15. Robert Southey to Thomas Davis Lamb, [c. 18 June 1792]

15. Robert Southey to Thomas Davis Lamb, [c. 18 June 1792] ⁠* 

My dear friend

I am selfish enough to be sorry at your preference of travelling to Oxford — & whilst I commend your choice must lament it — to see the manners of different countries is certainly of the utmost utility & what no university can teach — Homer may tell us of the method to cut up an ox three thousand years ago, or give a specimen of Penelopes politesses when she calls her maid bitch — or Ulysses decency when he threatens to leave Thersites in the situation of the man who cut off his hairs [1]  — but Homer can give no information either of men or manners as they are now — knowledge of the world is unattainable from books you have made a judicious choice — your ranking me with your correspondents I take very kindly — as we shall not as I once hoped meet at Oxford it will be some recompense to hear often from you & as you are not (like a certain Monarch who shall be nameless) sparing of time when you write, I shall acquire that information from your letters which in all human probability I never shall from my own experience & observation.

The bloody proceeding [2]  I have seen no account of in the papers — the Morning Post had a very scurrilous paragraph respecting the general behaviour of the fellows which was answered the following day. one strange circumstance you have neglected to explain — I suppose Combe was there but you do not mentioned his being wounded — now how could Combes nose possibly escape? this I own astonished me for Combes nose is much more conspicuous than Joe Collins [3]  barge. — how much more so than poor Barnes probosis! all that surprizes me besides this of Combe is that the fellow did not murder Purcel [4]  — for undoubtedly a little killing would have done him good — but instead of that you amused yourselves with dishing the windows & he with dishing the fundamental part of the assailants — had young Wynn been there the shot would not have penetrated that much-enduring place.

I left my deal box full of books — among which were the history of Turkey with those rum figures [5]  — & Agnes de Cource [6]  — but in all human probability they are gone the way of all paper!

I heard some days ago from your grandfather, [7]  he sent me an edition of my song with alterations & improvements — your mother he says is recovered of the measles & the children expected to droop daily — this you know later tidings of probably — I sent half a dozen odes to Mountsfield — they were to sent by the bolt in Tun coach & on the direction was wrote to be forwarded by the Rye coach from the bolt in Tun Fleet Street with the day of the month will you mention in your next if you have heard of their arrival — for though is no name to the letter it would not be agreabell to lose them on the road.

I have now two commissions to beg you will execute but both are very soon done — the first is to thump Collins well for never answering my last & if you join his Majesty with you in the execution of it so much the better — the other is to see Scaliger alias Old Donkey alias Mr Grosvenor Bedford [MS torn] request he will write & inclose the portrait of Peter the Ph[MS torn] all his “head of charms” [8]  as I before desired in a sublime [MS torn] Beau Nasty [9]  wrote to me some time ago — he is with his uncle [MS torn] at Stowe & requested to know when Bedford was to stand in the pillory remember me to Adderley & to Strachey — if he has not forgot me who used to tell him freely of his faults I shall be glad to hear once more from him but as George is as changeable as the wind this I do not expect though I could wish it — I have no other message but a licking to Boswell [10]  & another if agreable by way of remembrance to Crammer [11]  respects to the King.

yours sincerely

Robert Southey


* Address: Mr Davis Lamb/ Mrs Cloughs/ Deans Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: EJU/ 18/ 92
MS: Houghton Library, bMS Eng 265.1 (33). ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Incidents in Homer’s Odyssey, Book 12, lines 352–374; Book 19, line 90; and Iliad, Book 2, lines 211–271. BACK

[2] A disturbance at Westminster School (see also Letter 18). Copies of the Morning Post from June 1792 have not survived. BACK

[3] Unidentified, possibly a contemporary at Westminster School. BACK

[4] Unidentified, possibly an Usher at Westminster School. BACK

[5] Probably Charles Thompson (fl. 1750), Travels through Turkey (1754); the ‘rum figures’ included a sketch of an ‘Egyptian Mummy’. BACK

[6] Agnes de Courci, A Domestic Tale (1789), a reworking of Samuel Richardson (c. 1689–1761; DNB), Clarissa (1748–1749) by Anna Maria Bennett (d. 1808; DNB). BACK

[7] Either William Davis (dates unknown) or Thomas Lamb (d. 1804), both ex-Mayors of Rye and important political figures in the town. BACK

[8] The quotation is unidentified; it might refer to a schoolboy in-joke. BACK

[9] Unidentified; possibly a nickname for a contemporary at Westminster School. BACK

[10] James Boswell (1778–1822; DNB), son of Samuel Johnson’s biographer; educated at Westminster School and Brasenose, Oxford (BA 1801, MA 1806). In later life, he was an editor of Shakespeare. BACK

[11] Unidentified; probably a fellow pupil at Westminster School. BACK

Places mentioned

Mountsfield Lodge, Rye (mentioned 1 time)