1120. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 15–18 November [1805]

1120. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 15–18 November [1805] ⁠* 

Friday. Nov. 15.

My dear Tom

Two letters have reached me since my last. [1]  One of August 8th by packet, four days ago. one with a postscript dated Sept 22. by the Africaine [2]  this evening Thank you for the profile, – it is like, but not very like, – the failure is in the forehead, – still it is a likeness & I set more value upon it than I shall express.

The 2d & 3d Annual Reviews, [3]  long delayed for want of opportunity are gone by the Trusty, Capt White, to Mr Jackson Barbadoes, from Bristol. [4]  Danvers has added a set of Couriers [5]  to the Parcel. he says he has not heard from you, & really wishes you to write. – All well must be the first news. Harry has been returned to Edinburgh about ten days. the young one learns new words & new ways daily & becomes rather an expensive play fellow by encroaching upon her fathers time. I have just begun my campaign with the annual authors, [6]  – it is to be my last; for if the state of Europe permits, & no ill-fortune should prevent, I go certainly next year to Lisbon, probably not before the autumn. [7]  My Uncle urges this to which I am sufficiently inclined. a stay of between two & three years will enable me to collect all the materials necessary, [8]  & well nigh as much as the country can furnish. Edith does not like the thought of going, but she goes; as for my daughter she will delight in the figs & oranges, & learn Portugueze to teach her mother.

Madoc has been reviewed in the Edinburgh in a very amusing tone of superiority on the part of the reviewer, softened down with plenty of personal civility & compliment. [9]  I met the author of this article at Edinburgh, he it was then printed – but not published he sent it me that I might meet him or not as I felt inclined. this was done in a manly & gentlemanlike way. We met with perfect good humour on my part, & a conversation ensued after supper at the matter not about it, in which if Jeffray himself was not convinced that he was sitting by the side of a man half a foot taller than himself, & as much above him in every thing else, I should conceive that he left the room with a different opinion from others in company. He has been here since & supt with me, & the next time that any of my books come under his hands, in all probability I shall perceive the good effects of this acquaintance. – In the Supplement to the Monthly Magazine is a longer notice of Madoc than is usually given there of any thing – by Wm Taylor. [10]  I have in my desk his review of it for the next Annual [11]  – sent for my previous comments, to see how far I consider the criticisms well founded. It is an excellent article, with much of his peculiarity & more of his peculiar genius. – Of the sale I know nothing since the first tidings, that in six weeks above half have been sold; if the whole 500 be gone in a year, or year & half, or even two years, it will be much for so expensive a book. Its ultimate reputation is certain. Since the Paradise Lost no poem of equal, or comparable merit has appeared – so says Wm Taylor, & I shall not affect not to be of the same opinion. – A third edition of Joan of Arc is just published – with the Vision at the end, & many corrections, tho none which you would perceive without comparing it with the former copy. [12]  It is however very materially amended. I am supplying the place of the Vision in the second Vol. of Poems with the Retrospect & sundry smaller pieces of little value. [13] Grosvenor Bedford sleeps over the Specimens [14]  & will probably oblige me to go to London to take them out of his hands.

During the winter, in the intervals of reviewing, the Spaniard will be finished. [15]  I am well pleased with what is done. it will be a very curious & extraordinary book, but were you at my elbow it would be better. It is also my intention before I leave England to publish the story of the Cid [16]  in a little volume, – better so than comprest into an episodical introductory chapter to my history, [17]  which wants no matter that can be spared, – & in a separate form sure of popularity & of sale.

Edward has left the service a third time, & was strutting about Bristol in regimentals. he told Danvers he was to be gazetted in a few days as Lieutenant in the Caermarthenshire militia. – this was three months ago & may very likely be true. he was then with his precious Aunt, – but it is no matter where he is, – there is no good in him, & none can come out of him. So thinks my Uncle & so think I. – The Old Gentleman never noticed Madoc. [18] 

Your Captains name is so thoroughly outlandish that I cannot guess at it in your hand writing with any certainty – is it Fahie – for so it seems to be – & if so what do you call him – for I cannot tell how to pronounce it. [19] 

You will have heard of Nelsons most glorious death. [20]  The feeling it occasioned is highly honourable to the country. He leaves a name above all former Admirals – with perhaps the single exception of Blake, [21]  a man who possessed the same genius upon great occasions. We ought to name the two best ships in the navy from these men. As for peace there is no reason to expect it, yet will be none to be xxx surprized at it, if it should take place. In my last I have urged you to get removed if you can & come to Europe. Your chance of promotion was lost when Sir Samuel [22]  was xxx superseded, & the advantages which the station may possess for cruising are not to be set against the hazards of a climate to which I fear you are not seasoned. Some sacrifice it is worth making to breathe a wholesomer air & to be within hearing – if not within sight of us. – If there should be peace while I am abroad I shall advise you to come to me, take a journey in Portugal, & so learn a language which you will find useful when you have a flag ship of your own, & have taken a Spanish Admiral prisoner.

Coleridge is not yet returned. he is even worse off for letters at Malta than you in the West Indies. Rickman has lately taken unto himself a Rickwoman. he tells me I shall have one person more to welcome me when I make my next visit to him. It remains to be seen whether I like the Lady – & what is the same thing whether she likes me before I can tell whether this will make the house pleasanter to me, or not. But he is not a man to chuse ill, & I know he has not been in a hurry about it. – My last will have told you how I took up the baseness of your prize money in the Courier, – was answered by a Spanish merchant – replied to him – & was finally assured by the editor that I was mistaken, & that the sailors were not to suffer the slightest loss. [23] 

My trip to Edinburgh was pleasant. I went to accompany Elmsley. we staid three days with Walter Scott at Ashiestiel – the name of his house, on the banks of the Tweed. I saw all the scenery of his Lay of the Last Minstrel, [24]  a poem which you will read with great pleasure when you come to England. I saw also Johnny Armstrongs Castle, [25]  pleasant Tiviotdale, & the Yarrow, all ballad ground – to me as interesting as classical ground. & I went salmon-spearing on the Tweed, in which tho I struck no fish, I did <bore> my part & managed one end of the boat with a long spear. We staid just a week at Edinburgh which is the finest city I ever beheld – but notwithstanding this I came back blessing God that I was born on the right side of the Tweed. I saw the young Roscius [26]  at Edinburgh – an event in my life – because the older he grows the less the wonder. Tho a little disappointed still I must say he is incomparably the best actor I have ever seen. – Having had neither new coat nor hat since the Edithling was born – you may suppose I was in want of both – so at Edinburgh I was to rig myself – & moreover lay in new boots & pantaloons. Howbeit on considering the really respectable appearance which my old ones made for a traveller, & considering moreover that as learning was better than house or land, it certainly must be better than fine cloaths – I laid out all my money in books, & came home to wear out my old wardrobe in the winter. My library has had many additions since you left me, & many gentlemen in parchment remain with anonymous backs till you come & bedeck them [27]  – From your last letter I am not without hopes that you may have taken some steps towards getting to Europe – in that case it is not absolutely impossible that you may yet reach this place before we quit it, & that you may xxx make the circumnavigation of the Lake in my company. I am an experienced boatman, & what is better recline in the boat sometimes like a bashaw [28]  while the women row me: Edith is an excellent hand at the oar. her love.

God bless you


Monday. Nov. 18.


* Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ NOV 21/ 1805
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. 353–354 [in part]. BACK

[1] See Southey to Thomas Southey, 1 October 1805, Letter 1108. BACK

[2] The Royal Navy frigate, HMS Africaine (or l’Africaine) had been captured from the French in 1801, an engagement in which Tom participated. BACK

[3] Southey sent copies of the Annual Review, containing his articles, to Thomas. These are for the years 1803 and 1804. BACK

[4] HMS Trusty was a Royal Navy 50-gun, fourth rate, ship of the line, built in 1782 and broken up in 1815. Captain White and Mr Jackson are untraced. BACK

[5] The Courier newspaper, edited by T. G. Street (dates unknown) and in which Daniel Stuart had an interest. BACK

[6] That is, his reviewing work for the Annual Review. BACK

[7] Southey’s intended visit to Portugal did not occur. BACK

[8] For Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’, never completed. BACK

[9] Francis Jeffrey reviewed Madoc (1805) in the Edinburgh Review, 7 (October 1805), 1–29. BACK

[10] William Taylor reviewed Madoc in the Monthly Magazine, 19 (July 1805), 656–658. BACK

[11] Taylor’s review of Madoc appeared in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 604–613. BACK

[12] The third edition of Joan of Arc was published in 1806, with the ‘Vision of the Maid of Orleans’ – originally published in the second volume of Poems (1799) – printed at the end of the poem. For the alterations, see Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), I. BACK

[13] In the new 1806 edition of the second volume of Poems (1799), Southey included two poems first published in his and Robert Lovell’s joint collection Poems (1795), ‘The Retrospect’ and ‘To Hymen’, as well as the Monthly Magazine poem ‘Hannah, a Plaintive Tale’. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), V. BACK

[14] Southey’s and Bedford’s jointly edited Specimens of the Later English Poets, which was published in 1807. BACK

[15] Letters from England: by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella: Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[16] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid was published in 1808. BACK

[17] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’, never completed. BACK

[18] Southey hoped that his uncle, John Southey, who had accumulated a substantial fortune and was childless, would assist him financially or leave him some of his estate in his will. He thought that favourable reviews of his works, such as Madoc (1805), would impress him and assist in this. BACK

[19] William Charles Fahie (1763–1833). BACK

[20] Horatio, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté (1758–1805; DNB), died at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. BACK

[21] Robert Blake (bap. 1598, d. 1657), army officer and then naval commander who played an important role in the first Anglo-Dutch war of 1652–1654, and the Spanish war of 1654–1657. BACK

[22] Thomas Southey’s commanding officer, Commodore (later Vice-Admiral) Samuel Hood, 1st Baronet (1762–1814; DNB). He was injured in action in September 1805 and posted back to England. BACK

[23] In December 1804, the naval ship HMS Amelia, of which Thomas Southey was a lieutenant, had 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 ships and cargo captured in armed conflict, but in this case the prize money was contested because the ships were captured before war was officially declared. Southey took up his brother’s cause to have his share reinstated in The Courier which published a paragraph supporting the sailors’ claim to the prize-money on Saturday 24 August 1805. This was followed by a longer defence of their position in The Courier on 31 August 1805 under the title ‘Indemnification to the Spanish Merchants’. A ‘reply from a Spanish merchant’ appeared in The Courier for 6 September 1805. Southey’s response, that the prize money was being withheld from the sailors in a measure that was ‘impolitic, ungenerous and unjust’ was published in The Courier of 25 September 1805, p. 2. This was refuted by an editorial article in The Courier of 28 September 1805, where it was stated that there was no truth in Southey’s assertion. BACK

[24] Scott’s The Lay of the Last Minstrel: A Poem (1805). BACK

[25] Gilnockie tower on the Esk river, built by John (or ‘Johnny’) Armstrong (d. 1530), who was an outlaw in the Scottish borders. BACK

[26] ‘Roscius’ is a generic term for an actor, after the Roman actor, Quintus Roscius Gallus (c. 126–62 BC), but here Southey is referring specifically to William Henry West Betty (1791–1824; DNB). He was a child prodigy who made his London debut at Covent Garden in December 1804 and then proceeded on an extremely successful tour of Scotland and England in the summer of 1805. The excitement about him, which led to him being hailed as the ‘Young Roscius’, peaked during the 1804–1805 season, and then quickly faded. BACK

[27] Southey’s family members helped to preserve his books by covering them. Because flowered chintz material was often used, Southey referred to these books as his ‘Cottonian Library’ after the great library amassed by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1571–1631; DNB) in the seventeenth century, which formed the basis of the British Museum. BACK

[28] Anglicised form of the Turkish title ‘pasha’. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Ashestiel (mentioned 1 time)