286. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 24[-26] January 1798

286. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 24[-26] January 1798 ⁠* 

Wednesday Jany. 24. 98

12. Lambs Conduit Street.

My dear Tom

Some few days since I learnt from Bath that Mrs Cookman [1]  was coming to town on business for a day – & we were desired to get her a bed in, or near the house of our abode. this morning she arrived – & with her – my mother – who has taken this trip to please herself – & us as you may well imagine. It is some time since I have been astonished, & I believe nothing less than the skies falling could astonish me – but after travelling all night – & being seasick on the way, she arrived here in good spirits, health as good as when you left her – & so we are all going to the play to night to see Blue beard [2] 

& now Tom if a hurricane would drive you up to London bridge I should have nobody to wish for.

She has brought me two likenesses of herself taken by Robert Hancock [3]  – but they are not like my mother. I have my choice of them – I growl at it – & yet am glad it is here.

Harry wrote to me – this morning, from Norwich, where he has been for a few days. he writes in high spirits, & well he may, for I cannot wish him a better situation. on his way to Norwich, a Lady in the Coach asked him if he had ever read my poems – & added there was a Mr Southey in Yarmouth, brother, she believed, to me, whom she very much wished to see.

Peggy made you understand more than was strictly the case, when she said there was a coolness between Lloyd & me. Our living together was unpleasant, & we seperated at his proposal. true it is that I do not find in Charles Lloyd, what a man must have before I can think him my friend, a steady & consistent character; in whatever is of importance, he will, I believe, always be <the> same, & I should be much surprized at any wrong – or immoral action in him – but for little contemp<t>ible frivolities, for those ficklenesses that I despize – he is full of them. I do not respect him, & I cannot love, where I cannot respect. but if any exertion of mine could serve him, if a leg or an arm would be of use – I should be ready always to proffer myself to assist him. My dear Tom I have long since ceased to estimate men according to their genius. I want men who will act with me, not talk with me.

Friday. These good visitors of mine came in & interrupted my letter. I escorted them to the play; yesterday they gadded about all day, & to night I go to Covent Garden with them.

You are to have one of the drawings of my mother. this have I insisted upon – for Mrs Hancock [4]  put in her claim.

They leave me tomorrow I believe.

I was surprized this morning in looking at the large play bills, to see a grand ballet announced as in preparation called Joan of Arc – or the Maid of Orleans. [5]  methinks they should send me a ticket of admittance. be this said ballet good, bad, or indifferent, it will be an excellent advertisement for my book. [6]  but when that book will be out, as I have no telescope view of futurity, it is not possible for me to guess.

You naval men may amuse yourselves in speculating upon <guns-> gun-boats – rafts, & all the curious inventions that keep London in alarm. [7] 

Lloyd goes to Birmingham tomorrow I fear his brother [8]  is in a very dangerous state, or the old father would not have called him home. I do not like that old man. he is too civil – too fawning – too oily. [9] 

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

R Southey


* Address: To/ Mr Southey/ H.M.S. Mars/ Plymouth./ Torbay/ Single
Postmark: BJA/ 27/ 98
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. 159–160. BACK

[1] Unidentified; a friend of Margaret Southey. BACK

[2] George Colman, the Younger (1762–1836; DNB), Bluebeard (1798) was playing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. BACK

[3] The engraver Robert Hancock (c. 1731–1817; DNB). Between 1796–1798 he produced pencil and chalk drawings of Southey and other members of his circle, including his mother, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Lamb and William Wordsworth. Commissioned by Joseph Cottle, the portraits are now in the National Portrait Gallery, London. BACK

[4] Probably Robert Hancock’s wife, Martha (1744–c.1829). BACK

[5] ‘An Entire New Grand Historical Ballet of Action, called Joan of Arc, or the Maid of Orleans’, was announced widely in the London Press at this time (e.g. in The Oracle, Star, True Briton, 26 January 1798). It was first performed at Covent Garden on 12 February 1798. BACK

[6] The second edition of Joan of Arc, published in 1798. BACK

[7] In early 1798 the build-up of French troops in the Channel ports led to widespread invasion scares. One of the more bizarre manifestations of these fears was the rumour that the French had constructed a giant raft that could transport 60,000 troops across the Channel. BACK

[8] James Lloyd I (1776–1853). BACK

[9] Charles Lloyd Senior (1748–1828; DNB), a Birmingham-based banker and amateur translator of classical literature. He had visited Southey in 1797. BACK

Places mentioned

12 Lambs Conduit Street (mentioned 1 time)
Yarmouth (mentioned 1 time)