1191. Robert Southey to John May, 18 June 1806

1191. Robert Southey to John May, 18 June 1806 ⁠* 

My dear friend,

I have received since my last the very welcome intelligence from my brother Tom that he & his ship return to England with the May convoy. what time he may be expected is doubtful, because just at the same time I learnt from a brother of Bedfords, who is in the Admiralty that the Amelia was coming home with the June convoy. [1]  the difference in these accounts may perhaps be reconciled by supposing that in the West Indies it is called the May convoy because it sails in May, & in England the June one, because it is expected to arrive in June. Tom thinks the frigate must go into dock to receive a thorough repair, & in that case, hopes to get a months leave of absence.

Harry graduates the 24th of this month, & leaves Edinburgh as soon afterwards as possible. [2]  His remaining expences of graduation & his printers bill amount to fifteen sixteen pounds, – xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxx xxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx fellow xxxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx. this I have learnt so late that he must now needs wait some days longer in Scotland than would else be needful, before you can reach him with a remittance. The reason is, that Edith & I & your god-daughter have been, for the last few days, visiting Lloyd & his wife, near Ambleside; & tho from hence to Keswick is only seventeen miles, a letter is rather longer in travelling that distance than it is in getting to London. He knew my intended movements, & as he did not recollect them when he directed his letter, must abide the inconvenience as a necessary & not unfit consequence of forgetfulness.

I have been looking long for a letter from you, – perhaps there may be one lingering on the way from Keswick, or I may find one there on my return. Evans [3]  has not yet replied to my letter. I suppose he is waiting to dispossess the old curate at Midsummer, & thinks it better to delay writing till then when he may tell me the thing is done.

My printer and I travel on together smoothly. [4]  I have corrected seven proofs, & daily expect the eighth. twelve & a half make the volume of 300 pages, as much in all conscience, as can be given for five shillings. At this rate, the three volumes may be compleated in November; & as in this case, there is nobody to be depended upon but myself, & the Printer is a steady man, who thinks a promise binding in foro conscientæ, [5]  I shall be mistaken if any delays take place which it would be possible to avoid. I break off the thread of the East Indian history, to continue solely with the home history, for this reason. There collateral matter to be gleaned from Portugueze books respecting their Indian possessions is little or nothing; – but of the domestic history very much is only to be got at in that way, & it is desirable to get on as far as possible before I go over, that I may know as precisely as possible in what the regular and printed documents are deficient, & what specific information ought to be sought for. [6]  In the Indies, I have come down to the death of Nunho da Cunha: [7]  & in the other division have just reached the death of Joam 3. [8]  I shall go straight on with Sebastian. [9]  Henrique’s short reign [10]  is written, & the struggle made by Antonio, [11]  as far as Conestaggio goes down with it; [12]  – an author in more estimation with us than he is with the Portugueze. I found a little French volume upon his history, written by a Madame Gomez, which had furnished Lessing with some opportunity of triumphing over a German historian of Portugal. [13]  It is in itself of little value, but it gives the story of the Prior’s partizans [14]  more fully than I have seen it elsewhere, & I was glad that I had made use of the book when I heard what use Lessing had made of it. – One of the most curious parts of the work will be that which develops the plans intrigues of the Anti-Castillian party, during the Spanish usurpation, & of course, this will be one of the most difficult to fill up. I have collected some facts & have think I can see my way distinctly.

Last Thursday I dined at the Bishop of Llandaffs, & was well pleased with him. I liked him the better for having heard that he always protested his exceeding repugnance at the prosecution of Gilbert Wakefield. [15]  His conversation was in a tone of exceeding liberality – even more than appears to me quite congruous with his silk apron; for certainly the articles of his faith are not all to be found among the nine & thirty, nor all the nine & thirty to be found among his. [16]  He paid me some handsome compliments upon Madoc, & among others that of showing me that he had read it very carefully, by mentioning a few verbal defects – as they had appeared to him.

My daughter (Edith May) was so delighted with the new gown which Mrs May sent her, that I thought it expedient to inform her that new gowns were among the pomps & vanities of this wicked world; – a warning which, as you may perhaps suppose, has not made her a whit the less proud of it.

In about three months I hope she will have brother or sister. [17]  Edith desires to be remembered to yourself & [MS torn] to whom I also beg my remembrances.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

June 18. 1806.

No news of Coleridge! [18] 


* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ Richmond/ Surry./ Single
Stamped: [partial] KENDAL
Postmarks: [partial] C/ JUN/ 180; 10o’Clock/ JU.21/ 1806 F.N.n
Endorsement: 119 1806/ Robert Southey/ No place 18th J[MS torn]/ rec.d 21st do/ ansd 25th do/ Portugal
MS: University of Kentucky Library. ALS; 4p. (c).
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 388–391. BACK

[1] Thomas Southey’s ship HMS Amelia was a 38-gun Hébé-class frigate of the French navy captured in 1796 and commissioned into the navy. He was currently serving in the West Indies as part of the British campaign to achieve naval dominance in the Caribbean during the Napoleonic wars. BACK

[2] Southey’s brother was training as an MD. BACK

[3] Evans (dates unknown). The lawyer that Southey and his uncle were employing to resolve problems in obtaining the tithes due to him at his new parish of Staunton-on-Wye. BACK

[4] 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

[5] Meaning ‘in a court of conscience’. BACK

[6] Southey was writing a ‘History of Portugal’, which he never completed. BACK

[7] Nuno da Cunha (c. 1487–1539) was a governor of Portuguese possessions in India between 1528 to 1538. BACK

[8] John (or João) III (1502–1557), King of Portugal and the Algarves 1521–1557. BACK

[9] Sebastian I (1554–1578), King of Portugal and the Algarves 1557–1578, was the grandson of John III. BACK

[10] Henry (or Henrique; 1512–1580), King of Portugal and the Algarves 1578 and 1580. BACK

[11] Anthony (or António) I (1531–1595), claimant to the throne of Portugal in 1580. BACK

[12] Hieronymo Conestaggio, Dell’ Unione del Regno di Portogallo alla Corona di Castiglia (1589). BACK

[13] Madeleine-Angélique Poisson de Gomez (1684–1770), Histoire de Jean de Calais, roi de Portugal, ou, La vertu recompensee (1731). BACK

[14] In 1805 William Taylor had recommended Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s (1729–1781), Briefe, die Neueste Litteratur Betreffend (Letters on Modern Literature) (1759–1763) for its discussion of the literary history of Portugal (see J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, p. 92). BACK

[15] Gilbert Wakefield (1756–1801; DNB), the biblical scholar, religious dissenter and political radical. In 1798 Llandaff had published An Address to the People of Great Britain, supporting government proposals for an income tax. Wakefield responded in A Reply to some Parts of the Bishop of Landaff’s Address, a pamphlet that led to his conviction for seditious libel at the hands of an establishment determined to stamp out reformist opposition. Wakefield was imprisoned until 1801, dying shortly after his release. BACK

[16] In the Church of England the 39 Articles of Religion, of 1563, establish the basis of belief. BACK

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

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

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)