664. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 23 March 1802

664. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 23 March 1802 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

For three reasons I have delayed writing so long – because now Rickman is arrived I wanted to tell you what he said about your brother, [1]  but Rickman is so busy that there is no seeing him, and as he sleeps at a Coffee house – no finding him. I am fearful he has no interest in the military line – & still more so that the Aid de Camps are generally friends of the General. secondly – because I wanted the said Rickman to get a frank for you & King to whom I have written some days since, & still keep his letter in durance – & thirdly in expectation of receiving money from Thomas & forwarding it.

Your letter came last night. this morning I went to Bish [2]  – but they can do no business till after three. I shall purchase these in time for tomorrows twenty thousand. Tomorrow or next day I will enquire concerning the sermons. [3]  I have a heavy job upon my hands. To day the Museum [4]  doors were opened to me & alack &-a-well-a-day I find not less than 1500 unpublished lines of Chatterton to transcribe from manuscripts not always the most legible. however this will give the book a value. [5]  tho between you & I, neither you or I are likely to be delighted with poetry upon temporary or local subjects – wit & genius wasted. tis a toil to read Churchill. [6]  A bookseller offered me fifty pounds worth of books last week to edit the works of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams. [7]  lead us not into temptation! – I looked over the papers – I liked his wit – I did not like his dullness – but fifty pounds of books would have gilt that pill – but my gentleman was not quite so decent as he should be – & so I lost my books. my name was not required for the work.

As for Mr Cottell
He’s exceedingly well
And another poemm he has writed,
About John the Baptizer, [8] 
Twill not make you wiser
Nor will you be over-delighted.

It was you may guess
The first fruits of his press –
To me he presented a copy –
Some Bards ere they sing
Quaff from Castaly spring, [9] 
But Joseph takes a xxx syrup of poppy. [10] 

I see much of Losh who desires to be remembered to you. it is not unlikely that you may see him soon, as he talks of going to Bath before his return to Newcastle. Dr Skey [11]  called here yesterday, he also desired to be mentioned when in my next letter. George Burnett still abideth with the Earl, [12]  he eateth with him, drinketh with him, & seditionizeth – for which he is well qualified, coming from a good school. Of Coleridge no tidings have yet been received. Edith is still in the same poor & pitiable & pill-taking way. we are soon going for two or three days to Cheshunt – to visit two old Ladies, who were so exceedingly kind to me when a school boy that I have never felt any thing like resentment for <at> the way in which they avoided me for some years [13]  – I was a good deal affected at the manner in which one of this family made the amende honorable [14]  – for it lay upon their conscience – . This change will do Edith good – & you will think me right in resolving to plead her health as a cause, God knows, a valid one, for an early removal to Bristol. I will come if possible before the end of the next month.

William Taylor is still waiting for his passport or rather for the Definitive Treaty which assuredly will soon be here. [15]  he dines with me to day, & we go to hear Davy lecture upon Galvinism in the evening. [16] 

Joseph Lovell [17]  has at last extorted from his rascally father a promise of twenty pounds for Roberts expence till the next year. upon this he must board with his grandmother, & go merely for instruction to Estlin. when we come to Bristol I suppose Mary will live with him as before at my expence – for in lodgings he cannot be with me, nor indeed should I like it in a house. he would disturb me, or I must restrain him. & moreover without some particular cause for affection I am not fond of children. – What do you mean about Dr Fox? [18] 

My History [19]  would wholly employ me but for the Chatterton business [20]  which takes up more time than is agreable. next week that will be in the press. I shall send the old poems first that the spelling & management of the page may be under my own eye.

Every review of a book, every notice of a work published, in the Monthly Magazine, or at the end of a Volume – is to be taxed as an advertisement. [21]  this will operate as a tax upon literature fully equal to the duty on paper should that be repealed. [22] 

Our love to Mrs Danvers.

God bless you

Robert Southey.

Tuesday. March 23. 1802.

Quarter – 41,920

Eighth – 9,654              – for which I have paid 1-10-6. balance the prizes were 6-10-6

the new tickets – 8-1-

& so good luck t’ye!  [23] 


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ Kingsdown/ Bristol
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: CMR/ 23/ 802
Endorsements: 1-9-6; 4-7- / 1-10-6 / 2-16-6 / 4-7-.
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 272-275. BACK

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

[2] Thomas Bish (fl. 1790-1826), a well-known lottery office-keeper at 4 Cornhill, London. BACK

[3] Sermons, By the Late Rev. David Jardine, of Bath. Published from the Original Manuscripts, by the Rev. John Prior Estlin (1798). BACK

[4] The British Museum, London, founded in 1759. BACK

[5] Southey and Joseph Cottle’s planned subscription edition of The Works of Thomas Chatterton, eventually published in 1803. BACK

[6] The satirical poet Charles Churchill (1732-1764; DNB). BACK

[7] Charles Hanbury Williams (1708-1759; DNB), diplomat and writer. Southey’s refusal of the commission, even though his own name would not have appeared in the published edition, was undoubtedly connected to Williams’s reputation for obscenity. It is fascinating to speculate how Southey would have dealt with verses such as these from Williams’s an ‘Ode to Horatio Townshend’ (1740): ‘Come to my Breast, my Lovely Boy!/ Thou Source of Greek & Roman Joy!/ And let my Arms entwine’ ye;/ Behold my strong erected Tarse,/ Display your plump, & milk-white arse,/ Young, blooming, Ligurine!’ The editors are extremely grateful to Dr Richard Butterwick for supplying this example. BACK

[8] Joseph Cottle’s ‘John the Baptist’ had first appeared in his Poems (1795). In 1802 he published a new version, John the Baptist: A Poem. BACK

[9] The Castalian Spring at Delphi, the well of poetic inspiration, as it was the centre of a cult of Apollo, Greek god of poetry. BACK

[10] A soporific. BACK

[11] Dr Skey (dates unknown). Probably a physician practising in or near Bristol. BACK

[12] Burnett’s then employer, the controversial politician and inventor Charles (‘Citizen’) Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753-1816; DNB). BACK

[13] The Misses Delamere and Elizabeth Dolignon. They would have avoided Southey because of the controversy surrounding his expulsion from Westminster School in 1792 over the authorship of a blasphemous essay in the schoolboy magazine The Flagellant. BACK

[14] i.e. a satisfactory apology. The apology was made by Mrs Dolignon’s daughter, Marie (Mary) Dauncey (b. 1769), who was married to Philip Dauncey (d. 1819), a barrister. BACK

[15] The Treaty of Amiens, between Britain and France, was signed on 25 March 1802. BACK

[16] Davy was lecturing at the Royal Institution. Luigi Galvani (1737-1798), Italian doctor and physicist, had conducted experiments on frogs and shown the link between electricity and muscular activity. BACK

[17] The brother of the late Robert Lovell (see Lovell family). BACK

[18] Edward Long Fox (1761-1835), proprietor of a lunatic asylum at Brislington, near Bristol. BACK

[19] Southey’s projected ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[20] Southey and Joseph Cottle’s planned subscription edition of The Works of Thomas Chatterton, eventually published in 1803. BACK

[21] The extension of the advertisement tax in 1802 was part of a package of fund-raising measures. It was not repealed until 1853. BACK

[22] An excise duty on paper had been charged since 1712. It was not repealed until 1861. BACK

[23] Quarter...t’ye: Written upside down at the end of the letter. The numbers refer to lottery tickets. BACK

People mentioned

Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 3 times)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 2 times)
Cottle, Joseph (1770–1853) (mentioned 2 times)
Lovell, Robert (1771–1796) (mentioned 1 time)
Dolignon, Elizabeth (d. 1802) (mentioned 1 time)
Losh, James (1763–1833) (mentioned 1 time)
Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Mary (1771–1862) (mentioned 1 time)