2016. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 13 January 1812

2016. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 13 January 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany 13. 1812.

My dear Danvers

It is most unusually long since I have heard from you, & I have been in hopes of hearing that your enquiries concerning the Military Male Asylum [1]  had proved succesful.

We have had the most unsettled winter I ever remember, – the weather never steady for three days xxxxxx, yet thank God we have never had so healthy a house for so long a time together. Mr Edmundson has never made his appearance except as a visitor since we returned from the south, – & we never before were half so long without standing in need of his assistance. Tom has been xxxx here for two or three weeks, while his family are at his father-in-laws [2]  – he leaves us on Tuesday to join them there. Coleridge is expected shortly, as soon as his Lectures [3]  are over he says he shall set off, – tomorrow is the last of the course, & I dare say he will come, if it were only for the pleasure of showing himself after having done something. I think he will take up his abode here when he comes, & shall not be surprized if he becomes once more a family man as he ought to be. If he is disposed to industry I can put employment into his hands, – for if I had half a dozen pair of my own, there would be work enough for all.

I am a good deal interested with a young homo who has found his way to Keswick, & is lodging at Mr Dares, [4]  if you remember the house – nearly opposite Calverts, – between the Penrith & Ambleside roads. His name is Shelley, – his father member for Shoreham, [5]  his grandfather a baronet. [6]  This youth being 19 & at Oxford, fell in metaphysics, & as is usual for metaphysicians his next step was to fall in atheism, – what followed however was not quite so usual. For happening to have a great deal of genius, a great deal of enthusiasm, & high notions of sincerity & virtue, he thought that having discovered xxx truths of such infinite utility to mankind it was his bounden duty to disseminate them: so he printed a little brochure of six pages which he called the Necessity of Atheism, [7]  & sent this paper with this taking title to every body he could think of who was likely to set him right if he were wrong, or whom it would be desirable to convert to the saving no-faith if he were, as he supposed himself to be, right. Not that he was quite certain of this, – for one of the correspondents whom he thus introduced himself to, recommended him to try the effect of prayer, & he actually prayed for two months, – till finding that tho he took <observd> the prescription as regularly as if it had been to take three table spoonfuls of julip, no effect followed, he gave up the course. [8]  Among other persons he sent his discoveries to all the Bishops. The consequence was, as you may suppose, that he was expelled fr the University. His father then turned him out of doors. The story does not end here. Among the persons whom he had been anxious to convert was x one of his sisters, a girl of great genius by his account, who was then at school. [9]  A correspondence between them being forbidden he contrived to carry it on thro one of her schoolfellows, & this was discovered, – & the young Lady in question became subject to such grievous persecution at school, that when she went home at the holydays she was xxx compleatly miserable at the prospect of returning. To relieve her distress Shelly proposed a journey to Scotland, – off they set (she 17) & were married, & here they are now with a sister of hers, [10]  living upon 200£ a year which her father [11]  allows them, while the Duke of Norfolk who is his fathers intimate friend [12]  endeavours to bring about a reconciliation. – As for the marriage, tho it has irritated his family, it seems to xx xx be a very good thing for him, & unless I am very much deceived he will ripen if he lives into a very valuable man. His father may deprive him of about 6000 a year, but as much more is entailed upon him, – this is at present a source of some discomfort to him, as he disapproves of entail, primogeniture &c – . To tell you all the odd things about him would fill a larger sheet than I have allowed myself for the whole letter. I hope he will continue here till you make us your visit in the summer.

Our crate of crockery from Mrs Rings [13]  has not yet arrived, – I wrote lately to S. Reid to make inquiry concerning it at Liverpool, & not having receiving any reply take it for granted that he is visiting some of his relations in the South. [14]  – To tell you that I am very busy would be to tell you what need not be told. I am hard at work upon the Register for 1810, [15]  & am moreover deeply pledged to the Quarterly Review. The next number will have a long article of mine upon the Inquisition: [16]  & perhaps a reviewal of Montgomerys poems. [17] 

I do not know what profit Coleridge has derived from his lectures, – expect that it has been much less than it would have been if the public had had any reliance upon him, – many persons having declined subscribing because they expected that he would never go thro the course. But the accounts which have reached me of the matter & manner of his discourses are as favourable as they could be. I wrote to John Morgan to have them taken down in short-hand: [18]  – it was found that this would be too expensive, – absorbing the whole profits, – but Morgan told me one of his auditors (a friend of Henry Robinsons) had begun to xx the task & meant when the course was ended to surprise C. by presenting him with a fair transcript. [19]  This if it has been done, as I believe it has, will be of main importance. Edith & Tom send their love – remember me to Rex Dr Estlin, – Mrs Foot [20]  & all other friends – & believe me

Yrs affectionately

R Southey.


* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Endorsement: 1812/ Jany 13
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 19–22. BACK

[1] The Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea founded in 1801 to educate the children of soliders in the regular army who had died in the service of their country. It was also known as The Duke of York’s School, after its patron. Danvers was trying to place his nephew, John Danvers, there. BACK

[2] Samuel Castle (d. 1815), Co. Durham solicitor. He was Clerk to the Crown in the county and held various legal appointments in the Bishop of Durham’s household. BACK

[3] Coleridge’s lecture series on Shakespeare, Milton and the English poets had begun at Scot’s Corporation Hall, Fleet St, London, on 18 November 1811 and finished on 27 January 1812. He did not arrive in Keswick for another month. BACK

[4] Gideon Dare (dates unknown), farmer and owner of Chestnut Hill Cottage. BACK

[5] Timothy Shelley (1753–1844), MP for New Shoreham, Sussex, 1802–1818. BACK

[6] Sir Bysshe Shelley, 1st Baronet of Castle Goring (1731–1815). BACK

[7] The Necessity of Atheism, published in March 1811. It was co-authored with Thomas Jefferson Hogg (1792–1862; DNB), who was also expelled from the university. BACK

[8] See Southey to Mary Barker, 8 January 1812, Letter 2014. BACK

[9] Hellen Shelley (1799–1885), who was being educated at Miss Fenning’s School at Church House, Clapham, near London. BACK

[10] Elizabeth Westbrook (1782–1855). BACK

[11] John Westbrook (1751–1835), had retired from his main business as a vintner and hotel manager, but still owned a London coffee shop and a tavern. BACK

[12] Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk (1746–1815; DNB), an active Whig, he controlled the borough for which Timothy Shelley was returned as an MP. BACK

[13] Elizabeth Ring (d. 1816), owner of the Bristol Pottery, from which Southey had bought some new crockery. BACK

[14] Southey’s letter to Reid appears not to have survived. BACK

[15] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

[16] The History of the Inquisitions; including the Secret Transactions of those Horrific Tribunals (1810); Letter upon the Mischievous Influence of the Spanish Inquisition as it actually exists in the Provinces under the Spanish Government. Translated from El Español, a periodical Spanish Journal published in London (1811); Narrativa da Perseguição de Hippolyto Joseph Da Costa Pereira Furtado de Mendonça, Natural da Colonia do Sacramento, no Rio-da-Prata, prezo e Processado em Lisboa pelo pretenso Crime de Fra-Maçon, ou Pedreiro Livre (1811), Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 313–357. BACK

[17] James Montgomery, The West Indies, and other Poems (1810) and The Wanderer in Switzerland, and other Poems (1811), Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 405–419. BACK

[18] Robert Southey to John James Morgan, 13 November 1811, Letter 1983. BACK

[19] John Payne Collier (1789–1883; DNB), the literary editor and forger, took down a short-hand transcript of seven (out of seventeen) of these lectures, finally published as Seven Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton by the late S. Coleridge (1856). BACK

[20] Mary Foot (c. 1742–1827), daughter of Southey’s old schoolmaster, William Foot (1707–1782). John Prior Estlin had taken over William Foot’s school. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)