359. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 4 December 1798

359. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 4 December 1798 ⁠* 

Bristol. Dec 4. 98

My dear Lightfoot

So long is it since I have written to you that I write almost at random. a thousand changes may have happened – perhaps I may misdirect. day after day & week after week have I thought of writing, & always something to do or think of has prevented me. in the summer I was some days at Abberley. Mr Severne [1]  & the two Miss Sewards both particularly requested to be remembered to you when I wrote, & added how happy they should be to see you in Worcestershire. the Miss Sewards are sadly altered. the eldest was ill, & Elizabeth, tho actively employed, in a sad state of health – she looks sixty years of age. in other respects they are the same women as ever, but I saw them & remember them with pain. never was a family so destroyed.

I am at Westbury, a village two miles from Bristol, with no children of my own, but a ready made family of relations. sedentary habits, always my choice & of late rendered necessary, have injured my health something. this I am endeavouring to remedy by a little medicine & much exercise. the world & I however agree well together. I have as much enjoyment as a man ought to expect or desire, & as for labouring for it, there is something pleasant in not being one of the drones of society.

I have a brother Lightfoot nearly fifteen years of age. I design to made a surgeon of him. he has been somewhat neglected. but during the last year has I hope made some progress. anothers years Latin & Greek is necessary for him & in looking round for a school at which to place him, you recurred to my recollection. are you still at Kingsbridge? & what are the terms of the school in which you are engaged? he is a boy of great talents, from whom if he turns out well, much may be hoped. for the last year he has been with Burnett, but a change in Burnetts situation renders it necessary to remove him now.

By the papers I learn the death of John Davy, & the election of Parsons to the Mastership of Balliol, an event by which I think the College must be benefitted. I was glad to see they had made so good a choice. Griffiths [2]  recognized me at Hereford this summer, I had forgotten him. Of the Xt Church men with whom you may remember me to have been intimate, Wynn is still my most particular friend. Combe I often see when in town. Martin Butt is settled as a Curate at Witley the parish adjoining Abberley, & the Chancellor who examined him for ordination [3]  said he passed an examination fit for a Bishop. a good Theologian & a good man he bids fair to be an honour to the Church. I had much serious conversation with him & was exceedingly at seeing my old schoolfellow in so very respectable a light. Charles Collins is in high life. he forced me once to dine with him but so disgusted me by his intolerable vanity & pride of purse, that I have followed the example of all his school & college friends & totally dropt his acquaintance. his whole conversation was what he could afford to give for pictures, carriages, horses, pipes of wine &c. &c.

You would perhaps smile were I to give you a list of all the works I have in my head or even in hand. in the press I have a second edition of my Letters, & a second volume of Poems. [4] 

God bless you. let me hear from you & believe me

yrs very affectionately

Robert Southey.

<direct to Mr Cottles. Bristol>


* Address: To/ The Reverend N. Lightfoot/ Kingsbridge/ Devon/ Single
Endorsement: 1798
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 110. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Francis Severn (1751–1828), Rector of Kyre and Abberley, Worcestershire, was married to a sister of Edmund Seward. BACK

[2] Unidentified. BACK

[3] Herbert Hill was Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral; hence Southey’s inside knowledge about Butt’s examination. BACK

[4] A second, revised edition of Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal was published in 1799. Southey’s two volume collection Poems appeared in 1799: volume one was a third edition of the collection first published in 1797; volume two consisted of poems published previously (though not under Southey’s own name) in the Morning Post and the Monthly Magazine or published for the first time. BACK

People mentioned

Seward family (mentioned 2 times)
Burnett, George (c. 1776–1811) (mentioned 2 times)
Butt, John Marten (1774–1846) (mentioned 1 time)
Davey, John (d. 1798) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 1 time)
Parsons, John (1761–1819) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Westbury (mentioned 1 time)
Cottles (mentioned 1 time)