1042. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 3 March 1805

1042. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 3 March 1805 ⁠* 

Sunday March 3. 1805.

Dear Danvers

We continue to go on well. nothing ails the child at present. [1] 

You have among the loose folios the English black letter Romance of Mort Arthur, [2]  which belongs to Sir Watkin. [3]  the title page is torn, & you will easily know it. it is not lettered & the covers are wood within the leather. Send this for me to C W Williams Wynn. 5 Stone Buildings, Lincolns Inn. London. & with it the great manuscript chronicle, [4]  which I wrote for when you sent the box of manuscripts by mistake. this too you cannot mistake. it is very large & has brass knobs on the binding – indeed you know the book. Wynn will get it bound for me, for till it is bound it cannot be used without receiving injury from the board covers as it is opened. As the one is not mine, & the other almost invaluable, pray pack them in plenty of paper, & pay the carriage. & if you will take the trouble of dropping Wynn a line to say when you have sent them, it will be a means of security.

No news of my wine at which I begin to wonder. [5]  Mrs Coleridge is at Dr Cromptons [6]  & I shall desire her to get enquiry made, which will be better than writing to Dr Jardine. [7] 

If Portugal be forced into a war with us, which by the public accounts seems exceedingly probable, what will you do? if people leave off Port wine, because they can get none, there is a chance that they will not take any other foreign wine, for indeed what can be got in its place? – I cannot but think that it would be a very promising speculation to manufacture wines for sale, as good as are sometimes made for home consumption. Ten pounds sacrificed in experiments would enable one to produce many different flavours, & if they were really made good, as they certainly can be – it does not appear improbable to me that the persons who starts upon the plan would find it a very profitable one at present, – still more so if the regular wine trade should be so dislocated as it would be by a Portugueze war. Almost every foreign wine may be well imitated. xxx xxx black currants will make something essentially like port, that word is used when with chemical accuracy as I am convinced that the colouring matter is the same. Enough use is not made of flowers in this way. why only cowslips? – This is worth thinking of, & talking of with King. many old beverages may be revived, many new ones by the help of chemistry invented, & you would find the pursuit interesting. I could throw out many hints upon the subject – but this is enough just now. A common brewing apparatus is all that is necessary.

Instead of sending you news of Madoc now, I must look for xxx news from you. One is going to John Southey, an experiment which may take heaven knows how. If he lived more in the world there would be no doubt about it, – but he has probably no notion of the rank which literature gives in society, & the advantages resulting from it. However the sight of so handsome a book may perhaps please him, – & at any rate it is best to try. –

I am tooth & nail at the history, [8]  – you will be surprized to see how it has grown, in spite of all other business, & <all> interruptions. Should my Uncle come to England, which seems very probable I shall prepare the first volume for the press in the course of next winter, & delighted shall I be to see the first proof sheet. – His coming would decide where my tent is to be pitched at last: an event which may probably be accelerated in an other way by this war. for should Tom take any prizes [9]  I will borrow a couple of hundreds of him & delay no longer. Poor fellow if he lives he is in a fair way. The Whitehaven paper [10]  stated that the Amelia with another ship had sent three Spanish prizes into Barbadoes [11]  – probably of no great value as they were not called rich, & one was an old packet, but a trifling prize looks well to the Lieutenants. – As for literary prizes I see little likelihood of their doing any thing more than just keeping me even with the world, till I get my history out, of which I look upon the profits as almost certain; unless I could determine to write a play, – at which my stomach turns.

As soon as the trees get into full leaf I would not have you delay your journey. a thousand accidents may be in the way, & you & I need not now be told to take time by the forelock. I have no intention of remaining another winter here, if it be possible to remove. The situation is too inconvenient, & tho I can well forego the luxuries of society I cannot without the necessaries. Nothing but the coarsest & commonest wares are to be supplied here, – & above all I want my Books. – remember me to your brother [12]  if he be with you. I hope he will have his share of the dollars.

God bless you.



* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ Bristol/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAR 6/ 1805
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had been concerned about Edith May Southey’s health. BACK

[2] Probably William Caxton’s (d. 1492) printing of Sir Thomas Malory (1405–1471; DNB), Le Morte d’Arthur (1485). BACK

[3] Sir Watkin Wynn, 5th Baronet (1772–1840), the elder brother of Southey’s friend Charles Watkin Williams Wynn. BACK

[4] This is probably the manuscript by Fernao Lopes (c. 1385–after 1459), ‘Cronica del Rei Dom Fernando o Noveno Rei de Portugal’, no. 3829 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library after his death. BACK

[5] Southey had ordered wine from the firm of Danvers and White (first name and date unknown). BACK

[6] The family of Dr Peter Crompton (dates unknown) of Eton House, Liverpool, a radical reformer who contested elections at Nottingham (1796, 1807, 1812), Preston (1818) and Liverpool (1820). BACK

[7] Possibly Dr Lewis Jardine (1765–1824), brother of the deceased Unitarian minister David Jardine (1766–1797). BACK

[8] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’, which was never completed. 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] The Cumberland Pacquet and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser. BACK

[11] In December 1804 HMS Amelia, of which Thomas Southey was a lieutenant, captured the Spanish brig Isabella and the ship Conception, both laden with wine and brandy, and the ship Commerce, laden with cotton. BACK

[12] Possibly John Danvers (dates unknown). BACK