1478. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 11 July 1808

1478. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 11 July 1808 ⁠* 

Keswick. July 11. 1808.

My dear Tom

The vile cold which had just commenced its operations when you left us, is I hope now ending them. The fountains of my head are choaked up, – which is a previous step to their drying up, & I am resuming my regular employments after this unaccountable interruption. This morning I finished that section of Kehama which was begun while you were here, & which continues with laying Ladurlad in the Ship of Heaven. [1]  What ship’s that, you will not say upon this occasion, inasmuch as you know something about her, & her commander, & her crew. Tomorrow I land them above the great magnet rock at the North Pole, – & that <this next> section will have nothing but images of beauty.

Where can Aunt Mary be? I have been daily hoping to hear from her, & to hear that she was coming this way, – as there can be nothing but the journey now to prevent her. [2]  As for him, we must disinherit him, that’s certain, – nobody will take him at half-price, & the Devil has my consent to take him for nothing. This last freak is quite unaccountable, he behaved to me as civilly as was in his nature, & I thought was disposed to do so to all of us. There must surely Tom be some twist in the head both in his case & his brothers.

Jackson has bought a horse, who I think would not be sorry that you are at sea, if he knew what sort of a thing a sailor on horseback is. – Our bacon is arrived & proves excellent, – & Miss Wood [3]  is expected to make her appearance every day. This is the news of the house. the three maids turn out very well, & our domestic xx affairs are very much improved by the change. the two younger ones have just had the cow pock.

Who’s this for? said I to Edith last night, when the third kiss was given me on going to bed. For Uncle. What am I to do with it? – Send it in a letter. How am I to send it? – Put it in the letter. How am I to put it? Write it in the letter, – after half a minutes consideration. – Be pleased therefore to take notice, that there is a kiss inclosed herein, for every night since you went away.

Your shirts are at last compleated, washed & marked, & the two parcels one for the coach, the other for the waggon, will go by the next carrier. The books from Longmans I suppose will be ready to start within a month. my preface & introduction are printed, & four sheets of the [MS obscured] Neville tells me a third edition of the Remains [4]  will soon be wanted. That book is making its way in the world just as I could wish, & will raise up friends for poor James, [5]  xx xx who really wants a friend; because of his disabled arm. Your Commander in Chief [6]  will be sure to hear of this book.

I have begun my Portugueze Letters. – this new book [7]  will be a good deal in the way of Espriella. [8]  Here are some verses translated from Vieira the Painter, [9]  which will go in a note in the first letter. He is speaking of a light-house near the Bar of Lisbon called Nosse Senhora da Guia, – I daresay you know it.

Now was the time, when in the skies
Night should have shown her starry eyes,
But those bright orbs above were shrouded,
And Heaven was dark & overclouded,
And now the Beacon we espied,
Our blessed Lady of the Guide,
And there propitious rose her light,
The never-failing star of night.
The seaman in his weary way
Beholds with joy that saving ray,
And steers his vessel from afar
In safety oer the dangerous bar.
A holy impulse of delight
Possess’d us at that well-known sight,
And in one feeling all allied,
We blest Our Lady of the Guide,
Star of the Sea all hail! we sung,
And prais’d her with one heart & tongue,
And on the dark & silent sea
Chaunted our Lady’s Litany.

This is the poem from which the first note to Madoc is extracted: [10]  – by far the most curious & interesting poem in the Portugueze language. These are sweet lines, & describe a sort of psalm-singing quite in unison with my feelings. – I shall work steadily on with these Letters – beginning a great many at once, as I did with D Manuel, [11]  – & I shall send them to my Uncle to be corrected & interpreted with his knowledge, – so the book will Certes be a good one.

Little progress has been made in your Kehama, [12]  because my eyes suffered severely during my cold, & have not yet compleatly recovered. In what little is transcribed some alterations have been made, which you will perceive, when the first number reaches you. Each number is sewn in a cover of the quaker marble paper, bought at Barrys, [13]  – it will be the prettiest manuscript I have ever written. – My plan for Pelayo [14]  is not yet ripe, – it is however ripening, & I expect to be ready to begin with it, whenever I come to a stop in Kehama. Huzza Tom – for these two – & half a dozen more before I have done.

God bless you – I have a load of letters which ought to be written, & the thought makes me growl like a bear



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought/ Plymouth Dock/ or elsewhere./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Curse of Kehama (1810), Book 7. BACK

[2] She had been turned out of her home with him by her brother Thomas. BACK

[3] Isabella Wood (dates unknown), cousin of Humphrey Senhouse. BACK

[4] The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham (1807), which were edited by Southey. BACK

[5] James White (baptized 1787–1885), Henry Kirke and Neville White’s younger brother. BACK

[6] Thomas Southey was now under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas Sotheby (1759–1831), younger brother of the author, William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), Southey’s acquaintance. BACK

[7] Southey did not publish a new book of this description but his 1797 Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal were reprinted in an expanded form in 1808 as Letters written during a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal. BACK

[8] Southey’s Letters from England: By Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella (1807). BACK

[9] Portuguese painter Francisco Vieira (1765–1805). BACK

[10] A note to Part 1, Book 1, of Madoc (1805) cites the poem, O insignie Pintor e Leal Esposo Viera Lusitano, Historia Verdadeira, que elle escreve em Cantos Lyricos (1780). BACK

[11] See note 8. BACK

[12] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[13] Bartholomew Barry (dates unknown), of 21 High Street, was Southey’s favourite Bristol bookseller and stationer. BACK

[14] The planned poem became Roderick, Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)