636. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [c. 4 December 1801]

636. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [c. 4 December 1801] ⁠* 

At last my dear Danvers, I repay you the thirty pounds, & remit Hamiltons [1]  old debt. I wish this last had been a larger sum. let me know the amount of Maurices [2]  bill – the taylor being paid & the smaller sums that you have expended for me there will remain from ten to twelve pounds towards defraying it. I had nearly forgotten to say that a Mr Lomax of Liverpool [3]  foolishly sent his subscription for Chatterton to me – making it two £. it is better pay it at once to Mrs Newton [4]  be good enough when you go near that end of the town to pay it her – & just take her memorandum.

If Maurices account be not a heavy one – may I ask you to discharge it for me? it hangs upon my mind, & I have no immediate means of clearing myself. Corry advanced me my first quarter – you will conceive what a hole the journeys from Llangedwin to Keswick – thence to Ireland – again to Keswick & to London must have made in it. probably my second quarter will not be paid till the end of the half year. meantime I must labour to keep pace with an increased expenditure. Hamilton promises to send me books. I have again engaged with Stuart  [5]  – the two will bring me I trust fifty pounds in the half year. Sometimes I look at Kehama, [6]  sometimes dream of a play which would be a great prize & indeed float me for the rest of my voyage. Madoc [7]  shall not be sacrificed to any temporary exigence. I schemed a prose story one day in a stage [8]  – the opposite moral to that stupid Forester of Miss Edgeworth. [9]  a plain tale how a young man by acting consistently upon philosophical principles preserved himself in difficult circumstances from what would else have been utter misery – so much for my embryos – the play I suppose must come to something – according to all laws of motive.

My Mother is as may be expected, one day better – one day worse. her present exceeding weakness she attributes to a bowel complaint when at Knowle. if I could see her gain any, the least strength perhaps I also might think so, & fancy the cough was her old one, & the expectoration not consumptive. but every symptom is against this. neither the present is agreable – nor the prospect chearing. I wish my years service were over – that the time were past & my own lot determined –

We expect soon to see Charlotte Smith [10]  – indeed she will probably be our neighbour, & I promise myself some pleasure in her company. – My visit to Holland House did not take place. Lady H. [11]  was unwell – & since that time Wynn has left town – so it is prorogued indefinitely. – Of Coleridge we see little – he talks of leaving town – foolishly I think as Stuart pays him – almost prodigally – for doing little – but doing any thing is a labour from which he would willingly shrink. I have not yet heard how Burnett goes on in his new employment. Phillips [12]  has used him so scurvily that if Georges account be quite accurate he ought to be paragraphed for a rascal in every newspaper. he bargained with him for two sheets – of which the price was to be ten guineas. Phillips afterwards sent him word that he might make it three sheets. accordingly Burnett did so – & when he demanded the 15 guineas in ratio – no Sir – said the overgrown scoundrel – I told you you might make it thr[MS torn] sheets if you pleased – but I never said I would pay for three. – So ends [MS torn] only connection with a bookseller which Burnett can hope to make. I doubt [MS torn]s ability for his present task – tho it be the easiest possible. for he is very inactive & the little time his indolence has ever sacrificed to reading has been wasted upon metaphysics – ploughing sand!

I should be less pleased than surprized if Corry was to set about trans metap metamorphosising me from a secretary into a tutor for his son. [13]  already I go with him to Walkers Lectures. [14]  no bad way of spending two hours – if they must be spent apart from the great desk & the carpet. Out of his own branch of business he possesses very little knowledge – doubtless I must appear to him as deficient as he does to me – as in every conversation one or the other must betray some ignorance. my own expectations & intentions I laid open fully in my last. if it were but possible to drop your house & its concerns at Keswick, I should wish no alteration in them.

Our love to Mrs D. you had better acknowledge this in a letter directed straight, else it may be delayed at Mr Corrys. I am obliged to make the draft payable to bearer, it being without a stamp

God bless you

yrs affectionately

R Southey


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ 9. St James’s Place/ Kingsdown/ Bristol
Stamped: BRIDGE-St./ Westminster
Postmark: [partial] BDE/ 801
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Dating note: The letter’s contents suggest a date in early December 1801, round about 4 December, when Southey began to attend the lectures given by Adam Walker. BACK

[1] Samuel Hamilton (fl. 1790s-1810s), owner of the Critical Review, 1799-1804. Southey had reviewed intermittently for the journal since 1797. BACK

[2] Joseph Maurice (dates unknown), an apothecary with a shop on St Michael’s Hill, Bristol. He had treated Southey and his family while they lived in Bristol. BACK

[3] Mr Lomax (dates unknown) had sent Southey £2 for a copy of The Works of Thomas Chatterton (1803), edited by Southey and Joseph Cottle. In the list of subscribers at the beginning of volume 1, he was described as ‘Mr. J. Lomax, one Copy, 2l.’ He might have been either the merchant James Lomax or John Lomax, both of whom lived in Bold St, Hanover St, Liverpool, in 1800. BACK

[4] Mary Newton (1749-1806), Chatterton’s sister, who was the beneficiary of Southey’s and Cottle’s edition of her brother’s works. BACK

[5] Southey had ‘engaged’ to write poems for the Morning Post, owned by Daniel Stuart, as he had done in 1798-1799. But only three of his poems appeared in September-December 1801, and Southey did not publish anything further in the Morning Post until 4 February 1803. BACK

[6] For Southey’s plan for The Curse of Kehama (1810), see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 12-15. By this date he had only drafted Book 1. BACK

[7] Southey had finished a version of Madoc in 1797-1799. He was revising it for publication, but it did not appear until 1805. BACK

[8] Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 9-10, contains Southey’s sketch for a novel with a hero called ‘Oliver Elton’. In a subsequent note (IV, p. 10) dated ‘Parkgate. Saturday Oct. 10, 1801’, Southey described the story as concerning ‘a man who, by practical wisdom and useful knowledge, preserves himself from misery in difficult circumstances, and makes and deserves his own happiness.’ BACK

[9] Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849; DNB). ‘Forester’ was one of the short stories in Moral Tales for Young People (1801). It dealt with a young man of high principles but no tact. BACK

[10] Charlotte Turner Smith (1749-1806; DNB), poet and novelist; author, among many other works, of Celestina (1791) and The Old Manor House (1793). She was an old friend of Mary Barker; the two spent the winter together in London in 1801-1802. BACK

[11] Elizabeth Vassall Fox, Lady Holland (c. 1771-1845; DNB), literary and political hostess. Her second husband was Henry Richard Fox, 3rd Lord Holland, Whig politician and Hispanophile. BACK

[12] Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840; DNB), publisher and proprietor of the Monthly Magazine. BACK

[13] William Corry (c. 1786-1853). BACK

[14] Probably given by Adam Walker (1730/1-1821; DNB), famed for his lectures, especially on astronomy. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 3 times)