1342. Robert Southey to John May, 7 July 1807

1342. Robert Southey to John May, 7 July 1807 ⁠* 

My dear friend

A letter which I have lately received from my Uncle contains the following passage, – of which I send you the ipsissima verba [1]  rather than the substance because they will amuse you. ‘Mr Bell has desired me to employ you in executing a commission for a particular friend of his, who is fitting up a new house, & wishes to have a set of the best maps of the four quarters of the world, & a General Map. His directions are such as will make you smile

2 of the pannels are 12¼ feet each

1 _______________ 6 ⅓

He expects that the maps should be as exactly as possible to these dimensions, – that is for instance, Asia & Europe should be squeezed or lengthened so as to fit in one of the wide pannels, Africa & America in the other, & the great Mappa mundi in the pannel of 6 ⅓ feet. He has added the heighth 7½ feet, expecting that Arrowsmith will make maps, according to this order, with the Lat: & Long: adjusted to his stucco pannels. All that we can do with this commission is to order four maps & the General Map neatly mounted on spring rollers, of the latest & best that have been published. Should there be any on different scales, to take such as may come the nearest to this Gentlemans Pannels, – to have them well packed in a box, embarked on board a merchantship, with a bill of lading & directed – Ao Illmo Sñr Francisco Soares de Aranjo e Silva. Deputado da Real Junta do Comercio &c &c Lisboa. & to desire Mr May would pay for them, who will be immediately reimbursed from hence by means of Mr Coppendale. And all that I have to desire of you is that you would make it appear that you have used your influence with Arrowsmith on this occasion, as the people here have much faith in your abilities &c &c – & as the person from for whom these maps are may be useful to you if you ever appear again in this country.’

Longman is instructed to send you three copies of Espriella which is advertised for this present week. [2]  Two are for Lisbon, & I will frank up to you a letter which is to accompany that directed for Francisco Xavier Baeta: [3]  – a physician of very considerable talents, who brought over letters to me from Beddoes & Davy when I was last in Portugal. – In reading this book you will easily distinguish what is written for Espriella from what is written thro him. Those letters which relate to the state of sectarianism contain some curious matter. Bryan I knew personally, & heard from his own lips his history, & his explanation of the system of Brothers. [4]  He it was who took the knife to stab Brothers, as he himself told me. Where these letters are not written from personal knowledge the materials have cost me some money <in> x procuring them, & some time in examining them – the facts are not affected by the Catholic colouring. It is the genuine heretical history of our own times.

The more I think of Edward the less hope I have of him. [5]  I shall have an eye upon him, & if he continues to act decently in his strolling capacity xxx till I travel westward, will then see whether any thing can be planned for him, & anything obtained for him from the elder Thomas Southey.

My Uncle tells me of Harrys arrival. Tom – I am sorry to say is fallen under a bad captain, [6]  – one whose name stinks in the navy, & who makes every body miserable under him. He is as much detested as Lord Cochrane, [7]  who last commanded the Pallas, is beloved. Tom suffers dreadfully from haemorrhoids, & thinks he shall be obliged to quit the ship. [8] 

Can any thing be so disgraceful as the Debates in Parliament! They compleatly remind one of the first scene in Ben Jonsons Alchemist. [9] 

Your god-daughter continues to do well. Herbert, is bring weaned, – against our wishes. he xxx has for some time ceased to grow, & xx as his mother is not very well herself we hope weaning will be the remedy for both. Otherwise just at teething xx is a bad time. – I miss Harry who for the last three summers has bore a hand at the oar with me, on Derwentwater, & footed it with me over the mountains.

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

July 7. 1807.


* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ Richmond/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ JUL10/ 1807; 10o’Clock/ JY.10/ 1807F.N.n
Endorsements: No. 129 1807/ Robert Southey/ No place 7th July/ recd. 10th do/ ansd. 20th Sept
Watermark: shield/ 1803/ T Botfield
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos (ed.), The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 112–114. BACK

[1] Meaning ‘the very words’. BACK

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

[3] This letter has not survived. BACK

[4] Letters from England included sections on the visit of the copperplate engraver and religious visionary William Bryan (dates unknown) to the Société des Illuminés d’Avignon, and of his subsequent relationship with the self-proclaimed prophet Richard Brothers (1757–1824; DNB). For these sections see Robert Southey and Millenarianism: Documents Concerning the Prophetic Movements of the Romantic Era. BACK

[5] For Edward Southey’s recent history, see Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, [c. 18 May 1807], (Letter 1324) and Southey to Charles Danvers, 25 May 1807 (Letter 1326). BACK

[6] Captain George Miller (dates unknown), who in 1807 took command of HMS Pallas, a 32 gun fifth rate frigate launched in 1804. BACK

[7] Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860; DNB), a daring ship’s captain in the Napoleonic war, under whom the Pallas was involved in the capture of many French and Spanish warships. BACK

[8] He was forced to do so; see Southey to John May, 12 August 1807, Letter 1352. BACK

[9] Ben Jonson (1572–1637; DNB), The Alchemist (1610). In Act I, scene i the characters Jeremy and Subtle argue over who is the more important to the swindle they are contriving. BACK

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