616. Robert Southey to John May, 16 October 1801

616. Robert Southey to John May, 16 October 1801 ⁠* 

Dublin.  October 16. 1801

My dear friend

Doubtless the date of my letter will surprize you. I hurried hither with such speed, as to allow myself neither leisure of time nor rest of mind for announcing to you & the rest of my friends, my change of circumstances.

Rickman, whose name you know, having by the Population Act [1]  made his talents known, accompanied Mr Abbot [2]  here as confidential Secretary. among other consequent introductions, this situation introduce led him to an intimacy with Mr Corry, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr Corry wanting a similar assistant, enquired if Rickman knew any man of talents for the office, xx worthy of full confidence. my name was mentioned to him, & the letters which I had since my return from Portugal, written to Rickman, were by him shown to Mr Corry, as explanatory of my then views. Mr Corry then wrote to me – offering me 200£ a year, & a like sum for travelling expences. for one year – that if the diplomatic line pleased me better, or promised more I might get into it. – I was with Wynn & Elmsley in Wales when the offer arrived. there could be no hesitation in accepting it – there was indeed no power of choice. I hurried back to Keswick – hastily prepared there, left Edith with her sister & here I am. – as yet I have not seen Mr Corry who is from town. in the course of ten days he will probably remove to England, of course I follow him, with Edith to London, where we abide till June.

By this very unexpected change, tho no immediate advantage accrues to me, much is promised. immediately I become independent. my neat income, deducting the travelling expences from the 369 pounds Irish English money which I shall receive, will not exceed what my own labours would have produced in addition to the 160 which I should have received. but if I should like my situation & suit it, Mr Corry can be a very useful friend, & if otherwise, as Wynn observed, a diplomatic situation is more readily obtained for one who has already had some employment in official transactions. As yet knowing nothing of the person with whom I am connected, nor the I can say nothing – I feel only the bustle & discomfort of sudden alteration – the loneliness of a man who has left his wife behind him, & when I walk the streets, bitterly regret the Lakes & the Mountains.

However that I have acted not only with common prudence & due worldly wisdom, but as was incumbent upon me in my circumstances, in conformity to all reason, & principle, & duty, I feel fully & entirely satisfied. how my health will bear a town life, is the only doubt. that I loathe & abhor it with all my physical & moral being is of inferior consideration. One obvious source of pleasure it affords – access to many friends. I hope & expect to shake you by the hand in three weeks. but let me first hear what you think upon the way of life into which I have fallen.

Direct to me under cover to

Right Honble

Isaac Corry

&c &c &c


your letter will in all probability reach me here, if not it follows me without cost.

God bless you.

yrs with thankful & affectionate remembrance

R Southey.


* Watermark: A Blackwell/ 1797
Endorsement: No 64. 1801/ Robert Southey/ Dublin 16 Oct/ recd. 20th do/ ansd. 22nd do
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos, The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 62-64. BACK

[1] The Census Act (1800), which authorised the first census of 1801. BACK

[2] Charles Abbot, Lord Colchester (1757-1829; DNB), Chief Secretary for Ireland 1801-1802, The Speaker 1802-1817. BACK

People mentioned

Corry, Isaac (1753–1813) (mentioned 7 times)
Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 3 times)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 2 times)
Elmsley, Peter (1774–1825) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Sarah (1770–1845) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Dublin (mentioned 2 times)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)