1520. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 13 October 1808

1520. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 13 October 1808 ⁠* 

Oct 13. Herberts birthday. – 1808

Dear Tom

An Irishman who was abroad came in one day & said that he had seen that morning what he had never seen before, – a fine crop of anchovies growing in the garden. Anchovies? said an Englishman, with a half laugh & a tone of wonder. And from this the other according to the legitimate rules of Irish logic, deduced a quarrel, a challenge, & a duel in which the poor Englishman, who did not believe that anchovies grew in the garden, was killed on the spot. The moment xx he fell, the right word came into the challengers head – Och! what a pity! he cried, – by Jasus, & I meant capers all the while! – Mr Spence knew the parties, & told this story the other day at Calverts, from whence it travelled to me.

Rickman is not yet come, I have been daily expecting a letter to say that he is on the road. He comes unfortunately late, for winter has begun full six weeks before its usual time, & if it continues as cold as it now is, we shall have no more boating this season. – Miss Wood [1]  is going to Bristol, to spend the winter there with Mrs Peachey – (I suppose at the Hot-Wells) – & of all possible modes of getting there she has fixed upon going by sea to Chepstow – a precious voyage at this time of year!

I am expecting a parcel as eagerly as you can be, for the Cid [2]  has not reached me yet. To day it should have come, & I have been groaning over my disappointment. – What think you was announced the other day in the Keswick play-bill? – ‘a tale in verse by R. Southy Esqr – to be recited by Mr Deans.” There’s fame for you! – what the tale was I have not heard, – most likely the Maid of the Inn, [3]  which is right worthy of such recitation.

It has just occurred to me last night, I know not how, – that I have never (to the best of my recollection) seen one of the large house snails in this country, & very few indeed of the smaller kind which are so numerous, & of such beautiful varieties in our part of the kingdom. – You know what a collector of snail-shells I was in my time, – hoarding up all the empty ones I could find, – the rocks used to be my hunting-places. That amusement has made me familiar with every variety in that neighbourhood, & certain I am that the greater number are not to be found here. Slugs we have in plenty. – By the by I have lately xx seen it mentioned in an old French book that frogs can eat snails, shells & all.

I wish you had had the Cid to have shown the Spaniards, – they would have been pleased to see that the Campeador was beginning to have his fame here in England 700 years after his death – Unquestionably that Chronicle [4]  is one of the finest things in the world, & so I think it will be admitted to be. Coleridge is perfectly delighted with it. Frere passionately as he admired the Poem [5]  had never seen the Chronicle, which is remarkable enough, – you will see by comparing the Dumb-ee scene in both, that the Chronicle is sometimes the most poetical of the two. I am so fond of this kind of contemporary history, & so persuaded of the good which it is likely to do, by giving us a true knowledge of other times, & reviving those high & generous feelings which all modern habits of life tend to counteract – that I think seriously of translating the works of Fernan Lopez, [6]  as soon as my history is compleated. – there is the Chronicle of D. Pedro the just – which is a very small volume, – my great MS. – & the Chron. of Joam I. [7]  the whole would fill three such quartos as the Cid, I should like to do it ‘for the pleasure of the thing’ – as the man said when he was to shoot Shepherds [8]  goat.

The fifth number of Kehama is not yet sent off. [9]  Disturbed nights have of late kept me in bed till after eight, & I have got on no farther than the end of that section which leaves Arvalan at the North Pole. [10]  The following one will have a good deal of bustle & beauty in it. I hope to begin it tomorrow, & to send it off the next number on Sunday, about three more will bring you to the part which you have not yet seen.

I am getting on with my Letters from Portugal, [11]  the evenings close in by tea time, & fire & candle bring with them close work in the dark, & nothing to take me from it. The Long Man of the Row recommends the small size in preference to quarto, as producing greater profits in consequence of its readier sale. To this I willingly assent, – & so they will probably extend to three such volumes as Espriella, [12]  – when they are done the fresh Letters of Espriella will come in their turn, [13]  & so I go on. Huzza! two & twenty volumes already – the Cid when reprinted will make two more, – & please God five a year in addition as long as I live.

Edith has just been in with her kiss, – as regular as the evening gun. She wants to know when Uncle will come home. Sooner perhaps than he himself thinks, – for this glorious Revolution in Spain will bring Bonaparte down. It is morally impossible that such a nation can be subdued. If King Joseph [14]  should fall into their hands – I pray that Landor may be on the spot, he will take care that no mischief shall happen by keeping him prisoner.

Lloyd & his father & mother dined with us last week – Mrs Coleridge is at xx Brathay,– settling the boys [15]  in & lodging at Clappersgate, from where they can go daily to school at Ambleside. Coleridge is at Grasmere, & about half his books have been packed off to him, – just however as the settling had taken place the Wordsworths have been so cruelly smoked in last Fridays gale, that they talk of abandoning the house in utter despair. – It will be happy for the house if they do, for I am told they make as dolesome an appearance in good rooms as you may suppose.

O my parcel! my parcel! I want my parcel! – The proofs of the Letters were not sent me, [16]  – it was hurried too rapidly thro two presses for that: so I anticipate many provoking blunders. – The first proof of Thalaba [17]  I expect every day & I suppose Brazil will go to press before Xmas. [18] 

God bless you


Do’nt torment me by dripping your wax up the letter, – so as inevitably to have it torn on opening. [19] 


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought/ Plymouth Dock
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 170–173 [in part]. BACK

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

[2] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

[3] ‘Mary, the Maid of the Inn’, written in 1796 and published by Southey in Poems (1797), in The Oracle, 11 February 1797 and, revised, in later editions of the 1797 Poems, in Minor Poems (1815 and 1823) and in Poetical Works Collected by Himself (1837–1838). It was still being issued as a one penny broadside ballad in the mid-nineteenth century. BACK

[4] No. 3344 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (c. 1043–1099), Chronica de la Famoso Cavallero Cid Ruy Diez Campeador (1593). BACK

[5] The medieval Poema del Cid, edited by Tomás Antonio Sánchez de Uribe (1723–1802) in his Colección de poesías castellanas anteriores al siglo XV (1779–1790). BACK

[6] Fernao Lopes (c. 1385–after 1459), chronicler of Portugal. BACK

[7] Crónica del-rei D. Pedro (1735); the manuscript ‘Cronica del Rei Dom Fernando o Noveno Rei de Portugal’, which was listed as no. 3829 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library after his death; Chronica del Rey D. Ioam I de Boa Memoria, e dos Reys de Portugal o Decimo, Primeira Parte, em Que se contem A Defensam do Reyno até ser eleito Rey & Segunda Parte, em que se continuam as guerras com Castella, desde o Principio de seu reinado ate as pazes (1644). BACK

[8] The Rev. Dr William Shepherd (1768–1847; DNB), pastor at the English Presbyterian Chapel, Gateacre, Liverpool. Shepherd lived at The Nook, Gateacre, whence he and his wife ran a boarding school. Southey had met the couple in Liverpool when he visited Roscoe in February 1808. BACK

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

[10] The Curse of Kehama, Book 11. BACK

[11] These were not completed. BACK

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

[13] These were not completed. BACK

[14] Joseph Bonaparte (1768–1844), the eldest brother of Napoleon, who made him King of Spain (1808–1813). BACK

[16] The expanded edition of his Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797, 1798) published in 2 volumes as Letters Written During a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal (1808). BACK

[17] The second edition of Thalaba the Destroyer was published in 1809. BACK

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

[19] Postscript, written at top of first page. BACK

Places mentioned

Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)
Grasmere (Dove Cottage) (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)