788. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 30 May 1803

788. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 30 May 1803 ⁠* 

Why Tom you must be mad – stark, staring mad – jumping mad – horn mad – to be lying in port all this time. for plain or stark madness I should prescribe a simple strait waistcoat. staring madness may be alleviated by the use of green spectacles. for jumping madness I have found a remedy in a custom used by the Siamese when they take prisoners – they burn their feet to prevent them from running away. [1]  horn madness indeed is beyond my skill – for that Doctors Commons [2]  is the place. – I am vexed & provoked for you – too see prizes brought in under your nose.

Your friend Joe [3]  vagabondizes as usual. we generally see him once a day & when he has had his belly full off my gentleman goes. Margaret has cut a tooth, & left off her cap & she knows Lord Nelson & the Copenhagen plan [4]  exceedingly well & also the Beautiful Books, with your black lettering in the pyramid piles on the bureau. my books have had an increase since you went. I have bought a huge lot of Cody, [5]  tempted by the price – xxxxx books of voyages & travels & the Asiatic Researches. [6]  the Annual Review [7]  is not yet published. Amadis [8]  still goes on slowly, but draws near an end. half the third volume is done, & three sheets of the last. Do you see – & if you have the Morning Post you will have seen – that a poem upon Amadis is advertised? [9]  this is curious enough. it seems by the advertisement that it only takes in the first book. if the Author has either any civility or any guts in his brains he will send me a copy, the which I am not so desirous of as I else should be as it will cost me twenty shillings to send him one in return. xxx however I shall like to see his book. It may make a beautiful poem, & it looks well that he has stopt at the first book & avoided the length of xxxxx xxx of story – but unless he be a very good poet indeed I should prefer the plain dress of romance.

I have been very hard at history [10]  & have almost finished since your departure that thick folio chronicle which you may remember I was about skin deep in. & which has supplied me with matter for half a volume. this war terrifies & puzzles me about Portugal. if Spain be forced into it I think of going over alone this next winter while I can. curse the war & that damned Corsican rascal [11]  who has provoked it. I have fifteen quartos on the way from Lisbon & Zounds if they should be taken!

Next month I shall go to London. King has stopt my diabetes I hope, but the hard exercise of walking London streets will do me good. my picture in the Exhibition pleases every body I hear. [12]  I wish you had seen it. –

I have begun a huge & troublesome job – that of cataloguing all my books & my Uncles. a task more difficult than you would at first imagine, as it requires method & arrangement. they should be so catalogued as to show at one view all the books upon any particular subject. this will go with me to London & there be filled up. While the sun shines is the time for making hay – having neither reviewing on hand, nor any job of journey work, & the good natured war coming in to fill up the Morning Post my free & full time is at leisure for the history, & I have made the best use of it.

Your old Skipper Bertie [13]  has got a ship then in spite of your prognostication. little as the sea suits my trullibubs I begin to long to hear tacks & sheets & main sail haul! again – or rather to be going with a fine wind, eight knots an hour beyond Cape Finisterre & Lisbon bound. Oh for one whiff of a Lisbon stink! If this war should turn out the English from Portugal I shall be ruined – not a book to be got & no access to papers. It has made me even more unsettled than ever, for should that expulsion take place my Uncle needs must come to England, & then I should look out for a dwelling place near him.

Danvers has not yet made up his mind to any plan. he is at present at Mrs Jardines, while Betty [14]  is visiting her relations. Cupid [15]  is my guest – oh that incorrigible Sheepstealer! do you know he like the name, & if you call him Sheepstealer wags his tail for pure joy in the recollection of inquity. Our Madam Puss too is become a notorious criminal – she has let her kittens starve, & is quite out of favour.

What other news? . . oh – Cottles Alfred [16]  is about to be printed in a small size in the hope of giving a hearty shove to the heavy quarto edition which has not sold at all. I have heard of sending a fool on an errand, & think Messrs Longman & Rees’s money not very wisely expended. Little Carpenter [17]  is marched down to Portsmouth where perhaps you have seen him. Remember my advice about all Dutch Captains in your cruise. [18]  go always to the bottom in your examination. tin-cases will sound if they be kicked – & paper will rustle. xxxxxxxxxx xxx xxxxxxxxxx. to you it may be the winning a prize – the loss is but a kick in the ____ & that the Dutchman gains. Do you know that I actually must learn Dutch! that I cannot compleat the East Indian part of my history [19]  without it.

Good bye mynen gooden & rykken broeder! [20]  I hope you will get men speedily & no xxxx <longer> lie there beglageing [21]  yourself –


Ediths love.

Monday May 30. 1803.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey,/ H. M. S. Galatea/ Portsmouth./ Single
Postmark: [partial] BRISTOL/ MAY 3 803
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850), II, pp. 209-211 [in part]. BACK

[1] Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716), The History of Japan, 2 vols (London, 1727), I, p, 24. Southey owned a copy of this edition, no. 1449 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[2] A society of lawyers practising civil law in the ecclesiastical and admiralty courts. The arcane practices of Doctors Commons made the society a byword for obscurantism. BACK

[3] Tom Southey’s dog. BACK

[4] Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson (1758-1805; DNB), led the main attack at the Battle of Copenhagen, 2 April 1801. Tom Southey took part in this action and was slightly wounded. Southey had in his possession plans of the battle drawn up by an ex-shipmate of Tom’s, Alexander Briarly (dates unknown). See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 October 1802, Letter 726. BACK

[5] Cody’s identity is uncertain. Possibly he is the book-auctioneer William Cody (dates unknown) whose business had been based in Dublin c. 1791-1797 – if so, Southey may have made his acquaintance during his time in Dublin in 1802; or perhaps Cody is, or is connected to, the bookseller and auctioneer of the same name who traded in Bristol c. 1820-1821. BACK

[6] Asiatic Researches, or Transactions of the Society for Inquiring into the History and Antiquities &c. of Asia (1801-1811), no. 77 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library are later volumes than those Southey purchased from Cody. BACK

[7] Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803). BACK

[8] Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[9] William Stewart Rose (1775-1843; DNB), Amadis de Gaul, a Poem in Three Books, Freely Translated from the First Part of the French Version of Nicholas de Herberay, Sieur des Essars, with Notes by William Stewart Rose (1803). Southey acquired a copy, as it is listed as no. 1304 in the sale catalogue of his library. For the advertisement see Morning Chronicle, 23 May 1803. BACK

[10] Southey’s uncompleted ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[11] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821, First Consul 1799-1804, Emperor of the French 1804-1814). BACK

[12] Southey’s portrait by John Keenan (fl. 1780-1819) was being exhibited at the Royal Academy. BACK

[13] Sir Thomas Bertie (1758-1825; DNB). Tom Southey had served under him when Bertie was Captain of HMS Bellona in 1801-1802. In 1803 he was appointed Captain of HMS Courageux. BACK

[14] Danvers’s servant; her first name and dates are unknown. BACK

[15] Charles Danvers’s dog. BACK

[16] Joseph Cottle, Alfred, an Epic Poem in Twenty-Four Books (1804). BACK

[17] Unidentified; possibly an old friend of Tom Southey’s. He may be connected to the Mr Carpenter of Lynne, Dorset who subscribed to Southey’s and Cottle’s edition of The Works of Thomas, 3 vols (London, 1803), I, ‘List of Subscribers’, unpaginated. BACK

[18] Tom was suffering from haemorrhoids. BACK

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

[20] The Dutch translates as ‘my good and rich brother’. BACK

[21] An Anglicisation of the Dutch for ‘pitying’. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Dublin (mentioned 1 time)