2381. Robert Southey to John May, 18 February 1814
2381. Robert Southey to John May, 18 February 1814 *
Keswick. Feby. 18. 1814.
My dear friend
If time gallops with the thief on his way to the gallows,  I am sure he goes a smart canter with me, who am in a very different situation. The weeks & the months pass on so rapidly, that if it were not for the newspapers, & the day of the month for the psalms, – & the regular recurrence of household expences – which are as constant as Time & Tide in their way, I should hardly believe so long an interval had pa elapsed since my return from London.
The Power of Attorney I executed & sent back to Turner about three weeks ago. That you may have no unnecessary trouble I will take <care> that you shall be informed thro Harry when the Chamberlains Office makes its payments, – always I believe later than the Exchequer.  The first quarter will be almost wholly consumed in fees. – My business with Ballantyne  remains unsettled, – the elder brother however writes in a way which disarms me, & I wait with hope as well as patience the effect of his promises, – tho it is perfectly clear that the money which I embarked in the work will is lost. Another volume will be published,  but I know not who writes the history, – he will find it a more arduous task than he expects if he discharges it with fidelity. If I do any thing for it, it will be for the miscellaneous volume, to which I may possibly contribute something.
I have not lost sight of the Memoir of Mr Walpole,  – but I have not recovered sight of his papers. When they return from Coxe  I shall proceed regularly with them. I have been am reading this Archdeacons history of the Spanish Bourbons,  – like his Austrian volumes  it is written upon the curious & novel principle that the history of nations is comprized in the squabbles of cabinets & the dispatches of Embassadors. Whatever is out of the circle of diplomacy is extramundane to William Coxe! – Nevertheless his books have their use, but never in the course of all my reading did I feel so little respect for any author who communicated to me any thing which I desired to know.
Roderick  is in the press, & most of my time is devoted to it, – yet my progress is not very rapid. Indeed I am no longer a rapid writer either in prose or verse, & the quantity which I produce is accumulated by dribletts, – as fortunes are made in low retail trades. Ten lines cost me more thought & as much time as a hundred were wont to do fifteen <or 20> years ago. This is the effect of maturity, – which & in all things the stage next beyond maturity is decay. I am, God be praised, in the full strength of my faculties, & have good reason to be satisfied with the use which has been made of them, – but the sense of the chances & changes to which we are all liable is so ever present to my mind, that if I possessed an income equal to my expenditure I should most assuredly renounce all those periodical & minor composition of every kind, & devote x myself without interruption to the completion of my historical works & the great poems which I have planned, – in the hope of living to feel that being able one day to feel that my work was fully & fairly done.
Bedford has not written to me about the Busts  – (for he has to look after them) but I conceive that the reason why nothing has been heard concerning them is that the winter set in so unusually soon, & has continued with such unusual severity, – frost agreeing as ill with this <kind of> plaister work as with masonry.
I am exceedingly glad to hear that the Brazil ship arrived safe, – the business wore an ugly aspect & must have added very much to those disquieting causes of disquietude by which you have so long been harrassed. Most happy should I be to learn that Worthingtons  conduct were fairly cleared up.
I have had two or three letters from my brother Edward, the contents of which you may probably have heard from Henry. Their complection is very bad, – nonetheless he is not married, – & this discovery renders it impracticable to get him a respectable engagement in his own wretched profession, – as I could not recommend him under these circumstances to a regular theatre, – the character of the women being very properly considered of importance in all country theatres. Wynn therefore, as the only remaining alternative, has written to Spain to procure him a commission in the Spanish service, & the answer may be expected in a week or two from this time. In my own mind I am almost certain that the result of this attempt will be the same as it has been in all the former instances; it ought however to be made, however hopeless I may think it consider it.
Coleridge when last he was heard of was at Bristol, & promised to come down here, – as soon as he could get money for the journey. His conduct utter neglect of his wife & children is becoming now so <every day more> serious a in its consequences that I will not say it deserves the bitterest condemnation. He leaves her with only 75 £ a year & that subject to income tax to support herself & her daughter, & two boys  at school. Still I hope he may by do something when he comes here.
Edith begs to be remembered – remember us both to Mrs May – oh how I wish that we could see you & your little girls  here –
believe me my dear friend
yrs very affectionately
* Address: To/ John May Esqre/ Richmond/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 21FE21/ 1814’ and ‘10o’Clock/ FE.21/ 1814F.N.n
Watermark: C Wilmott/ 1807
Endorsement: No. 170 1814/ Robert Southey/ Keswick 18 Feby./recd. 21st do/ ansd 14th Ap:
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos, The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 128–130. BACK
 Southey’s dispute with the Edinburgh Annual Register’s publisher John Ballantyne and its printer, James Ballantyne. BACK
 Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1812 (1814). Southey did not contribute to this publication. The historical section was taken over by the Scottish lawyer and writer, James Russell (1790–1861; DNB). BACK
 Robert Walpole (1736–1810), Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal, 1771–1800. BACK
 Coxe had written lives of Robert, 1st Earl of Orford (1676–1745; DNB) and Horatio (Horace) Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (1717–1797; DNB), and was considering a life of Jose I (1714–1777; King of Portugal 1750–1777). BACK
 Hartley and Derwent Coleridge. BACK
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