1230. Robert Southey to John May, 24 October 1806

1230. Robert Southey to John May, 24 October 1806 ⁠* 

Friday. Oct 24. 1806

My dear friend

On my return from a five days absence I find your letter enclosing Harry’s remittance of 25 £, which I thus with due punctuality acknowledge. – I thought my last had told you that he & Tom were with Thomas Southey in Somersetshire. Tom wrote to the Admiralty before he set off from hence. You will be glad to hear that Wynn has recommended him to his Uncle (T. Grenville) for promotion & employment. he cannot flatter us, he says, with hopes of early success, – but I trust succeed it will in time.

I have this evening received a third letter by way of bottle & sea. [1]  it was thrown on the W. coast of Ireland after a three months cruise, <in which it> & followed precisely the track which according to St Pierre [2]  it ought to have done.

We are in momently expectation of Coleridges arrival – who in the whole course of his irregular life has never done any thing more unaccountably strange than loitering away nearly three months since he reached England [3]  – instead of posting home to his family as fast as he could. The few letters which he has written us are in the very worst mood of despondency, as if he never wrote till he had exhausted his whole stock of spirits in conversation. I expect to see him better than these letters would lead a stranger to expect in bodily health, but miserably hypochondriacal. He is to lecture this winter at the Royal Institution  [4] 

Edith & both children  [5]  go on well. She joins me in remembrances to you & Mrs May. I hope your sister  [6]  continues to amend – forget not to mention her when next you write – & also tell me if there has been any account of Robert Walpole, [7]  for whom I feel anxious as well from my knowledge of his family – & because he is a man of genius & learning, from whom much may be hoped.

God bless you

yrs affectionately

R Southey.


* Endorsement: No 123. 1806/ Robert Southey/ No place 24th October/ recd. 27th do/ ansd. 15th Decr.
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos (ed.), The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), p. 111. BACK

[1] Southey often asked his brother Thomas to send letters to him in bottles from the ships he was serving on. For an account of these, see Southey to the Editor of the Athenaeum, [April 1807], Letter 1314. BACK

[2] Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737–1814), Paul et Virginie (1787) had given Southey the idea for the bottle experiment. BACK

[3] Coleridge had travelled abroad to Malta for his health in 1804, taking up a temporary post there as Public Secretary to the British Civil Commissioner. He arrived back in England in August 1806 and though he returned to Keswick at the end of October, he did not stay to live there. BACK

[4] Coleridge was to lecture ‘at the Royal Institution upon the Principles common to the Fine Arts’; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 18 October 1806, Letter 1229. He did not in fact lecture there until 1808, on the subjects of the Principles of Poetry, Shakespeare and Milton. BACK

[6] One of John May’s five sisters; otherwise unidentified. BACK

[7] Robert Walpole (1781–1856; DNB), a classical scholar, was the eldest son of Robert Walpole (1736–1810), envoy to Portugal, and his first wife, Diana Grossett (d. 1784), with whom Southey had been acquainted in Lisbon. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)