many others,—you will not mistake the rhinoceros for one. Inquire also for a land crocodile, who grows to the length of six, eight, or ten feet, having a tongue slit like a snake’s; my Portuguese
speak of such animals in South Africa—they may exist in the western provinces.

“You would have been very useful to me if you had been at the table when I was reviewing Clarke’s book, and Captain Burney’s. Indeed, I often want a sailor to help me out. In the process of my History some curious facts respecting early navigation have come to light. I find the needle and the quadrant used in the Indian seas before any European vessel had ever reached them; and, what surprises me more, the same knowledge of soundings in our own seas in 1400 as at present, which is very strange, for that practice implies a long series of registered experiences. The more I read, the more do I find the necessity of going to old authors for information, and the sad ignorance and dishonesty of our boasted historians. If God do but give me life, and health, and eyesight, I will show how history should be written, and exhibit such a specimen of indefatigable honesty as the world has never yet seen. I could make some historical triads, after the manner of my old Welsh friends, of which the first might run thus: The three requisites for an historian—industry, judgment, genius; the patience to investigate, the discrimination to select, the power to infer and to enliven.

Edith’s love. God bless you!

R. Southey.”