2002. Robert Southey to Henry Reeve, 20 December 1811

2002. Robert Southey to Henry Reeve, 20 December 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 20. 1811.

My dear Sir

I write to you upon a subject in which I believe you will feel as much interested as myself. I have lately received a letter from Wm Taylor, – the first which he has written me since his late losses. [1]  This letter has distressed me very much, – the principle which remains of their wrecked property he says will last their joint lives “but I shall be abandoned at once to solitariness & penury. To what then can I look on but to a voluntary interment in the same grave with my parents. Oh that nature would realize this most convenient doom!” –

My first feeling, after the shock which this passage occasioned had subsided, was to think what could be done, & the most practicable plan which I have been able to devise is that Wm Ts friends (surely he ought to have many friends) should among themselves provide him with 100£ a year, the business to be managed with such perfect secresy that he himself should never know any thing further than that such an annuity would <will> regularly be paid him, by the friend, whoever that may be, who will take upon himself the charge of collecting it. – All anxiety for mere subsistence will thus be taken away, & if this be done speedily, it may relieve his mothers mind from a burthen which is likely to hasten her to the grave. There is no person to whom I can so properly communicate this project as yourself, resident as you are upon the spot, & acquainted with all his connections. If a sum large enough to purchase such an annuity could be raised, – that would be the most delicate way of proceeding, – because in that case the whole might be conducted with such secresy that his only intimation might come from the Office. But this probably is not so easy as to raise the yearly amount. – I wish my own means were more adequate to my desires. If the former plan be practicable count on me for fifty pounds, – if the latter for ten pounds annually. – Nine persons more upon this plan & the thing is done, – I know now what my brother Henry’s means are at this time, the loss of his wife having unsettled him, – but I think that we may reckon upon him & upon Gooch. [2] 

A little exertion & we may save him from what something too dreadful to contemplate. Tell me if the thing be feasible – surely it must be. If it be there is no person by whom it can so well be undertaken as yourself. – Remember me to Mrs Reeve & to her excellent mother, [3]  – from whom I cannot expect you to keep any thing secret, & believe me

My dear Sir

Yours very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Dr Reeve/ Norwich
Postmark: [illegible]
MS: Gen MSS [Misc], Princeton University Library. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 15–16. BACK

[1] Taylor’s letter of 10 December 1811 provided an alarming and, as it turned out, exaggerated account of his financial woes, J.W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 349–353. BACK

[2] Southey had already asked Gooch for help; see Southey to Robert Gooch, 15 December 1811, Letter 1999. BACK

[3] Susanna Taylor (1755–1823; DNB). She was noted for her liberal views on politics and female education and for her salon, which attracted literary and political notables from Norwich and beyond. Her friends and correspondents included: Anna Letitia Barbauld, William Enfield, Sir James Mackintosh, Basil Montagu, Amelia Opie, Henry Crabb Robinson, and William Taylor. Her nickname was ‘Madame Roland’ because of her supposed resemblance to the French writer and revolutionary. BACK

People mentioned

Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 2 times)
Gooch, Robert (1784–1830) (mentioned 1 time)
Reeve, Susan (1788–1853) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)