1323. Robert Southey to John May, 17 May 1807

1323. Robert Southey to John May, 17 May 1807 ⁠* 

May 17. 1807

My dear friend

My last was written in great haste, [1]  as soon indeed as I myself knew the intelligence which it communicated, – & in that haste, if my memory do not now deceive me, I neglected to inform you that I had decided upon making this place my permanent abode. This however you would have learnt from Harry. The motives for this are so cogent that in fact it can hardly be called a choice; – if I had not determined upon remaining I must have removed, neither knowing where to go, nor being by any means prepared for the heavy & inevitable expence.

I have now one trouble to request of you in consequence of this determination; – you have some pictures – & some few books of mine – with the set of Picart [2]  they will fill a large package, – too heavy indeed for land carriage; – will you at your leisure send them round by sea, either to Whitehaven or Workington, no matter which, – by which means they will reach me at easy expence <cost>. My library is advan <study> is hardly if at all less than yours; it is one of the most delightful rooms you have ever seen, & it will be well filled when my books are all gathered together, as they are now likely to be, – a source of no little joy to me. & when they are collected, the only inconvenience of this situation will be in great reason removed.

The expence of getting my scattered things together, – of book-shelves – & of a few decencies, for the want of which the prospect of removal has hitherto been an excuse – I shall be well able to meet by the end of the year; – if till then, you will supply me with fifty pounds it will be a great convenience, – the state of my affairs with Longman is this. When last in London I had 100 £ of him, – in fore payment for the first edition of Espriella, [3]  – or rather in part of fore payment, – for it was my share of its profits will pro in all probability be more. He has on sale or our joint account The Specimens – the Metrical Tales & Madoc. [4]  A small edition of Madoc is just compleated. [5]  And Espriella & Palmerin [6]  are both nearly compleated also. Slow as the Printers are I fully expect both to be published within six weeks at farthest. Of the old books – (the 4to edition of Madoc & the Met Tales) the sale cannot have been much, or I should have been made acquainted with it; – but every copy which sells is clear profit. By the Specimens Bedfords mismanagement will I suspect make me lose credit & prevent me from getting money – I shall try to remedy both evils by a supplementary volume. [7]  Espriella must beyond a doubt sell off an edition in little time & I think there <is good> chance of its having a great sale. Palmerin will net not less than 50 £ by Xmas, not more than 100 £. I shall draw on Longman for 50 £ at present, – which my last years reviewing with the half of the Athenæum [8]  entitles me I suppose to do: – & as soon as I have the like sum in his hands again will appropriate it to the repayment of what I now request of you. I am in great hopes – indeed in expectation – that the produce of all these books will enable me at the end of the year to make you a more considerable payment.

My reviewing used to exceed 80 £ for the last three years. I did little this year because I would not, much as I needed the money, sell the time. so Harry had half the books which came to me. And <as> now I have nothing to impede me from prosecuting the Brazilian history [9]  straight forward – for which I am certain of more considerable profits than have ever yet fallen to my share; – the Chronicle of the Cid [10]  is the only other occupation in hand, – this, as I believe I have informed you, will comprize in its preliminaries great part of what would else have been the introduction to my European history of Portugal. I find it oeconomy of time to carry on two works at once, – I find it also essential to the preservation of my health; for by long experience I know that whenever my attention is devoted to one object, that object can affects my brain too strongly, & my sleep is disturbed by perplexing dreams concerning it: in the remedy is easy – I do one thing in the morning, another in the evening, – & never dream of either: & thus it is that I am enabled to do so much. The Cid – comprizing a history of the heroic age of Spain – will go to press as soon as some books from Madrid arrive, which my Uncle has sent for. I know not whether they will reach him in time for the next convoy – but I expect Rocha Pitta’s America Port. [11]  by that convoy & some other books – to come by way of Koster, who is very conveniently situated for me. I have nearly advanced as far I as I can without this book of Rocha Pitta, – & must in the course of a few days begin with another part in consequence. My first volume will be compleated early in the winter, – & the Cid I hope published early in the Spring

– I shall do no reviewing except of a friends book, or of new travels which I want to read & cannot obtain by any other means.

Has Ld Roslyn (I think this is his title – the one who was upon the strange embassy to Lisbon) [12]  delivered certain maps of my Uncles to Mr Burn? [13]  they are what I must get engraved for my Brazil & Paraguay – & he desires me to make this inquiry for them – Ld R. borrowed them to get them copied. I have another thing to trouble you about – my Uncle will not apply to you, on account <because> of the state of his account – but he applies to me to send him a Master of Arts Gown, – & some black silk stockings – being in want of both. Now I must apply to you – having nobody else to apply to – Send them to him as a parcel from me, & I will settle for them in the first draft which I shall be able to remit –

The country is becoming very beautiful – I wish there were hopes of seeing you here, & showing you our lakes & mountains – your god daughter, & little Herbert. Early in the winter you will probably see me – I purpose travelling to London to examine a few books necessary for compleating the notes & preliminaries to the Cid, – & perhaps to may put the first volume of Brazil to press at the same time. [14]  Another part of my business will be to transcribe a MSS of Jeronymo Lobo [15]  which is in the Museum, & which my Uncle wishes me to restore to its own country – as I shall very gladly do – if I can get it transcribed I shall save myself the trouble.

Tom writes me that his ship has at last got a weeks cruise – & they have taken a privateer in that time of 14 guns. I know not what his share will amount to, it cannot be much, but it has put him in good spirits, & the weather has put him in good health. – Whether Lord Cochrane [16]  speaks truth about the navy remains to be seen, <I believe he does – indeed I can believe any thing ill of Ld St V.> but the Pallas [17]  was certainly sent to sea without a sufficient complement of men. there was scarcely a man on board when my brother joined who knew one rope from another ; – Tom stated to me that the men were so few as well as so little used to their work that the ship was not safe in bad weather. They were so exhausted for want of hands in bad weather, that he said it made his heart ache to drive them on to fresh exertions. The ship had no master, & to compleat <the matter> one of the Lieutenants knocked himself up at Plymouth, so that Tom & the other were watch & watch (ie every other three four hours on deck) till they were both so ill that the Captain – which he ought to have done sooner – allowd an old Midshipman to take charge of the deck. The men have now learnt their duty.

God bless you



* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ Richmond/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ MAY 20/180; 10 o’Clock/ MY 20/ 1807 FNn
Endorsement: N.o 127 1807/ Robert Southey/ No place 17th May/ recd. 20th do./ ansd. 27th do; Portugal
MS: Duke University Library, Southey papers. ALS; 4p. (c).
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 8–12. BACK

[1] See Southey to John May, 30 March 1807, Letter 1301. BACK

[2] Bernard Picart (1673–1733), Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (1723–1743). BACK

[3] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[4] Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807), Metrical Tales and other Poems (1805), Madoc (1805). BACK

[5] The second duodecimo edition of 1807. BACK

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

[7] A supplementary volume was planned, but did not appear. BACK

[8] The Athenæum, a Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information, a new magazine launched in 1807, edited by John Aikin and published by Longmans, to which Southey had contributed ‘Ominiana’. BACK

[9] Southey’s History of Brazil was published in three volumes from 1810–1819. BACK

[10] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, from the Spanish was published by Longmans in 1808. It comprised translations from the Crónica particular del Cid (1593), with additions from the Cróica de España of Alphonso the Wise (1541) and Romancero e Historia del Cid (1632). BACK

[11] Sebastião da Rocha Pita (1660–1738), Historia da America Portugeza, desde o anno 1500 ate o de 1724 (1730). Southey did acquire this work. BACK

[12] General James St Clair-Erskine, 2nd Earl of Rosslyn (1762–1837; DNB), a soldier and politician who was, in 1806, a member of the special mission to Lisbon which resulted in Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) being sent to the peninsula. BACK

[13] William Burns (dates unknown), a member of the English Factory, Lisbon. BACK

[14] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was not published until 1810. BACK

[15] Jerónimo Lobo (1593–1678) travelled to Ethiopia and to Goa; papers concerning his journey were found, in the twentieth century, in the library of the Duke of Palmela, and in the Ajuda library at Lisbon. BACK

[16] Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860; DNB), a daring ship’s captain in the Napoleonic war. Cochrane, angry because he felt corruption in the administration of the navy had denied him prize money and promotion, became a radical MP and critic of John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent (1735–1823; DNB), former First Lord of the Admiralty (until 1804) and, from 1806 to 1807, Commander of the Channel fleet. BACK

[17] Tom’s ship, launched in 1804, was a 32 gun fifth rate frigate, whose first captain was Cochrane, under whom she was involved in the capture of many French and Spanish warships. In 1807, command passed to Captain George Miller. According to a letter to Mary Barker, the ship was ‘so miserably manned’ that Thomas was ‘almost worn out with duty’; see Southey to Mary Barker, 4 February 1807, Letter 1273. BACK