1572. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 28 January 1809

1572. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 28 January 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Harry

I ought to have written sooner, – but sometimes other orders of the evening have made put it out of my power, & sometimes perhaps when it was in my power it has been out of mind. We have been considering concerning my journey to Durham, – it is cruel weather, – either too cold to move, or too wet for travelling. About the latter end of March Edith expects to be confined, [1]  – there is no time when a man can be so conveniently from home as upon such occasions as this, – I have resolved therefore to defer my journey to Durham till this more convenient season. As soon as she shall be safe in bed God willing I shall start, & probably make first for Edinburgh, if Scott be there, to have a weeks work at the Advocates Library. Till then I pray thee have me, excused.

To days news has blown brought a cloud over me which it is not easy to shake off. We have lost our two best Generals  [2]  (for Baird is dead also, this my letters tell me) – The evil arising from this <his> loss is that it makes a showy story for a Bulletin, – & that it prevents enquiry into the conduct of the retreat. On the other hand the superiority of our men whenever they have met the enemy has been decidedly established & puts us out of all fear of the consequences of invasion.

Our conduct from first to last has been one series of blunders, – in which Moore himself has borne a part. I do not despair of Spain, but this I perceive that nothing effectual for Spain will be done by this country, & that no good is to be hoped for till we have thoroughly regenerated ourselves. I know not where our political Saviour is to be looked for, but the Signs of the Times are full. All parties are so despicable that party-spirit in the nation has died a natural death, & there is a wholesomer feeling in the people of England, than perhaps there ever has been at any former time period.

If your Annuals were but just compleated when you wrote to me, they will be too late for the year for King Thomas [3]  will publish in February. [4]  I have done but little, & that little not much to my satisfaction, the books not being to my mind. [5]  There is much amusement in reviewing Travels, & much intellectual profit, – but when Our Fathers which are in the Row send such books as can only serve as Texts to write from, I begin to feel that their pay is not liberal enough to serve as a stimulus for exertion, & that I should take more than twice the trouble for twice the double per-sheetage, & perhaps do the business in less time for whenever I yawn over the text I am sure to sleep over the sermon.

I marvel how you contrive to get on, – yet your practise is rather more, than less than was to be expected, for a first year, & at your time of life. I have not given in your name to Coleridge, because we may as well spare you the expence: [6]  if the Friend is ever reprinted it will be in volumes, at less than half the original price, – & if it be not, the old numbers will be as waste paper & I can lay hands on a set for you. They who know Coleridge ought not to be displeased with what they may think arrogance in the Prospectus, – I do not like the Prospectus, but my objection is to its affectation of humility, – that C. has opinions & discoveries of the first importance in psychology to communicate I know, & that he can demonstrate some of our the Gods of our idolatry (Locke for one) [7]  to be mere wooden idols I know also.

I have corrected eleven sheets of my first volume, & shall probably have it out in June, – my present work is transcribing for the press, & filling up skeleton chapters, from such composed of such disjecta membra that it is no little labour to collect & knot them into one proportioned body. [8]  Of Kehama there are more than 3000 lines done, less than another thousand will probably compleat it. [9]  Ballantyne has written to me about an Edinburgh Annual Register which he is setting up, [10]  – I have promised him some verse, which must be written for the nonce, – & luckily enough have fallen in with a story this afternoon, which may be told with much effect in the manner of my Gualberto [11] 

The Imperial is going or gone with Mrs P. to Madeira, – I fear upon a hopeless voyage. He writes me occasionally two sheets full of his politics. I skip all this part of their contents, & put the letters behind my bed room glass to serve as shaving paper. – This reminds me Poor Jackson I am afraid is going very fast – What we suspected to be angina pectoris proves to have proceeded from a diseased spleen, – which is manifestly enlarged – he gets little sleep from pain in the shoulder & breast, – he loses flesh, – & his legs begin to swell. We shall be very sorry to lose him. Mrs Wilson is in excellent health, & almost seems to grow younger. Wordsworth is got into a great house at Grasmere, [12]  – & his old one is to be inhabited by De Quincey, – a very little but remarkably able man about 22 – whose head is full of all sorts of knowledge, who knows all the odd fishes of the age, & is himself of that genus

God bless you


Jany. 28. 1809.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Durham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.71. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Bertha Southey was born on 27 March 1809. BACK

[2] Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), Scottish General with a long and varied military career. He was also MP for Lanark Burghs 1784–1790. After the controversial Convention of Cintra (1808), Moore was given the command of the British troops in the Iberian peninsula. He was fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna on 16 January 1809. Sir David Baird, 1st Baronet (1757–1829; DNB). Unlike Moore, Baird was not killed, but at the battle of Corruna his left arm was shattered. He never took command in the field again. BACK

[3] Arthur Aikin the previous editor of the Annual Review had been replaced by Thomas Rees (1777–1864; DNB), Unitarian minister and writer on theological history, brother of Owen Rees and partner with Longman (who published the Annual Review). BACK

[4] Henry reviewed (with Southey’s help) in the Annual Review for 1808, 7 (1809), Alexander Murray (1775–1813; DNB), Account of the Life and Writings of James Bruce ... Author of Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile: in the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 & 1773 (1808), 263–270, and The Gulistan, or Rose Garden, of Musle-Huddeen Shaik Sady, of Sheeras, tr. Francis Gladwin (1744/5–1812; DNB) ( (1808), 627–629. BACK

[5] Southey reviewed the following in the Annual Review for 1808, 7 (1809): Tour Through Spain and Part of Portugal, Volume 3 of Richard Phillips, A Collection of Modern and Contemporary Voyages and Travels (1805–1810), 56–57; Christian Augustus Fischer (1771–1829), A Picture of Madrid: Taken on the Spot. Translated from the German (1808), 57–60; Thomas Clarkson, The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament (1808), 127–148; Report of the Committee of the African Institution, Read to the General Meeting on the 15th July, 1807, Together with the Rules and Regulations which were then Adopted for the Government of the Society (1807); Thomas Zouch (1737–1815; DNB), Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Sir Philip Sydney (1808), 224–235; Robert Drury (1687–1734?; DNB), The Adventures of Robert Drury, During Fifteen Years Captivity on the Island of Madagascar; Containing a Description of that Island; an Account of its Produce, Manufactures, and Commerce; With an Account of the Manners and Customs, Wars, Religion, and Civil Policy of the Inhabitants: to Which is Added, a Vocabulary of the Madagascar Language. Written by Himself, and now Carefully Revised and Corrected from the Original (1807), 253–263; John Finlay (1782–1810), Scottish Historical and Romantic Ballads: Chiefly Ancient with Explanatory Notes and a Glossary (1808), 457–462; Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe (1781?-1851), Metrical Legends (1807), 473–473; Francis Douce, Illustrations of Shakespeare, and of Ancient Manners: with Dissertations on the Clown and Fool of Shakespeare; on the Collection of Popular Tales entitled Gesta Romanorum; and on the English Morris Dance (1807), 554–562; Charles Lamb, Specimens of English Dramatic Poets, who Lived about the Time of Shakespeare (1808), 562–570; [Howard Luke (1772–1864)], A Brief Apology for Quakerism, Inscribed to the Edinburgh Reviewers (1808), 354–356. BACK

[6] For the subscription list of Coleridge’s new periodical, The Friend, the first edition of which was published 1 June 1809. BACK

[7] The philosopher John Locke (1632–1704; DNB). BACK

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

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

[10] In 1809 Southey agreed to provide historical material for the Edinburgh Annual Register, the journal issued by the publishing firm in which Ballantyne, Scott and Ballantyne’s younger brother John (1774–1821) were partners. BACK

[11] ‘St. Juan Gualberto’, first published in the Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1800), pp. 1–19 and included in Metrical Tales and other Poems (London, 1805), pp. 48–66. BACK

[12] Allan Bank, Dove Cottage having become too small for his domestic circle of family and friends, including Coleridge. BACK

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