380. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 12 February 1799

380. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 12 February 1799 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

My Mother has been telling me a long story about Capt Hawker, [1]  which she has I find written to you about. I take half to be Hawkers lies & half my Aunts. the crime he accuses you of is defending Charles Fox [2]  – stript of all ornament the story comes to this. My Mother will I believe never know any of her children well enough to seperate truth from falshood in the gossiping about them.

I did not send my Letters before the Poems [3]  – to save expence. both are now printed, & the first copies that are put together shall be shippd for you. Owing to the continuance of indisposition I have omitted keeping this term – & so avoided a cold & weary journey, & saved the expence of it – no unimportant consideration this last – particularly as I have an Apothecarys bill running up.

You shall not again be so long without hearing from me. you know that many employments allow me but little leisure – & now my two books are done – I have more work. the business of Chatterton of which you have heard me speak is now to be brought forward. [4]  I hope to do much for the family. your name will be on the subscription list [5]  – & you will have a valuable book added to your floating library.

Mrs Coleridge has buried her child, & is now with the other little boy at Martinhall. [6]  Edward was with xxxx us about ten days. the boy has strong genius – but he has been miserably managed. I kept him a little under – however he is very desirous of coming again. My Mother is again in the Green, where I suppose the usual topic of discourse to entertain her is your disaffection – & my unhappy principles – “for I always said” adds my Aunt “that Robert would be the ruin of all his brothers!”

The Income Bill has taken place – & in fourteen days I must give in a statement of my affairs. [7]  Well – well – the faster we go, the sooner we shall reach the end of the journey.

I hope none of these jack-ass praters will get at your Uncle – let them bray as they please elsewhere.

We have been buried in the snow & delayed with the thaw. all our bottles & jugs burst with the frost – & if I had been corked & put out at night I might have burst too. News we have none. the loss of the Ambuscad as you may suppose excited much surprize. [8]  peace is more necessary & more distant than ever – I look on at what passes in this world, silently, but not without emotion, nor without hope. Lisbon is I think in serious danger. if so my Uncle may be expected in England: I do not think the French can possibly be fools enough to spare it longer. that port taken, the Mediterranean is again theirs, & Egypt safe. Nelson [9]  has had better poets than the other Admirals to celebrate him. but he will not have a place in my Kalendar. [10] 

God bless you. I write from Cottles & am hastening home.

yrs affectionately

R Southey.

Feby. 12. 99.

When do you pass? if in May we shall meet.


* Address: To/ Mr T. Southey/ Royal George/ Spithead./ Single
Postmark: BRISTOL/ FEB 12/ 99
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Captain Thomas Hawker (dates unknown), who was head of the Impress Service in Bristol from 1793 and a neighbour of Southey’s aunt Elizabeth Tyler. BACK

[2] The politician Charles James Fox (1749–1806; DNB). Fox led the group of Whigs who opposed the war with France and favoured parliamentary reform. BACK

[3] The second edition of Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal and the two-volume Poems, both published in 1799. BACK

[4] Southey and Joseph Cottle’s planned subscription edition of the works of Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB), eventually published in 1803. BACK

[5] In 1803 Tom Southey was listed as a subscriber in his brother’s edition of Chatterton. BACK

[6] Berkeley Coleridge had died on 10 February 1799; Sara Coleridge and her surviving son, Hartley, went to Westbury, where Southey and his wife were renting a house they nicknamed ‘Martin Hall’. BACK

[7] The new Income Tax introduced in December 1798. BACK

[8] The Ambuscade had been captured by the French on 14 December 1798 while blockading the port of Rochefort. BACK

[9] Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson (1758–1805; DNB), whose victory at the Battle of Aboukir Bay, 1798, was widely celebrated in verse; see, for example, William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), The Battle of the Nile (1799). BACK

[10] Nelson may have been excluded from the planned, but unexecuted, ‘The Kalendar’, but he was the subject of Southey’s best-selling Life, published in 1813. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Martin Hall (mentioned 2 times)
College Green, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)
Cottles (mentioned 1 time)