1141. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 1–5 January 1806

1141. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 1–5 January 1806 ⁠* 

Jany 1. 1806.

Many happy returns

My dear Tom

The trusty Capt White carried the two Reviews & a set of Couriers from Danvers to Barbadoes. [1]  I am apprehensive about them because they were directed to Nathan Jackson, [2]  & you tell me he has left the Island. This to begin as matter of business. – Last week came two letters both with the Tortola post mark. [3]  One an Extract without number – the other dated St Kitts. [4]  Oct. 26th. I was not well enough to reply to this as usual, at the moment. An Influenza had thought proper to consider me as a fashionable person, & I was taking James’s powders [5]  – & had no spirits to write. Now the powders have done their work – I am well enough to set foot out of the door, & to day begin a course of bark [6]  which is to set me strongly up again. – What becomes of all my letters is quite inexplicable – not one seems to reach you. Two or three of the last have been directed to St Kitts & may perhaps be luckier. – Dont be cast down Tom. Were I to make laws, no man should be made master & commander till he was thirty years of age. made you will be at last, & will get on at last as high as your heart can wish – never doubt that, as I never doubt it. As for Lord Somerville, [7]  I do not augur much of his will to serve you, from what Harry & I saw of him here. Depend upon it we are eye sores to him; he wants John Southeys money & loves nobody that bears the name, & stands nearer <than himself> to the old Gentleman. Lady Shuldham has married Lord the Lord knows who at Vienna. [8]  Both my Uncle & myself will do for you all that we can – heaven knows little enough that is, but we are both in the way of forming acquaintances which may lead to something. When will it be the Amelias [9]  turn in course of service to return to Europe! I envy your winter station but do not like the thought of your remaining there during another campaign of yellow fever. In my last I requested you to collect Lord Probys manuscripts which you had mentioned to me, & send them to Wynn. 5. Stone Buildings. Lincolns Inn. London. I am very desirous that this should be done – they are for his father Ld Carysfort. [10] 

Dont send me another Turtle till I am Lord Mayor, & then I shall be much obliged to for one – but for Heavens sake not till then. I consigned over all my right & title in the green fat to Wynn by a formal power sent to Coutts the banker, [11]  who was to look out for him, – but of his arrival not a word yet – ten to one he is digested, & dropt down the quarter gallery. When you are coming home, if you could bring a cargo of dried tamarinds I should like them, because they are very seldom to be got in England. I never saw them but once dried mark you, in the husk not preserved. the acid is exceedingly delightful. Now remember the words are when you are coming home & bring. do not attempt to send them, or there will be trouble – vexation – unnecessary expence – & most likely the loss of the thing itself.

My daughter never sees picture of a ship or boat, but she talks of her Uncle in the ship, & as regularly receives the kiss which he sent in the letter. You will be very fond of her, if she goes on as well when you come home as she does at present. – Harry is hard at work for the last season at Edinburgh, preparing to pass muster & be bedoctored in July. Most likely he will go to Lisbon with me in the autumn – at least I know not how he can be better employed for a few months than in travelling & spoiling his complexion. – The last news of Edward is as is to be expected worse & worse. he has swindled Trinder [12]  out of five guineas – which he tried to make forty, under pretence that his Uncle had left him 250 pounds a year for life – & that he had left forty with his Aunt, for which he wishd to draw. He is living in lodgings in the College Lower Green, [13]  & says he has turned Roman Catholic. how he lives, or what end he has in view by this pretended conversion Heaven knows, – this only is certain, that it is impossible to be a greater liar or a greater scoundrel. Dont fret about him Tom, – it is a bad business, but we cannot help it. – I know nothing of the Old Gentleman. who has never noticed Madoc. [14]  Of Aunt Mary I hear frequently in the summer from our neighbours the Peachys, who winter regularly at Bishops Ledyard [15]  – & she hears of us by the same channel – the Colonel has just sent me a collar of brawn & a little barrel of pickled sturgeon, & my letter of thanks will carry her news of us. I have heard nothing of Tom Southey. To pass from relations to friends, the worst news is that poor Cupid [16]  has been hung at last for robbing a hen-roost. You see what his evil courses have brought him to, in spite of the shilling stick a day which you expended upon him. I xxx am really sorry for the poor fellow, who bating this infirmity, had infinite good qualities. Joe is well. [17]  King has two daughters; unhappy man he has been obliged to christen the one Zoe to please his wife, [18]  & the other Psyche to please his father in law. [19]  The children never possibly can get into the kingdom of heaven as christians with such heathen names. St Peter will certainly never let them in without seeing a copy of the church register. Miss Phillott [20]  is turned rank Methodist!!! Danvers lives in Park Street with his old partner Charles Madox [21]  & his (Madox’s) brother, who keep house, & he boards with them, – a plan which he finds very comfortable. I have some chance of seeing him in London whither I go in March. You cannot imagine how happy he was in this country, & how happy it made me to see him so. God bless him, there is not a better creature upon the face of the earth!

Your Extracts are very valuable: several never reached me – the more reason why you should omit nothing in your common place book. Go on I beseech you, – you do not know how easy it would be, with such historical anecdotes as I could furnish to make them into a curious volume. [22]  We will talk about this when you have your next spell ashore. Meantime let nothing escape you. I have repeatedly suggested questions concerning the churches – meetings – schools &c &c. – do you ever hear of the Ronans at Antigua. [23]  or of Broadbent, whom I remember as the biggest boy at Williams [24]  & a very good natured one. There was a schoolfellow of mine who had a good living in Antigua four or five years ago, – his name was Campbell, & perhaps you may remember some excellent good stories of him by the name Horse Campbell. He is returned to England & turned field preacher. Tell me if you have heard any thing of him – for if you have it must be something odd, as he is the King of all odd fish.

The extraordinary success of Bonaparte, or rather the wretched misconduct of Austria [25]  has left the continent completely under the controul of France. Our plan should be to increase our cruisers & scour the seas effectually, to take all we can, & keep all we take, professing that such is our intention, & that we are ready to make peace whenever France pleases, upon the simple terms of leaving off with our winnings. Meantime we ought to take the Cape, the French islands in the East (those in the West would cost too many lives & may be left for the Blacks,) Minorca, Sicily & Egypt. If France chuse to have the mainland the Islands should be ours. I suppose we shall go upon some such plan: as for invasion, the old story will begin again in the spring, but it is a thing impossible, & you sailors best know this. Lord St Vincent [26]  used to say when it was talked off, I do’nt say they can’t come, – I only say that they can’t come by sea. – What will affect me is the fate of Portugal, for it is now more than ever to be expected that Bonaparte will turn us out, merely to show that he can do it. [27]  This will be to me a grievous annoyance. It is not unlikely that he will propose peace after three splendid victories, & it is not impossible that Pitt [28]  may accept it, to keep his place. Heaven forbid. To give up Malta now would be giving up the national honour, it would be confessing that we had lost the game, whereas we can play the single-handed game for ever. Our bad partners ruin us. The ultimate consequences of the success of France may not be so disastrous to Europe as is generally supposed –Suppose that the continent be modelled as Bonaparte pleases, which it will be, & that it remains in peace for twenty or thirty years. He will have disabled Austria it is true, but all the other powers will be strengthened, & a new state created in Italy, which did not exist before. These will be under French direction, – but still not French. the difference of language effectually prevents that. Bonaparte will not be a long-lived man, – he cannot be in the ordinary course of nature. there has been & will be too much wear & tear of him. his successor, if the succession go regularly on as I suppose it will, will certainly not inherit his talents, & the first born Emperor, will have all the benefits of imperial education, which is quite sure to make him upon a level with all other Sovereign Princes. By that time the French Generals will have died off, & we must not forget that it is the Revolution which made these men Generals, & that men no longer rise according to their merit.

Jany 5. I have just received the following news. ‘Sir, Am Extremely Sorry to be obliged to inform you that a Turtle that I flattered myself would have survived home; from the excessive long passage & performance of quarantine at Cork, Falmouth & Sea Reach died in the former port with every one on board the ship. respectfully yr much obliged & obedient servant Stephen T. Selk. [29]  – So much for the Turtle [30]  – I think if Government will make such beasts perform quarantine they ought to pay for the loss – Surfeits & indigestions they may bring into the city – but of the yellow fever there can be no danger. The court of Aldermen should take it into consideration.

And now to finish this letter of gossip. – I am in the midst of reviewing which will be over by the time this reaches you even if contrary to custom it should reach you within decent in regular course. Espriella also will by that time be gone to press. [31]  this & the History of the Cid I shall have to send you in the summer – I know not whether you remember the story of the Cid – it was designed as part of the Introduction to my History, but I publish it separately to make room. [32]  Madoc has been violently abused in the Monthly, [33]  with such evident malice that the abuse could do no hurt, even if I were not out of reach of Review altogether. No further news of the sale – in fact if the edition of 500 go off in two years it will be a good sale for so costly a book. The new edition of Joan of Arc is shamefully misprinted by Biggs – they have improved the print, & I have improved the poem, by a thousand little alterations, which you would not perceive unless you compared it with the former copy. [34]  I hope it will not be very long before Thalaba goes to press a second time [35]  – Madoc will certainly give a spur to the sale. I shall make no other alterations of importance than that of cutting the later part of the 9th book, & printing all the notes at the end. [36] 

Ediths love, & my daughter would send you a kiss in return if you could insert any more on receiving it.

God bless you


Are you herald enough to send me such an account of our arms as will serve to have a seal cut by? [37] 


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Amelia/ St Kitts/ or elsewhere/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ JAN 8/ 1806
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), III, pp. 10–14 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey sent copies of the Annual Review containing his articles to his brother. These were the second number for 1803 and the third for 1804. HMS Trusty was a Royal Navy 50-gun, fourth rate, ship of the line, built in 1782 and broken up in 1815. Captain White is untraced. BACK

[2] Nathan Jackson, the addressee for Tom’s letters in Barbados, has not been traced. BACK

[3] The largest island in the Caribbean group, the British Virgin Islands. BACK

[4] One of the Leeward Islands of the West Indies. BACK

[5] James’s fever powder, containing phosphate of lime and oxide of antimony as sweating agents, was the invention of the physician and medical writer, Robert James (bap. 1703–1776). BACK

[6] ‘Fever Bark’ was a popular treatment for illnesses such as influenza. BACK

[7] The Southeys’ distant relation by marriage, John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB). BACK

[8] Margaret Irene Shuldham, née Sarney (d. 1811), was the widow of Molyneux Shuldham, Baron Shuldham (1717/18?-1798), a naval officer and politician. Southey may have met the couple in Lisbon where Baron Shuldham died. Lady Shuldham had previously been married to John Harcourt (d. before 1802) and her third husband was Richard Meade, 2nd Earl of Clanwilliam (1766–1805), so she became the Countess of Clanwilliam. BACK

[9] HMS Amelia was a 38-gun Hébé-class frigate of the French navy captured in 1796 and commissioned into the navy. BACK

[10] William Allen Proby, Lord Proby (1779–1804) was the eldest son of Sir John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort (1751–1828; DNB). Proby was the captain of HMS Amelia, who, having been sent to the disease-ridden Leeward Islands station, died on 6 August 1804 at Surinam, from yellow fever. Wynn had asked Southey if Thomas who was currently serving on the Amelia could recover any of Proby’s papers for his family and friends. For the request, see Southey to Thomas Southey, 7 December 1805, Letter 1130. BACK

[11] Thomas Coutts (1735–1822; DNB), banker and head of the successful company Coutts & Co. BACK

[12] Sheppard and Trinder: a firm of woollen drapers who had premises at 7 Millsom Street, Bath. BACK

[13] By the cathedral in Bristol. BACK

[14] Southey’s poem Madoc, published in 1805. BACK

[15] Bishops Lydeard in Somerset, childhood home of Emma Peachey. BACK

[16] A dog formerly belonging to Southey and left with Charles Danvers. BACK

[17] Thomas Southey’s dog who had been left with Charles Danvers to look after. BACK

[18] Emmeline King, née Edgeworth (1770–1817). BACK

[19] Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744–1817; DNB). BACK

[20] Miss Phillott (first name and dates unknown) was an acquaintance of Bristol days and a member of a prominent family of professionals and tradesmen centred on Bath. BACK

[21] Charles and John Maddox (or Madox; dates unknown) of Park Row, Bristol. BACK

[22] Tom took Southey’s advice and these materials were published as A Chronological History of the West Indies in 1828. BACK

[23] The Ronan family of planters was recorded in Antigua as early as 1729. In the 1780s Ann Ronan (b. 1765) and Margaret Ronan (b. 1759), daughters of Philip Ronan, lived at Guana Island, off the Antiguan coast. Which of the family was known to Southey in Bristol the editors have not been able to discover. BACK

[24] Southey attended a school known as ‘the Fort’ run by William Williams (dates unknown), in Bristol, from 1782 until 1786. His fellow pupil has not been traced. BACK

[25] On 26 December 1805 Austria had signed the Treaty of Pressburg with France and left the coalition against them. BACK

[26] John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent (1735–1823; DNB) was First Lord of the Admiralty from 1801–1804. BACK

[27] The French did invade Portugal in November 1807, and before that date many British residents, including Southey’s uncle, Herbert Hill, had returned home. BACK

[28] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), the Prime Minister, whose second term of office was from 1804 to 1806. BACK

[29] Untraced. BACK

[30] Thomas Southey had sent his brother a turtle from the West Indies; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 24 November 1805, Letter 1125. BACK

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

[32] Southey’s planned ‘History of Portugal’ was never completed, but his Chronicle of the Cid was published in 1808. BACK

[33] John Ferriar (1761–1815; DNB) reviewed Madoc (1805) in the Monthly Review, 48 (October 1805), 113–122. BACK

[34] The third edition of Joan of Arc, printed by Nathaniel Biggs in Bristol, was published in 1806, with some alterations. It included the ‘Vision of the Maid of Orleans’, originally published in the second volume of Poems (1799), at the end of the poem. For the alterations, see volume 1 of Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004). BACK

[35] The second edition of Thalaba the Destroyer was published in 1809. BACK

[36] These changes were effected. BACK

[37] The postscript is written at the top of the first page. BACK