481. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [started before and continued on] 27 January 1800

481. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [started before and continued on] 27 January 1800 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

A lucky sheet of paper which has been folded up in my pocket-book since July last gives me the power of writing to you – when otherwise lack of paper & Sunday must have delayed me. I am better than before I left Hampshire, not so well as I since have been, & my determination is made to remove to a better climate – but when or where I have not settled.

I met an acquaintance of yours here lately. Dr Blake [1]  of Taunton who civilly invited me there when I might happen to journey that way. he is an old pupil of Estlin s – at whose table I met him. Another Tauntoneer whom I have seen is I believe unknown to you – Dr Kinglake [2]  – Kinglakes brother. a man of uncommon talents – indeed one of the ablest & most respectable whom I have ever met with. I have seen a good deal of him.

Your removal to the Bellona [3]  is I suppose more a matter of condolence than of congratulation. no knocks – no money, – & there is little chance of a sea engagement. France is under able rule, & her expeditions will be well plannd & her exertions rightly directed. It is in Germany that the peace will be made, by the cooperation of Prussia [4]  – the only government in Europe that acts wisely & respectably.

Of late I have done little. Thalaba advances – towards the end of the eighth book – but it must reach to twelve – two more than my first plan. [5] 

I know not wherefore you amuse yourself by abusing Burton – if on my account of my Mothers health – she never was better anywhere. it is only at Bath & Bristol that she suffers. if because you do not like the country, we who live there do. if the house be not fine enough – it is lucky that we are contented with what we can afford. you damn Burton & rejoice that my Mother is at Bristol. Harry has seen her at Bristol, & can confirm what I tell you, that at Bristol she is never well & never happy. at Burton she was well & chearful. here she is the slave of her sisters humours, & lookd upon by her sisters friends as a sort of dependant relation, whom they speak to if she opens the door to them – not if they meet her in the street. believe me the day on which she returns to Burton, will be a happier one than she has known since she left it.


The second volume of the Anthology [6]  is half done – you have never yet received the first I believe – I carried it all round Torbay in my knapsack in the hope of meeting with you.

Rickman is coming to pass a month at Bristol – chiefly on my account. he often enquires for you. few men stand higher in my judgement than John Rickman. there will be much to interest him here in the Pneumatic Institution, [7]  & the conversation of Davy. he has some boat-improving plans which upon which he wishes for an opportunity of talking with you. Rickmans head with all his apparent idleness is never unemployed.

Cottle is publishing his Alfred by subscription. [8]  I could not offer to subscribe myself because I knew he would of course give me a copy – but by way of doing the same thing I subscribed in your name. so by & by, you must not scruple paying carriage for a bulky quarto.

I have in agitation some prose works. writing for the paper [9]  I have given up from inability to bear the irksomeness of periodical idea-hunting. a connected work will not harrass me in this way – & something I must do. it is possible that before we return to Burton I may visit London to make bargains with the booksellers – if indeed my journey be delayed till the autumn.

Harry is much grown & much improved. good company & instruction have not been wasted upon him. he will in the course of another year be requiring an expence of education which I am afraid we shall not find it easy to defray. I shall not however fail to make my best exertions. if I can get footing in the theatres the profits will be great. travel where I will, the journal will pay [MS torn] journey.

Direct Kingsdown Parade. Bristol. – I am so miserably tense with wind – that government ought to engage me in the fleet – as I could at any time give them a gale. my tripes are now perfectly hurricanized.

Ediths love. God bless you.

Robert Southey.

Monday 27. Jany. 1800.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Thomas Southey./ Bellona./ Plymouth./ Single
Postmark: [partial] BRISTOL/ JAN/ 1800
Endorsement: [date written in another hand at beginning of letter]
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Malachi Blake (1771–1843), doctor and prominent Unitarian in Taunton. He founded Taunton and Somerset Hospital in 1809. BACK

[2] Robert Kinglake (1765–1842; DNB), expert on gout. His brother was William Kinglake (d. 1852), banker and solicitor. BACK

[3] HMS Bellona was a 74-gun ship of the line, so more likely to be used in engaging the French fleet and less likely to pick up lucrative prizes than the smaller Sylph on which Tom Southey had been serving. BACK

[4] Germany was likely to be a key area of conflict between France and Austria in 1800, but Prussia had not joined the Second Coalition formed against France in 1799 and was neutral. BACK

[5] Southey stuck to his revised plan, and the Islamic romance Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) was composed of 12 books. BACK

[6] Annual Anthology (1800). BACK

[7] The Pneumatic Institute, Dowry Square, Bristol. BACK

[8] Joseph Cottle, Alfred, An Epic Poem, in Twenty Four Books (1800) was not published by subscription. BACK

[9] Southey had stopped writing regular poems for the Morning Post in December 1799; see Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 15 December 1799, Letter 462. BACK

People mentioned

Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 3 times)
Southey, Margaret (1752–1802) (mentioned 2 times)
Cottle, Joseph (1770–1853) (mentioned 1 time)
Tyler, Elizabeth (1739–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Davy, Humphry (1778–1829) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 5 times)
Kingsdown Parade, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)