677. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 17 May [1802]

677. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 17 May [1802] ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

You will doubtless have attributed my silence to its right cause – the expectation daily disappointed of being able to fix determinately the day of my departure. If possible – we move Friday – but I look with alarm to a world of business in the interim & almost fear that our the preliminaries cannot be so xxx xx <got thro> as to allow the definitive stroke before Monday or Tuesday. I must see Corry – & I hope take leave of him. it will be unpleasant to leave London in uncertainty upon that point.

I forgot to mention Mrs James [1]  in my last – but have not forgotten to look about me, & shall get something. let me know how much you propose to raise & what you have raised, that John May may proportion his exertions to the necessity. – Burnett tells me he has money to send you by me. I will settle Mrs Jardines account with Longman – as for Johnson there is none to settle – he has not sold half a dozen copies. [2]  your soap shall be remembered, & Rexes instruments. I am sure if Cottle be debtor to the Meeting that he is not now able to discharge the debt. you see I am galloping thro a letter of business.

We were at Richmond for four & twenty hours last week – at John Mays. it is a lovely place. in the probable event of my soon fixing somewhere I hesitate between that neighbourhood – Norwich & Bristol.

I have the likeness of one of her friends for Mrs Danvers – as marvellously like as the little Portugueze John Morgan [3]  – & that too of an equal favourite. is xxx the death of Mrs Butler Danvers [4]  of some advantage to your mother? or do I recollect rightly that there is a child yet in the way? [5] 

Keenan, dissatisfied with his former picture, is again painting me. [6]  we think the likeness very strong – & the picture an admirable one – he himself he esteeming it his best work. Sotheby [7]  has been introduced to me – he is a man of taste & much original thought. Davy has printed his introductory Lecture, [8]  of which I am to be the bearer to you & King – he will seems disposed to join us if we should compass a walk into South Wales, of which Edith is already in bodily & vociferous fear. Rickman in all probability will soon rise higher, & put himself into a situation which will enable him to be of the greatest possible use to the country. You cannot imagine the effect which Sheridans speech produced upon the house. [9]  almost I doubt whether the Ministry can recover it. Bonaparte? have you not yet cut the throat of his picture?!!! [10] 

We have just received a letter from Miss James [11]  – who has narrowly escaped the same fate as her brothers [12]  – but in so ridiculous a way that I laugh while I write. she is in the country & in a farm yard saw for the first time in her life – a well “Curiosity prompted me to examine it, & the method of their drawing up water; – when – by one of those unaccountable motions which sometimes pursue us, I from happening to stand with my back towards the Well while receiving the shock, fell into it. My Jaw bone struck against the edge which enabled me to place my elbow there also, & by that means extricated myself with the loss of only one Shoe. I’ve received several bruises, but – thank God none dangerous.” She means not to tell her Mother of this – so do not you mention it.

Last week there came a letter from Tom, dated Port Royal – he had borne the climate well so far – but how long he may escape it if he stays or how long he is likely to stay God knows. Poor fellow he says he had written by the last packet to his Mother. – The report at Jamaica is that the French in St Domingo are dying very fast. I yet trust in Toussaint – & the yellow fever & the good cause. [13] 

The preparations for departure are going on – & much as I hate packing this is the most agreable that I have had for many a long year – even since I was a school boy. – remember us to the Hemmets [14]  whom we shall be heartily glad to see. Priscilla doubtless is improved – so cannot her sister be – for I never saw one in whom so little alteration was to be wishd. George Burnett is coming to pack books – & Mrs Smith of Bath [15]  dines here. Mrs Lovell is so bilious that she looks half jaundiced. I heartily wish she were at Bristol – half afraid lest she should be unable to take the journey. another reason for hastening my departure.

The silver forks from for Mrs H. [16]  my Uncle probably intends to bring himself – they being smuggled goods. I do not doubt that he will be shortly in Eng[MS torn] Eleven sheets of Rowley (Chattertons second volume) are printed – four or five of the first. [17]  they go on galloping.

Mr Cottle – alas
That it should come to pass –
Hath been led by temptation astray.
Hath been taken in
For a deadly sin –
Yea – he hath committed a play! [18] 
Tho this to the godly
At first will sound oddly
His acquittal they soon may determine
For truth to say
The Methodists play –
Would do very well for a sermon.

God bless you. I shall write speedily to name the day of our departure – our love to Mrs Danvers

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey

Monday May 17.


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ Kingsdown/ Bristol
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: [partial] 802
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Mrs James (first name and dates unknown) had lost her four sons in a shipwreck earlier in 1802. Southey and his friends were attempting to raise money to invest in an annuity for her; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 21 June 1802], Letter 683. BACK

[2] Joseph Johnson (1738-1808; DNB), bookseller and publisher, had sold fewer copies than expected of Sermons, By the Late Rev. David Jardine, of Bath. Published from the Original Manuscripts, by the Rev. John Prior Estlin (1798); see Southey to Charles Danvers, 12 April 1802, Letter 669. BACK

[3] The allusion is unclear, but possibly relates to a miniature of John Morgan, Southey’s Bristol friend, made by an unidentified Portuguese artist. BACK

[4] Danvers’s relation Mary Danvers, only child of Sir John Danvers (d. 1796), had married Augustus Richard Butler (1776-1820). Mary’s husband had assumed the name Butler-Danvers in 1796. Mary Butler-Danvers had died on 10 May 1802. BACK

[5] Southey was right: Mary Butler-Danvers had a son, George John Danvers Butler (1794-1866), who later inherited the Earldom of Lanesborough. BACK

[6] John Keenan (fl. c. 1780-1819), Irish portrait painter, whom Southey had met in Exeter in 1799. Keenan painted two portraits of Southey. BACK

[7] The poet and translator William Sotheby (1757-1833; DNB). BACK

[8] Humphry Davy, A Discourse, Introductory to a Course of Lectures on Chemistry (1802). BACK

[9] On Friday 14 May 1802, the politician and playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816; DNB) had delivered a parliamentary speech ‘characterized throughout by the most exquisite wit and humour’ ridiculing the government’s change of heart towards France and its conduct of the peace negotiations; see Cobbett’s Annual Register (15 May 1802). BACK

[10] Danvers, presumably, had an image of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821; First Consul 1799-1804; Emperor of the French 1804-1814) hanging in his parlour, which Southey advised him to dispose of; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 23 February [1802], Letter 659. BACK

[11] Miss James (first name and dates unknown), the daughter of the Mrs James whom Southey was trying to assist. BACK

[12] Miss James’s four brothers, whose identity is unknown, had drowned in a recent shipwreck. BACK

[13] Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743-1803), leader of the revolution against slavery in Haiti, effective ruler of the country 1796-1802 and of the whole island of Hispaniola 1801-1802. A French expedition had arrived in Haiti on 29 January 1802 to re-conquer the colony. Toussaint was forced to surrender on 7 May 1802, but yellow fever was decimating the French troops, who lost 15,000 men to the disease in the first two months of the campaign. French troops finally withdrew from Haiti in December 1803. BACK

[14] Unidentified; probably Bristol-based friends of the Southeys. They could be connected to the butcher Edward Hemmett listed in Matthews’s New Bristol Directory, for the Year, 1793-4 (Bristol, 1793), p. 42. BACK

[15] Unidentified; given that she was obviously an acquaintance from Bath, it is possible she was, or was connected to, the Bath lodging-house keeper listed in The New Bath Guide (Bath, 1800), p. 71. BACK

[16] Unidentified; perhaps Mrs Hemmet. BACK

[17] Printing of Southey and Joseph Cottle’s subscription edition of The Works of Thomas Chatterton was underway. It was eventually published in three volumes in 1803. BACK

[18] Joseph Cottle does not seem to have finished his tragedy. The only account of it is in Charles Lamb to Thomas Manning, [Mid-November 1802], E.W. Marrs Jr (ed.), The Letters of Charles and Mary Anne Lamb, 3 vols (Ithaca, NY and London, 1975-1978), II, pp. 88. BACK