284. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 15 January 1798

284. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 15 January 1798 ⁠* 

Monday Jany. 15. 98. 12. Lambs-Conduit Street

My dear Tom

I suppose you would be somewhat angry with me were I to congratulate you on having left the Phœbe before her engagement, [1]  & as I cannot in honesty condole with you, I must say nothing. your letter did not reach me till some time after the date owing to the absence of Wynn who is now in Wales.

You enquire after my new edition. [2]  if God had not mixed up a very large portion of patience with the other ingredients of which he composed me, I should let a great oath at mentioning the printer. [3]  to his shame & my vexation & Cottles loss, he has only done three & a half sheets! tho if I rightly remember, the first proof arrived while you were at Bath. according to which expeditious rate the two volumes would be compleated in June 18 1800. But as life is uncertain, Cottle & I did not like looking to so distant a period, & we have therefore resolved to make another Printer print the second volume, which will go to the Press, as soon as a sheet of the first Book is struck off, to serve him for his pattern. I expect the fourth half sheet from this time to be the pattern, for we are at present not through the analysis of Chapelain. [4]  you see therefore that I cannot even guess when the work will be done. I am anxious to wash my hands of it that I may set to the ninth book, which will be a tough piece of business. the good things of this world are but clumsily distributed. I could make <as> good use of leisure as any man living, & I am have as little.

I have a great desire to publish another volume of poems, & let the profits accumulate with those of the Ninth Book when seperately printed, [5]  & of the next edition of my letters [6]  (already wanted & indeed long since) till they amounted to some 80 or 100 pounds, enough to furnish a house, for I greatly dislike lodgings. this desire has already made led me to write sometimes in poetry, what perhaps would otherwise have been in prose. I should correct & reprint the Retrospect. [7]  I have a subject, & a very fine one, for a Ballad. in short, I have more than a fourth part of the necessary quantity ready, & the subjects for the rest floating in my head. I should allot one division to metrical Letters [8]  – a better title, as being less formal than Epistles, for that word reminds me of Pauls Epistle to Timothy. [9]  in my early rhyming days I was very fond of writing Letters in verse – & they taught me to rhyme. I have lately recovered the inclination, & I believe from reading some very beautiful poems of this kind in my old Spanish friend, for such he deserves to be called, Bartholomè Leonardo. [10]  I should not however either make them in rhyme, as formerly, or of a ludicrous nature, like the notorious history of Bow-Begum. [11]  ere long I will send you a specimen. but this train of thought like every other that I pursue, makes me feel the want of leisure.

Biddlecombe sent me a Turkey & Chine last week. I would you had been here to have partaken it. Bedford & Carlisle dined with us, & we had a very pleasant day. Biddlecombe is about to be married. I wrote two epitaphs for the father of his wife-to-be, [12]  that he might take his choice.

The quiet virtues of domestic life
Were his who sleeps below; therefore his paths
Were paths of pleasantness, & in that hour
When all the perishable joys of earth
Desert the desolate heart, he had the hope,
The sure & certain hope of joy in Heaven.


The Tenant of this grave, was one who lived
Remembering God, & in the hour of death
Faith was his comforter. O you who read
Remember your Creator & your Judge
And live in fear, that you may die in hope.


& now as I have given you these epitaphs I may as well add m a translation of a beautiful Greek one which popt into my head while washing my hands.

Beneath in holy sleep Nicander lies;
O Traveller! say not that the good man dies. [13] 

I have seen Charles Lloyd but twice since he left us, one of which times was when I called on him this morning. he is in a boarding house, has got a vast number of new acquaintance, a false tail, a barber to powder him every morning, & is I believe as happy as he wishes to be.

God bless you. Ediths love

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ Mr Southey/ H.M.S. Mars/ Plymouth./ Single
Postmark: E.J.A./ 15/ 98
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 47–50. BACK

[1] The Phoebe had captured the French frigate, La Nereide, on 21 December 1797. Three of the Phoebe’s crew were killed in the action. BACK

[2] Joan of Arc (1798). BACK

[3] The Bristol printer and bookseller John Rose (fl. 1781–1803). BACK

[4] Joan of Arc, 2 vols (Bristol, 1798), I, pp. [23]–79 contained an analysis of Jean Chapelain (1595–1674), La Pucelle ou la France Délivrée (1656). BACK

[5] One of the most significant changes Southey made to Joan of Arc (1798) was to replace the ninth book with entirely new material. The old ninth book (as published in Joan of Arc (1796)) was revised and appeared as ‘The Vision of the Maid of Orleans’ in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. [1]–69. BACK

[6] A revised second edition of Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal appeared in 1799. BACK

[7] Originally published in Southey and Lovell’s Poems (1795), ‘The Retrospect’ was not republished until 1806. BACK

[8] Only one ‘Metrical Letter, Written from London’ appeared in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. 85–88. BACK

[9] The First and Second Epistles of Paul the Apostle to Timothy. BACK

[10] Bartolomè Leonardo de Argensola (1561–1631). Southey had praised his verse epistles in a letter of [c. July 1797] published in the Monthly Magazine; see The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part 1, Letter 230. BACK

[11] Bow-Begum was a dog owned by the Bedfords, whose story Southey had related in verse; see Southey to Thomas Southey, [late October/early November]–14 December [1793], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part 1, Letter 65. BACK

[12] Biddlecombe’s father-in-law, Richard White Lacy (dates unknown), of Yeovilton, Hampshire. Biddlecombe married his daughter, Catherine (d. 1799), on 4 June 1798. BACK

[13] Southey’s translation of Callimachus (310/305–240 BC), Epigram 8; a copy in his Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 73, dated 14 January 1798, suggests it was very recent. The translation appeared unsigned in the Morning Post, 6 April 1798. BACK

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12 Lambs Conduit Street (mentioned 1 time)