1630. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [16 May 1809]

1630. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [16 May 1809] ⁠* 

My dear Tom

I was wondering what could be become of you, till the Courier told me Admiral Sotheby was cruising in the Channel, [1]  – good luck to your cruise & a seasonable supply of prize money! –

Since last I wrote Herbert has had the croup, – & we as you may suppose were in great anxiety. He is now thank God recovering his looks, – for the bleeding left him dismally pale: – the blister is healed, – & very thankful we are that the means of treating a disease which till lately was almost always fatal, are now so well understood.

Ballantyne the bookseller (the Printers brother) sent me a note yesterday, saying he was arrived at the R Oak, & would be happy to wait on me at whatever hour I might appoint, – so I asked him to dinner, – a lucky piece of civility on my part, – inasmuch as it appeared afterwards that he was come from Penrith on purpose to see me, & returned there the same night. Of this I had not the smallest suspicion. The matter was this: I had in a letter to Scott said that a Review of old books, – that is of any books, except such as were in the province in the contemporary Criticism, – would answer if it were well conducted. Scott talked this over in London, & Ballantyne returning from thence came commissioned to treat with me about such a work. Things will not be finally settled till I have seen Scott who offers to take a great share in the work, if I will conduct it – I am offered 100 a year as editor, – & ten guineas a sheet. the thing to be in quarterly five shilling numbers, – & the name which I propose is Rhadamanthus, – he being the Judge of the Dead. [2]  I can rely upon Wm Taylor for material cooperation, & hope for some from Rickman & Turner, possibly from Lamb, not impossibly from Coleridge. There are some things which Lloyd could do well, if I were not afraid of his flux of writing, – but I shall talk to him. If this plan be carried into effect I shall need no other lucre-of-gain work, for the quantity of my own contributions will depend upon myself, & I can with ease write 150 pounds worth in the year. The trouble as Editor is merely that of writing letters, receiving articles, suiting them to the number, & correcting proof sheets – And as I would not begin till I had the quantity for two numbers ready, – all anxiety arising from improvidence or want of punctuality in others would be prevented.

Ballantyne speaking of the Quarterly said he hoped they would leave alone the business of the D of York, [3]  – thereby implying a fear that they would defend him, which would destroy the Review. My immediate answer was that if they did, – or if they took up the Anti-Jacobins politics I should immediately withdraw, – & in all likelihood this will be the case, unless the foreknowledge which they must have of this determination of mine should prevent them. For to Gifford I explained my principles, & to Bedford expressly stated that as soon as the book ran counter of them I should break off the connection.

I expect Scott daily, with his wife, on their way to Edinburgh. they stopt one night, – & if they arrive in the course of a week I go on with them. It is likely that my knowledge of Ballantyne may prove profitable, – the Edinburgh publishers are to Longmans, what the Liverpool are to the Bristol merchants. They speculate boldly & find their account on so doing

Kehama will soon be finished. Ereenia has now reached the throne of Seeva [4]  – Next book gets to Padalon, & then one more compleats it. [5]  These will be the wildest books, & I am now like the mules in the Alps, snorting at sight of the place I have got to, – presently down we go. Huzza – hot weather here, almost stewed in my study, – but nothing to what it is in Padalon. Think how that fellow Kehama will look, standing – red-hot, on one of the legs of Yamens throne, & grinning at his opposite leg. [6] 

God bless you – my next shall be begun sooner & written better


Your navy-papers shall find a place somewhere – the more I think of them the more I feel their importance. [7] 


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought/ Plymouth Dock
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Warter, Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey (1856), II, pp. 139–141.
Dating note: from internal evidence that John Ballantyne visited Southey ‘yesterday’ as stated in the letter above to John Rickman dated 16 May 1809. BACK

[1] Tom’s ship HMS Dreadnought was the flagship of Rear Admiral Thomas Sotheby (1759–1831), younger brother of the author, William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), Southey’s acquaintance. She was off Ushant in the English Channel, continuing the bloackade of French ports. BACK

[2] In Greek mythology Rhadamanthus was a wise king, who was one of the judges of the dead. Southey’s plans for this periodical were never fulfilled. BACK

[3] 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. In May 1811 the Prince Regent reinstated his brother as Commander-in-Chief of the army, a post which he held for the rest of his life. BACK

[4] The Curse of Kehama (London, 1810), Book 19. BACK

[5] In fact these events take place over Books 20–24 of The Curse of Kehama. BACK

[6] The conclusion of The Curse of Kehama, in Book 24. BACK

[7] Papers concerning the pay of naval officers, which Southey had hoped to make the basis of articles he would contribute to the Courier, campaigning for an increase. BACK