401. Robert Southey to John May, [c. 24 April 1799]

401. Robert Southey to John May, [c. 24 April 1799] ⁠* 

My dear friend

My brother will send off his books to you immediately. they are only to be left with Mr Dash at the Navy Office. [1] 

Respecting Edward there is this to be ascertained. are the holydays at St Pauls at Whitsuntide or not? if they are, & it is the case at the great public schools this is holyday time. if you will be good enough to call on Dr Roberts [2]  you can learn this. Maber told me I had only to take Edward to the Dr, & introduce him as the boy of whom Mr Maber had apprized him. this was in 1796 – but in the last autumn he told me nothing more than <was> necessary. I wish to know where the boys are boarded & the expence. my Uncle seemed to think there were boarding houses as at Westminster, [3]  but as Maber had sent the apothecarys son [4]  there of his own parish I rather imagine that the foundation entirely supports the boys. he was eleven in December last. I am very desirous of removing him while the faults of his education are remediable.

The character <conduct> of Judas Iscariot affords an argument against Xtianity because he must have seen the moral excellence & the miraculous powers of Jesus, & in that case must have knowingly acted to his own damnation; a madness seemingly impossible. to this the answer may be that like his countrymen he might impute miracles to magic. Judas was evidently predestined to his guilt; the doctrine of universal restitution enables us to reconcile this to the Goodness & Justice of Deity – yet is it still a difficulty.

Another objection to Xtianity is the prophecy of Jesus which is explained to relate to the destruction of Jerusalem tho its obvious meaning is the end of the world. [5] 

The only other objection which has any weight relates to the Jewish dispensation. the extermination of the Canaanites & the human sacrifice of Agag. [6]  on this subject I know too little to do any thing but doubt. but it is possible for a Socinian to believe Xtianity & reject Judaism.

We will talk of these subjects, & as you have the advantage of Dr Heys [7]  correspondence we can have his opinion upon any question that puzzles us. the objections have weight, but they are nothing in the scale. there is no occasion to “throw the weight of hope into the scale of reason.” [8]  it preponderates without it.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

R Southey.

I shall be in town Apr. 30.



* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ 4. Bedford Square/ London/ Single
Postmarks: BRISTOL/ APR 25 99; AP/ 24/ 99
Endorsement: 1799 No 36/ Robert Southey/ No date/ recd: 24 April/ ansd: 27 do
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos, The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 43–44. BACK

[1] Unidentified; presumably a junior civil servant in the Navy Office, London. BACK

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

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

[4] Unidentified; presumably a boy from Merthyr Tydfil, where Maber was Rector. BACK

[5] Luke 19: 41–44. BACK

[6] Deuteronomy 20: 16–18; 1 Samuel 15: 32–33. BACK

[7] Possibly the Cambridge divine John Hey (1734–1815; DNB), whose writings included the four-volume Lectures in Divinity (1796–1798). BACK

[8] Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), ‘Letter to Voltaire’ (1756), sent in response to the latter’s ‘Poem on the Lisbon Disaster [i.e. Earthquake]’ (1756). BACK

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