564. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 20[-24] January [1801]

564. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 20[-24] January [1801] ⁠* 

Tuesday Jany 20. 1800.

My dear Danvers

An unhappy continuance of ill winds so long delayed the packet that only this day my letters arrived, it is unlucky as time is pressing – & what you & Davy say about the last book of Thalaba so awakens my own conscience that the determination to reform was instantly made. keep you therefore the Press back as to books 11 & 12. I will go instantly to work – three or four hundred lines are nothing when I have the fever fit. book 11 has very little to alter. book 12 shall be Davys plan – a foretaste – , & now my conscience is at rest – tho not my brain. Longman cannot object to what on my part shall not be ten days delay – winds & waves I cannot command – yet I will do my utmost by sending duplicates. The Lady Liberty & Leoline never sat easy on my stomach. [1] 

The crowd of news harrasses me. in England ones private politics are served up at their due intervals – there is time to taste <each> & xxxxxx chew the cud & digest. now I am crammed at once with a two months food. poor Cottle! I can taste the bitter – . [2]  Harry – & what of Harry – “& shall I laugh or weep?” [3]  – his path is the plain turnpike road – & there is a good inn in view. [4]  but – it is morally impossible that Harry ever can believe all the nine & thirty absurdities. you know & I know how these things must shock one who thinks at all. what I dread is – first his danger at the University – Harry is very vain – & to escape the soul & body-pollution of Oxford debauchery requires a stronger moral constitution than his appears to be. he has talents – & he has lived among a society of free-speakers. moreover the recollection of my opinions would outweigh a folio full of church authorities with him. I fear – that he will profess & disbelieve – sign all & believe none. If otherwise – if he could swallow all – so much the better. I shall abstain from all advice. how can I persuade him to that which I would not do myself? & to influence him against it would be unjust to the little world of his relations. I wish him sincerely to embrace the offer, if he can sincerely embrace it. his choice is made – & so some of the 115£ [5]  will soon be converted into xxxxxxxx pieces of six & thirty – paper money & old folios.

thank you Danvers for your offer. now – by this unexpected circumstance I I am rich & have only to fear lest I become extravagant – lest as the Missionary Methodists say, my heart should grow fat, like Jeshûrun, & kick. [6]  see my rentroll. by the next winter the first volume of my History. [7]  most certainly if no accident cut off me or my books & papers. the literary history [8]  keeping pace with it & ready to follow it. – A volume of letters ready with the mere trouble of sorting & copying – exhibiting a full picture of Portugal as it is, & properly supplemental to the History of the past. [9]  The Bird of my brain (you will understand the Arabic allusion) [10]  hatching a great Hindoo egg. [11]  Madoc to be finished & published. little subjects enough for another years work with Stuart if I do so feel compelled, or induced by the idea of re-anthologizing. [12]  With all this will it not be hard if I cannot at last furnish me a house & settle? – but where? but the blessed Law! – & if my other speculations pay as well as Thalaba – should I not be more employed, more happily fore myself – more profitably for society – in some snug house within a mornings walk of you & Davy? – I am hard at work. feeding upon folios. busy in laying up marble & mortar – not in building. my history makes me sanguine. it promises to be among histories what Madoc shall be among poems. –

About George. [13]  how is he going to those miserable Islands? & is it not a miserable plan to send a poor boy there who has there neither spirit to pretend to success, nor talents to deserve it, or render it even probable? – were it not better to send as apprentice him to Biggs? I could serve him as a printer – & there is the happy 115£ pounds – from which I might deduct 40 for my own use. his board I could not undertake to defray – yet would assist to my utmost. this was the first plan & surely is the best. A small sum sets him up at the end of five years – & our business will be considerable.


I was almost in hopes to have sent off the amended Thalaba by this mail. however we have two packets in the river – & the second will not be detained beyond the Sunday week & may probably sail on Thursday. Longman objected to allowing me large papers copies [14]  on the plea that half a dozen would cost as much in working off as 250. this would not have been the case with Biggs, who as you know when I am present does this for me – tho he & his partner somewhat unhandsomely disappointed me in my absence. it is now late to have it done with Thalaba – & like poor Cottle I must expect a – second edition. as for the notes being printed at the bottom of the page – you know I think it far the best place for them, & only gave it up on account of the great length of a few. this however is well altered & I am pleased. [15]  the deficient notes were left for Rickman to supply from books which I could not procure here. Should the books be ready before my return dispose of my dozen copies thus – yourself – DavyRickmanCottleWynnJohn MayBedfordColeridge – my cousin MargaretEliza Fricker – my brother Tom – & keep the last for myself. I shall purchase two for my Uncle & Harry.

We have Prince Augustus [16]  here. the nine days wonder & gaping stock of the place. the United English & Irish are about to give a subscription supper in honour of him & the Union. [17]  I shall decline joining the subscription – tho perhaps with some singularity – because four pounds – to which the money & the chaise hire amount – is more than I can afford to squander upon so foolish an occasion. We have also one of the Anti Jacobines [18]  here as Minister – with him I of course left my card – & received his visit in return – not without considerable embarrasment on his part – even to a faltering of voice – perhaps in recollection of the rascally note about Coleridge  [19]  – of which I shall not be slow in speaking my opinion to him if I can find an opportunity. he is a man whose manners would be very pleasant if they were not somewhat over courteous.

The Death of the Prime Minister [20]  here has occasioned some beneficial changes. the paper money by a few common sense regulations is recovering its credit. alarms occasionally prevail of France & Spain – foolishly enough – as I believe some of my former letter may have sufficiently proved. the Plague Yellow Fever dozes in Andalusia. it is not quite asleep & in spring we shall tremble at its wakening. this is the real & almost inevitable danger of Portugal. I think enough of it to wish my books in England which are not easily moveable in time of alarm – & perhaps then not admissible into England. indeed if an opportunity offer I shall probably ship a box for Bristol – Davy would give them house room.

I have no time to write to Rickman by this packet – do you let him know that I am thankfully satisfied with all his arrangements – & as for the change of “its” into “the” he might have altered a longer word without hesitation. I have no[MS torn] magnifying eye of authorship like the Lord High Canceller, George Dyer.

By this time you have probably received from John May the fifteen pounds I requested him to send – should my commissions exceed that sum it matters little – give Peggy three guineas of it – & as in Cottles circumstances [21]  he must find it inconvenient to pay her the guinea a month with which the Anthology account was chargeable – do you be her paymaster for this monthly sum. – how can he have managed so ill? did you not tell me that he had set up a one-horse-chaise? – & the poor fellow is utterly unfit for any situation – as there happen to be no convents in England, he would make an excellent monk.

The “population bill” [22]  is Rickmans scheme – & he superintends its execution. he says “it is a matter of public utility & he shall not reject it because offered by rogues.”

By the next packet you shall receive the corrections. I can trust Biggs slow pace without fear – & in all probability that letter will arrive within ten days after this. owing to the winds at Falmouth your two reached me at the same time.

our love to Mrs Danvers

God bless you.

yrs affectionately



* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ 9 St James’s Place/ Kingsdown/ Bristol
Postmarks: [illegible]
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 234-237 [where it is correctly dated 1801].
Dating note: Misdated 1800 by Southey. BACK

[1] Central features of the early draft of Book 12 of Thalaba the Destroyer; see Southey to Wynn, 30-[31] December 1800, Letter 563. For Southey’s planned changes, see also Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 188-189 [entry misdated ‘Jan. 20. 1800’]. BACK

[2] In 1800 Cottle had endured the deaths of his father Robert (d. 1800), his sister Martha (?1785-1800) and his brother Amos. BACK

[3] Possibly an adaptation of Luke 6: 21, ‘Blessed are you who weep aloud, because you shall laugh’. BACK

[4] Southey’s uncle, Herbert Hill, had proposed that Henry Herbert Southey might become an Anglican clergyman, a path that Southey had rejected. This would mean Henry would have to attend Oxford University and subscribe to the 39 Articles of the Church of England. BACK

[5] The sum that Longman had offered Southey for Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) and which Southey believed he would have to use for his brother Henry’s medical training. BACK

[6] Deuteronomy 32: 15. BACK

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

[8] Southey’s plan for a ‘Literary History’ of Portugal, and possibly of Spain as well. BACK

[9] Southey’s unwritten sequel to Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797). BACK

[10] Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 107, refers to the ‘perched birds of the brain’, quoting the ‘Poem of Antara’, Works of Sir William Jones, 6 volumes (London, 1799), IV, p. 307. This material appeared as a note to Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 11, line 61. BACK

[11] Southey’s plan for what became The Curse of Kehama (1810), Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 12-15. BACK

[12] The unrealised sequel to Annual Anthology (1799) and (1800). BACK

[13] One of George Fricker’s uncles had proposed to withdraw him from Savary’s bank in Bristol, where Southey and Coleridge had found him a place. Possibly, the ‘miserable Islands’ to which it was planned to send him were the West Indies. BACK

[14] This was in contrast with Joseph Cottle, who had printed special large format presentation copies for Southey. BACK

[15] Despite Southey’s expectations, the notes to Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) were printed at the bottom of the page. BACK

[16] Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843; DNB), sixth son of George III. He was in Lisbon to recover from asthma. BACK

[17] The Union between Great Britain and Ireland, which came into effect on 1 January 1801. BACK

[18] John Hookham Frere (1769-1846; DNB); educated at Eton, and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (BA 1792, MA 1795); MP for West Looe 1796-1802; envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Portugal 1800-1802 and then to Spain 1802-1804, 1808-1809. Also a poet, he contributed parodies to the Anti-Jacobin 1797-1798. BACK

[19] Beauties of the Anti-Jacobin (London, 1799), p. 306, n. 17, in which Coleridge was easily identifiable as ‘C-dge’, and accused of abandoning his family. BACK

[20] Southey seems to have confused two different events. The head of the Portuguese Treasury and former Secretary of State (prime minister) in 1786-1788, Tomas Xavier de Lima Teles da Silva, Marquess of Ponte de Lima (1727-1800), had died on 23 December 1800. But while his successor as Secretary of State in 1788-1801, Luis Pinto de Sousa Coutinho, Viscount of Balsemao (1735-1804), was dismissed on 6 January 1801, he was still very much alive, remaining in the ministry as Foreign Secretary until 21 May 1801 and returning as Secretary of State in 1803. BACK

[21] Joseph Cottle had been forced to give up his bookselling business in 1799 and was in financial trouble. BACK

[22] The Census Act (1800) had become law on 31 December 1800. It authorised the first census of 1801. BACK