1152. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 4 February 1806

1152. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 4 February 1806 ⁠* 

Greta Hall. Keswick. Feby 4. 1806

My dear Sir

I have sent off the Manuscript directed to you, – it goes by coach from Carlisle, & should reach you as soon, or nearly as soon as this advisal. – the draft should be made payable to Mrs Sherbrook [1]  – & transmitted by me. She has requested me when I may chance to pass near her to inspect certain other M.S.S. all of which were saved by one of her ancestors from the wreck of a parochial library at the Reformation. The friend who sent me this invitation says he believes they all are all religious books, but he is not conversant with MSS. & reads the writing badly.

We are under considerable uneasiness respecting Coleridge, who left Malta early in September to return overland from Naples, was heard of from Trieste, & has not been heard of since. [2]  Our hope is that finding it impracticable to proceed he may <have> returned, & be wintering at Naples, or in Sicily. Wordsworth was with me last week he has of late been more employed in correcting his poems, than in writing others, – but one piece he has written upon the ideal character of a soldier, than which I have never seen any thing more full of meaning & sound thought. [3]  The subject was suggested by Nelsons most glorious death, [4]  tho having no reference to it. He had some od thoughts of sending it to the Courier, [5]  – in which case you will easily recognise his hand.

Having this occasion to write I will venture to make one request. My friend Duppa is about to publish a Life of Michel Angelo. [6]  the book will be a good book, for no man understands his art better. I wish when it comes in course of trial you would save it from Judge Jeffray, [7]  or intercede with him for as favourable a report as it may be found to deserve. Duppa deserves well of the public because he has at a very considerable loss published those magnificent heads from Raffaello & Michel Angelo, [8]  & is now publishing this present work without any view whatever to profit, – indeed he does not print copies enough to pay his expences.

Mrs Southey & her sisters [9]  join me in remembrances to Mrs Scott. I know not whether I shall ever again see the Tweed & the Yarrow, yet should be sorry to think I should not. Your scenery has left upon me a strong impression [10]  – the more so for the delightful associations which you & your country-poets have inseperably connected with it. I am going in the autumn, if Bonaparte will let me, to streams as classical & as lovely – the Mondego of Camoens, the Douro & the Tagus, [11]  – but I shall not find such society on their banks. [12] 

Remember me to my two fellow travellers. Heaven keep them & me also from being the subject of any farther experiments upon the infinite compressibility of matter!

believe me

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

If Hogg should publish his poems I shall be very glad to do what little I can in getting subscribers for him [13] 


* Address: To/ Walter Scott Esqr Advocate/ North Castle Street/ Edinburgh
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] FE/1806
Watermark: shield/ 1803/ T BOTFIELD
Endorsement: R. Southey/ Greta Hall 4th/ Feb.y 1806
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3875. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 18–20 [in part]. BACK

[1] The Sherbrooke family of Oxton, Nottinghamshire had owned a manuscript volume containing rare medieval metrical romances since the sixteenth century. It was compiled by one Richard Heege in the fifteenth century. Southey was arranging for its purchase, through the good offices of Scott, by Scott’s friend Thomas Thomson (1768–1852; DNB), an Edinburgh advocate, record keeper and editor of medieval manuscripts. From Thomson the manuscript went to the Advocates Library, Edinburgh. It remains in their collection today (National Library of Scotland, Advocates MS 19.3.1). For further details; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 3 October 1805, Letter 1109. The first name and dates of Mrs Sherbrook are untraced. BACK

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

[3] Published as ‘Character of the Happy Warrior’ in Wordsworth’s Poems in Two Volumes (1807). BACK

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

[5] The poem was not published in The Courier. BACK

[6] Richard Duppa, The Life and Literary Works of Michael Angelo Buonarotti, with his Poetry and Letters (1806). Southey reviewed this work in the Annual Review for 1806, 5 (1807), 411–425. BACK

[7] Here Southey deliberately portrays Francis Jeffrey, for his severe criticism, as George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem (1645–1689; DNB), known as ‘The Hanging Judge’ for the harsh sentences he handed down after the Monmouth rebellion of 1685. BACK

[8] Richard Duppa, Heads from the Fresco Pictures of Raffaele in the Vatican (1802), which Southey had reviewed in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 918–923. BACK

[10] Southey had visited Scott on a tour of Edinburgh and the surrounding area with his friend Peter Elmsley in October 1805. BACK

[11] The Mondego, Douro and Tagus are all rivers in Portugal. Luís Vaz de Camões (1524–1580), the author of Os Lusíadas, or the Lusiads (1572), includes invocations to the nymphs of the Tagus and Mondego in Canto 7. BACK

[12] Southey never returned to Portugal after his second residence there in 1800–1801. BACK

[13] The poet and novelist, James Hogg, had published his first book of poems, Scottish Pastorals in Edinburgh in 1801. With Scott’s encouragement, he also produced a collection of poems in a similar manner to Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802), entitled The Mountain Bard. Printed by James Ballantyne in Edinburgh and published in 1807 by subscription, it does not include a list of the subscribers. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)