1586. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 21 February 1809

1586. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 21 February 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

The papers which you wrote respecting the state of the navy are I believe here, where you left them, in the little writing desk. I think this application of the Captains affords a good opportunity for bringing the subject forward in the Courier, as soon as Mrs Clarke & the Duke of York shall be so far forgotten as to leave room in the newspapers & in the public mind for any thing else. [1]  Send me any thing else that occurs to you upon this business, – but in particular, if you can, the exact pay of officers of every description as far back as you can go, & the additions which may have been made in it from time to time. I will put the materials together in a series of Courier essays, [2]  – & send them previously to their publication to you in a Government frank.

Edith has been very ill, – & I believe the first cause of her illness was some such cursed companions as you got rid of at Bristol. They brought on tenesmus, [3] . – & we were very apprehensive that premature labour would have been the consequence. Leeching & laudanum have removed the effect but not the cause, – & she is <still> very much out of spirits. She was confined to her bed for more than a week.

You will be sorry that poor Mr Rathbone is dead. [4]  I had a letter last week from Mrs Martin [5]  telling me so. This letter expressed a hope of seeing you again at Liverpool one of these days, – where it seems you are in great odour.

I have been working incessantly at those books which it was necessary to send back as soon as possible, [6]  – for unluckily there was is scarcely any book that has ever fallen into in my way from which so much was to be extracted as from one of these in three closely printed octavo volumes. They gave me three weeks hard work, & now I must work double tides to fetch up my lea way, & get copy ready for the press, – for here also an unexpected hindrance has arisen. I had written twelve months ago all the account I could then recollect of a famous voyage down the Orellana, [7]  – lo & behold among the books which have since come to hand is so copious a history of this very voyage, that I hadx between fifty & sixty pages to write for the middle of the first volume, where I only expected to have had a half a dozen to transcribe. I have broken the neck of this business, & shall in another week get thro it. This second batch of the first volume has taken me a great deal of time so much has there been to fill up, & to collect from very numerous authorities, – the last portion will neither require half the time or trouble – the main part there will be smooth transcribing.

This morning after a long interruption I again resumed Kehama, & hope to get on rapidly. There is another number for you upon the stocks, & I shall endeavour to xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx finish the transcription with as little delay as possible. The truth is that work how I will business seems to accumulate upon my hands, Here will be the Quarterly Review published this week, – & I have no time to lose in setting about my account of the Otaheitean mission for the second number. [8]  Here are my Letters from Portugal [9]  & the additional Espriellas [10]  standing stock still. I shall hardly be able to take breath till my History of Brazil is compleated. [11]  The Annual comes out this week. [12]  – it shall be sent you with the edition of Thalaba, [13]  of which only a single sheet more remains to be printed.

We have had dreadful winds here, but none no such floods as seem to have deluged all the south & west of England. My Aunt there tells me the people in Taunton whose houses were are near the bridge, have been obliged to live in the upper rooms for a month. She is lodging at Bishops Hull, [14]  & she says John Capon [15]  is expecting to hear from you. Lloyd also wonders you do not write.

Your nephew is the softest, roundest fellow, – the most delicate kissing that can be conceived, & with a language of his own. You would delight in him. Emma will soon walk alone, she is kept back by teething, in which she suffers rather more than Herbert did. Your niece grows, & begins to work & read well. There is about to be a book opened in which all her rewards are to be entered, – for she has already earned three sixpences for good behaviour, – & these rewards are to be laid out by me when I go to London, or any great town. – A good contrivance for giving <making> her happy by sixpenny worths first, – & then giving her the whole sum total of happiness at last.

God bless you – As for what is doing any where except in the House of Commons the newspapers say nothing. Mrs Clark [16]  has made a more effectual diversion in favour of Bonaparte – than we are likely to do in favour of the Spaniards.

Here is a good effusion which has been sent me upon one of his Majestys Lent Preachers –

If you wish to be pious & mean to keep Lent
Pray go to the Chapel & hear Dr Dent, [17] 
And I’ll be damnd for you if you don’t repent.


Feby 21. 1809.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought/ Plymouth Dock
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), Commander in Chief of the army. He held the post from 1798–1809, but was forced to resign in the wake of allegations that he had profited by allowing his mistress, Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB), to accept money from army officers, in return for which promotion was arranged. BACK

[2] Southey did not produce articles for the Courier on naval officers’ pay. BACK

[3] A spurious feeling of the need to evacuate the bowels, with little or no stool passed. BACK

[4] William Rathbone (1757–1809), a Liverpool ship-owner and merchant and a Quaker, who opposed the slave trade. BACK

[5] 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

[6] Walter Scott had borrowed the following books for Southey from the Advocates Library in Edinburgh for his History of Brazil (1810–1819): Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus, Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariæ (1784); Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485–1557), Navigationi et Viaggi (1550–1559); José Gumilla (1686–1750), Histoire Naturelle, Civile et Geographique de L’Orenoque (1758), a French version of the original Historia Natural, Civil, & Geografica de las Naciones situadas en las Riveras del Rio Orinoco (1731). BACK

[7] Pedro Teixeira (d. 1641) was a Portuguese explorer who became, in 1637, the first European to travel up the entire length of the Amazon, an expedition which helped extend Portuguese colonial possessions there at the expense of Spain. Cristóbal de Acuña (1597–1676?), a member of Texeira’s expedition, published Nuevo Descubrimiento del Gran Río de las Amazonas (1641). Southey read of the voyage in João Pinto Ribeiro (d. 1649), Observações Historicas e Criticas para Servirem de Memorias ao Systema da Diplomatica Portugueza Oferecidas ao Serenissimo Principe do Brazil (1798). Francisco de Orellana (1511–1546) died during a disastrous expedition, on which only 44 of 300 men survived, navigating the river that was then named after him but is now known as the Amazon. His exploits were described in Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo (1478–1557), Historia General y Natural de las Indias (1542). BACK

[8] Southey reviewed the Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 24–61. BACK

[9] ‘Letters from Portugal’ was a projected book that Southey never completed. BACK

[10] Southey intended to publish a fourth volume of his three-volume work Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella (1807), but this never appeared. BACK

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

[12] The Annual Review for 1808, 7 (1809), in which Southey reviewed 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), 149–152; 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; 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; Dona Ignez de Castro, a Tragedy, from the Portuguese of Nicola Luiz, with Remarks on the History of that Unfortunate Lady, tr. John Adamson (1787–1855; DNB) (1808), 572–574. BACK

[13] A second edition of Southey’s poem Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) was published in 1809. BACK

[14] A village to the west of Taunton, now in its suburbs. BACK

[15] A woolstapler of Bishop’s Hull, Somerset (his dates are unknown). BACK

[16] A reference to the current scandal surrounding Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), Commander in Chief of the army. He held the post from 1798–1809, but was forced to resign in the wake of allegations that he had profited by allowing his mistress, Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB), to accept money from army officers, in return for which promotion was arranged. BACK

[17] Untraced. BACK

People mentioned

Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Mary (1750–1838) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Emma (1808–1809) (mentioned 1 time)
Roscoe, William (1753–1831) (mentioned 1 time)