1731. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [started before and continued on] 9 January 1810

1731. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [started before and continued on] 9 January 1810 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

I look daily to hear that you are superseded, & to say the truth shall be glad to hear it. These tremendous gales have often made me wish you back on the three-decker. As for the <such> wretched small craft <as the Lyra> [1]  Government had better cut them up for fire wood than keep them in commission at the expence of life which they occasion.

My Uncle has accepted Streatham & must resign Staunton in consequence, – now whether I told you this before or not I cannot recollect, but rather think I did.

Here is the great Life of Nelson sent me to review & I am to have 20 guineas a sheet for doing it. By way of deserving this price I have just invented a new mode of criticism, – which is to send the book to Miss Crosthwaites [2]  to be weighed, & then calculate its xxxx faults by the pound. It is the largest book I ever saw being actually five inches thick, xx xxx & at least one half consisting of matter which had been better away, – yet not so bad a book neither, as might have been expected from Stanier Clarke. I xx hope to condense its whole pith into about forty pages of the Quarterly. [3] 

Today I shipt off the first six sections of Kehama [4]  to Ballantyne. It is to be printed in quarto for the sake of my dignity. I have been correcting this portion xx over & over again, & so doggedly sometimes as to grow half out of humour with it, that the first proof will brighten me up again. I wished a frontispiece but was easily dissuaded by Longman, on account of the great probability of getting a bad design.

The other day I told Herbert there was a book coming with pictures, & it was about Lord Nelson. – What Wilsy’s cat? said he – & greatly astonished was he to find there had ever been another Yord Nelson, as he calls him, in the world. – When a warriors name finds its way to fishing-smacks, ale house signs, dogs, cats & tulips, – then indeed he may truly be said to be famous.

Longman writes me word that he has bound the American Madoc [5]  & that it is on the road with the Cyclopædia [6]  & periodicals. – I am rather sorry he has bound it, – but he thought he was doing wisely. – So you must tell me what was said on the covers. My periodicals are lessened in number by the completion of the Censura Literaria, [7]  & the demise of the Athenæum & Annual. [8]  They now consist only of – 1 Pinkertons Voyages. [9]  2. Cobbetts State Trials. [10]  3 Beauties of England & Wales, [11]  4 Medical Review, 5 M Mirror, [12]  6 M Magazine, [13]  7 Missionary Transactions, <do Periodical xxxxxxx Accounts> [14]  8 Cyclopædia. 9 Hewletts Bible [15]  & 10 Quarterly Review – to which as soon as the new years begins I am about to add the Evangelical Magazine, [16]  & the Edinburgh Annual Register will make up xxxx <thirteen>. I wish I could afford a few more. There are about half a dozen magazines which I covet & desire. I am indeed getting a few other books which come out volume by volume, such as Phillips Cont. Voyages, [17]  the Somers Tracts which Scott gives me, & which will be 14 quartos at three guineas each, [18]  – The Hist. of Printing is in five three guinea 4tos which I subscribe to, [19]  – & the publications of old Thomas Hearne, [20]  – which I subscribe to also & which are to be 42 octavo volumes at 15/ each. Then I have two xxx daily papers, (which cost me nothing) & the Friend [21]  comes once a week. – So that you see Capt Southey I have always something to look for with joyous expectation, & it falls xxx <to> my lot to dally with delight in the shape of a knot upon a parcel, as often as to that of any private Gentleman in his Majestys dominions.

By the by the Naval Chronicle [22]  of which I have the volume for 1808 (the Register year) is a better book than I expected it to be – there are some good letters there upon the state of the navy, & a great deal of interesting matter. I should think it a book likely to do considerable good.

It would be very agreeabell to me if they were to turn you ashore in time for you to come to your old moorings before I finish Lord Nelson. You would be of great use at my elbow.

I do not think my Register [23]  work is more than half done, – but that is much. they have only sent me four proofs, & I am very glad they do not hurry me. In the last there was a broadside of bitterness against Whitbread for his base apologies for Buonaparte. [24]  What other effect this years history may produce upon my character Heaven knows, but it is pretty plain that it will establish it for honesty & plain speaking. The last proof of the History reached to page 608.

I believe you are acquainted with my Fleet of kissing ships, we have lately launched a new ship, the Aballeboozobanganorriboship <a ten decker> xx with which my son is exceedingly well pleased: His feet are quite as they should be, & he is as round as a dumplin, – the nicest kissing, & sweetest-play fellow. We have now nine kisses for the nine Muses, three for the Graces, Ten for the Predicaments, another half score for the Commandments. Nine & Thirty for the Church Articles & seven for the Deadly Sins.


Jany 9 1810

Yours of Xmas day has relieved me from some anxiety for I have been looking very fearfully for news of the Lyra in consequence of the dreadful weather. I found on my desk the beginning of an <old> letter in which I xx xxx told you of my Uncles intended removal & will here copy it. [MS torn] Streatham is about 900 a year but is so expensive a situation that he does not expect to be a gainer by giving up 6 for it. It is between five & six miles from London, the Surry side, about ten miles from Mrs Gonnes, – who no doubt rejoices more at this than any body else; – whenever I go southward this will of course be my head quarters, & I shall be in the habit of seeing her almost as frequently & familiarly as at Lisbon. He will not remove there before summer. You & I will contrive to meet there one of these days, & take D Manuel [25]  with us to see all the unknown parts of London.

Ld Mulgraves [26]  answer is that a Commander has already been appointed to the Lyra. Sir George expected to see him soon & would then speak to him about you. I have not much hope here, – but very great hope if ever Ld Melville gets back to the Admiralty, [27]  or any person with whom W Scott has interest. – No proof of Kehama yet tho the copy has been gone nearly a month. The last proof of the History [28]  came yesterday, – except the Notes. The Yankee Madoc is arrived in good binding – a handsome book, but they have done ill not to reduce the letters of the title to proportion them to the smaller size of the page. – I trust you will have enjoyed Coleridges defence of his words against Buonoparte in the Courier. [29]  God bless you – I live in hope that you will soon be turned out to graze among the mountains. You will find your room carpeted, & with a new bed-furniture [MS torn] & the usual kisses.


Another book of Kehama tomorrow, – the first half-dozen lines will make you admire the bare-breechd poetry that you speak of. The job of transcribing xxx <for> the press is rather more than half done. I daily expect the first proof, & great joy it will be when it comes.Today I cut a good walking stick – a holly, – & have named it in honour of Cottle – the Contunder. [30] 


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H.M.S. Lyra/ Plymouth Dock
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 185–188 [in part]. BACK

[1] HMS Lyra, a 10-gun class brig-sloop, launched in 1808. BACK

[2] Probably Sarah (Sally) Crosthwaite (c. 1771–1817), a member of the extensive Crosthwaite clan who ran one of the two museums in Keswick, and also a mercers, drapers and grocers shop. BACK

[3] James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) and John McArthur (1755–1840; DNB), The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from his Lordship’s Manuscripts (1809). Reviewed by Southey alongside: John Charnock (1756–1806; DNB), Biographical Memoirs of Lord Viscount Nelson, &c., &c., &c.; with Observations, Critical and Explanatory (1806); James Harrison (d. 1847), The Life of Lord Nelson (1806); T. O. Churchill (fl. 1800–1823), The Life of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronté, &c (1808), in Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. Southey’s article was later expanded into a full-scale Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

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

[5] Probably the edition of Madoc published in Boston in 1806. BACK

[6] Abraham Rees (1743–1825; DNB), Cyclopaedia (1802–1820). Southey possessed a 45 volume set of 1819, no. 2361 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges (1762–1837; DNB), Censura Literaria, Containing Titles, Abstracts, and Opinions of Old English Books, with Original Disquisitions, Articles of Biography, and Other Literary Antiquities, published in 10 volumes, 1805–1809. Southey’s copy was no. 381 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] The Athenaeum (1807–1809) and Annual Review (1803–1809). Southey had contributed to both periodicals. BACK

[9] John Pinkerton (1758–1826; DNB), A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World (1808–1814); no. 2335 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] Cobbett’s Complete Collection of State Trials, published in 33 volumes 1809–1826. Southey’s copy was no. 2734 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[11] John Britton (1771–1857; DNB) and Edward Wedlake Brayley (1773–1854; DNB), The Beauties of England and Wales, published in 25 volumes, 1801–1815. Southey’s copy was no. 141 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[12] The London Medical Review (1808-1812) and the Monthly Mirror (1795–1811). Southey seems to have subscribed from 1807, no. 1990 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[13] Monthly Magazine (1796–1843). Southey had been a contributor in the past and had a set running from 1796 to 1817, no. 1989 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[14] Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, 1800–1817. Southey owned a five volume set, no. 2213 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[15] John Hewlett (1762–1844; DNB), who was publishing an edition of the Bible in monthly parts. BACK

[16] Evangelical Magazine (1793–1904), an inter-denominational periodical, but at this time mainly Congregationalist. Southey had a complete set covering 1811–1841, no. 1014 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[17] Sir Richard Phillips, A Collection of Modern and Contemporary Voyages and Travels, published in 10 volumes, starting in 1805. Southey’s copy was no. 2234 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[18] Scott was the editor of John, Baron Somers (1651–1716; DNB), A Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts, published in 13 volumes from 1809–1815. Southey’s copy was no. 2613 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[19] Thomas Frognall Dibdin (1776–1847; DNB), Typographical Antiquities, or, The History of Printing in England, Scotland and Ireland, published in 4 volumes, 1810–1819. Southey’s copy was no. 905 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[20] An edition of the works of the antiquary Thomas Hearne (c. 1678–1735; DNB), which began publication in 1810. Southey owned 4 volumes, no. 1299 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[21] Coleridge’s The Friend, published in 26 weekly instalments, 1 June 1809–15 March 1810. BACK

[22] Naval Chronicle (1799–1818), an annual account of navy affairs. BACK

[23] Southey was writing the historical section of the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810). BACK

[24] Southey attacked the radical MP Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815; DNB) for asserting ‘that Buonaparte, for every charge preferred against him, might show that his accusers have been guilty of a parallel crime’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1. (1810), 64. BACK

[25] The fictitious narrator of Southey’s Letters From England (1807). BACK

[26] The politician Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave (1755–1831; DNB), First Lord of the Admiralty 1807–1810. BACK

[27] Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742–1811; DNB), First Lord of the Admiralty 1804–1805. BACK

[28] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil, published in 1810. BACK

[29] In Coleridge’s sixth ‘Letter on the Spaniards’, Courier, 21 December 1809. BACK

[30] An in-joke about Cottle’s lack of classical education: based on his misuse of the Latinate ‘contunder’ in Alfred, an Epic Poem, in Twenty-four books (1800), Book 16, line 113; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 6 November 1800, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Two, Letter 557. BACK

People mentioned

Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 2 times)
Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 2 times)
Wilson, Molly (?–1820) (mentioned 1 time)
Cobbett, William (1763–1835) (mentioned 1 time)
Cottle, Joseph (1770–1853) (mentioned 1 time)
Ballantyne, James (1772–1833) (mentioned 1 time)
Gonne, Mary (1768-1825) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 2 times)
Staunton on Wye (mentioned 1 time)