1151. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 3 February 1806

1151. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 3 February 1806 ⁠* 

Dear Danvers

I ought before this to have acknowledged the receipt of the parcel & thanked you for it, – but my indisposition threw me behind-hand with my work, & this again has run me in arrears with all my correspondents. Now however I hope the end of the journey is in sight. if no new interruptions prevent my reviewing will be finished on Monday three-weeks. [1] 

Little Edith is delighted with her books & Hartley with his paints. I have re-read the Bank of Faith, [2]  & have in consequence altered my opinion of its author. You will wonder at this; yet if it were not for the too frequent good luck he had of picking up fish & fowl I should very readily acquit him of any thing more than common Methodist trade roguery. It is very practicable for a preacher to live by Faith if he can but convince his congregation of it. The book will xxx supply me with a good letter, it is a very curious production, & certainly has merit of its own. Did I tell you that when last in London I went with Duppa to hear him? he is a fat, dew-lapped velvet-voiced old man; who instead of straining himself by speaking loud, enforces what he has to say more easily by a significant nod of the head. His congregation had quite a physiognomy of their own: sallow, dismal people, – looking as if they were already so near the fire & brimstone that it had coloured their complections. I mean to go to all the curious meeting houses in London when next there in company with D. Manuel. [3]  in fact as I get on & see what I know myself, it almost surprizes me to perceive what xxx a strange age we live in, – if it be to be called the age of any thing it should be the Age of Credulity.

Certainly the best thing Pitt ever did was to die out of the way. [4]  I am however doubtful how far it be desirable that Fox should come into administration for the sake of his own character. [5]  He comes in sadly shackled – Catholic emancipation they may perhaps effect, & the repeal of the Test Act may follow as a necessary consequence – but there will be no Parliamentary Reform. [6]  The Grenvilles [7]  will never suffer that – it would shearing them of their strength like Samson. There will be no repeal of the Income Tax – for how can the war be carried on without money? – the truth is that the diseases of the state are quite incurable, & nothing can be done effectually to relieve the people with such a load of debt & the power in the hands of a few families. – Whether xxx these new arrangements – be they what they will – may bring with them any advantage to me as an individual Heaven knows. [8]  I thought it very likely before there was any likelihood of their taking place, & now begin to xxx think otherwise. However I shall try what can be done for Tom. If Gray be made first Lord of the Admiralty, Losh will have interest with him, & I shall not scruple to write to him upon the subject. [9]  We live in an age when nothing is to be had without asking for it, & tho I shall be very well content to go without any thing myself, one feels very differently xxx about asking for any body else, & Tom shall lose nothing for want of application on my part. did I tell you that the Turtle died at Cork, as did all his fellow passengers? [10] 

Miss Barker is going to Bath in about a fortnight on a visit to a Mrs Matthewes [11]  I think. however I shall send you her address that when you go over you may call on her & see her sketches of Greta Hall, Gilpins Stone &c – She is that sort of woman that you will not feel yourself in the least awkward for want of an introducer. The Colonel has sent me half a collar of brawn, & a little barrel of pickled sturgeon. this cost me a letter of thanks, which again produced such an answer! I wish you had seen it – he writes just as he talks – world without end Amen! However he is a good natured xxx homo if ever there was one.

The parcel came very well packed. [12]  – I shall begin upon the Cid [13]  this day three weeks the very day the reviewing is off my hands, & expect to make quick work with it. You sent me in your last some useful facts for Don Manuel [14]  – do not let any thing of this kind escape you. I have some little hope from what George says in a letter to his sister that we may meet in London, which would be as useful to my book as it would be agreable to me xxx – no man knows what he had in his memory till it is asked for, & the MSS would needs put you in mind of many things which you would never else think of. I shall start either the last week in March, or the first in April, & had I a companion would go half-footing & half-coaching by way of the Caves & the Peak. [15] 

Still no tidings of Coleridge. [16]  it is some consolation to know that no letters have been received for many weeks from that part of the Austrian dominions which are occupied by the French. It is not unlikely that he has returned either to Naples or Malta, & may be waiting there for ship. There is also this comfort that ill news always travels fast, & letters to say he were dead would travel <carry> as fast <soon> as those he should write himself. You may however well think that I am far from being easy about him. – As for foreign politics, they do not seem to me to bear a bad aspect. Any thing which tends still farther to dislocate the German empire, & prepare Germany for revolution is to be regarded as favourable to the ultimate improvement of Europe. anything which weakens Austria is also desirable – & any thing which strengthens the new kingdom of Italy. Bonaparte will hold all together while he lives, & thinks by family connections to keep afterwards in alliance, what he cannot consolidate with France. His successors will be on a par with common princes – his generals will die off – Germany & Spain in their turn will be regenerated by revolutions, & France be again what it was under the latter Bourbons. The great French generals are children of the Revolution. – which will have no grandchildren – under an Empire there will be the same system of family-connections, interest, & corruption, which has reduced this country, & all the old governments of Europe to their present state. Xxx <At home here> Danvers my what I ardently wished fourteen years ago from feeling, I now think inevitable, tho at greater distance, & desirable without wishing it. For myself it is best that things should last out my time, so I suppose they may – & being a tenant of an old house I would rather suffer its inconveniences & its vermin than be at the trouble & expence of repairs. But for the country – I have only to say that the fable of the Phœnix looks like a political emblem & that xxx old governments must be cut up & put into Medeas cauldron to xxx them. At present however there is a chance that they the war may be carried on vigorously by sea, the people be armed, the enemies colonies taken, & a good peace made at last.

Harry’s affair is ended in a very neutral way. the young lady has obliged her relations by dropping the connection. [17]  He has been very unwell. No news of Tom since my last because indeed there has been no packet. continue to write to him – he xxx gets no letters, but I wish to multiply his chances of getting one. the post offices in the islands seem to be infamously mismanaged. – Of Madoc I can tell you nothing more than that Windham [18]  has become a great admirer of it, from seeing the passages quoted for censure in the hostile reviews – & this perhaps I told you before. I have made up my mind to alter the catastrophe & formed what I think a good plan for it, < xxx xxx > which will still make Madoc xxx the object of the readers hopes & fears till the last. Of more consequence in a pecuniary view is this – that I seriously xxx am thinking of writing a tragedy, of which Llewellyn [19]  is to be the hero – for the young Roscius [20]  – but this is a secret – Ediths love –

God bless you.


Monday. Feby 3. 1806


* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ FEB 7/ 1806
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 355–359 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey reviewed in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806): James Bruce (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768–73 (2nd edn, 1804–1805), 2–16; Thomas Lindley (dates unknown), Narrative of a Voyage to Brazil; ... with General Sketches of the Country ..., and a Description of the City and Provinces of St. Salvadore and Porto Seguro (1805), 27–32; Joseph Skinner (dates unknown), The Present State of Peru, Comprising its Geography, Topography, Natural History, Mineralogy, Commerce, the Customs and Manners of its Inhabitants; Embellished by ... Engravings of Costumes (1805), 49–60; John Griffiths (dates unknown), Travels in Europe, Asia Minor and Arabia (1805), 67–77; James Stanier Clarke (1765?-1834; DNB), Naufragia, or, Historical Memoirs of Shipwrecks (Vol. 1; 1805), 99–100; Charles François Dominique de Villers (1765–1815), An Essay on the Spirit and Influence of the Reformation of Luther (1805), trans. B Lambert (dates unknown), 177–187; William Roscoe, The Life of Pope Leo X, Son of Lorenzo de Medici (1805), 449–467; Arthur Cayley (1776–1848), The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh (1805), 477–483; Dieudonné Thiébault (1733–1807), Original Anecdotes of Frederic the Second, King of Prussia, and of his Family, his Court, his Ministers, his Academies, and his Literary Friends: Collected During a Familiar Intercourse of Twenty Years with that Prince (1805), 488–495; William Parr Greswell (bap. 1765–1854; DNB), Memoirs of Angelus Politianus, Joannes Picus of Mirandula, Actius Sincerus Sannazarius, Petrus Bembus, Hieronymus Fracastorius, Marcus Antonius Flaminius, and the Amalthei: Translations from their Poetical Works: and Notes and Observations Concerning Other Literary Characters of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (1805), 509–515; George Ellis, Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances (1805), 536–544; Henry John Todd (bap. 1763–1845; DNB), The Works of Edmund Spenser (1805), 544–555; William Lisle Bowles, The Spirit of Discovery (1804), 568–573; William Hayley (1745–1820; DNB), Ballads; Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals, with Prints, Designed and Engraved by William Blake (1805), 575–576; John Hoppner (1758–1810), Oriental Tales: Translated into English Verse (1805), 576–578; Francis Burroughs (dates unknown), A Poetical Epistle to James Barry Esq. (1805), 578–579; Vincenzo Monti (1754–1828) Penance of Hugo: A Vision (1805), trans. Henry Boyd (1748/9–1832; DNB), 581–588; James Grahame (1765–1811; DNB), The Sabbath (1805), 588–591; Sir Martin Archer Shee (1769–1850; DNB), Rhymes on Art, or, The Remonstrance of a Painter (1805), 592–596; Samuel Whitchurch, (dates unknown), Hispaniola, a Poem (1804), 596–597; Matthew Rolleston (dates unknown), The Anti-Corsican, A Poem (1805), 597–598; Charles Grant, Baron Glenelg (1778–1866; DNB), Poem on the Restoration of Learning in the East (1805), 598; Edward Coxe (dates unknown), Miscellaneous Poetry (1805), 598–600; Malcolm Laing (1762–1818; DNB), The Poems of Ossian, Containing the Poetical Works of James Macpherson in Prose and Verse, with Notes and Illustrations (1805), 615–620; Archibald Macdonald (1739–1814; DNB), Some of Ossian’s Lesser Poems Rendered into Verse [from Macpherson]; with a Preliminary Discourse, in Answer to Mr. Laing’s Critical and Historical Dissertation on the Antiquity of Ossian’s Poems (1805), 620; Philip Massinger (1583–1640; DNB), Plays (1805), ed. William Gifford, 625–634; Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), Nathan the Wise; a Dramatic Poem in Five Acts (1805), trans. William Taylor, 634–639; John Collett (dates unknown), Sacred Dramas: Intended Chiefly for Young Persons (1805), 639; Henry Mackenzie (1745–1831; DNB), Report of the Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland, Appointed to Inquire into the Nature and Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian (1805), 679–699; Hannah More, Hints Towards Forming the Character of a Young Princess (1805), 708–713; Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838), Improvements in Education as it Respects the Industrious Classes of the Community (3rd edn, 1805), 732–736; Samuel Jackson Pratt [pseud. Courtney Melmoth] (1749–1814; DNB), Harvest-home: Consisting of Supplementary Gleanings, Original Dramas and Poems, Contributions of Literary Friends and Select Re-publications (1805), 736–738; William Henry Ireland (1775–1835; DNB), The Confessions of William Henry Ireland Containing the Particulars of his Fabrication of the Shakespeare Manuscripts (1805), 743–745. BACK

[2] William Huntington (1745–1813; DNB), a London-based fashionable preacher and religious writer, formerly a rural labourer. Huntington authored God the Poor Man’s Guardian, and the Bank of Faith, or a display of the Providences of God which have at sundry periods of time attended the author (1784). BACK

[3] Huntington preached at Providence Chapel, Titchfield St. See letter 53 of Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). Other preachers and sects are discussed in letters 69 and 70. BACK

[4] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister, was in his second term of office from 1804 until his death on 23 January 1806. BACK

[5] Under the coalition government formed by Charles James Fox and William Wyndham Grenville. BACK

[6] Southey refers to laws disadvantaging Catholics and Protestant dissenters. These ensured that public offices were only tenable by those prepared to submit to tests of their conformity to the Anglican church establishment. These laws were not repealed by the new ministry owing to the opposition of the king; repeal was delayed until 1828 and 1829. The Reform Act extending the franchise passed in 1832. BACK

[7] Followers of William Wyndham Grenville included his brother Thomas (1755–1846; DNB), nephew Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (1776–1839; DNB), and Wynn, another nephew. BACK

[8] Southey’s friend and patron Charles Wynn was appointed Under-Secretary for the Home Department. Through him, and the influential Whig and hispanophile, Lord Holland, Southey hoped to secure one of two vacant posts in Lisbon. BACK

[9] Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845; DNB), Prime Minister 1830–1834 and leading Whig; he did become First Lord of the Admiralty in 1806. He and James Losh were friends based on their common interests as residents of Northumberland, members of the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, and a shared concern to bring about parliamentary reform. BACK

[10] Thomas Southey had sent a turtle back to England for his brother; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 24 November 1805 (Letter 1125) and Southey to Thomas Southey, 1–5 January 1806 (Letter 1140). BACK

[11] Untraced. BACK

[12] Southey had asked Danvers to send him several books he needed for The Chronicle of the Cid; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 13 March 1805, Letter 1048. BACK

[13] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

[14] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[15] The caves near Ingleton, Yorkshire and/or of the Peak District, on the Derbyshire/ Yorkshire border, where the High Peak is located. BACK

[16] Coleridge was in the process of returning from Malta via the continent and reached England in August 1806. BACK

[17] While at the home of Charles Lloyd near Ambleside, in 1805, Harry had met Emma Noel (d. 1873). She was the daughter of Gerard Noel Edwardes, of Exton Park, Rutland (1759–1838; DNB), who had adopted the surname Noel in 1798, and inherited a baronetcy in 1813 to become the 2nd Baronet Barham. When her family objected to the couple’s plans to marry, the relationship soon ended; see Southey to John May, 1 November 1805, Letter 1116. BACK

[18] William Windham (1750–1810; DNB), Secretary for War and the Colonies, 1806–1807. BACK

[19] Llewelyn ‘the Great’ (c. 1173–1240), Prince of Gwynedd and effective ruler of Wales in his later years, is a character in Southey’s Madoc (1805). Southey did not write a play about Llewelyn. BACK

[20] ‘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

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)