1036. Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 15 February 1805

1036. Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 15 February 1805 ⁠* 

Dear Duppa

Your letter would not have remained so long unnoticed, if my time had not been taken up on a very distressing occasion. I have been over to poor Wordsworth & his sister, who are almost heart broken by the dreadful fate of their favourite brother in the Abergavenny. [1]  Nothing which did not immediately come home to myself ever affected me so deeply. I am going over again in two or three days, & much of my time will be thus employd till they in some degree get the better of their affliction.

I will ask you to send me the Title page & the Great Snake [2]  – because if you send them you will send a line with them – & just a line to say you were recovered – or continuing to recover, would relieve me from [MS obscured] kind of apprehension, which sad experience of sickness among my friends has rendered more habitual upon even slight occasions than it ought to be. I am much obliged to Mr Tomkins. [3]  Longman shall send him a copy of the book – & you will make my thanks to him – the least as well as the last trouble you will have with this volume.

Wynn wished the tails of the Eaglets to be lengthened, as more heraldically proper & as avoiding the straightness produced by their legs & tails being all on a line, I mentioned this to Longman in a letter some time ago but xxxxx he may have forgotten it. Wynn also having the blood of Cadwallader in his veins wished that the Cross on the rock had been Cadwalladers cross, which is thus [drawing of an ornamented cross]. [4]  If this could be done with little trouble I should like to please him – but if it would xxx disjoint the drawing as may for aught I know very possibly be the case, he must be satisfied with the reflection that whats impossible can’t be.

Mr Smith [5]  is very kind in his offer. I am more obliged to him than I can well express. What you have been proposing does not appear to me feasible for chiefly for this reason, that the property of all my first publications being vested in Longman, any thing which looked like skimming the cream off them might – & indeed would – be likely to impede the sale of the whole. If this present poem should reach a second edition in decent time I should very much like to have a future edition ornamented upon the principle which you & Wordsworth discussed in the car, [6]  by sketches of the costume & natural history &c. – thrown in to fill up a naked page.

We will do something with the M. Angelo poems – & I will if possible get Wordsworth to put together his thoughts about them – for he finds the[MS obscured] a corresponding character to his other works. or at least I will get clearly at what he means, that if he will not express it himself (which I think very likely) you may. [7]  No man sees into the life of these things with a keener eye.

I have written to Grosvenor saying that as the nine months are up & he is not yet delivered of a proof sheet, I begin seriously to apprehend a miscarriage. [8]  & so seasoning down a little seriousness with some merriment I have desired him, either to do the business at once, or tell me he cannot find time, that I may turn over the papers to some body else – which can be done without the slightest inconvenience. how he may take the pill heaven knows – but it was gilded & rolled in sugar for him. He might have done all I left for him to do in a fortnight – I could have done it in a third of the time. & my main motive for transferring it to him was a very foolish hope of teaching him to do something. but this lazy loitering shilly-shallyness is in the very blood bones & marrow of him. He has I am well assured as true a regard for me as for any person breathing – but it is not enough to rouse him to common exertion. the service to be done me was very trifling – but the disservice of putting off a publication twelvemonths on which I had calculated – & he knew I had calculated – for my ways & means, – is a very serious one. a positive loss which it will cost me much time & much toil to remedy.

We talked about the Spaniards Letters – I have begun them & to my own satisfaction. do not forget that you are to supply what relates to the arts & to interpolate every where. [9]  We know enough about this odd world & that great city which you inhabit, & all its oddities to make the good people of England stare – when they see the truth told them plainly tho outlandishly. My plan is to begin letter after letter without fxx & advance just as far in each as the humour lasts, resuming them as I find the wind of the inclination setting in.

Coleridge is appointed confidential Secretary to Sir A Ball [10]  at Malta – & is going in the spring up the Black Sea to purchase corn for government. I should as <soon> think of setting him to cut a corn for me, tho he will do the business as well & more honestly than most people. – The little Edith is ailing with her teeth. – one or two symptoms about her have alarmed me & I have written this letter with a heavier heart than you will have supposed. if they continue I shall interpret them in their worst sense & write to Carlisle without loss of time, that the disease may if possible be prevented.

God bless you.


Feby. 15. 1805. Keswick.


* Address: To/ Richard Duppa Esqr/ 13. Poland Street/ Oxford Road/ London./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ FEB19/ 1805
Watermarks: C HALE
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library, 3 A.L.S. to Richard Duppa. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] 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. BACK

[2] Two of the illustrations for Madoc (1805). BACK

[3] Thomas Tomkins (1743–1816; DNB): writing-master and calligrapher, who carried out commissions for decorative book titles of luxury publications, including Southey’s Madoc (1805). BACK

[4] Wynn, the dedicatee of Madoc, wished the blazon of his family shield and the cross representing the faith of Madoc his ancestor, to be to his liking. Wynn claimed as a more distant ancestor the semi-mythical Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon, King of Gwynedd (reigned c. 655–682), whose cross was a Celtic one. BACK

[5] Thomas Woodruffe Smith, a wealthy Quaker merchant of Carshalton, and his second wife, Anne Reynolds, were friends of Bedford and his family, as well as Duppa. BACK

[6] ‘In some provincial towns (e.g. Birmingham) “car” means a four-wheeled hackney carriage’ (OED). BACK

[7] After Duppa’s visit to the Lakes in the summer of 1804, both Wordsworth and Southey translated poems for Duppa’s Life and Works of Michel Angelo Buonarroti, which was published in 1806. Wordsworth translated one sonnet; Southey three sonnets and a madrigal. A further poem, ‘And sweet it is to see in summer time’, was a joint effort, the first four stanzas by Wordsworth, the following five by Southey. See Kenneth Curry, ‘Uncollected Translations of Michelangelo by Wordsworth and Southey’, Review of English Studies, 14 (1938), 193–199. BACK

[8] For Southey’s and Bedford’s jointly edited anthology, Specimens of the Later English Poets, published in 1807. For this letter; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford [10 February 1805], Letter 1034. BACK

[9] Duppa contributed several passages to Southey’s Letters from England, including the description of the monuments in Westminster Abbey, in Letter 23. See Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. 264, 268 and 273–275. BACK

[10] Alexander John Ball, 1st Baronet (1757–1809; DNB): Rear Admiral who directed the blockade of Malta (1798–1800). Coleridge wrote a biography of Ball in The Friend (1809–1810). See S. T. Coleridge, The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke, 2 vols (London and Princeton NJ, 1969), II, pp. 252–256, 287–294, 347–356, 359–369. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)