1026. Robert Southey to John May, 25 January 1805

1026. Robert Southey to John May, 25 January 1805 ⁠* 

My dear friend

Your letter which should have arrived on Wednesday afternoon did not reach me till Thursday morning, in consequence of a fall of snow – & Thursday we have no post to London. My Uncles preferment must send in a net income to a much greater amount than 300 £. the annual renewal of Downes [1]  lease is 100 guineas, & the tythes of Little Hereford were let to him for 200 £. [2]  What Evans [3]  had done with them I will enquire. besides this there is 40 £ from the Chancellorship, 30 £ for the rent of the Chancellors house. xxx the living of Stanton upon Wye [4]  which is not less than 200 £, & the interest of £1155 laid out on an estate of Miss Tylers in redemption of xxx mortgage. So that if the whole were punctually paid it would exceed six hundred. I will bestir myself in the business, learn what has been done at Little Hereford, see that the Lease be sent over in time for my Uncles signature, & do my best to make Dr Thomas punctually remit to you the receipts of Stanton. there is plainly enough to secure Harry from the evil of perpetual pressure & uncertainty.

I am very much obliged by what you have done relative to this expedition. if General Moore should have the command I have applied to him thro his brother, [5]  & also by another channel – so that he will hear of me in every direction.

The Metrical Tales which you may have seen advertised in my name are merely a selection of my own pieces from the Anthology. [6]  the risque of publication is none, & the possible profits may be 25 £ – which little as it is, is to me an object.

Harry immediately gave up the Cambridge scheme on my remonstrance. he alledged that his only wish was to have his name on the books, understanding that it was no expence – & that if ever he should be enabled to keep terms it would save him two years: his view being to have the power of practising in London which unless a member of the College of Physicians he cannot do without some delay – & certain fines. In part of this he was mistaken, & the whole scheme was given up exactly as it should have been. I do not think there is any danger of his being put out of the right way, if he be not made unhappy by want of supplies. At present his habits & manners are what they should be the society into which he has fallen exactly what I could wish – & indeed I know no young man more likely to distinguish himself & do honour to all who belong to him. He owes every thing to you & William Taylor.

I thought you would have received Madoc long ere this – but it seems the Scotch presbyterian printers [7]  get as drunk at Xmas as if they were good churchmen, – my reviewing is just at an end – only two more articles. [8]  I have then to consider about the Ways & Means extraordinary for the year.

You have seen one of the vignettes to Madoc – under that which represents the Cross on a rock [9]  the following lines are to appear as the exordium

Come – listen to a tale of times of old,
Come – for ye know me! I am he who sung
The Maid of Arc, & I am he who framed
Of Thalaba the wild & wondrous song.
Come listen to my lay! & ye shall hear
How Madoc from the shores of Britain spread
The adventurous sail, explored the ocean ways,
And quelld barbarian power, & overthrew
The bloody altars of Idolatry,
And planted in its fanes triumphantly
The Cross of Christ. Come listen to my lay. [10] 

Here is the Lo I the man [11]  – & the Listen Lordings [12]  of the Rom[MS torn] combined with something of the rondeau form.

Edith desires to be remembered – & myself also to Mrs May. your god-daughter goes on bravely – I believe these mountains agree with me & begin to hope that I am climate proof.

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

R Southey.

Friday 25 Jany. 1805.


* Address: To/ John May Esqr./ Richmond/ Surry/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ JAN28/ 1805; 10o’Clock/ JA.28/ 1805F.N.n
Endorsement: No. 107. 1805/ Robert Southey/ No place 25th Jany/ recd. 28th do/ ansd. 31st do
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos, (ed.), The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 94–95. BACK

[1] Untraced. BACK

[2] Hill was the incumbent priest, and in receipt of the living, of Little Hereford, near Leominster Herefordshire, from 1800–1812. BACK

[3] Untraced. BACK

[4] Hill owned a living at Staunton-Upon-Wye, Herefordshire. BACK

[5] Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), Scottish General with a long and varied military career. He was also MP for Lanark Burghs 1784–1790. After the controversial Convention of Cintra (1808), Moore was given the command of the British troops in the Iberian peninsula. He was fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna. In December 1804 he was sent to review the practicability of defending Portugal from a French invasion. His favourable report was widely leaked to the press, e.g. Aberdeen Journal, 9 January 1805. Moore was part of a large and well-known family that included his younger brothers, Dr James Moore (1763–1860; DNB) and the Royal Navy officer Graham Moore (1764–1843; DNB). BACK

[6] Southey’s contributions to the Annual Anthology (1799–1800) were republished under his own name in Metrical Tales and other Poems (1805). BACK

[7] Madoc (1805) was printed by the Edinburgh firm of James Ballantyne. BACK

[8] Southey reviewed, in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805): John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), An Account of Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa, in the years 1797 and 1798, including Observations on the Geology & Geography, the Natural History ... and Sketches of the Various Tribes Surrounding the Cape of Good Hope, Vol. II (1804), 22–33; Robert Percival (1765–1826), An Account of the Cape of Good Hope (1804), 34–41; Daniel Mackinnen (1767–1830), A Tour Through the British West Indies, in the years 1802 and 1803 giving a Particular Account of the Bahama Islands (1804), 50–56; John Barrow, Travels in China: Containing Descriptions, Observations and Comparisons Made and Collected in the Course of a Short Residence at the Imperial Palace of Yuen-min-yuen, and on a Subsequent Journey from Pekin to Canton (1804), 69–83; Sir John Froissart’s Chronicles of England, France, and the Adjoining Countries, from the Latter Part of the Reign of Edward II to the Coronation of Henry IV, trans. Thomas Johnes (1748–1816; DNB) (1804), 189–194; George Heriot (1766–1844), The History of Canada, From its First Discovery: Comprehending an Account of the Original Establishment of the Colony of Louisiana, 194–197; Part the First of An Address to the Public from the Society for the Suppression of Vice, Instituted, in London, 1802, Setting Forth, with a List of the Members, the Utility and Necessity of such an Institution, and its Claim to Public Support (1803), 225–231; Edward Ledwich (1738–1823), The Antiquities of Ireland (1804), 398–413; Original Correspondence of Jean Jacques Rousseau, with Mad. La Tour de Franqueville and M. Du Peyrou (1804), 485–488; Anna Seward, Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Darwin, ... with Anecdotes of his Friends and Criticisms on his Writings (1804), 488–93; David Irving (1778–1850), The Lives of the Scotish Poets; with Preliminary Dissertations on the Literary History of Scotland and the Early Scotish Drama (1804), 493–499; Walter Scott, Sir Tristram: A Metrical Romance by Thomas of Ercildoune (1804), 555–563; Charles Abraham Elton (1778–1853), Poems (1804), 564–565; William Day (dates unknown), The Shepherd’s Boy: being Pastoral Tales (1804), 567–568; E. Warren (dates unknown), The Poet’s Day, or, Imagination’s Ramble (1804), 568; Cupid turned Volunteer: in a Series of Prints, Designed by her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth; and Engraved by W. N. Gardiner, B.A., with Poetical Illustrations by T. P [Thomas Park (1758/9–1834; DNB)] (1804), 568–580; Thomas Green Fessenden (1771–1837), Original Poems (1804), 571; John Blair Linn (1777–1805), The Powers of Genius (1801), 571; Thomas Clio Rickman (1761–1834; DNB), An Ode in Celebration of the Emancipation of the Blacks of Saint Domingo, November 29, 1803 (1804), 572; Robert Bloomfield, Good Tidings (1804), 574; William Robert Spencer (1770–1834; DNB), The Year of Sorrow (1804), 574–575; British Purity: or, the World we Live in. A Poetic Tale, of Two Centuries…By Lory Lucian and Jerry Juvenal, … Assisted by S. Scriblerus, etc. [pseud.] (1804), 575; William Falconer (1732–1769), The Shipwreck (1804), ed., James Stanier Clarke (1766–1834; DNB), 577–580; William Tooke (1777–1863), ed., The Poetical Works of Charles Churchill: with Explanatory Notes and an Authentic Account of his Life (1804), 580–585; J. Amphlett (dates unknown), Invasion: a Descriptive and Satirical Poem (1804), 585; Joseph Jefferson (1766–1824), Horae Poeticæ. Poems, Sacred, Moral and Descriptive (1804), 586–587; Alexander Campbell (1764–1824; DNB), The Grampians Desolate, a Poem in Six Books (1804), 587–591; William Crowe (bap. 1745, d. 1829; DNB), Lewesdon Hill (1804), 593–594; John Finlay (1782–1810), Wallace, or, The Vale of Ellerslie, and other Poems (1804), 594–596; Jessie Stewart (dates unknown), Ode to Dr. Thomas Percy (1804), 597; John Belfour (1768–1842), Fables on Subjects Connected with Literature. Imitated from the Spanish of Don Tomas de Yriarte (1804), 597–598; Transactions of the Missionary Society (1804), 621–634; Edward Davies (1756–1831; DNB), Celtic Researches, on the Origin, Traditions, & Language, of the Ancient Britons; with some Introductory Sketches, on Primitive Society (1804), 634–644; [Anon.] No Slaves - No Sugar: Containing New and Irresistible Arguments in Favour of the African Trade by a Liverpool Merchant (1804), 644–648; William Tennant (1758–1813), Indian Recreations, Consisting Chiefly of Strictures on the Domestic and Rural Economy of the Mahommedans and Hindoos (1803), 658–670; John Gardiner (fl. 1758–1792), Essays Literary, Political and Economical (1804), 670–674; Richard Duppa, Heads from the Fresco Pictures of Raffaele in the Vatican (1802), 918–923. BACK

[9] Madoc was published with an illustration of a palm and cross upon the rock (after the Table of Contents). BACK

[10] Madoc was published with this exordium. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), II, p. 8. BACK

[11] Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB) begins The Faerie Queene (1590–1596) with the following exordial lines:

Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
Am now enforst a far unfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds;
Whose prayses having slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broade emongst her learned throng:
Fierce warres and faithfull loves shall moralize my song.
(Book 1, stanza 1)

[12] Medieval romances conventionally began with this phrase, followed by a description of the main character and plot. Geoffrey Chaucer’s (1343–1400; DNB) Tale of Sir Thopas in The Canterbury Tales (first printed 1478) is typical:

Listen, lordings, in good intent,
And I will tell you verrament
Of mirth and of solas,
All of a knight was fair and gent,
In battle and in tournament,
His name was Sir Thopas.