1186. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 22 May 1806

1186. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 22 May 1806 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 22. 1806.

My dear Tom

Your letters often miscarry, & those which reach me come very irregularly. I had one of Feby 10 – (the mere news of Duckworths action [1] ) before my departure for London, & some three or four weeks after during my absence came one of Jany 24th – but I discover March 10 in the Post Mark which is, like the date, St Kitts. [2]  Danvers must have had later news as he tells me you have received the Reviews. [3] 

Before this you will have seen that a million of the Spanish prize money goes towards the Ways & Means of the year. This is from beginning to end so rascally a piece of business that I lose all patience to think of it; – the remainder has been shared among the Royal Family – part to the Prince of Wales, part to pay the Princess of Wales’s debts, part to pay for the new Palace which the King has built at Kew, not as a nautical building – but to be the Queens. [4]  The million given to the nation stops all inquiry, & the rest is thus quietly pouched. And so goes the money villainously taken from the Spaniards first, & secondly from the captors – a very pretty piece of secret history – on the truth of which you may rely. My articles were stopt by a positive assurance in the Courier that I was mistaken & that the prize money would be disposed of as usual: this assurance Stuart told me was inserted directly by some person in the confidence of government, & it was as you see, neither more nor less than a direct falsehood. –

I could not see your defence at the Admiralty, without certain formal permissions which it would have been unpleasant to have requested. [5]  Harry Bedford however who is employed there, got it pretty well by heart & repeated for me the whole substance. he said the whole transaction was to your credit, & that even what you had written about Williams [6]  perjury would be rather serviceable than otherwise. I shall send the letter thro him, hoping that you will receive it more speedily, & that its chance of reaching you will be the greater, – but God send that it may pass you on your passage to England with the convoy.

Now for my own affairs. Still in the same uncertainty about the fate of Portugal, but if it is not shut against us, almost certain of Secretaryship there. [7]  Madoc has been reviewed in the Critical & Monthly very unjustly. the former, which I have not seen, was written by Le Grice, who is supposed to have so done because he hates Coleridge, having always envied him. [8]  who did the latter I know not, – but if you can conceive a blue bottle fly wriggling his tail & trying to sting with it, you have a xx good emblem of the writers clumsy malice. [9]  Of Jeffreys article in the Edinburgh I have before spoken, [10]  & I believe told you, how Windham [11]  was induced to read the book by the merit of the extracts there given to be censured. [12]  I perceive he said very clearly that he who wrote the review knows nothing of poetry, & that he who wrote the poem does. This which Wynn had told me was repeated by Lord Holland. Lady H. added that it was the rule at St Anns Hill (Fox’s) to read <aloud> after supper, & shut the book at eleven to retire to bed. But while Madoc was in reading, they went on till after midnight. Fox’s letter concerning which you enquire was a civil one, written before he had read the book. [13]  Heber said to me, the one poem was all that my warmest friends could wish it to be. But tho it has thus fairly made its fortune with those who can discriminate, the main part of readers take their opinion from reviews, & the dullest malignity can for a time do mischief. 188 remain unsold – I gave away 28 – & upon the rest my profits amount to – 3 – 17 – 1. the remuneration in 1806 for the best poem except Paradise Lost in the English language – after a years sale – ‘O sweet remuneration!’ But do not you suppose that I am fool enough complain, or even really to feel dissatisfied. In the long run fame will be fortune to me if I live, & if I die secure a fit pension to my family. Besides the profits do not end here. Of the remaining quartos every one which sells, adds 15/s to my creditor account with Longman, & we are going to print a small edition in two vols [14]  which will I suppose in the course of seven years send me in a hundred pounds – but if the wind of fashion should set in in my favour, a thing always possible – I shall reap tens instead of units.

The Metrical Tales have netted me about 22£. pure profit this as it was no labour. [15]  I have put Espriella in the press, & have received four proofs. [16]  It will make three small volumes in a type rather larger than that of Amadis, [17]  or rather a page less crowded. I have sold the first edition for £100. without which I had been behind hand, – & am now beginning a race with the printer, as you know I like to do; & if I do not keep pace with him, the Constable will not keep pace with me. This then is my first & main business in hand. Secondly I am preparing the Chronicle of the Cid for publication, in which I shall dispose of much matter originally collected for preliminary chapters to my History: there there will be no room for them it & here it may be advantageously set forth. [18]  This is a very favourite work with me, & is I think likely to please a certain degree of readers much. Thirdly I am going to reprint Palmerin of England, correcting the old translation when it requires it, restoring the original orthography of the names, & writing a preface. [19]  These are all stipulated engagements, concluded on with Longman. In my own mind I think of making from time <to time> more stories like Queen Orracca, [20]  Garci Ferrandez [21]  so as to fill a volume; & of proceeding with Kehama in the winter, [22]  if I should be in England, instead of reviewing.

Henrys History is safe – I had given it up as lost, but found that it was in Longmans possession. [23] 

Wynns direction is now Whitehall, he being one of the Under Secretaries of State. he is married to a very good-natured unaffected woman. [24]  If you ship him a Turtle his house is No 6. Great George Street, Westminster. The former one died performing quarantine at Cork. [25] 

You will expect some politicks, but in truth I like all that is going on so little that I had rather talk about any thing else. It is such a damnd scramble for place – so completely every thing that which it ought not to be – that I am out of heart, & have lost all hope of any beneficial change to any extent. Yet Windhams army bill [26]  is certainly a noble improvement, – & the people are so intolerably stupid that no measure seems to have excited more dislike or more opposition. Let me go to pleasanter subjects & tell you how little Edith has had two silver cups given her one by her godmother Mrs Gonne, one by Mrs Rickman, & a noble cargo of barley sugar from George Dyer & Bedford, besides some fine clothes from her godfather John May: that she talks of her Uncle who lives in a great ship upon the great waters, & regularly receives a kiss in his name for every letter which arrives from him, – & let me also tell you that I hope she will have either brother or sister in the autumn: [27]  tho that piece of news should have been kept till the end of the letter, as I have nothing else half so interesting to add.

I have again suffered in the painters chair, having sate to Opie for a picture for William Taylor. [28]  the likeness is said to be a very strong one.

The fourth Annual was published while I was in town: my portion in it is rather greater than in any of the foregoing volumes, [29]  & with this thank Heaven I close my reviewing, as a regular employment, for ever. What I shall do hereafter will be merely a few things by choice, either to help a friends book, or to take up a subject in which I am particularly interested, – nothing more. If I do not lose money by the experiment I shall be satisfied; nothing took me so much time, & nothing was done with so little pleasure, – there was certainly a great pleasure in receiving a large parcel, & looking over its contents, but there the pleasure ended, & all else was mere drudgery. I shall however by this abdication of my seat at the Round Table [30]  have 80£ upon the average, to supply between October & April. Now if in that time I can compleat Kehama, [31]  that will about hit the mark: I can raise enough upon a first edition to supply this deficit, & there will remain to me the contingency of after profits to myself, or to my family the certain value of the copy-right.

Should <you> be on your passage to England as your letter teaches me to hope, you will yet be able to lend Don Manuel a helping hand. I wish to write a letter upon the state of the navy, [32]  representing in what manner in what manner that has partaken of the universal change which has taken place during the present reign; – how, even there, men can no longer rise from the ranks, except by some lucky accident, – men being now born to be Captains as they are to be Members of Parliament. If you were within reach you should tell me what ought to be said of the blockading system – of the discipline &c &c. Without you I shall only venture to speak of the very little which I think myself competent to understand: but the subject shall remain for the latest place possible in the hope that you may come within reach, or that you may perhaps have sent me a letter to this purpose. You will be well pleased with this book. its tone is not unlike that of my Letters from Spain & Portugal, [33]  but it will be better done as I am better acquainted with that of which I write & am also ten good years older.

Your account of the insects on board delights me greatly. Scatter a little camphor among your letters to keep away the weevils. I believe all insects dislike it, & the experiment may be tried at little expense. I have no doubt that every insect might be kept at due distance by some perfume or other & a series of experiments upon this subject would be of great importance. – I do not know the pronunciation of Trafalgar. It is always called Trafālgar in England, but I suspect the accent ought to be on the last syllable – however Trafālgar it will be called & as it the English who have made it famous, I think they may be allowed to pronounce it as they think proper. [34] 

Phillips & Dr Aikin have quarrelled, P. as usual, having behaved like a scoundrel. [35]  the Dr has made terms with Longman, who only wanted an Editor to start a Magazine upon a plan of my suggestion, & they begin with the next new year. [36]  I must lend a hand at the launch, & indeed not leave the new ship till she is fairly under weigh. If my plan be in the main adhered to, the book will be a very good one, & supply a gap in the literature.

Danvers I have just heard has a letter as late as March 13 from you – much later than my latest. I cannot account for the great irregularity of the post. all letters to England ought to arrive with certainty, unless captured, – & yet it is plain that very many of yours have never reached me – we are going next week both I Edith & Edithling to pass a few days at Lloyds, who has five children, & lives at a very sweet place, eighteen miles off. [37]  I begin to indulge so much hope that it is possible you may be with us before the autumn is over, that if you are not it will be a disappointment & that in indulging more hope than is reasonable. If that be the case this letter will be written in vain. So much the better. God bless you my dear Tom. Ediths love – & as much of a kiss from the young one as can be transferred up by letter – paper currency being a worse substitute for kisses than for gold.



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Amelia
Postmark: [illegible]
Seal: [illegible]
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 380–385 [in part]. BACK

[1] John Thomas Duckworth, 1st Baronet (1748–1817; DNB), naval officer, created Vice-Admiral in 1804, who defeated a French squadron off San Domingo on the 6 February 1806. BACK

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

[3] Southey had sent his brother the Annual Review for 1803 and 1804, together with a set of Couriers, courtesy of Charles Danvers; see Southey to Thomas Southey, 1–5 January 1806, Letter 1140. BACK

[4] This palace was unfinished when in 1810 King George III (1738–1820, reigned 1760–1820; DNB) lapsed into madness; his son George IV (1762–1830, reigned 1820–1830; DNB) not wishing to continue the work, it was demolished in 1828. BACK

[5] In January 1805 Southey learned that Thomas Southey had been found guilty at court martial of contempt of a senior officer and dismissed his ship. The circumstances of the offence were such that Commodore (later Vice-Admiral) Samuel Hood, 1st Baronet (1762–1814; DNB), who was in command of the fleet in which his brother served, promptly appointed him to a finer ship. BACK

[6] Untraced. BACK

[7] Southey had expected an official position in the legation at Lisbon owing to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn’s being appointed Under Secretary of State in the Home Office under the administration of his uncle, William Wyndham Grenville, who was Prime Minister 1806–1807. BACK

[8] Southey’s Madoc (1805) was negatively reviewed by Charles Valentine Le Grice (1773–1858) in the Critical Review, ns 7 (1806), 72–83. BACK

[9] John Ferriar (1761–1815; DNB) wrote a hostile review of Madoc in the Monthly Review, 48 (October 1805), 113–122. BACK

[10] Francis Jeffrey’s review appeared in the Edinburgh Review, 7 (October 1805), 1–29. BACK

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

[12] See Southey to Thomas Southey, 7 December 1805, Letter 1130. BACK

[13] Fox’s letter acknowledging Southey’s presentation of a copy of the poem is not extant. BACK

[14] The second edition of Madoc (1805) was published in 1807. BACK

[15] Southey republished his contributions to the Annual Anthology (1799–1800) under his own name in Metrical Tales and other Poems (1805). BACK

[16] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella; Translated from the Spanish (1807) was being printed by Richard Taylor, (1781–1858; DNB), printer and naturalist, who would go on to establish the publishing firm of Taylor and Francis with his son William Francis (1817–1904; DNB) in 1852. BACK

[17] Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[18] Southey used the materials from his unfinished ‘History of Portugal’ in the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

[19] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[20] Southey’s ‘Queen Urraca and the Five Martyrs of Morocco’ had been published in the newspaper that William Taylor edited, The Iris, on 3 November 1804. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt (London, 2004), V, pp. 406–413. BACK

[21] ‘Garci Ferrandez’, was published in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811), in Minor Poems (1815 and 1823) and Poetical Works (1837–1838). See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt (London, 2004), V, pp. xxiv and 517. BACK

[22] Southey’s The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. BACK

[23] Robert Henry (1718–1790), The History of Great Britain, From the First Invasion of it by the Romans under Julius Cæsar (1771–1793). Southey had asked Tom to buy him a cheaper copy of this work in Ireland. He had entrusted its despatch to a bookseller in Cork but it had been delayed in the post; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 1 February 1804, Letter 892. BACK

[24] Wynn married Mary Cunliffe (d. 1838), daughter of Foster Cunliffe, 3rd Baronet (1755–1834) on 9 April 1806. BACK

[25] Thomas Southey had sent his brother a turtle from the West Indies; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 24 November 1805 (Letter 1125) and Southey to Thomas Southey, 1–5 January 1806 (Letter 1140). BACK

[26] William Windham (1750–1810; DNB), Secretary for War and the Colonies, 1806–1807, introduced a bill designed to limit the term for which soldiers could enlist. BACK

[27] Herbert, the Southeys’ first son, was born on 11 October 1806. BACK

[28] Southey’s portrait was painted for William Taylor by John Opie (1761–1807; DNB), while he was in London in April. BACK

[29] 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

[30] A jokey reference to the Annual Review based on Southey’s nickname for its editor, ‘King Arthur’ Aikin. BACK

[31] The Curse of Kehama was not published until 1810. BACK

[32] The navy is discussed in Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella; Translated from the Spanish (London, 1807), Letter 76. BACK

[33] Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal, first published in 1797. BACK

[34] The British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar took place in October 1805; Horatio, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté (1758–1805; DNB), was killed. BACK

[35] Phillips established the Monthly Magazine in 1796. It was edited by John Aikin until they quarrelled in 1806, when the editorship was taken over by George Gregory (1754–1808; DNB) until his death in 1808. BACK

[36] Aikin became editor of the short-lived Athenaeum magazine (1807–1809), published by Longman. For Southey’s plan; see Southey to [Thomas Norton Longman], [10 January 1806], Letter 1144. BACK

[37] Charles Lloyd lived at Low Brathay, near Ambleside. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Holland House (mentioned 1 time)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)