331. Robert Southey to John May, 8 July 1798
331. Robert Southey to John May, 8 July 1798 *
Sunday. July 8th. 1798
My dear friend
I have been for some time in expectation of hearing from you, but you probably have been waiting for a new direction, & many employments have kept me silent. It was not till the Thursday evening preceding quarter day that a house was found at all suitable for us, & you can hardly conceive in what perpetual occupation I have been since we took possession. pulling down & putting up; - upholsterer – carpenter – mason – painter – paperer in succession, till of a filthy old barn looking house we have made a clean & comfortable dwelling. It is at Westbury, a village two miles from Bristol, in the pleasantest part of this country. there is a tolerable garden behind the house, in which excepting some half dozen rose bushes, every thing is calculated for use. the view over the garden is very beautiful, a fertile & woody vale, bounded on each side by hills, & terminated by a range of hills ten miles distant. the most interesting parts of the country are near at hand, & ten minutes walk would convey me to one of the most beautiful glens I ever saw.
here I begin to feel myself at home, & am already enough acquainted with the house to go about in the dark; this is the criterion I think of intimacy with a dwelling place. to day my books are to arrive; two windows that have been blocked up on account of the tax,  form two convenient recesses for them, I have knockd up some shelves there, & when my box arrives from Cottles I shall need no other society. The Chinese have a good proverb “To read an excellent book the first time is to gain a new friend: to read over one we have perused before, is like meeting with an old friend.” 
Do you remember my picking up <a> Portugueze sermon the day we went to Wapping?  I have found matter for a curious note in it, chiefly from the Spanish reply to the Sermon. the Spanish Jew has replied with learning & moderation, & I strongly suspect that the most remarkable passage in that mischievous work the Systême de la Nature  was suggested by this book: I allude to the supposed defence of an Atheist who finds his mistake in another world. I have never read the Systeme de la Nature & speak of it at secondhand.
You are I believe in the habit of borrowing books from Cadell & Davies  – I can recommend you to read A Series of Plays  attempting to trace the effects of the stronger passions, lately published by them. three plays only are yet published but they are so excellent, that I could prophesy the Author, if he proceeds, will do honour to English literature.
I have bespoke your books of Cottle. they will cost 5s each – apply the purchase money for me in your next little subscription. – & let me have your plan for examining the poor as soon as it is arranged. I will exert myself in promoting it here. I am inclined to send you some lines which I wrote lately called The Complaints of the Poor.  you may perhaps like them.
Coleridge I hear is going to Germany: a wilder or more ridiculous scheme was never undertaken than this – to go with a wife & two infants merely to learn a language which may be learnt by his own fireside!  – Cottle has entered into partnership with my printer, I am glad of it on many accounts; you should know Cottle, for there does not live a man of simpler & purer heart, or of more real benevolence. I am now going to Bristol to superintend the wagg shipping my goods – or rather waggoning them, as they come by a returning-waggon here. direct to Cottles. & let me soon hear of you. <My Mother & Edith are both greatly recovered. Edith desires to be remembered.>
God bless you –
* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ 4. Bedford Square/ London –/
Postmark: B/ JY/ 10/ 98
Endorsement: 1798 No. 21/ Robert Southey/ July 8./ recd: 10 do/ ansd: 14 do
MS: Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 169–170 [in part; verse not reproduced]. BACK
 Since 1696 all houses in England had been liable to pay a tax of 2 shillings per annum. However, if they had more than 10 windows (7 from 1766) the occupier paid double this rate. In consequence, many householders had blocked up windows to avoid paying the higher duty. BACK
 Oliver Goldsmith (1728?–1774; DNB), The Citizen of the World: or, Letters from a Chinese Philosopher, Residing in London, to His Friends in the East, 2 vols (London, 1776), II, p. 87. BACK
 The volume is unidentified. Southey described his visit to Wapping in a letter to John May, 12 January 1798 (Letter 283). BACK
 The London publishing and bookselling firm, at this time run by Thomas Cadell (1773–1836; DNB) and William Davies (d. 1820; DNB). BACK
 Joanna Baillie (1762–1851; DNB), A Series of Plays In Which it is Attempted to Delineate the Stronger Passions (1798). BACK