842. Robert Southey to John King, 28 September 1803

842. Robert Southey to John King, 28 September 1803 ⁠* 

Greeta Hall. Sept 1803

Dear King

A letter to Danvers is a letter to you & vice versa? this duality comprizes all my correspondents & indeed all with whom I have any business in Bristol, as I have no acquaintance with the master of my poor friend Cupid. [1]  Charles told me that Mrs King [2]  was better – still I was in hopes you would have told me so. you do not sure suppose that I am indifferent to news concerning her xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx – because I have not written directly to solicit it. in plain truth King the task of writing letters anywhere – & particularly to Bristol, is that of all others to which I am least equal. We are both of us as you would expect. Edith always thinking upon what we never speak of – & I by hard work or active conversation driving away recollections which get the better of me in my dreams. my eyes continue very troublesome. I have found relief by fomenting them with warm water – but this only alleviates. now I take the sulphate of iron to put the whole machine in tune. nor <except> for this I may say that I am well

What a country is this Land of Lakes for a man who loves mountains as devoutly as tho he were a true-born Swiss! I would try to give you the situation of this house if I could find words enough for the combination of beautiful sights in the panorama which it commands. one of its good effects on me will be to fire me often to long walks. we purpose setting out for a three days ramble as soon as my eyes & Coleridges flying gout will let us be tolerably comfortable.

Sad news from Lisbon. in that unhappy Packet I had as I expected a whole cargo of books the very books most wanted & for which I had been twelvemonths waiting. poor Yescombe [3]  the Captain had his thigh broke in the action & the wound was supposed to be mortal. by the same letter I learn that Yescombe had sent off (it must be two months ago) a parcel of books for me from Falmouth directed to me with the wise title of Author of Joan of Arc. [4]  what devil put such a whim in his head the devil best knows. & that he addressed [MS obscured] letter to me announcing their off-set in like manner. I went repeatedly to the waggon warehouses to inquire for this parcel tho as you may suppose by no such address. now do beg Danvers to lose no time in enquiring again, & if no tidings can be found let him write to the Falmouth Waggoner (paying the postage). the value of the books is about eleven guineas. no doubt they may be recovered by such application. I may as well go on with commissions. tell Charles to ship me off six dozen of port by a Liverpool vessel directed here by way of Whitehaven. it will be forwarded as regularly as by a waggon. − & in the hamper or box let him put in a quarter of a pound or half a pound of the crystallized lemon juice which you use – for no lemons are to be had here & Edith is so fond of vegetable acids that I am sure they do her good.

Since our arrival I have finished the book of Madoc [5]  whereof you saw the beginning. that which is to follow will be of less easy execution – I do not see the plan of it before me – but however faith does wonders. these things with me are like the Quakers inspiration. when I sit down the thoughts come & flow fluently enow if the state of the ink permit.

I have also done some little history [6]  – about as much as will take a Printer travelling at his usual rate the same time to imprint. my reading has been more assiduously pursued. somewhat extravagantly in regard to the winter stock of books before me. you would be pleased at seeing some of the odd things I fall in with in these excellent old Chronicles if I xxxx I were near enough to avail myself of your ears.

Poor young Emmett. [7]  I knew much of him from many conversations with his most intimate friend [8]  at Dublin. he was an admirable man. God Almighty seldom mixes up so much virtue & so much genius in the intellect as xxxx ennobled him. in the last rebellion he escaped by excavating a pla hiding place under the study in his fathers [9]  house. there he lived six weeks, having food – books & a light. by night going out into the Park for exercise. & thus he continued till he founds means for escaping. & now – oh Christ the stony hearts & the leaden heads that manage the poor world! as if the fear of death ever fr deterred any man from treason, who could make treason dangerous! – I would send Wm Taylor this story of his hiding place – for he I know will write his Eulogium in the Iris – but it must not be published lest some other poor fellow may now be in the same asylum. [10]  To have spared that young mans life would have indeed strengthened the government. had they said to him – “promise to plot no more & you shall be free,” such a man would have been as safe under such a promise as in the grave. but so it is. the K. [11]  has no heart to pardon – he wants goodness & his counsellors want understanding. if they mean to extirpate disaffection in Ireland by the gallows – they must sow the whole Island with hemp.

A relation of Wordsworths  [12]  here – a liquor merchant – has applied to Coleridge for help – & he applies to you. by accident he has mixt two gallons of brandy with 60 gallons of gin, & so spoiled the colour as to render it unsaleable. how can he discharge it? you know the colouring matter is burnt sugar.

God bless you Sir Basileus! [13]  I once thought of a ballad wherein the Personage was to be a little old man who had the power of extending any part of his body to any length. [14]  if I had that gift myself I would crane out my neck over the three hundred miles between the Greeta & the Avon & look in at your window. – but upon calculation it would be tedious work talking as when the lungs were so far off the larynx. Remember me to Mrs King. & write me a speedy letter. I wish to think of you as being once again at ease & happy. you & I & Danvers have had our share of evil since last March – one after the other. Vale. [15] 


Wednesday. Sept. 28. 1803.

the Gout Medecine operates violently as a purge – & sometimes as a sudorific. the die is so strong as to make the urine like blood. [16] 


* Address: To/ Mr King/ Dowry Square/ Hot Wells/ Bristol./ Single
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: [illegible]
Seal: [trace]
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 234-237 [in part]. BACK

[1] Charles Danvers’s dog. BACK

[2] John King had married Emmeline Edgeworth (1770-1847) in 1802. She had been very ill after giving birth to their first child, Zoe King (1803-1881). BACK

[3] Edward Bayntun Yescombe (1765-1803), Captain of the packet, King George, which sailed between Falmouth and Lisbon. He died on 11 August 1803, from wounds received when his ship was attacked by a French privateer on 30 July 1803. The King George was taken to the Spanish port of Vigo, and Southey lost his books. BACK

[4] Southey’s Joan of Arc (1796) and (1798). BACK

[5] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

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

[7] Robert Emmet (1778-1803; DNB) was executed on 20 September 1803, following his abortive attempt at a revolution in Dublin on the night of 23 July 1803. BACK

[8] Unidentified. BACK

[9] Robert Emmet (1729-1802), a Dublin doctor. BACK

[10] Southey did not send this information to Taylor. But Taylor did print Southey’s poem on Emmett, ‘A Lamentation’, The Iris, 12 November 1803. BACK

[11] George III (1738-1820, King of Great Britain 1760-1820; DNB). BACK

[12] Unidentified. BACK

[13] The Greek translates as ‘King’. BACK

[14] Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 193. BACK

[15] The Latin translates as ‘farewell’. BACK

[16] Postscript added upside down on 1r, below the date and above the salutation. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)
Dublin (mentioned 1 time)