981. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [started before and continued on] 11 October [1804]

981. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [started before and continued on] 11 October [1804] ⁠* 

Dear Danvers

You will have wondered at a silence unusually long. in fact I have a heavy arrears of letters to pay off. fine weather has led me day after day mountaineering with a long succession of visitors. We have a round of company here which intrudes upon many an evening. Duppa is with me – & all these interruptions & temptations give such assistance to my printer in our race that he is hard upon my heels. [1]  – First to business. thus says my Uncle. Danvers’s commission went by the first opportunity that offered after its arrival, – by the Medusa Frigate, for Gibralter; which met with a Line of Battle Ship that ordered her, I suppose, on a cruise, & took her mails from her, whether D.s Butter, Cheese & Paper were reckoned as dispatches & forwarded likewise I do not know, but if they were not, this is the last he will ever hear of them. His letter to his brother I sent over land. I wrote likewise by the same Post to him & to Mr Pownall the agent, [2]  that he might keep a sharp look out after the Medusa, & recover the encom̄endas. [3]  – This is but a bad account, & the only consolation is that nobody was in fault. – Next to my wine merchant. I shall be glad if he will send me three dozen of port, & three of Bucellas or Vidonia, [4]  whichever can be procured easiest & best, & send them as before – if more convenient to pack one or two dozen more according to the size of the tierce no matter, but let any such additional quantity be port. the Captain should apprize me by a line from Liverpool when he has sent them off & by what conveyance.

I corrected this evening the 38th sheet of Madoc which brings it down to the beginning of the old tenth book, now the fourteenth section of the second part, & I have also this evening just finished the revision of Madocs combat with Coanocotzin. [5]  this last part will extend to 28 sections. seven are wholly new in story, & I have yet one new one to write, but it will not extend to 100 lines. another fortnight will conclude my work, & three weeks bring the printer to the notes. in all there are about 2500 lines of story added in this revision – the alterations in these latter books are fewer than I expected – yet I hope they materially improve them. On the whole however it would have been easier to have written a new poem than to have tinkered this, & after all I am not in the best humour with it myself.

Now, when the time of your visit would have been over, I am glad that you have not been, & that it is still to be looked on to, but seize the first temptation of spring & do not let us wait for the chance of another summer. You will find me the best of all possible guides.

Miss Smith, Miss Kennedy & Miss Bailey [6]  have been here, & dined with us one day. I was vexed to see Miss S. look so thin & to hear the remains of a cough which threatens very badly. I urged her very strongly to take care of herself, & strongly recommended Lisbon [7]  – & indeed I had resolved in my own mind to write to her brother & press him upon the subject more urgently, for there appeared to me great danger lest she should go there too late. ‘I will wait & try the winter’ is easily said, & without considering what it is that depends upon the trial. If you should hear that she continues unwell do write to him & tell him what I say. – Miss Kennedy seemed much broken, the Miss Bailey was neither the one whom I had seen, nor the one who wanted to see me. – We have also had a Miss Nicholson [8]  here with Dr Crumptons [9]  family, sister to her who was with Mrs Lowndes. [10] 

Did I tell you that Tom had had a slight attack of the yellow fever which had got on board his ship owing to her being obliged to go to an infected place for stores? his hopes of prize money were all over, for the ship was given up. [11]  a Spanish war ought to make his fortune to atone for the confounded mischief it will do me.


October 11. This letter has remained long enough for sundry unpleasant circumstances to fall out before it was sent off. Edward has compleated his own ruin. Dr Thomas sent him off from Kingston with money to fit himself out as lavishly & wantonly disposing of my Uncles property to him, as if it had been his own, & to a favourite son. he expended 150 £ upon him for 8 months board & this fitting out. Whether he went on board at all I know not, but last night arrives a bill from a brothel at Plymouth Dock – for such the house must be by the handwriting & spelling of the mistress, & at the same time news to Mrs Peachey a friend of ours here, from her sister [12]  living at Bishops Lediard, [13]  that Edward after running up a bill at an inn at Taunton, had found out his Aunt Mary & gone to her for money. – The case is hopeless & the wretched lad must be abandoned to his fate. He will go to every body from whom he thinks my name can procure money. pray call upon Cottle & caution him – for to him he is likely first to apply, & would succeed there. I should be glad also if you would see my Uncle Thomas, for it seems he was proceeding to try his hand there, & tell him that nothing can be done for him, for his total want of all common honesty would render it too dangerous to attempt placing him in any responsible situation. he must be left to the gallows to which he will come. Dear Charles you see I have occasion to act upon the advice which I have given you upon a less disastrous case.

Evils never come alone. Our house is sold over our head & we shall be unkennelled at Whitsuntide. [14]  I thought to take wing in the autumn – & my nest will be taken in the spring. One of my first exclamations at the news was – Danvers then will not see the Lakes. – What say you? dare you bid defiance to winter? – my wine you see must not be sent – as I shall have no house to put it in.

God bless you. We are all well – & I am as little uncomfortable under the circumstance as possible. I have had too many real evils ever to be cast down by accidents that do not touch my happiness in a vital part.

yrs very affectionately

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ Bristol./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ OCT 15/1804
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 359–362. BACK

[1] Southey was correcting proofs of Madoc (1805) and still revising sections of the manuscript not yet sent to the printer. BACK

[2] Unidentified. BACK

[3] Meaning ‘orders’. BACK

[4] White wines produced in Portugal and Tenerife respectively. BACK

[5] See Madoc (1805), Part 2, book 18. BACK

[6] The first names and dates of these acquaintances are untraced. BACK

[7] Lisbon, easily reached by sea and with an established British factory, was a principal destination of consumptives seeking relief from their disease in a hot dry climate. BACK

[8] Untraced. BACK

[9] Dr Peter Crompton (dates unknown) of Eton House, Liverpool, a radical reformer who supported John Thelwall in the 1790s and who contested elections at Nottingham (1796, 1807, 1812), Preston (1818) and Liverpool (1820). BACK

[10] Unidentified. BACK

[11] In an earlier letter, Southey noted that his brother was to double his half pay if the ship he and his crew had detained was condemned; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 2 August 1804, Letter 971. BACK

[12] Miss Charter (first name and dates unknown), who is referred to as visiting the Peachys in Southey’s letter to Thomas Southey, 12 September 1804, Letter 978. BACK

[13] Bishop’s Lydeard: a town near Taunton, Somerset. BACK

[14] Southey’s landlord, William Jackson, was negotiating the sale of his house (which in the end did not take place) to Mr White (names and dates unknown) of Keswick. BACK

People mentioned