317. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 21 May 1798

317. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 21 May 1798 ⁠* 

Monday 21. May. 98.

My dear Edith

Or my dearest Edith – or to speak more earnestly my dear dear Edith – tis an Italian superlative & I like it. I am writing Edith because Burns [1]  business by preventing him from meeting me this morning allows me leisure, which I cannot employ better or more agreably. I went to Brixton to breakfast yesterday & spent a comfortable day, it was very comfortable – I got at Sir John Maundeviles Travels, & as I am as fond of a good lie as our modern metaphysicians pretend to be of truth, passed the morning in making abundant extracts, to what purpose you will see in the next poem I write. [2]  The whole family received me with their usual welcome, even Snivel yelped out her how d ye do, & licked my fingers by way of shaking hands. This morning I departed after breakfast with Grosvenor, & after we seperated went to Lamb. He seemed glad to see me – you must direct his book & picture to 45 Chapel Street, Pentonville, near Islington, near London. send it soon & pray let it be packed with all possible care. I then called upon Arch [3]  – & there met Benjamin Flower of Cambridge; grown quite young again & blooming. he recognized me with much cordiality. from thence I journeyed to Bedford Square, where I now am sitting in an armed chair considerably wearied “thinking in sorrow of my evening ride.” [4] 

I have told poor Blighs [5]  story with some effect. it drew tears at Brixton, & what was better half a guinea from Grosvenor presently after another half from Mrs B. & when no one was by the old gentleman put a 2 pound bill into my hand. John May has given a one pound bill, & will go a begging for me. Wynn will give five guineas himself – & says he doubts not that Richards [6]  will do the same. let this be communicated to the Admiral. It is pleasant to beg with success on these occasions.

The diabolical Benchers of Grays Inn have made a law that three dinners must be eat to keep a term, & those in different weeks – curse them. It is not to take place the next term however. I met Montague in the hall, he told me that Wordsworth was going to Germany. Daly [7]  sat next me at dinner.

Lamb has some hopes of escaping the requisition [8]  – he says, he x hopes the country can sa be saved without his exertions but that if nothing but his right arm can protect it, he must be content. Dapple is a light horse-man. [9] 

This is a very wicked place – I always as you know gape about me in London streets & read the Advertisements like a Loon just come from the country – among these I see a child advertised as lost, a boy as absconded from school – a gentleman as having left his family, & a young woman as x stolen – & by her own account in a letter “confined & not permitted to say where or by whom.” Now these things seem improbable in novels.

I am about to write a note to Burn, & the money he has in his hands will be sent down in consequence. I know not the exact sum, but understand it is about 100 pounds.

My hand is now grown somewhat cold, for you know how soon the Londoners leave off fire. moreover I have said everything & may as well conclude. is it necessary Edith to say that I am weary & restless, & wish myself with you? pray write – & tell me how you are. You shall hear from me again this week – that is if time permit the posts. I must versify at Yarmouth. Phillips [10]  I did not see but left the brogues

God bless you.

yr Robert Southey.

I have not had time to see my mothers friend George Dyer. Carlisle was at Brixton when I went – I saw him for about half an hour Harry Bedford also was there, he is a wonderful lad.

Did you see my advice about your hat. pray wait for the new fashion – nothing can be more simple & more elegant. If I had had a woman with me I should have sent one done – but I could not bargain with a milliner.


* Address: To/ Edith Southey/ 8 Westgate Buildings/ Bath/ Single
Stamped: Tottenham/ Court Road
Postmark: AMA/ 21/ 98
MS: Beinecke Library, Osborn MSS File ‘S’, Folder 14169. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Possibly William Burn (dates unknown), a member of the British Factory, Lisbon. BACK

[2] Probably ‘The Origin of the Rose’, published anonymously in the Morning Post, 23 June 1798 and renamed ‘The Rose’ in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. [71]–80. The origin of the story is noted in Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 91. BACK

[3] John and Arthur Arch (fl. 1792–1838), publishers, booksellers and stationers, whose premises were at this time at 23 Gracechurch St, London. BACK

[4] Unidentified; Southey is possibly quoting from one of his letters to Edith which has not survived. BACK

[5] James Blythe (1766/7–1798), the Midshipman killed in the fight between the Mars and L’Hercule on 21 April 1798. BACK

[6] Probably Sir Richard Richards (1752–1823; DNB), an eminent lawyer in Chancery. BACK

[7] Unidentified. BACK

[8] Each county was required to provide a certain number of men for the cavalry militia, to protect Britain from invasion. BACK

[9] ‘Dapple’ (a nickname for Bedford derived from that of Sancho Panza’s ass in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), Don Quixote (1605–1615)) had joined a company of volunteer cavalry, probably the Light Horse Volunteers of London and Westminster. BACK

[10] Richard Phillips (1767–1840; DNB), proprietor of the Monthly Magazine. BACK

Places mentioned

Yarmouth (mentioned 1 time)