505. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge [fragment], 1 April 1800

505. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge [fragment], 1 April 1800 ⁠* 

Bristol. April 1. 1800.

My dear Coleridge,

The day of our departure is now definitely fixed. We leave Bristol next week, on Thursday. I do not wish to see you before we go; the time is too short, and, moreover, the company of a friend who is soon to be left for a long absence is not desirable. A few words upon business. For the Third Anthology [1]  Davy and Danvers will be my delegates: should you be in Bristol, of course the plenipotentiaryship is vested in you. The Chatterton subscription [2]  will not fill in less than twelve months: if illness or aught more cogent detain me beyond that period, I pray you to let that duty devolve upon you; there will be nothing but the task of arrangement. Danvers has a copy of Madoc. [3]  The written books of Thalaba will be left with Wynn. [4]  A man when he goes abroad should make his will; and this is all my wealth: be my executor, in case I am summoned upon the grand tour of the universe, and do with them, and with whatever you may find of mine, what may be most advantageous for Edith, for my brothers Henry and Edward, and for my mother.

There is not much danger in a voyage to Lisbon; my illness threatens little, and faith will probably render the proposed remedy efficacious. In Portugal I shall have but little society; with the English there I have no common feeling. Of course I shall enjoy enough leisure for all my employments. My uncle has a good library, and I shall not find retirement irksome.

Our summer will probably be passed at Cintra, a place which may be deemed a cool paradise in that climate. I do not look forward to any circumstance with so much emotion as to hearing again the brook which runs by my uncle’s door. I never beheld a spot that invited to so deep tranquillity. My purposed employments you know. The History [5]  will be a great and serious work, and I shall labour at preparing the materials assiduously. The various journies necessary in that pursuit will fill a journal, and grow into a saleable volume. On this I calculate: this is a harvest which may be expected; perhaps also a few mushrooms may spring up.

If peace will permit me, I shall return along the south of Spain and over the Pyrenees. Edith little likes her expedition; she wants a female companion, but this cannot be had, and she must learn to be contented without one: moreover, there is at Lisbon a lady of her own age, [6]  for whom I have a considerable regard, and who will not be sorry to see once more an acquaintance with more brains than a calf. She will be our neighbour. My uncle also is a man for whom it is impossible not to feel affection. I wish we were there; the journey is troublesome, and the voyage shockingly unpleasant, from sickness and the constant feeling of insecurity: however, if we have but mild weather, I shall not be displeased at one more lesson in sea scenery.            .             .             .            .            .             .             .

I should willingly have seen Moses again: when I return he will be a new being, and I shall not find the queer boy whom I have been remembering. God bless him! We are all changing; one wishes sometimes that God had bestowed upon us something of his immutability. Age, infirmities, blunted feelings, blunted intellect, these are but comfortless expectancies! but we shall be boys again in the next world.

Coleridge, write often to me. As you must pay English postage, write upon large paper; as I must pay Portuguese by weight, let it be thin. My direction need only be, with the Rev. Herbert Hill, Lisbon; he has taken a house for us. We shall thus govern ourselves, and the plea of illness will guarantee me from cards and company and ball-rooms! No! no! I do not wear my old cocked hat again! it cannot, certainly, fit me now.

I take with me for the voyage your poems, the Lyrics, the Lyrical Ballads, and Gebir; [7]  and, except a few books designed for presents, these make all my library. I like Gebir more and more: if you ever meet its author, tell him I took it with me on a voyage.

.             .            .             .             .             .             .            .            .

God bless you!

Yours affectionately,

R. S.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 53–56 [in part]; Adolfo Cabral (ed.), Robert Southey: Journals of a Residence in Portugal 1800–1801 and a Visit to France 1838 (Oxford, 1960), pp. 69–71 [in part]. BACK

[1] A successor to Annual Anthology (1800), which never appeared. BACK

[2] Southey and Cottle’s edition of The Works of Thomas Chatterton (1803). BACK

[3] A fair copy of the 15-book Madoc 1797–1799; now Beinecke Library, Tinker MS 1938. BACK

[4] The first eight books of Thalaba the Destroyer (1801); now National Library of Wales, MS 1487A. BACK

[5] Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[6] Possibly Ann Tonkin (dates unknown), daughter of Lisbon-based friends of Herbert Hill. Southey had met her during his first visit to Portugal. BACK

[7] Coleridge, Poems (1797); an unidentified edition of Robert Burns (1759–1796; DNB); Coleridge and Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads (1798); Walter Savage Landor, Gebir (1798); see Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [1] May [1800], Letter 516. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Cintra [Sintra] (mentioned 1 time)