1044. Robert Southey to John May, 6 March 1805

1044. Robert Southey to John May, 6 March 1805 ⁠* 

March 6. 1805. Keswick

My dear friend

It is long since I have written to you. [1]  some symptoms meantime have appeared in my little girl which very much alarmed us, they have however yielded to speedy applications, & thank God, have wholly disappeared. Whether or no they were of the nature we dreaded, it is impossible to say, as they went no farther. at present the child seems excellently well. still we shall have an anxious time till the teething is overpast, & as she has only four as yet, it is a long time to look to. She almost walks, & begins to imitate sounds, having a vocabulary of family names already.

It will be best to supply Harry at the regular quarters: one time being the same as another, & these being times of which every housekeeper has his regular mementos. – Evans [2]  tells me that the tithes of Little Hereford for last year will not produce much more than 100 £ & that he has written to my Uncle recommending measures to make them more productive. [3]  this is exclusive of the glebe, he says, which probably may be sufficient to defray the charge of a curate.

I have had a melancholy interruption since my last to the usual course of my life. the Captain of the Abergavenny was Wordsworths brother, & I have twice been over for some days to him & his sister, who are nearly heartbroken by his dreadful fate. [4] 

We have had news of Coleridge which I believe Mrs C. has communicated to Ottery. [5]  he is Secretary Confidential Secretary to Sir A. Ball [6]  & in that situation has apartments in the palace. Before this appointment took place, he had agreed at Sir A’s request to go into Greece & up the Black Sea with Capt. Leake, [7]  to purchase corn for government, but this is I think likely to prevent that scheme as he has been drawing up memorials to government concerning the Neapolitan politics & the state of Sicily (where he has been), [8]  & if any explanation or elucidation xxxx should be required, Sir Alexander would naturally wish to have him at hand. his health is very materially improved.

Whether my book [9]  be published or not you best know, as Longman has <my> directions to forward to you a copy, together with one for my Uncle. My friends have so long expected its publication that for this month past I have scarcely received a letter, – all waiting to receive it before they write. I have done my Annual work some weeks ago. [10]  it falls considerably short of the last years both in quantity & in interests, for neither of which deficiencies am I answerable, the quantum being allotted me, & my business being to keep to my text. There is however an article upon Barrows Travels in Africa, & another upon the Missionary Transactions in the same country which both contain some xx interesting matter. [11]  I am endeavouring to procure accounts of what the Quakers have done in converting the Indians. by the time I come to my History of the Monastic Orders [12]  I hope to acquire xx <a> full x knowledge of this subject, & to be able to place it in a proper light.

Having thus cleared off my great poem, & my lot of journey-work, I have returned to the History [13]  with new strength & spirits, & made considerable progress. The solid inches of manuscript are visibly increasing. I have cleared off the Fuero Viejo, [14]  the second code of laws, & am now labouring at the Partidas, [15]  – if English law had been one half so interesting, or one fiftieth part so instructive I would have pushed hard for the bench. but such is the difference of studying for pleasure & for profit, – & so much <more> delightful is it to be studying the history of past ages, than sacrificing ones intellect to the petty disputes of our own. There is not perhaps any possible pursuit which could so compleately carry me out of my own generation as that on which I am present engaged totis viribus & toto corde. [16]  – to be writing the history of past ages, with hopes fixed upon those which are to come. – In the regular series of years I am arrived at 1525 – the fourth of Joam 3. [17]  but at a later period I have the whole narrative written from the death of Sebastian [18]  to the conquest of the Terceras by the Spaniards, [19]  which completed the subjection of the Kingdom. – Should any circumstances bring my Uncle to England, as the complection of Portuguese politics is at present of a very gloomy cast, I shall perhaps put my first volume to press in the ensuing winter.

My last letter from Tom stated that he was well having then been a month on board, in which time they had buried sixty! [20]  – I have since seen by a provincial paper [21]  that the Amelia in company with another vessel had sent in some Spanish prizes, probably of little value, as they were not called rich. [22]  – Our remembrances to Mrs May – God bless you

yrs very affectionately



* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ Richmond/ Surry/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ MAR9/ 1805; 10o’Clock/ MR.9/ 1805F.N.n
Endorsement: No. 109 1805/ Robert Southey/ Keswick 6th March/ recd. 9th do/ ansd. 2d Aug
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. 96–97. BACK

[1] For Southey’s last letter to May, see Southey to John May, 26 January 1805, Letter 1028. BACK

[2] Untraced. BACK

[3] Southey’s uncle Herbert Hill was the incumbent priest, and in receipt of the living of Little Hereford, near Leominster Herefordshire, from 1800–1812. BACK

[4] 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

[5] Ottery St. Mary, Devon, where Coleridge’s family lived. BACK

[6] 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

[7] Captain William Martin Leake (1777–1860) of the Royal Artillery explored and mapped Greece and the Levant. A collector of Greek coins, he befriended Byron and became Britain’s negotiator with Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas’ud ibn Agha (1769–1849) during the Napoleonic invasion of the Ottoman empire. BACK

[8] Coleridge discussed his impressions of Sicily and its ruling Neapolitan court in The Friend (1809–1810). See S. T. Coleridge, The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke, 2 vols (London and Princeton NJ, 1969), I, pp. 559–560, II, p. 99. BACK

[9] Madoc (1805). BACK

[10] 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

[11] See note 10. BACK

[12] Southey’s planned, but never completed, ‘History of Monasticism’. BACK

[13] Southey’s planned, but never completed, ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[14] No. 3387 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was D. Ignatius Jordan de Asso y del Rio (1742–1804), and D. Miguel de Manuel y Rodriguez (fl. 1780), El Fuero Viejo de Castilla, con Notas Historicas, y Legales (1771). BACK

[15] No. 3610 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Gregorio Lopez (1496/7–1560), Partidas (las Siete) del Sabio Rey Don Alonso el Nono Glosadas (1789). BACK

[16] Meaning ‘with my whole strength and whole spirit’. BACK

[17] John III (1502–1557; King of Portugal and the Algarves 1521–1557). BACK

[18] Sebastian I (1554–1578; King of Portugal and the Algarves 1557–1578). BACK

[19] The Spanish conquest of Terceras in the Azores, May 1583. BACK

[20] Thomas Southey’s new shipmates had been hit by yellow fever. BACK

[21] The Cumberland Pacquet and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser. BACK

[22] 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. It was customary for naval officers to be allotted a share of the value of ‘prizes’ captured in armed conflict. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)