917. Robert Southey to John Theodore Koster, 29 March 1804

917. Robert Southey to John Theodore Koster, 29 March 1804 ⁠* 

Keswick, March 29. 1804.

Dear Sir,

The books have just arrived safe. I am much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken, and have to regret that it has not more frequently been in my power to practise the defensive virtue of smuggling. The duty upon bound books is sixpence per pound weight: and his Majesty has received above seventy pounds for what I and my Uncle have brought into his Dominions, so expensive a luxury have our wise rulers resolved to make literature!

Should any alarm take place in your neighbourhood consign as many of your family as you please to my care, and we will house as many as we can and find house room for the rest. I do not myself apprehend any danger. London is indeed threatened by its own rabble, and in all overgrown cities the same evil exists, and the same consequences may possibly result. But an invading army must perish. I hope they will attempt invasion and lose enough by sea to fatten the channel crabs, and enough on shore to furnish bones for a monument on Dover Cliffs to be seen from Calais. We also deserve to suffer something, and when both nations have smarted, Europe will be at peace, and not till then.

The Coalition is indeed monstrous, they justify it upon the plea of uniting against a common enemy, but if Addington [1]  be ousted by such means, there will come a worse in his place. The old ministry were wicked as well as foolish; we have now simple folly, and have reason to be thankful. A few weeks ago I had some hopes of a happy change. The Windhamites [2]  expect much, and say they trust that no King and no administration can keep them out. First were for a pure despotism – and now they are for an oligarchy. The struggle will end in neither. We must become more agricultural and more military, and we shall then be secure from within and from without.

Coleridge is gone for Malta, when he left home he had no intention of taking Liverpool in his way for London. I should else have commissioned him to look for you, that you might have seen the most extraordinary man in England. I know two men who on the average of their intellectual power may be considered as his equals, but for conversational powers, for depth of thought and brilliancy of imagination Coleridge stands alone.

Mrs. S. will be in bed next month. [3]  As soon as all, by God’s blessing, is safe, I go for London, and may perhaps thank you in person on my way.

Yrs very truly


* MS: Instituto Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro; text taken from Sousa-Leão
Previously published: Joaquim de Sousa-Leão, ‘Cartas de Robert Southey a Theodore Koster e Henry Koster, anos de 1804 a 1819’, Revista do Instituto Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, 178 (1943), 343–345. BACK

[1] Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844; DNB), who had been Prime Minister since 1801, was forced from office in May 1804 by a coalition of former enemies William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806, Charles James Fox and Lord Grenville. BACK

[2] Followers of the Whig politician, William Windham (1750–1810; DNB), who were in opposition. BACK

[3] The Southeys second child, Edith May Southey, was born on 30 April 1804. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)