1851. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 10 January 1811

1851. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 10 January 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany. 10. 1811.

My dear Danvers

The box has arrived safe, & your boy & girl with the transferable heads have been the astonishment & amusement of young & old. They are to be taken such care of, that my grandchildrens grandchildren have a fair chance of having them handed down in high preservation among the other treasures of the family. – The half binding is very neat & to my taste, – only my black letter S was understood a little too literally, or rather misunderstood. I did not mean that a common S should be stamped in black, but that a black letter S should be stamped in gilding, – however this is of no consequence – & I am exceedingly well pleased with my cargo. [1] 

On the very day that the box came, I received two parcels, – this was rather vexatious, inasmuch as three pleasures in one day are something like a grand dinner after a public breakfast, & then again a great supper after the dinner, – more than one has room for. – The booksellers as I grow more useful to them become more attentive to me in the way of presents, – which I approve greatly. I have just had Weber’s Metrical Romances [2]  from Murray, & the new edition of the Arabian Tales [3]  from Longman. My presentation copies now amount to a considerable number in the course of the year.

I have handled the Barrister & his Hints roughly in the last Quarterly [4]  & if the subject had not led me on to something of more consequence than the exposure of his sophistry, & impudent misstatements, whole pages might have been filled upon this topic, for in my life I never perused a controversial book so thoroughly disgraceful to its author. – Of course you will not like what I have said of Socinianism; – but I think you will not dislike the manner in which it is said, x & for all that follows respecting Methodism I think you will agree with me. A few passages have been cut out, – one was of some importance – as it recommended an approximation to the Methodist system, by restoring the old order of Cathechists, [5]  hinted at the adoption of Lay-preachers, & advised that the Clerk [6]  should be made a character of more respectability, – <both of> which might easily be done by engrafting some innovation of this kind upon the systems of parochial education upon <after> Bell’s & Lancaster’s plan. Gifford was afraid of venturing this, – but I shall find a place for it elsewhere, together with some hints against sermons, which of course I did not propose to the Quarterly. [7]  This review is gaining ground, & very deservedly. I know not who took my History in hand, – if he had read, markd & inwardly digested my history of the year 1808, he might have seen xxxx clearly there that it is not my opinions which have alterd in any main point, but that different circumstance have given them a different bearing, – they remaining the same; – in other words that the revolutionary ground of hope is Spain instead of France, & that Buonaparte is the Antichrist who xxxx xxx the xxx xxxx opposes all amelioration of the state of mankind. [8] 

Have you seen Pasley’s Essay on our Military Policy? [9]  He is intimate with Coleridge & Wordsworth, & is an extraordinarily able man, as I know by his letters. He is of the right political religion.

You have surely had Kehama [10]  before this time, – I directed copies for you & Rex & Cottle, I have received but few accounts of it yet, – as far as they go, the story seems less a stumbling black than I had expected.

I care little about these Regency disputes, [11]  & only wish that the Kings recovery may render them as useless as they are wearisome, – for any change would be for the worse. It is of great consequence that Lord Wellington should possess the entire confidence of the Cabinet, & be heartily & sincerely supported.

Send me the ages of your brother Jacks children, [12]  & I will try all in my power. My best chance will be thro Smith the Quaker, or thro John May, – but it is useless to apply till I can go with chapter & verse as to their age, because the possibility of getting them into a school may depend upon that. I should be glad to hear their father as well as their mother was at rest; – any amendment is hopeless in this world – but I do not believe it to be so in the next. – This naturally reminds me of Edward, of whom the last news (some eight or ten month old) was, that he had again joined a strolling company in Devonshire.

We have had a good deal of sickness among the children, they are recovered thank God, – nevertheless I sometimes wish King were at hand. Herbert has an induration of one of the cervical glands – on the right side – it is rather larger than a sixpence – not very hard, & moveable. It has resisted calomel, & mercurial friction. Ask Rex what we should do for it? An old fellow collegian of mine who is now also an M.D. of some years standing [13]  advised carbonate (I think) – of lime.

God bless you.


Many a happy new year to you.

I must not forget the childrens joyful thanks. [14] 


* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Endorsement: 1811/ 10 Jany
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] See Southey to Charles Danvers, 13 November 1810, Letter 1827. BACK

[2] Henry Weber (1783–1818; DNB), Metrical Romances of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Centuries (1810); no. 2990 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] The Arabian Nights Entertainments, Carefully Revised, and Occasionally Corrected from the Arabic. To which is Added, a Selection of New Tales (1811). The six volume edition was edited by the orientalist Jonathan Scott (1753–1829; DNB). BACK

[4] Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), reviewed in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

[5] In the Catholic Church, lay people who help instruct children in the basics of the Church’s teachings. BACK

[6] The Parish Clerk, who provided assistance to Anglican clergymen. The Clerk could be full or part-time and duties varied enormously from parish to parish. They might include reading lessons in church, organising the choir, serving at the altar and leading the responses, opening the church, ringing the bell and even digging graves if there was no sexton. BACK

[7] Southey developed these ideas in his The Origin, Nature, and Object, of the New System of Education (1812). BACK

[8] The article on the first part of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810) in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 454–474, had noted, ‘We no longer find in the productions of his pen that querulous discontent under the existing state of society and that undefined aspiration after fair dreams of unattainable liberty’ (473). Its unnamed author was Reginald Heber. BACK

[9] Charles Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). For Southey’s appraisal see Quarterly Review, 5 (May 1811), 403–437. BACK

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

[11] George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB) had become too deranged to conduct public business in 1810. This led to a political crisis as the government feared the most obvious candidate to stand in for his father as Regent, George, Prince of Wales (1762–1830; Prince Regent 1811–1820, King of the United Kingdom as George IV 1820–1830; DNB), favoured opposition politicians. After a prolonged controversy the Regency Bill was passed on 5 February 1811, appointing the Prince of Wales Regent, without a Regency Council, but with some restrictions on his powers in his first year of office. BACK

[12] John Danvers (d. 1812), the younger brother of Charles Danvers, was a surgeon and apothecary in Woolwich, but had been made bankrupt in 1808. BACK

[13] Possibly Dr James Douglas (1775–1846) of Kelso, an old friend from Balliol College, Oxford, who visited Southey in December 1810. BACK

[14] I must not … thanks: Written at top of fol 1r. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)