604. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, [late August/ early September 1801]

604. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, [late August/ early September 1801] ⁠* 

My dear Harry

It is not without a serious self shame that I reflect upon my silence to you. daily intentions – daily procrastination – & much to do & more time dissipated make but poor excuses – nor were it better alledge how many of my friends have the same cause of complaint. From William Taylor you know the contents of my letters to him. Since their date I know nothing more of my own destination, nor indeed do I soon expect it. some situation I look to in Italy, of salary equal to the expenditure of an unexpensive man, & of business sufficiently easy to allow leisure for literary amusement, from which I hope to afford the superfluities. you will not of course talk of these things to any one but William Taylor. a Southern residence I feel too necessary to my enjoyment of life, & happily it suits my inclination as well as my health. that it removes me from my friends is a less evil to me than it would be to those who have known more family comforts. settle where I would, letter-intercourse would be my only means of communicating with most of my friends – & it matters little whether that be done by a ship or a mail coach. Immediate ease of circumstances is promised by this plan – possible affluence.

I write from Coleridges, where I arrived on Wednesday last. probably Wynn will come here to see the Lakes, & in that case I shall get into his gig & return with him, for the purpose of visiting Wales, & travelling Madocs road. Whether we winter here or not time must determine. inclination would induce me toxx but it is as cold as at Yarmouth, & I am now growling at clouds & Cumberland weather. the Lakes at first disappointed me. they were diminutive to what I had expected. the mountains little compared to Monchique – & for beauty – all English – perhaps all existing scenery must yield to Cintra, my last summers residence. yet as I become more familiar with these mountains the more is their sublimity felt & understood; were they in a warmer climate they would be the best & most desirable neighbours.

Of Lisbon politics I am uncomfortably ignorant. John May writes me that the English must probably soon leave Portugal. So it appears to me, not from any ill will originating in the court of Lisbon, or even in Spanish influence, but from the foolish & plundering spirit of our own politics. We may take possession of Madeira in trust [1]  – but so were the ships at Toulon [2]  taken – & Portugal will not see her colonies captured like the Dutch possession [3]  without feeling resentment. it is a wicked conduct towards a people whom long connection has attached even with affection xxx to England, & who has been by England only brought into her present calamities. When the Lisbon ministers joined the great alliance, they said they were going to be pall-bearers at the funeral of France. – So far this business interests me as my books are in the convoy, & should English property be seized, I shall lose a great deal of money, & many a rare volume which money cannot replace.

I am very much puzzled & distressed about George Burnett. I have twice written to him: to advise him in a tone which long intimacy surely justified, & with an earnestness which only long affection would have produced. he has not replied, & what I have seen in his letters to Danvers was only such as equally vexed & provoked me. he writes as a man of neglected merit, offended with the world for overlooking talents – which he has never given the world an opportunity of estimating. meantime he has no employment – & thi[MS missing] for which he is anyways qualified he rejects as beneath him [MS missing] upon <him> the necessity of accepting an Ushers place at fifty [MS missing] the duty – but poor George will not allow that phrase – the [MS missing] that pride that feels no degradation in necessary labour [MS missing] better to produce some work in the leisure hours of irkso[MS missing] than to starve in angry idleness. he has no alternative – & if the present opportunity passes by I fear he must soon solicit what he now rejects.

Peggys state is dreadful. her recovery is impossible, she suffers much & may yet linger till the winter. I loved her dearly, & feel a loss not easily replaced.

Ediths love.

God bless you my dear Harry.

Robert Southey.

I am going in about ten days for Wales, & can give you no direction there as yet. thence I shall write to Wm T. to whom all kind remembrances.


* Address: To/ Mr Henry Herbert Southey/ with Philip Martineau Esqr/ Norwich./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 3. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 247-249 [dated ‘September 1801’]. BACK

[1] On 24 July 1801, after Portugal had been forced to close its ports to British ships in the Treaty of Badajoz (signed on 6 June 1801), 1,200 British troops arrived on the Portuguese island of Madeira in order to protect British property and trade. They remained until January 1802. BACK

[2] When British troops evacuated the French city of Toulon in December 1793 they burned or captured the French fleet in the harbour. BACK

[3] After France occupied the Netherlands in 1795, British troops captured the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope in order to prevent it falling into French hands. British troops remained until 1803. BACK

Places mentioned

Yarmouth (mentioned 1 time)
Cintra [Sintra] (mentioned 1 time)