501. Robert Southey to Charles Biddlecombe, 24 March 1800

501. Robert Southey to Charles Biddlecombe, 24 March 1800 ⁠* 

My dear friend

You will probably be surprized at the contents of this letter. you were however I believe aware that the when & where of my departure from England were to be determined by advice from Lisbon, whither I had written stating to my Uncle the nature of my disorder, & the advice which had been uniformly given with regard to its remedy. My Uncles reply leaves me no choice, even if I were desirous of deferring my embarkation – for he has engaged a house for me & arranged every thing as to furniture & establishment – so that we are now in all the hurry of preparation. designing if possible to set out for Falmouth on this day fortnight.

We have two trunks at Burton which I shall be obliged to you to forward by Joy, [1]  directed to me No 10. Stokes Croft. Bristol. they are I believe under the tent bed-stead. both of black leather. the one small, & once neat – with brass nails & a brass-nail S on the top. the other large & shabby with no brass nails – of a coarser black leather & wagon-worn.

Our cottage will not remain untenanted – my mother I apprehend will pass her summer there, with some friend.

I design to employ myself in Portugal with collecting materials & information for the compleat History of that kingdom. [2]  a history fertile in magnificent actions. no country was ever more splendid in its rise, or more instructive in its decline. this will be a work of much labour, but of the execution will interest me, & the end be important.

Portugal is so small a country, that a few easy journies will make me well acquainted with it, & enable me to understand every field of battle, & every siege; an important advantage, not easily attainable in any other country. how I go on in health, & in occupations you shall of course from time to time be acquainted with.

It is very satisfactory to me to have my destination settled, & also that it is settled in this way. I left Lisbon with enough regret – & with enough attachment to place & persons, to render the return there an object of much pleasant anticipation. besides, tho xx my tongue be not – my ears are ready at the language, & a little serious application in the country will make me no despicable Portugueze. & I can already talk a very understandable lingo. the voyage is the most unpleasant business – I anticipate high wind & low spirits – & my inside – with the very recollection of past sickness, threatens me, & omens intestinal insurrections.

This morning I am going with Rickman to ramble all over Redcliff church [3]  – a huge & magnificent building. you will easily imagine that the arrangement of my papers, & all worldly concerns, occupies me very much. Rickman has been my amanuensis, & saved me some trouble – still I have much to do.

My Mother & Edith desire to be remembered. God bless you. I could have wished to shake you by the hand before my departure, if it were possible.

yours affectionately

Robert Southey.

Monday. March 24. 1800.


* Address: To/ Charles Biddlecombe Esqr / Burton/ near Ringwood/ Hampshire/ Single
Postmark: BRISTOL/ MAR 24 1800
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A local (i.e. in Hampshire) carrier, his first name and dates are unknown. BACK

[2] Southey’s uncompleted ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[3] St Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol; the site of Thomas Chatterton’s (1752–1770; DNB) discovery of the Rowley manuscripts, and of Southey’s marriage to Edith Fricker. BACK

People mentioned

Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 2 times)
Southey, Margaret (1752–1802) (mentioned 2 times)
Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 2 times)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 1 time)
Stokes Croft (mentioned 1 time)