392. Robert Southey to John May, 28 March 1799

392. Robert Southey to John May, 28 March 1799 ⁠* 

My dear friend

My better plan respecting Edward will be when I am next in London to call on Dr Roberts, the Master of St Pauls, [1]  & make all the necessary enquiries respecting where the boys are boarded &c, whether as at Westminster [2]  this is an expence to the friends, or makes as at Christs Hospital [3]  a part of the foundation. For the last week the boy has been with me. & the necessity of settling him becomes more & more apparent. I never saw a lad with a better capacity or with habits more compleatly bad.

Dr Thomas has written to me. he says he has struggled hard to preserve Miss Tylers estates for better times, that he has raisd the rentals, which will make <them> sell better if they must be sold – that till her affairs be settled he will supply her with money as it comes into his hands, or before, if it can be done with any convenience to himself. “Yet (he adds) every thing that can be done will be of no avail unless she will resolutely determine to live within her income.” – how all this business can be settled I know not – as her embarrasments become more pressing she has let my Mother know more respecting them, & she is indebted to her friends more deeply than I supposed or than Dr Thomas can imagine. Edward must certainly be removed – the situation is ruinous to him. his restraints & indulgencies are equally improper. he is never suffered to play with his school-fellows – therefore whenever he has been playing he comes home with a falshood to excuse himself. he has been so much her companion that he has all the forward tittle-tattle of an old superannuated Master-of-the-Ceremonies. he has no diffidence, no sincerity – the boy has lived so much in the theatre that he is perpetually acting a part. of me & only of me he stands in some awe – but the moment he is out of my sight he is doing something wrong, & neither repeated detection, reproof nor admonition seem to have <any> effect in curing him of falshood. Nothing can be so ruinous as living with a person whom he does not love & does not respect. I shall be in town the first of May & will take measures for settling him.

Mr Pine, [4]  the Methodist Minister, on whose authority I relate the Sailors story, [5]  had neglected to ask the names of the captain – ship &c. his name might, I doubt not, have been inserted. the Cottles know him well & have the fullest reliance on his veracity. Cottles mother took the story down as he related it, & from her my account was taken.

My Uncle used to call Penwarne [6]  a stupid Devonshire man – & then add that nothing but stupid fellows came out of Devonshire. I remember him chiefly for his ingenuity in hanging hiding his money & watch in the foot of his boot, which somebody stole out of his bedroom one day.

Mr Maurice writes me a good account of Harry. he finds him quick & attentive & is about to begin French with him & mathematics. Maurices is a very handsome letter – he seems attached to Harry & to take an interest in bringing his talents forward. for the holydays Harry is invited to a Mr Mannings [7]  near Yarmouth. a gentleman somewhat advanced in life, with whom I spent some comfortable days last May. On Burnetts removal which takes place next month, William Taylor will look after him, & with him whenever it is necessary he will find a home.

I find great pleasure in the correspondence of William Taylor, his attainments are infinitely beyond those of any man whom I ever knew, & he has no parade, no ostentation of knowledge. the notice & company of such a man will greatly stimulate Harry to his studies; as not all the advice in the world could make him so sensible of the advantages derivable from them.

You will perhaps be pleased to hear that I look forward to the conclusion of Madoc. of the 15 book to which the first copy extends, 12 are finished. I almost expect to show you the whole in May. I have some prospect of seeing N Wales when our year is expired here. Wynn has some plan of that kind for me – & I much want to study the scenery of that country.

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

R Southey.

Ediths remembrance.

Thursday 28. March. 99.

I break open my letter to beg you would send my Mothers money. [8] 


* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ 4. Bedford Square/ London/ Single
Stamped: [partial] BRISTOL
Postmark: MR/ 29/ 99
Watermark: [illegible]
Endorsement: 1799 No. 34./ Robert Southey/ No place 28 March/ recd: 29 do/ ansd: 20 April
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos, The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 41–43. BACK

[1] Richard Roberts (fl. 1769–1814), High Master of St Paul’s School, London. BACK

[2] Westminster School, London, from which Southey had been expelled in 1792. BACK

[3] Christ’s Hospital, the London public school whose alumnae included Coleridge and Charles Lamb. BACK

[4] Possibly William Pine (d. 1803), a leading Bristol Methodist and printer of the Bristol Gazette, or his son, William Pine (1769–1837). BACK

[5] The story behind Southey’s ‘The Sailor, who had Served in the Slave-Trade’, Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. [103]–114. BACK

[6] Unidentified; possibly a member of the English community in Portugal. BACK

[7] Probably William Manning (dates unknown), who lived in Ormesby, a village to the North of Yarmouth. See The Poll for a Member to Serve in Parliament, for the Borough of Great Yarmouth, in the County of Norfolk; Taken on Friday the 29th of May, 1795 (Yarmouth, 1795), p. 19. BACK

[8] I break … money: written on fol 2 v. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Edward (1788–1847) (mentioned 4 times)
Maurice, Michael (1766–1855) (mentioned 2 times)
Southey, Margaret (1752–1802) (mentioned 2 times)
Cottle family (mentioned 2 times)
Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 2 times)
Tyler, Elizabeth (1739–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Yarmouth (mentioned 1 time)