797. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 14 June 1803

797. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 14 June 1803 ⁠* 

Day after day Tom do I look to the Portsmouth news to see “Saild the Galatea”. [1]  but the Galatea saileth not. however I suppose you are glad enough to have escaped being fixed in a floating battery off Guernsey. Spithead & hope is better than that.

Our last letters crossed each other on the road. since that time nothing has occurred here worth mentioning. Joe [2]  the same vagabond. Cupid [3]  the same mighty hunter – Margary the same Doctor Dodd. [4]  only more alive, & more kicking than ever. Tobin is in town. King will soon have a Prince or a Princess. Your namesake has lost his old friend Mrs Oliver [5]  & that is all the news. Except indeed you have heard enough of Bill Coates [6]  & Underwood [7]  to be interested by hearing that they are prisoners of war in France.

Six week ago I said you might expect Amadis [8]  in that space of time – & there you may expect, & if you stay six weeks <more> which good fortune forbid! perhaps you may expect on as much longer. the whole of the two first Volumes is done, preface index & all. 3/4 of the third & 1/4 of the fourth. yesterday I had a letter from Longman & Rees who had just heard of that other Amadis. [9]  they wrote to introduce Dallas to me – the Author of the History of the Maroons. [10]  & they say that because of this other book they will put another printer to work upon mine, which if they do they may get it finished in a fortnight.

My Uncle tells me their old alarms are come upon them again at Lisbon. for himself he should be indifferent but he wishes to remain there for the facility of procuring books for me. since the Amadis & the Reviewing have been cleared off I have indeed done wonders in history, [11]  & am daily at it, in some shape or other, morning noon & night: exclusively – for politics fill up the Morning Post, & leave me nothing to do there.

Alack & a-well-a-day!
And what else have I to say!
Miss Margary in sooth
Has cut a tooth
And by good hap
Has left off her cap
But my little girl
Has hair that wont curl
And her tooth is a snag-one
And as sharp as if it belonged to a Dragon,

Best of every one except one she loves her father
And that one is her mother whom she loves better rather
Like her fathers own child
She makes as much noise as if she was wild
And calling
But not squalling

Early in the morning she behaves very ill to Papa
For she pulls his nose & cries Ah!
Or else she slaps his face
Which is not a sign of grace
She eats meat when we dine
And is a little too fond of port wine –
For if I <would> let her have her fill
She would get drunk with a very good will.
Because I dont like the common-place phrases of phrase praise
Which folks give their children now a days –
What did I do
But invent some that are quite new

& so I call her a very worthy child. & a most excellent character.

And so good brother mine

A Dios – A Dios [12]  – in Spanish & rhyme

R Southey

My picture is not a Miniature. it is the one which Keenan [13]  took when I was last in London – I – & a great book, & my desk, & my desk carpet – poor Mrs Danvers’s work – who – poor woman, was greatly pleased to hear that her carpet was sitting for its picture

Near to famous Bristol Town –
Written all in the same tune
Upon a Tuesday morning the fourteenth day of June
In the year of our Lord God d’ye see
One Thousand, Eight Hundred & Three.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Thomas Southey/ H. M. S. Galatea/ Spithead/ Single
Postmark: [partial] BRISTOL/ JUN 14
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Tom Southey’s ship, HMS Galatea, a 32-gun Royal Navy frigate. BACK

[2] Tom Southey’s dog. BACK

[3] Charles Danvers’s dog. BACK

[4] William Dodd (1729-1777; DNB), a writer who was hanged for forgery ‘alive and kicking’; hence, an appropriate nickname for the infant Margaret Southey. BACK

[5] Tom’s namesake is probably his uncle Thomas Southey. Mrs Oliver (d. 1803) was possibly a member of the family that ran the Bristol linen drapers Oliver, Ridout and Oliver. She may have been related to William Oliver (1775-1830) of Hope Corner, Taunton, to whom Thomas Southey left his fortune. Thomas Southey had himself once been a draper, in partnership with Robert and Tom Southey’s father. BACK

[6] William Coates (dates unknown), was a Clifton resident. He was known to Davy and Coleridge and was a subscriber to a number of Bristol literary works. His brother was Matthew Mills Coates (d. 1819) of the law firm Morgan and Coates, Small St, Bristol. Both brothers were radicals and may have been related to John Prior Estlin’s first wife, Mary Coates (1753-1783). BACK

[7] Thomas Richard Underwood (1772-1835; DNB), watercolourist and geologist. A proprietor of the Royal Institution, he had been instrumental in Humphry Davy’s appointment as assistant lecturer in 1801. His circle included Southey, Wordsworth and Coleridge (who nicknamed him ‘Subligno’). In 1803 Underwood accompanied Thomas Wedgwood on a European tour. After hostilities resumed on 16 May 1803, Wedgwood managed to make his way home, but Underwood was arrested at Calais. His detention in France lasted until 1814. 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). BACK

[10] Robert Charles Dallas (1754-1824; DNB), The History of the Maroons, from their Origin to the Establishment of their Chief Tribe at Sierra Leone (1803). BACK

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

[12] The Spanish translates as ‘good-bye’. BACK

[13] John Keenan (fl. 1780-1819) had painted a portrait of Southey that was being exhibited at the Royal Academy. BACK

Places mentioned