1217. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 19 September 1806

1217. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 19 September 1806 ⁠* 

Friday. Sept. 19. 1806

My dear Danvers

For some days past I have refrained from writing to you, thinking it probable that a letter would arrive, & my expectation has this evening been fulfilled. Tom & the Doctor are both reading by the light of my xxx single candle – sad to say my eyes are ailing again & I am thus obliged to sport Nicodemus [1]  as the phrase is, which else, tho I do for myself at all times – I should not for them. However the complaint is by no means violent & I hope will speedily go off. Why Tom has not written it would be difficult to say, & yet is very easy to understand – he has talked daily of doing it, & thought daily of his daily procrastination as a neglect of duty, & begs me now to say that forgetfulness has not been the occasion. I think he will go to Taunton, & if so you will of course see him on his way. As for the Doctor, sheer idleness I suppose will continue to keep him silent – I believe he makes about half a dozen <new> correspondents every year, who are regularly superseded by as many more. He is to blame – but you will not judge too hardly of a fault which you foresaw. We very often talk of you & never without a wish that you were here again to mountaineer with us.

Have you heard that George Fricker is turned Methodist? the grace of God which passeth all understanding [2]  has turned his poor head – he has caught all the language of the Evangelicals, & is at present arduously employed in endeavouring to convert his mother & sisters, an enterprise in which he displays much zeal & more ability than you would suppose. Mrs Lovell has secured from him a large packet of letters & tracts published by the Society for the promotion of religious knowledge, [3]  all of which are well calculated to make proselytes for Bedlam. On the whole, as it will not stand in the way of his worldly interests I am more amused than vexed x at having a brother in law among the Saints. Poor Cottle too has made an attack upon me, & has filled half a sheet of fools cap (aptly so employed) with wishes that I ‘might yet become a disciple of Jesus & not be condemned with the world, exhortations to the love of God, & hopes that I ‘may yet obtain in common with himself an inheritance among the Saints in light, & an introduction in a better world to the Society of just men made perfect.’ I am less angry than you would have been – or to speak more truly – not angry at all, – only thinking at the time that it was not very modest in him to take it for granted that he had xxx xxx considered the subject more than I have done; or was better qualified to understand it; & not very decent in him to imply that I am not a disciple of Jesus.

Nothing which Edward does can possibly surprize me – unless it should be any thing good. The best thing that can now be wished is, that he should do some thing which makes it necessary for him to run away to America. If you have any more intercourse <with him> – (& I think it is time you should not) tell him the best thing he can do is to transport himself – least in waiting to get his passage paid by the government, he should unawares go beyond transportation.

Never – never – had I a heavier weight of work upon my poor shoulders. Imprimis [4]  the unhappy specimens are so near delivery that my Preface is wanted, & I am now finishing it – one of the things which I least like to do. [5]  Secondly half a sheet more finishes the first volume of Espriella [6]  – I have as much as another written – but not in sequence – & the full quantity of the third part is yet to write. Thirdly Pople has printed the first sheet of Palmerin, [7]  & upon setting to this job in which I expected to have little more to do, than to strike out idle interpolations – I found that about half must be retranslated. Had I made myself acquainted with this in time I would not have undertaken it, but it is too late to retract – & I must set my shoulder to the wheel – which you know, when there is occasion so to do, I can do lustily & with good will. Fourthly – Tho I have given up reviewing still so much of comes to my share, on the score of private good will, or because the subject interests me that there is a full months work lying on the floor in waiting. Fifthly I have promised both Longman & Dr Aikin to contribute to the Athenæum [8]  – & sixthly whenever I [MS torn] a little ahead of the printers & think I have a day or two I set at the Chronicle of the Cid [9]  ‘for love’ – as the boxers say [MS torn] are within two days work of being half thro it. – Judge whether or not I am likely to pass an idle winter! Miss Barker moves in a day or two. her visits here are always unfortunate. One of her sisters has suddenly lost her senses – & this recalls her. There are however good hopes of her speedy recovery. Tom & Harry will soon take their departure. It cannot be above a fortnight or three weeks at the farthest before Edith will be in bed, [10]  & then, if by Gods blessing – all go on well – I shall be settled quietly to my regular employments.

I want my Missionary numbers because they must both be reviewed this year. The last which I have of the Transactions (from Barry [11] ) is No 12. [12]  of the Periodical Accounts (from James [13] ) No 14. [14]  With them there are some books which if <when> you have leisure to look out would be useful to me. the first & most important is a single folio magnificently bound in red morocco, but in sad internal condition. Nobiliario do Conde D Pedro its title. [15]  it is in the box marked No 7. which came from Falmouth by waggon, & was never opened by me. Secondly Cronicas de Castilla, [16]  Volumes 3 & 4, (not 1 & 2.) I think these were left loose with you. half bound quartos. 3 Cardonne. Hist. des Arabes d’Affriques & d’Espagne. [17]  3 Vol. 12.mo. & the two histories by Marigny [18]  which you lent to Hort. [19]  each is 4 V. 12.mo. lastly (if you light upon them in your search –) my Port. & Dutch grammars, & the two volumes of Rankins Hist. of France [20]  – new books in 8vo. [MS illegible] boards. – I had nearly forgotten the whole set of Spanish poets – in 19 or 21 volumes – all in marble paper – you will know them by their number & the name D Ramon Fernandez as editor. [21]  I am loath to set you on this fatiguing & dusty business –

God bless you Danvers. If we are both living & doing well we shall meet in the spring. Remember me to all my friends – Ediths love –

yrs affectionately


box them up & send by waggon


* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol./ Single
Endorsements: 66./ Madoc; John Savant/ if the [illegible word]/ Folio Dante; Folio [illegible words]
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E / SEP22/ 1806
Seal: [illegible]
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) etched a picture of Jesus and Nicodemus, the Pharisee who, in John’s gospel (3.1–21) visited Jesus by night. In the etching, the figures are illuminated only by one candle. BACK

[2] ‘And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ’, Philippians 4:7. BACK

[3] The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge had been publishing religious literature since 1698. BACK

[4] Meaning ‘in the first place’. BACK

[5] Southey’s and Grosvenor Bedford’s jointly edited anthology Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807) was being prepared for the press. BACK

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

[7] Southey’s translation of Palmerin of England, by Francisco Moraes was published in 4 volumes in 1807. BACK

[8] The short-lived Athenaeum, A Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information (1807–1809), which was owned by Longman and edited by John Aikin. BACK

[9] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, which was published in 1808. BACK

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

[11] Bartholomew Barry (dates unknown) was Southey’s favourite Bristol bookseller and stationer; he frequently sent Danvers orders for books to be supplied by Barry. BACK

[12] The Transactions of the Missionary Society were the periodical reports of the non-denominational London Missionary Society, founded in 1795, to establish missions in the South Pacific islands and Africa. They were published as bound volumes after 1804. Southey reviewed the Transactions of the Missionary Society in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 189–201, and in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 621–634. He did not review them again this year for the Annual. BACK

[13] Isaac James (b. 1759) was the son of Samuel James (1716–1773), Baptist minister at Hitchin. He came to Bristol in 1773 as a student at the Baptist Academy. He kept a shop as a bookseller, dealer in tea (and sometimes undertaker), first in North Street and then in Wine Street. BACK

[14] The Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society were published as a periodical beginning in 1793, but also as bound volumes from 1800. Southey owned a copy of the five-volume Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society (1800). He reviewed the Periodical Accounts (1800–1801) in the Annual Review for 1802 (1803), 207–218. Southey did not review them again in this year for the Annual. BACK

[15] Nobiliario de D. Pedro Conde de Bracelos Hijo del Rey D. Dionis de Portugal (1640) by Afonso Pedro, Count of Barcelos (1287–1354) and Juan Bautista Labaña (1555–1624) was no. 3571 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library after his death. BACK

[16] Don Pedro López de Ayala (1332–1407), Coronicas de los Reyes de Castilla Don Pedro, Don Enrique II, Don Juan I, Don Enrique III, which comprised part of a multi-volume collection; no. 3258 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[17] Denis Dominique Cardonne (1721–1783), Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne, sous la Domination des Arabes; Composée sur Différens Manuscrits Arabes de la Bibliothèque du Roi (1765); no. 539 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[18] Franćois Augier de Marigny (d. 1762), Histoire des Revolutions de l’Empire des Arabes (1750), and Histoire des Arabes sous le Gouvernement des Califes (1750); nos 1801 and 1802 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[19] William Jillard Hort (1764–1849), Unitarian Minister and writer, who taught in the Bristol school run by John Prior Estlin (1747–1817; DNB). Hort was one of many storers of books for Southey. BACK

[20] Alexander Ranken (1755–1827; DNB), History of France from the Time of its Conquest by Clovis to the Death of Louis XVI, 9 vols, (1801); no. 2321 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[21] Don Ramón Fernández [believed to be a pseudonym of Pedro Estala (1757–1815)], Coleccion de Diversos Poetas Españoles (1786–1797); no. 3199 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

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