847. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 29 October 1803

847. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 29 October 1803 ⁠* 

Saturday. Oct 29. 1803. Keswick

Dear Tom

Your letter did not reach me till yesterday – eight days after its date. so that tho this be the earliest possible reply perhaps it may not arrive at Cork till after your departure. This place is better suited for me than you imagine – it tempts me to take far more exercise than I ever took elsewhere, for we have the loveliest scenes possible close at hand – & I have therefore seldom or never felt myself in stronger health. & as for good <spirits> be sure I have the outward & visible sign, however it may be for the inward & spiritual grace.

My reviewing, more than ordinarily procrastinated, stands still. I began Clarkes [1]  t[MS torn] & having vented my gall there – if gall it be that makes a man laugh h[MS torn] scorn – laid them all by till the first of November, that I might be free [MS torn] for work more agreable. My main work has been Madoc. [2]  I am now arrived[MS torn ]the old fifth book. & at the twelfth of the booklings into which it is now [MS torn] I mean to call them neither books cantos nor any thing else but simply 1. 2 3 &c. entitling each part from its peculiar action thus 1. The Return. 2. Cadwallon. 3 The Voyage. 4. Lincoya. 5 The War. 6. The Battle. 7. the Peace. 8. Emma. 9. Mathrafal. 10 The Gorseth. i.e the Meeting of the Bards. 11. Dinevor. 12. Bardsey & so on. [3]  the eleven divisions finished, which bring it down to the end of the old fourth book contain 2536 lines – an increase on the whole of 731. but of the whole not one line in five stands as originally written. About 9000 lines will be the extent – but the farther I proc[MS torn] the less alteration will be needed. When I turn the half way I shall then say to my friends – now get me subscribers & I will publish Madoc. In what is done there is some of my best workmanship. I shall get <by> it less money than fame & less fame than envy, tho the envy will be only life-long & when that is gone & the money spent – you know the old rhyme. [4] 

It seems we are to have war with poor Portugal. [5]  if this be the case my Uncle must of course settle in England. this would be very pleasant to me were it not so deeply & rootedly my own desire to settle in Portugal – but – adonde não ha remedio, então paciencia [6]  – as I learnt from the Portugeuze. this damned war has affected me in every possible shape. in the King George packet [7]  I lost a whole cargo of books for which I had been a year & half waiting & my Uncle searching.

I am sorry to say Harry is going on very badly – complaint after complaint of utter idleness & neglect of business – so that at last Mr Martineau [8]  wants to get rid of him of & proposes that he be sent immediately to Edinburgh lest these lazy habits become incurable. this cannot be done without consulting my Uncle – & there is not time for that before the years course there begins so that I know not [MS torn]hat the Devil to do. I have written to him with sufficient severity – but do [MS torn] expect much good can arise from admonition. It is very irritating after [MS torn] having done to my utmost & even to embarrasment to set him on x in life to be thwarted & perplexed by his own ill conduct.

I must go to work for money – & that also frets me. this hand-to-mouth work is very disheartening & interferes cruelly with better things – more important they cannot be called, for the bread-&-cheese is the business of the first necessity. but from my history [9]  I do expect permanent profit & such a perpetual interest as shall relieve me. I shall write the volume of letters which you have heard me talk of – an omnium-gatherum of the odd things I have seen in England. [10] 

Whenever you are at a decent distance & can get leave of absence do come. get to Liverpool by water – or – still better to Whitehaven. you will be thoroughly delighted with the country. the mountains on Thursday evening – before the sun was quite down or the moon bright were all of one dead blue colour – their rifts & rocks & swells & scars had all disappeared – the surface was perfectly uniform – nothing but the outline distinct – & this even surface of dead blue from its unnatural uniformity made them tho not transparent appear transvious – as tho they were of some soft or cloudy texture – thro which you could have past. I never saw any appearance so perfectly unreal – sometimes a blazing sunset seems to steep them thro & thro with red light. Or it is a cloudy morning & the sunshine slants down thro a rift in the clouds & the pillar of light falls made the spot whereon it falls so emerald green that it looks like a little field xxx <of> Paradise. At night you lose the mountains & the wind so stirs up the lake that it looks like the sea by moonlight. – Just behind the house rises a fine mountain by name Latrigg – it joins Skiddaw. we walked up yesterday – a winding path of three quarters of an hour. & then – rode down on our own burros  [11] in seven minutes. Jesu. Maria-Jozè – that was a noble ride! but I will have a saddle made for my burro next time. the path of our slide is still to be seen from the garden – so near is it. One of these days I will descend Skiddaw in the same manner & so immortalize myself.

There is a Carpenter here James Lawson [12]  by name who is become my Juniper in the board-making way. [13]  he has made me a pair of walnut – the large size, & of a reddish wood from Demarara the small. & is about to get me some yew. this as you may suppose is a consolation to me, & it requires all Ediths power of prudential admonition to dissuade me from having a little table with a draw in it. – his father asked Derwent yesterday who made him? D. James Lawson. – father. & what did he make you of? D. the stuff he makes wood of. when Derwent had got on thus far in his system of Derwentogony his imagination went on & he added – he sawed me off & I did not like it.

Edith has a bad cold. her spirits seems good by day – but she frequently at night cries herself to sleep. I myself dare not wish to have another child – for the loss has gone too deep. but you know it is not a trifle that can make me externally sad. do you remember how my quaintities in the toothache vexed you?

God bless you. R S.

We began to wonder uneasily that there was no news of you. I have heard nothing of Edward & therefore half suspect he may have fallen sea-sick & returned.

Ediths love.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Galatea/ Cove of Cork./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: NO/ 2/ 1803
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850), II, pp. 229-232 [in part]. BACK

[1] James Stanier Clarke (1766-1834; DNB), The Progress of Maritime Discovery (1803). Southey reviewed the book in Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 12-20. BACK

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

[3] Southey retained the plan of these divisions and most of their titles in Madoc (1805), but divided Book 1 into Madocs Return to Wales’ and ‘The Marriage Feast’, so creating one more book. BACK

[4] ‘When house and land are gone and spent/Then learning is most excellent’, a well-known 18th-century proverb. BACK

[5] Britain and Portugal did not go to war and Portugal retained a precarious neutrality until 1807. BACK

[6] The Portuguese translates as ‘where there is no remedy, therefore patience’. BACK

[7] 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

[8] Philip Meadows Martineau (1752-1829), surgeon at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and a member of the Martineau family, prominent Unitarians in Norwich. Henry Herbert Southey entered the University of Edinburgh in November 1803. BACK

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

[10] An idea that mutated into Letters from England (1807). BACK

[11] As ‘burros’ is Spanish for donkeys or asses, they slid down on their ‘asses’. BACK

[12] James Lawson (dates unknown), a carpenter in Keswick. BACK

[13] Juniper (first name and dates unknown), a Bristol carpenter who also seems to have been interested in bookbinding. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)