970. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 30 July 1804

970. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 30 July 1804 ⁠* 

Monday July 30. 1804.

Dear Tom

Your three letters of April 26. May 20 (the large sheet) & June 11. have arrived together this evening, & relieved me from very considerable anxiety. mine I find are xxx consigned to the Atlantic without bottle, [1]  & the books of Madoc [2]  which Edith copied in them, gone to edify the Sharks – gentlemen who will digest them far more easily than the Critics. However there must be yet some other letters on the way & I trust you will have learnt before this can reach you that I have now two Ediths in family, the Edithling (who was born on the last of April) continuing to do well – only that I am myself somewhat alarmed at that premature activity of eye & spirits, & those sudden startings which were in her poor sister the symptoms of a dreadful & deadly disease. However I am on my guard, & the child has in her favour an excellent digestion which was not the case with the other. I did not mean to trust my affections again on so frail a foundation – & yet the young one takes me from my desk & makes me talk nonsense as fluently as you perhaps can imagine. Both Edith & I are well. indeed I have weathered a rude winter & a ruder spring bravely. Harry is here & has been here about three weeks, & will remain till the end of October. he is a very excellent companion & tempts me out into the air & the water when I should else be sitting at home. I have seldom or never seen a young man promise better. For Scapegrace I have at last got an appointment – by means of Dickinson, [3]  one of the new Lords of the Admiralty, to whom as an old schoolfellow I applied thro Wynn. it is but just done – Edward is to go on board the Salvador del Mundo, [4]  & Admiral Colpoys [5]  will then ship him off to some foreign station, so you have a fair chance of seeing Hopeful in the land of pine apples & land crabs. So much for ourselves; & thank God nothing but what is well. We have made our way well in the world Tom, this far, & by Gods help we shall yet get on better.

Charles of Antwerp is coming to see me – & we look every day for the letter which is to tell me to meet him. by his last it appears that Joe [6]  was recovering from an indisposition & a course of physic. Make your fortune & Joe may yet live to share its comforts as he stands upon his Majestys books in my name, [7]  tho degraded by the appellation of mongrel. – Madoc is in a Scotch Press – Ballantynes who printed the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, [8]  a book which you may remember I bought at Bristol. he runs pretty hard. two proofs to day the 8th & 9th – containing exactly those parts of the story which Edith copied for you. I shall be hurried by him – for my work is by no means done, tho all the difficulty is over. I am finishing the last section of the new part – indeed should have finished it this evening, if your letters had not happily arrived – for I should not have had heart to write again till some tidings of you arrived. This insertion which contains above a thousand lines brings me to the old eighth book – but thenceforward all is plain sailing – & I have only to correct & ornament a story which requires but little alteration. – You ask of Amadis. it has been well received both in the Annual & the Edinburgh by Walter Scott, [9]  who in both has been very civil to me, tho he has miserably misrepresented the arguments of the preface which prove Vasco Lobeira [10]  to have been the author. Of all my later publications this has been the most successful – more than 500 of the 1000 having sold within the year, so that there is a fair chance of the 50 £ dependant upon the sale of the whole. Thalaba has been very admirably reviewd in the Critical by William Taylor, [11]  but it does not sell & will not for some years reach a second edition, till the current of my reputation sets in full, as it one day will do, & then it will be carried down. Tomorrow I send off the two Anthologies that the best x may pieces then may be reprinted in a seperate form, revised & arranged. [12]  500 will sell certainly, & tho my profits will not exceed 30 £ – still even that sum is to me worth having, especially as it requires no labour. My last letter will have told you of a more promising speculation – the Specimens of the Later English Poets – who have died between the year 1688 & 1800 – designed as a supplement to George Ellis’s book. [13]  this is sure to sell, & is the main hope of my Ways & Means. Reviewing is coming round again! One parcel arrived! another on the road! a third ready to start. – I grudge the time thus to be sold, sorely – but patience! it is after all better than reading the Athanasian Creed [14]  – pleading in a stinking court of Law – or being called up at midnight to a patient. it is better than being a soldier or sailor – better than calculating profit & loss in a counter, – better in short than any thing except independence. Have you yet got the Second Volume? there are two famous articles on Malthuss Essay, & the History of the Methodists in which you will trace my gall. [15]  – Henry has never arrived, [16]  Owen Rees is going to Ireland & I have requested him to enquire for it, which he can do well as his business lies with the booksellers. – July is indeed a lovely month at the Lakes, & so the Lakers seem to think, for they swarm here. We have been much interrupted by visitors – among others young Roscoe, [17]  – & more are yet to come. A friend of Harrys is hourly expected. these are not the only interruptions. we have been – or rather are manufacturing black currant rum for my Uncle, & black currant wine for ourselves – Harry & I chief workmen, pounding them in a wooden bowl with a great stone, as the acid acts upon a metal mortar. We have compleated a great work – that of bridging the river Greta at the bottom of the orchard, by piling heaps of stones so as to step from one to another. many a hard hours sport half knee deep in the water. Davy has been here, – stark mad for angling. this is our history. Yours is rather busier, & has been hitherto more profitable – your prize came in time, & I hope the second will not prove a disappointment. [18]  You cannot tell how earnestly we have looked for the Galateas [19]  name in the papers – & how earnestly I shall continue to look for it.

As for news the packet which conveys this will convey later intelligence than is in my power to communicate. Sir Francis may & probably will lose his election. but it is evident that he has not lost his popularity. [20]  Pitt will go on blundering till every body by miserable experience shall at last think him the despicable dog that I always did. [21]  As for Emperor Bonaparte [22]  – damn him – he furnished me with a piddling pun yesterday night – looking in the Cookery book I saw a receipt for making Imperial Water & could not help remarking that that was what Bonaparte made now.

My journey to London almost knocked me up. the fatigue was excessive. Rickmans is an excellent house for me. I worked hard at the book of Specimens, & still harder in visiting as many of the Thousand and One persons who expected me to visit them, as possible. Wynn talks of coming here in the autumn – in the hope of carrying me back with him to Wales – an expedition for which I cannot conveniently spare time, yet did not willingly give it up, as I shall travel with every possible advantage. You doubted whether we should be at Keswick. I have no intention of removing till upon some definite plan, & it will certainly not be desirable to settle till my journey to Portugal be over. perhaps I may be able to go by the winter of next year. certainly not before – & till then, for certainly I shall have no means of removing any where till then, shall remain where I am, a situation in every way desirable were it not quite so far from London, & my books. Whensover the great change of ministry to which we all look on with hope takes place I shall have friends in power able to serve me, & shall in fact without scruple apply to Fox thro one or two good channels. this may be very remote & yet may be very near. – When Madoc is published I mean to send Fox a copy with such a note as may be proper for me to address such a man. I love Homer, & I do not think this poem unworthy to offer <of being offered> to a lover of the Odyssey. – I will also send one to the Old Boy. taking care to pay carriage & frank the letter which announces it. The Scotch reviewers [23]  are grown exceedingly civil to me – partly influenced by Elmsley who has lived intimately among them, partly by Walter Scott who is enlisted among them & is disposed to be very courteous, & partly perhaps because they know Harry, who makes his talents felt among the Edinburgh literati, having lived & learnt from Wm T. a man who has more guts in his brain than all the Scotchmen ever had or will have from the day of Creation to the Day of Judgement.

God bless you Tom. it grows late & I have two proofs to correct for this nights post. once more God bless you.



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Galatea/ Barbadoes/ or elsewhere/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ AUG/ 1804
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 299–302 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey means that they have been lost. The reference is to his request to Thomas that he send him messages in bottles from the West Indies – several of which did indeed reach Keswick. For an account of these experiments; see Southey to the Editor of the Athenaeum, [April 1807], Letter 1314. BACK

[2] The poem Madoc, which Southey had written in 1797–1799 and since then had been intermittently revising. It was completed in October 1804 and published in 1805. BACK

[3] William Dickinson (1771–1837), a pupil at Westminster School, who later went on to Christ Church, Oxford (BA 1793, MA 1795) and was Civil Lord of the Admiralty, 1804–1806. BACK

[4] HMS Salvador del Mundo was a 112-gun ship of the line, captured from the Spanish at the battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797. BACK

[5] John Colpoys (c. 1742–1821; DNB), British naval officer who achieved notoriety for inciting the mutiny at Spithead in 1797. He was promoted to full Admiral in 1801 and appointed as Commander-in-Chief at Plymouth in 1803. In 1804 he gave up his command to take a seat in the Admiralty. BACK

[6] Charles Danvers’s dog, formerly Thomas Southey’s. BACK

[7] Southey is stating that he has paid the ‘dog tax’ for Joe; see Southey to Thomas Southey, 27 June 1804, Letter 956: ‘your right title to his Jacobship is still preserved, as the tax is paid in my name by Danvers – my Agent Plenipotentiary’. BACK

[8] Walter Scott, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802). BACK

[9] Scott reviewed Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803) in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 600–603, and in the Edinburgh Review, 5 (October 1803), 109–136. BACK

[10] Vasco de Lobeira (d. 1403) a troubador knighted after the Battle of Aljubarrota (1385). BACK

[11] Taylor’s review of Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) appeared in The Critical Review, 2nd series, 39 (December 1803), 369–379. BACK

[12] Southey’s poems from the Annual Anthology (1799–1800) reappeared in his Metrical Tales and Other Poems (1805). BACK

[13] The project that Southey undertook with Grosvenor Bedford and published with Longman in 1807 as Specimens of the Later English Poets. It was a companion work to George Ellis’s Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790, 2nd edn 1801, 3rd edn 1803). Southey’s last surviving letter to his brother Tom (27 June 1804; Letter 956) did not mention the Specimens; the previous one (1 June 1804; Letter 947) did. BACK

[14] That is, becoming a priest in the Church of England. The Athanasian creed is a Christian statement of belief, focusing on Trinitarian doctrine, attributed to St Athanasius (c. 293–373) and used by Christian churches since the sixth century AD. BACK

[15] In the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), Southey reviewed Thomas Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the future improvement of Society; with Remarks on the Speculations of W. Godwin, M. Condorcet and Other Writers (1803), 292–301, and William Myles (1756–1828), A Chronological History of the People called Methodists ... With an Appendix, Containing Two Lists of the Itinerant Preachers ... With the Last Will and Testament of the Rev. J. Wesley (1803), 201–213. BACK

[16] Robert Henry (1718–1790), The History of Great Britain, From the First Invasion of it by the Romans under Julius Cæsar (1771–1793), was delayed in the post, its despatch having been entrusted by Southey’s brother Thomas to a bookseller in Cork; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 1 February 1804, Letter 892. BACK

[17] William Stanley Roscoe (1782–1843): poet, and eldest son of William Roscoe. Educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, he became a partner in his father’s bank but was also a student of Italian literature. BACK

[18] In Southey’s letter to Charles Danvers, 2 August 1804, Letter 971, he reports Tom’s news of ‘a recapture which will give him £120 & set him on his legs for he was behind-hand – & a ship from Hambro [Hamburg] detained, which if it be condemned (& they say there is every reason to suppose it will) will double his half pay.’ BACK

[19] Thomas Southey’s ship, HMS Galatea, a fifth-rate 32-gun frigate. BACK

[20] Burdett’s election victory in Middlesex in 1802 alarmed the government and the election was subsequently voided. A new contest took place in 1804 and Burdett was narrowly defeated as a result of misconduct by the Middlesex sheriffs. The results were subsequently overturned and Burdett sat in parliament for Middlesex in 1805–1806 (DNB). BACK

[21] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB) had become Prime Minister for the second time on 10 May 1804. BACK

[22] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1814. BACK

[23] In the Edinburgh Review. BACK