864. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [9-]10 December [1803]

864. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [9-]10 December [1803] ⁠* 

He who led the bretheren:
A living man was he
And yet he shone the brightest
Of all the company.

Before the steps of the altar
Each one bowed his head,
And then with heavenly voice they sung,
The service of the dead.

And who are ye, ye blessed Saints?
The Father Confessor said,
And for what happy soul sing ye
The service of the dead.

These are the souls of our bretheren in bliss
The Martyrs five are we
And this is our Father Francisco,
Among us bodily.

We are come hither to perform
Our promise to the Queen,
Go thou to King Alfonso
And say what thou hast seen.

There was loud knocking at the door
As the heavenly vision fled
And the porter call’d for the Confessor
To tell him the Queen was dead.  [1] 


If this be not a true story, Hermano mio, [2]  then there must have been liars in the world, for the Five Martyrs are in high odour at this present day & their reliques still revered in the church of Santa Cruz at Coimbra where I have seen them with a whole host of others equally valuable. [3]  In point of ballad language I have written nothing better than this. Someday perhaps I shall make up a volume of poems upon Spanish & Portugueze history. Garci Ferrandez [4]  – the Monodrama of Florinda [5]  – St Athendius & the Pope [6]  with this & the Ramiro [7]  would go a good way towards it. [8] 

I have been very much vexed by Edward. As if he had not behaved sufficiently ill already there came yesterday a letter, by the handwriting & shape from some very low tradesman – inclosing a draft on me for acceptance for five pounds thirteen shillings, saying that Mr E. S. had informed the holder I was advised. this letter had been directed to Bristol. As you may suppose I was as much perplexed as provoked – on consulting & deliberating what to do I determined not to accept the bill, that a lesson now may save him from one of more serious consequences hereafter. & in fact if I once suffered him to begin the boy has so little shame & so little principle that I should never be safe. To the holder I said that I was at a loss to conceive what circumstances could have justified a respectable tradesman in cashing a bill for a boy of fifteen. Edward will be obliged to refund what money is left or return what articles he may have bought – & the fright & mortification will do him good – if any thing can do him good, but indeed I have & long have had a very hopeless opinion of him. Clothes he cannot have wanted, having had a plain suit just before he went to sea, – nor if he did want them can he be excused for procuring them without any consent or knowledge & taking up money in my name with a lie in his mouth that I was advised.

To him I said that for every worthy purpose he might depend upon my assistance & exertion to the utmost of power my power but that I never would become an accomplice in any wrong action that he might commit by conniving or abetting it when done. I had before sent him a one pound bill to pay for his washing (for it was not right to trust him with more) & should as soon as ever a ship could be obtained, supply him with means to get on board. this lesson will teach him that I can act decidedly. –

I think it very probable that when he is again got on board, he will again leave his situation & go to his Aunt – that they will quarrel again that at last he will turn sharper or strolling-player. his destiny will be better than his deserts if he ends in the last. You I know will hope better things, but I cannot shut my eyes nor disbelieve my own intuitive fore feelings. When my Uncle returned last from England he said to me he never knew a boy like him turn out well, or xx be good for anything. if you knew how very reservd my Uncle is respecting any of his family you would feel how strongly he must have been impressed to say this.

When he gets on board if he continues I will take care to supply him tho I pinch myself let me know what you should think sufficient to allow him. pinched I shall be to do it – for Harry is a heavy weight upon me – & I am already much in debt to John May on his account. he himself has no feeling upon the subject, but spends away & incurs debts, careless so they <be> paid with what difficulty the money is to be faidound. I hope he will mend at Edinburgh as he promises – but I have little faith in his promises.

Saturday Dec. 10. So far I had written yesterday. this evening a Gunsmith of Exeter sends me another draft of Edward for three pounds – & the boy himself incloses me besides all this a Taylor bill of eleven pounds sixteen – to show me he says that he has not been extravagant. It is indeed very fortunate that I acted as I did in the first instance.

God bless you Tom. I am grieved to fret & fever you as this needs must do. write – & expect to hear again – I trust on pleasanter subjects in a few days.

yrs affectionately RS.

Ediths love.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Galatea/ Cove of Cork./ Only Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: DE/ 13/ 1803
Endorsements: 15 Dec 1803; 14 Dec 1803
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 343-344 [in part; verses not reproduced; published as one letter with that to Thomas Southey, 14 December 1803]. BACK

[1] He who led ... was dead: Verse written in double columns, probably in Edith Southey’s hand. The final six stanzas from ‘Queen Urraca And The Five Martyrs of Morocco’, Morning Post, 1 September 1803. BACK

[2] The Portuguese translates as ‘my brother’. BACK

[3] Southey had visited Coimbra in March 1801. BACK

[4] ‘Garci Ferrandez’ was dated ‘Bristol, 1801’ in The Poetical Works of Robert Southey, 10 vols (London, 1837-1838), VI, p. 121. However, it does not seem to have been published until Edinburgh Annual Register for 1809, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1811), II, pp. 637-641. BACK

[5] ‘Monodrama. Florinda’, The Iris, 21 July 1804. BACK

[6] ‘A True Ballad Of A Pope’, Morning Post, 4 February 1803. BACK

[7] ‘King Ramiro’, Morning Post, 9 September 1803. BACK

[8] This project was not realised. BACK

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