1513. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 27 September 1808

1513. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 27 September 1808 ⁠* 

Keswick. Tuesday Sept 27. 1808.

My dear Tom

As for this curst affair in Portugal, I have no heart to write about it. One comfort is that all England is in an uproar about it, every man feels like, & I think there is good reason to hope that at last we shall see a General shot for misconduct. The plain course which an able ministry would pursue would be this, – to break the convention, & deliver up to the French the wretch who signed it, with a halter round his neck. This was a Roman custom, & a wise one it was. My own belief is that no man could have consented to let Junot carry away his plunder, unless he had had a share given him for his consent; surely he who had so little sense of honour as to make such terms, cannot be supposed to have enough to stand in his way upon any occasion. [1] 

Miss Wood [2]  staid with us nine days, & in that time walked above 50 miles with me. Some magnificent marches we made. The two Ediths [3]  & I returned went with her to Netherhall, from whence we returned yesterday, after a visit of five clear days. Lt. Humphrey Senhouse, [4]  who lately came with dispatches from the West Indies, is there; – a man above the common; – he has desired leave to claim acquaintance with you whenever you may happen to meet.

I dare say your Admiral [5]  knows about as much of my profession as he does of yours. Yet I should have thought he would have followed his brothers opinions respecting Wordsworth.

My last [6]  told you that my old Letters [7]  were purified & improved & in the press. Yesterday on my return I found news from Longman that the edition of Thalaba [8]  was gone at length, & as he thought with rather an accelerated pace, (the work of the Remains [9]  no doubt) – he recommends reprinting it with as little delay as may be, & I began immediately to revise it carefully. There is something unpleasant in turning over leaves so fast as is now necessary, when only a few lines of text are to be found: – I shall therefore place the notes at the end of each book. – Huzza Tom, slow & sure! better one edition in 7 years, than 7 in one, – if profit were out of the question. Sudden reputations never last. Thalaba & Madoc against all the Lays & Marmions [10]  in the world!

By this time you have probably received more of Kehama, three other numbers having been sent off, – so far there has been a good deal of alteration there will not be much to come, at least not as yet, so that the remainder as far as is written will come somewhat more speedily. [11]  The Cid, Longman tells me, was to be published yesterday, & I believe the Letters were published last week. [12]  Perhaps they will not have thought enough to inclose a copy in your parcel, I not having ordered it, my order having been given before the reprint was thought of. If so, it may wait for the new Thalaba, [13]  & till my Uncles ‘Brazil Pilot’ be ready. [14]  I have to night received a MSS of his with this title, which Arrowsmith & Longman are to publish with charts. His name of course does not appear to this, which is purely & strictly what its title expresses.

The Lloyds were here last week. Sophia is not in health, & he is never likely to be so, as he continues unemployed. – Coleridge is settled at Grasmere, & the boys going forthwith to school at Ambleside, – indeed Derwent is already gone. My daughter sends you your kiss duly every night when she goes to bed. – You would be delighted with Herbert. He bids fair to be as noisy as his father, & rides pocko unmercifully; tho I have of late succeeded in teaching him two useful pieces of family machinery, that pocko may be tired, & that the ‘naughty hyæna’ sometimes goes to bee-boos, at which time it is not proper to have the book taken down.

It is likely that the next news which I shall have to communicate will be how Brazil is gone to press, [15]  – for paper will now be falling, & we have waited for nothing else. My operas increase & multiply. The new edition of the Letters increases them to 22 volumes, & whenever the Cid is repub[lished] that will add two more. In three or four years (if I live so long) I hope to outnumber my birth days. Of late Kehama & every thing else has been standing still, while I walked about with Miss Wood, & while we were at Netherhall, – now I shall begin with freshened appetite.

Rickman comes down in October, – it is to be hoped early in the month. Our winter continues delightfully fine, & has been so since you left us with very little interruption. today (Sept 27) I have seen xx snow for the first time, upon Helvellin. This is very early, & I am told there it was snow seen there last week, – the air has quite a frosty feel. The boat will be in requisition when Rickman comes, & I propose taking some short walks with him.

I have run rapidly thro this letter, telling you all that comes to hand, as fast as it came. – Lt Senhouse knew Jon Hanfield [16]  well, & speaks of him as you did. I should take him to be a good officer by his general good sense, & the way in which he speaks of others. – Mrs Martin [17]  does not come this year as she had once hoped. She requests that whenever you come to Liverpool, their house may be your home: What more have I to say? – Oh that the earthquake is a mere fable, xx nobody either here, at Maryport or at Whitehaven having felt it. [18]  – The smaller island had sunk when I was there with Dr Isabel [19]  ten days ago, & the larger was mostly under water. MacDowells sister [20]  calls you the Colonel of the Dread nothing, [21]  & thinks you the best man in the world for being so kind to her Brother. This poor fellow was no drunkard before he went in the navy – the hope of advancement is more likely to cure him than any thing else.

God bless you. Ediths love, & a kiss enclosed for every day since the date of my last.



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

[1] Southey’s exasperation was caused by the Convention of Cintra, signed on 30 August, whereby the French army commanded by Jean-Andoche Junot (1771–1813) and defeated by Anglo-Portuguese forces under Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the 1st Duke of Wellington) at Vimeiro on 21 August, was allowed to retreat intact, with its weapons, from Portugal. Wellesley, who did not sign the Convention, had been superseded in command by two veteran generals, just arrived in Iberia, who were content to make peace: Sir Harry Burrard (1755–1813; DNB) and Sir Hew Dalrymple. Public outcry led to an inquiry, after which Burrard and Dalrymple never again took command. BACK

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

[3] Southey’s wife and daughter Edith May. BACK

[4] Lieutenant (later Captain), Sir Humphrey Fleming Senhouse (1781–1841), cousin of Southey’s friend Humphrey Senhouse, was a naval officer born and brought up in the West Indies, who had been at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) and subsequently served in the West Indies. He had been sent to Britain with despatches from the Commander of the fleet in July; in 1809 he would return to the West Indies station. BACK

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

[6] For this, see Southey to Thomas Southey, 9 September 1808, Letter 1504. BACK

[7] Southey’s Letters written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797) were reprinted in an expanded form in 1808 as Letters written during a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal. BACK

[8] The first edition of Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

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

[10] Walter Scott’s poems, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805) and Marmion (1808) were popular successes. Scott sold the copyrights of his first two poems to Longman for £500 each; for Marmion Constable paid him 1000 guineas. BACK

[11] Southey was sending his brother drafts of The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[12] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808) and his Letters written during a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal (1808); an expanded reprint of Letters written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797). BACK

[13] The second edition of Thalaba the Destroyer (1809). BACK

[14] Manoel Pimentel (1650–1719), whose navigational aid was translated and updated by Hill as The Brazil Pilot; or, a Description of the Coast of Brazil, Translated from the Portuguese of Manoel Pimentel … to which are added, Charts, of some of its most Considerable Ports (1809). This was no. 2331 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[15] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[16] A midshipman on the same ship as Thomas Southey, his death was reported in a letter from Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn on 11 June 1808, Letter 1465. BACK

[17] Frances Julia Martin, née Smith (dates unknown) born in Norwich, sister of James Edward Smith (1759–1828; DNB) the botanist, who married in 1804 Thomas Martin (1769–1850), first a Unitarian minister in Yarmouth, then a Liverpool merchant and Secretary of the Liverpool Royal Institution. The Martins were members of the William Roscoe circle; Southey met them on his visit to Liverpool in February 1808. BACK

[18] The Courier had recently carried an account of an earthquake in the area; see Southey to Thomas Southey, 9 September 1808, Letter 1504. BACK

[19] Unidentified. BACK

[20] Unidentified. BACK

[21] A pun on the name of Tom’s ship, HMS Dreadnought. HMS Dreadnought was a 98-gun second rate ship of the line launched in 1801. She had fought at Trafalgar (1805) and 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

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Netherhall (mentioned 2 times)
Grasmere (Dove Cottage) (mentioned 1 time)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)