2926. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 23 February 1817

2926. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 23 February 1817⁠* 

My dear Harry

You may be sure that I should be very glad to follow your advice & give myself no trouble about an affair which would give me no concern – if trouble were out of the question. [1] Rickmans argument is perfectly convincing but if the rascals who publish it find that I take no notice of the thing, they will in all likelihood compel me to do so, by affixing my name to it in the advertisement, as they did in a paragraph in the M Chronicle. [2] 

As to the mischief I agree in the main with Rickman, – moreover the law will probably speedily put a stop to the circulation of such books with impunity. As to myself I have no objection to acknowledging old Uncle Wat, [3]  not being fool enough to be ashamed of what I was at the age of 20. or to suppress My enemies might indeed triumph if I were. The boldest policy seems to me the best, which it at once to claim it & stop the sale. Wynn has seen Ridgeway who professed to remember nothing about it, – perjury from him therefore is out of the question: – Symonds is dead, – these rascals succeeded to his business & so I suppose found the MS. of course however they might be disposed to swear about it, they have not the opportunity. [4] 

Thinking of Uncle Wat rising up after he had been forgotten for three & twenty years! – It will cost me a journey to Cockermouth tomorrow to make the affidavit. [5]  Meantime I will inclose your letter to Wynn, & if its arguments convince him, I will desire him to stop Turner from proceeding. The affadavit will be a post later. But I think he will be of opinion, as I am myself, that the boldest & manliest way of proceeding is best. Any sale subsequent to the injunction is at the sellers peril, & I should care nothing about it, having done all that it became me to do.

I dare say this will given some of my friends more concern than it has me, – for my thoughts just now are pretty equally divided between the present state of the country, – & the Minas Geraes of <in> Brazil. [6] 

God willing you will see me in April. Senhouse is to meet me in town, & I hope Nash will be able to start with us for the continent as near the first of May as possible. We planned our route at Netherhall for Switzerland & the Rhine, allowing time from six weeks to two months.

Mr Sydenhams papers are done with, [7]  but this expedition to Cockermouth will prevent me from dispatching them before Tuesday. I will send them then by coach, directed to you, & I will send up in a frank a letter of thanks which you may send with it. – The surplus money in your hands will pay carriage, & remain for my immediate use on my arrival.

My Uncle will have given you instruction about his five copies of Brazil, [8]  which with your own you may now expect daily any day.

Love to Louisa & Mrs Gonne

God bless you


23 Feby.

My transit thro town will be a quick one, – & perhaps I may better see my Uncle on my return, – but this is for consideration. The second week in April I hope to arrive or the third at latest. Should Louisa be particularly engaged at that time, [9]  I can easily find other quarters.

My last letter from Edward told me he was on his way toward London, to try for an engagement every where along the road, & claim acquaintance with Kean [10]  if he failed, & as a last resort engage with the Yankey manager who comes yearly for recruits! But he would gladly exchange his profession & wants a Messengers place or any thing else. To what could I recommend him! – Gifford has asked me if I wished for any thing, – & my answer was that Tom should be included in the next promotion. [11] 


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 26 FE 26/ 1817
Seal: black wax, with ‘S’, ‘In Labore Quies’ motto below
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 4. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s Jacobin drama, Wat Tyler, which he had written in 1794 and sent to James Ridgway (1755–1838), and Henry Symonds (1741–1816), radical booksellers, for publication; see Robert Southey to Edith Fricker, [c. 12 January 1795], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 123. Ridgway and Symonds did not publish it and it remained in manuscript until a pirated publication, designed to embarrass the now anti-Jacobin Southey, appeared in 1817. Having taken advice from Rickman, Wynn and Turner, Southey launched a suit in Chancery so as to gain an injunction suppressing the publication, on the grounds that it breached his copyright. BACK

[2] The Morning Chronicle, 12 February 1817, revealed Southey had written Wat Tyler and drew attention to the contrast between his previous and current opinions. BACK

[3] Southey’s nickname for his play referenced his family connections: his mother’s mother, Margaret Bradford (1710–1782) had married firstly William Tyler (1709–1747), and Southey had no fewer than three uncles with the surname of ‘Tyler’. BACK

[4] The ‘rascals’ were the publishers, William Sherwood (1776–1837), Samuel Dunbar Neely (dates unknown) and Robert Jones (dates unknown). This firm had succeeded to Symonds’s business when he retired (Neely had married Symonds’s daughter), but Sherwood denied they had found the play among Symonds’s papers. BACK

[5] Southey had to make his affidavit in the presence of a solicitor approved by the Court of Chancery. BACK

[6] Southey was writing the ‘Rise and Progress of Popular Disaffection’, Quarterly Review, 16 (January 1817), 511–552, and Chapter 32, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 40–85. BACK

[7] Benjamin Sydenham (1777–1828), a soldier in India, friend of Marquess Wellesley and Commissioner of the Board of Excise 1809–1819, had sent Southey the papers of his brother, Thomas Sydenham (1780–1816), a soldier who served in India and then Spain 1811–1812, before ending his career as Minister Plenipotentiary at Lisbon 1814–1816. He also was a close friend of Marquess Wellesley, with whom he served in India. The papers were to help Southey with his History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[8] Presentation copies of the second volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[9] Henry Herbert Southey’s first son, Robert Southey, was not born until 1 June 1817. BACK

[10] Edmund Kean (1787–1833; DNB), one of the foremost actors of the time. BACK

[11] Tom Southey was a Captain in the Royal Navy, but was on half-pay and had never commanded a ship. BACK

Places mentioned

Netherhall (mentioned 1 time)