1030. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [January–]11 February [1805]

1030. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [January–]11 February [1805] ⁠* 

Dear Tom

It is not possible that my letters can give you more pleasure than yours give me. You have always reason to suppose that all is well with me when you hear nothing to the contrary. – I am only exposed to the common accidents of life – but you are in the way of battle & slaughter, pestilence & hurricanes, & every letter from you that arrives from you relieves me from a certain kind of apprehension. I have written twice – after the receipt of your first letter about the Court Martial & before the arrival of your two which contain the sequel of the history. [1]  My first was very short, [2]  written the instant I had read yours – to bid you draw on Danvers for thirty pounds. my second to repeat what the first had said lest it should not reach you [3]  – but while I was writing it, Wynn put at my disposal for you fifty pounds. Thank heaven you are reinstated, but – that account of the fever threw <struck> a damp over me & I shall not be comfortable till I hear from you again. – You have never told me a word about the hurricane. – My ballification [4]  surprised you tho you could not suspect me of dancing there. but I assure you you have surprized me more by saying you have eat a land crab. your stomach is more courageous than I had believed it to be. –

Madoc still sticks in the press. [5]  they loiter with the notes, & will probably delay its publication till March. – I am now working at the Review, & have some ten days work job on hand to compleat the Annual quotum. [6]  then what time is not devoted to the History [7]  will go to the Spaniards Letters, [8]  which are destined to furnish the extraordinary supplies for the year. Since this war with Spain however I begin to have a sort of hope that you may fall in with a good prize [9]  & be able to lend me a couple of hundreds for furniture – if I should stand in need – that is, if I should not get it before, or should not be able on account of political trouble to go to Lisbon before my final settling, which last question will very speedily be determined.

My volume selected from the Anthology is published under the titles of Metrical Tales & other Poems. [10]  it contains only three pieces in addition which are smuggled in without any notice on my part under their respective heads. the one an inscription – the other two blank verse odes upon Indian manners like xxx The Hurons Address to the dead. [11]  five hundred only are printed – perhaps as it is a single volume, & its contents very various it may sell well.


Feby 11. As this letter was not finished at a heat – it has lain two or three weeks – to own the truth fairly because I had such a fear about me of the yellow fever, because you mentioned indisposition on the night preceding the date of your last – that I had not heart to go on with it. Once I received a letter from a poor fellow three months after he was dead, – it excited a most painful feeling, & it is little less unpleasant to xxx address one to a person who xxx you fear may not be among the living. However yours of Dec. 4. has just come to hand. You do not tell me whether the fever is out of the ship – but I conclude that it must almost have done its work, & will go out like a fire when it no longer finds any thing that it can destroy. I have a sort of theory about such diseases which I do not understand myself – but somebody or other will one of these days. They are so far analogous to vegetables as that they take root – grow – ripen & decay. Those which are eruptive blossom – & seed – for the pustule of the small pox &c is to all intents & purposes the flower of the disease, or the fructification by which it is perpetuated. Now these diseases like vegetables chuse their own soil – as some plants like clay – others sand – others chalk, so the yellow fever will not take root in a negro – nor the yaws in a white man, &c. There is a noble hint for a new theory – xxx you will xxx see the truth of the analogy at once – & I can no more explain it than you can. but so it is.

Edward – I beg his pardon – Brother Hempstretch is a third time shift. he is now in the Egyptienne frigate [12]  – I suppose by his Aunts means. It seems when he wrote to the Old Gentleman from Taunton (who was then at Lyme [13] ) he was desired to go & wait his return at the Cottage. This did not content him – but he ordered in all his bills, xxx which so provoked the old man that he turned him out of doors the morning after he came home. – My Uncle allows him 40 £ a year. – Whether or no his friends may be able after all to save the nation the expence of thirteen pence halfpenny, by giving him this third chance – I must confess myself very doubtful.

I shall send you the Review [14]  with Madoc – which is finished but not yet published. it will be out early in March, & Danvers will ship the parcel for you from Bristol. The Iris is at end – the Printer was embarrassed, & sold it to the other party just as it had established its sale. [15] 

We have xxx been dreadfully shocked here by the fate of Wordsworths brother, Captain of the Abergavenny East Indiaman – which has just been lost in Portland Bay – almost as shockingly as the Halsewell. [16]  300 lives! – There has not been such a shock since the Halsewell. You will learn the particulars from the papers if any reach you – & if not I will not employ what little of the sheet is left on a subject which makes my very flesh quiver. –

Bonaparte wants peace – a continual war is a far more probable event. what will become of Portugal Heaven knows, & till that be decided I can as little tell what will become of me. Meantime I shall continue to work hard & economize. – the Spaniards Letters [17]  are begun & promise well. I want you to help me in the part about our navy & sailors [18]  – send me any good stories which you think can properly fit in – & any remarks upon the discipline – martial laws &c – in short any thing that comes uppermost, for however insignificant it may appear to you, it will most likely appear to me in a very different light.

I could not but laugh at your purchase of the swab. Oh Tom if you did but know as experimentally as I do how many things fall between the cup & the lip! However, if death do not come in the way I have made up my mind to see you an Admiral yet – & very possibly Sir Thomas at the bargain. Harry too will rise in the world – & we have only to hope that Hempstretch may not be exalted according to his deserts.

Joe is in good health, & is your dog still, as I pay the tax for him, by way of continuing your right & title. So that when you have made your fortune you may return & take possession. The Bristol news you hear better from Danvers than I can give it, & at this place we have none. Edith & the Edithling both go on well, & the xxx matter of next importance that all my old trousers, old pantaloons & my silk breeches into the bargain are going at once, & so of necessity I must be new rigged in the spring. – We have had a delightful winter – the snow has never lain a single hour in the valley – a circumstance perhaps unexampled. I want nothing here but to have my books about me, being wholly careless about other society – But it is not convenient to be so far from libraries, booksellers & book-stalls, & I must remove nearer London as soon as I have the means. Take a galleon I beseech you! & come home in it – for I want <you> to write the black letters on some parchment books. – Ediths love – God bless you

yrs very affectionately



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Amelia/ Barbadoes/ or elsewhere./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ FEB 14/ 1805
Seal: [illegible]
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 256–258 [with omissions, and mis-dated 1804]; John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 315–319 [in part].
Dating note: Internal evidence of letter states that ‘it has lain two or three weeks’ after dating of ‘Feby 11’. BACK

[1] Thomas Southey was court-martialled for neglect of duty, disobedience of orders and contempt in contradicting his captain, Sir Henry Heathcote (1777–1851). The last charge only was proven, but he was dismissed from his ship, the Galatea. However the commander of the fleet in which Thomas served, Commodore (later Vice-Admiral) Sir Samuel Hood, 1st Baronet (1762–1814; DNB), appointed him lieutenant of HMS Amelia, a 38-gun Hébé-class frigate of the French navy captured in 1796, and a finer ship than his previous one. On taking up his appointment on the Amelia, Thomas found the ship’s crew struck down by fever. BACK

[2] See Southey to Thomas Southey, 17 December 1804, Letter 1004. BACK

[3] See Southey to Thomas Southey, 26 December 1804, Letter 1008. BACK

[4] Meaning his attendance at a ball. BACK

[5] The Edinburgh firm of James Ballantyne was taking longer than planned to print Madoc (1805). BACK

[6] 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

[7] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’, which was never completed. BACK

[8] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[9] It was customary for naval officers to be allotted a share of the value of ‘prizes’, meaning ships and their cargo, captured in armed conflict. BACK

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

[11] These were ‘Epitaph on Algernon Sidney’ (originally published in the Morning Post, 25 December 1798), Metrical Tales and other Poems (London, 1805), p. 197; ‘Song of the Chikkasah Widow’ (originally published as ‘The Dirge of the American Widow’ in the Morning Post, 11 September 1799), pp. 92–94; ‘The Peruvian’s dirge over the body of his Father’ (originally published in the Morning Post, 9 December 1799), pp. 86–88. Southey’s poem ‘The Huron’s Address to the Dead’ was published in the Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1800), pp. 56–58, and in Metrical Tales and other Poems (London, 1805), pp. 83–85. BACK

[12] HMS Egyptienne was a 40-gun frigate, captured from the French in 1801, and commissioned into the Royal Navy. She was captained by Charles Elphinstone Fleeming (1774–1840) between 1803–1805. BACK

[13] Lyme Regis, on the south coast, in Dorset. BACK

[14] The Annual Review; see note 6. BACK

[15] The Iris; or, Norwich and Norfolk Weekly Advertiser was the Norwich newspaper edited, from 1803, by William Taylor. BACK

[16] John Wordsworth (1772–1805), captain of the East Indiaman, the Earl of Abergavenny, went down with his ship on the Shambles rocks off Portland Bill, on 5 February 1805. The Halsewell, an East Indiaman under Captain Richard Pierce (c. 1747–1786), was wrecked near Swanage, on the Dorset coast, on 5 January 1786, with the loss of 170 lives. Pierce died in the shipwreck, as did his two daughters, who were on board the Halsewell. BACK

[17] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[18] Letters from England, Letter 26. BACK

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