2353. Robert Southey to Hugh Chudleigh Standert, 21 December 1813

2353. Robert Southey to Hugh Chudleigh Standert, 21 December 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 21. 1813.

My dear Standart

I have behaved very ill to you, – & am very conscious of having done so. You wrote me a letter twelve months ago which contained one of the most affecting stories I ever read, & which asked me about the fitness of Oxford as a professional station. I began a reply, – something interrupted it; – it got into my desk, & there shared the fate of too many others, – being xxxxxxx buried under the <a> daily accumulation of correspondence. Its purport was that I could only give you one introduction to Oxford, which is to the Chemical Professor Dr Kidd, an old school-fellow of mine, & a good-natured man; – that I would do my best to obtain others from Heber, an all-sufficient person in this case, – but that I thought it a bad place for any person of your profession, because of Grosvenors [1]  high reputation, – & for you in particular, – because for any man whose thoughts do not travel precisely in the beaten track, the society of an English University is the very worst imaginable. The intellectual atmosphere of the place is a mal-aria which I would shun like the Pontine marshes.

Now to your recent letter. You may be assured that if it were in my power to render service to any person for whom you were interested I should be most happy to exert myself. But tho at this xxxx xxx time I want employment, or promotion, for my brother, I am endeavouring to obtain it from Mr Croker thro the interference of a third person, because I cannot solicit it my self. Mr Croker is a man in power, a man of business, & a man of letters. In the first of these characters there is, for one of my habits, no attraction: – in the second – a good deal to repel, – & my acquaintance with him is of xxxxx in the third is less than, I dare say, it otherwise would be, if he were not so deeply engaged in official duties, & if he were upon a level with me in worldly circumstances. I am beholden to him for many civilities & for some acts of unsolicited kindness. He asked the office of historiographer [2]  for me, (had it fallen vacant while Lord Dartmouth [3]  or Mr Perceval were living I believe it would have <been> given me.) & he obtained for me this Laureateship, which I did not desire, but which I could not have declined without cowardice, & to which I shall return the respectability which <that> originally belonged [4] to it.

I saw [5]  Davy a few days before his departure. The alleged object of his journey is to, examine the extinct volcanoes in Auvergne. [6]  It is surmised that there is a more sufficient reason, – he is supposed after his marriage to have set out in a style somewhat too ostentatiously expensive, & it will be found less mortifying to form a more modest establishment after a year or two’s absence, than to confess imprudence by adopting immediate measures of retrenchment. I fear vanity rather than science leads him to France; it gratifies him a little, & his wife more, to show that they are privileged persons, & can obtain favours from a Tyrant, [7]  of at whose bloody hands no man of right feelings would ask xxx, nor, without the excuse of pressing necessity, accept one. I was not sorry to perceive that he felt this himself, & betrayed the feeling by endeavouring to show that what he had done was right, when nobody told him it was wrong.

Among many things which interested me in our conversations at Taunton, you told me of your recovery from consumptive symptoms, under the care of the pugilistic professors. [8]  I remember it as a very curious, & perhaps a very important fact. My brother Henry is at this time writing a book upon consumption. [9]  May I ask you to give me [MS torn]uch a statement of this case as you would have no objection to his publishing? I would not ask it if I did not believe that he will make a good book.

Here is no room for the Epitaph. [10]  – I will begin my next with it, & so make it sure. Remember me to my Aunt. I will soon write to her, now that I know where she is.

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ H.C. Standert Esqre/ Taunton
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. c. 72. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Probably John Grosvenor (1742–1823), Surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. BACK

[2] The post of historiographer royal had been given to James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) in 1812. BACK

[3] The politician George Legge, 3rd Earl of Dartmouth (1755–1810; DNB), Lord Chamberlain, 1804–1810. BACK

[4] ‘belonged’: changed by Southey from ‘belonging’. BACK

[5] ‘saw’: changed by Southey from ‘say’. BACK

[6] Davy’s travels lasted eighteen months and also took him to Naples, where he observed the eruption of Vesuvius. He was accompanied by his wife and by Michael Faraday (1791–1867; DNB), who served as assistant and occasional valet. BACK

[7] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821, First Consul 1799–1804, Emperor of the French 1804–1814). BACK

[8] Moderate exercise and physical training was recommended for consumptives. See Sir John Sinclair, 1st Baronet (1754–1835; DNB), The Code of Health and Longevity, 4 vols (Edinburgh, 1807), II, p. 99, which cited the advice of the eminent pugilist John ‘Gentleman’ Jackson (1769–1845; DNB). BACK

[9] Henry Herbert Southey, Observations on Pulmonary Consumption (1814). BACK

[10] It is not clear which of his epitaphs Southey had promised to send Standert. BACK

People mentioned

Croker, John Wilson (1780–1857) (mentioned 2 times)
Davy, Jane (1780–1855) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Mary (1750–1838) (mentioned 1 time)
Perceval, Spencer (1762–1812) (mentioned 1 time)
Kidd, John (1775–1851) (mentioned 1 time)
Davy, Humphry (1778–1829) (mentioned 1 time)
Heber, Richard (1774–1833) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)