642. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 21 December 1801

642. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 21 December 1801 ⁠* 

Monday Dec. 21. 1801.

My dear Danvers

I have delayed writing some time in the hope of recovering your last letter. its loss cannot be attributed to misdirection. a large packet from Rickman has never reached me. by the same post he wrote under cover to Corry inclosing a forty pounds bill – else that also had gone. – If King will house the boxes I shall be greatly obliged to him – it vexes & hurts me that you should be troubled for my account on all sides.

My Mother does not mend. a bowel complaint this last week has much alarmed me. it is tamed, but a very very little would now destroy her. Edith & her sister are wholly employed in nursing. two days she kept her bed, & she must not leave her room till a great amendment takes place. I am a good deal there – to the still further lessening of my little leisure. tho she certainly is not consumptive, the decay is so total that I hardly can hope her recovery. Edith is miserably & vexatiously depressed in spirits. my Mothers are very good – uncommonly good. she suffers no pain, & is even chearful. only at times she regrets having left Bristol – because she should have liked to have been buried with my father. yet if the xxxxx <winter> should not relapse to its severity we may yet make her weather it out xx xxx xxx – & in the summer take out a new lease. there is no dangerous disease about her – nor has she reached is her age great.

I am very desirous to see the Catalogue – because my Uncle has bought so many books since my return, that now when a work comes in my way, I do not venture at the hap-hazard to purchase it. my inclinations more & more lead me towards history – & that pursuit again is continually stimulating me by its abundant subject, to poetry. I have a treaty on foot – to write in the Courier [1]  – & if I can so add two guineas, or two & a half weekly to my income – it will be very convenient. in that case of course I shall get a paper – I will send it daily to you –. in one of my beloved old Spaniards I found a wild story the other day, which I am half disposed to stitch up into a play for the stage [2]  – happily my dreaming does not keep me idle – it only amuses the intervals from employment.

Miss Barker is at last settled in town for the winter, with Charlotte Smith, [3]  whom I like very much – tho it gave me an uncomfortable surprize to see her look so old & broken down. I like her manners – by having a large family she is more humanized, more akin to xx common feelings – than most literary women. tho she has done more, & done better than other women writers, it has <not> been her whole employment – she is not looking out for admiration & talking to show off. I see in her none of the nasty little envies & jealousies common enough among the cattle – what she likes – she likes with judgement & feeling, & praises warmly. – Lamb & his sister see us often. he is printing his play [4]  – which will please you by the exquisite beauty of its poetry, & provoke you by the exquisite silliness of its story. Godwin who often visits him has a trick of always falling asleep for some hour after supper. one night Lamb was at Godwins with the Mr Fell [5]  whose dull Tour thro the Bavarian Republic I saw at your house. when the Philosopher was napping as usual – they pick carried off his rum – brandy – sugar – picked his pockets of every thing – & made off in triumph. Godwin is in a way to marry a widow with one child.  [6]  he has also another work in hand. the History of the Life & Times of Geoffrey Chaucer. [7] Burnett is soon going down to pass a month with his mother [8]  – I have the hope that Rickman will settle him in Dublin.

This is a wretched place for books. buy indeed you can – but there is no other way of procuring them, & buying <by wholesale> does not suit the buy a retail purchaser. at Bristol your society & your Library ticket procured me the sight of a tolerable supply – here I have only the book stalls, & my own stores – enough indeed to occupy me – but the interest is always in proportion to the capital.

Davy supped with me on Saturday – his only visit, he has been & is & will be usefully busied. Coleridge will go down to the Wedgewoods [9]  – & he talks of returning to pass some months in London. I see him but s[MS torn] his dislike to London is only when he is obliged to work in it – or when he is away. otherways he certainly likes the perpetual stimulation of company which he cannot so xx procure elsewhere. We expect an important addition to our circle when Miss Seton arrives, which will be soon. the Barbaulds asked me to dine one day – which I declined – my reason was the unconscionable distance, since then I met them in the street & they gave a general invitation for all Sundays – which happily spares the trouble of any particular refusal. I don’t like the breed –. On Wednesday I am to dine with Longman “to meet a few literary friends”. they will probably be xnew to me – & may furnish some amusement. at least I love to see all odd people.

I often wish to see King for his own sake – & now I have at times certain symptoms that give me a more selfish motive for the sake of my hollow tooth. has he done frog-massacring yet? – remember me to him – to Mr Rowe [10]  – to the male & female Foxes, [11]  if indeed they have not quitted the Ark. [12] Mrs Danvers will like me rejoice at the thaw. perhaps if severe weather returns she may find serious benefit from what Carlisle advises my mother to wear – a x waistcoat with sleeves of leather – thin washing leather – worn under the gown. it preserves the body more equally warm than any other substance.

I wish I could hear of any thing that could serve your brother John. [13]  I shall enquire & watch, not the less attentively, for the little prospect there is of my succeeding. my Mother & Edith send their remembrances – as for myself – if I could go – like my letter for sevenpence – it shou[MS obscured] not be the journey that should deter me from seeing you.

God bless you.

R Southey.


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ Kingsdown/ Bristol/ Single
Stamped: [partial] BRIDGE/ West
Postmark: [partial] B/ DE/ 21/ 801
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter, Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 183-186 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s hope of writing for the London newspaper The Courier ‘ended in smoke’; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 26 January 1802, Letter 652. BACK

[2] The identity of the ‘wild story’ is unknown and Southey did not turn it into a play. BACK

[3] 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

[4] Charles Lamb, John Woodvill (1802). BACK

[5] Ralph Fell (dates unknown), A Tour through the Batavian Republic during the Latter Part of the Year 1800 (1801). BACK

[6] Godwin married Mary Jane Clairmont (1768-1841; DNB) on 21 December 1801. She had two children, but was probably not a widow. BACK

[7] William Godwin, Life of Geoffrey Chaucer, the Early English Poet (1804). BACK

[8] Mrs Burnett’s first name and dates are unknown. BACK

[9] Coleridge’s patrons Josiah Wedgwood II (1769-1843) and Thomas Wedgwood. BACK

[10] John Rowe (1764-1832; DNB), Minister at Lewins Mead Unitarian chapel in Bristol. BACK

[11] Charles Fox (c. 1740-1809; DNB), poet and orientalist, and his family. BACK

[12] The Fox family seem to have had numerous pets, including a parrot. BACK

[13] Probably the surgeon and apothecary, John Danvers (d. 1812), then of Woolwich, London, declared bankrupt in The National Register (3 July 1808), 426. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Dublin (mentioned 1 time)