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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1910. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 23 April 1811 ⁠* 

My dear Charles

I heard of Mr T Southeys death from my Aunt two or three days ago. [1]  Oliver [2]  has not all the property, a good portion is gone to his man Tom. [3]  It was always my opinion that he would leave most of what he had to the Olivers, with which {family} he has been on the closest terms of card-playing intimacy ever since I can recollect. The person in question he knew much better than any of his nephews; & therefore I do not think him very unreasonable in preferring him to them. Of any injustice I fully acquit him. Had it had been an old family property the case would have {been} different, – it would then have been a wrong to those from whom he received it, & to those for whom he held it in trust, – but as it was the matter is very different. “John, says my Aunt, made himself a slave to get this trash, – he has made himself a fool to give it away.” – On our part he deserves no further {heavier} censure than this. But towards my Aunt his conduct has been cruel & unnatural to a degree which nothing but insanity can account for – unfortunately it is not that sort of insanity of which the law takes cognizance.

So Charles if xxxx {Lawyer} Nicholas [4]  xxxxx should have commenced any proceedings against this poor soul in the Courts below on my account I enter a Noli prosequi [5]  xxxxxx. He has done, I suspect, neither good nor evil in this world, & as for this, it is but an error of judgement, & Courts Martial allow that as an excuse, it ought surely to be a much fairer plea in case of {against} sentence of damnation.

I am sorry that our movements suit so ill with each other – & yet I cannot disarrange mine without more inconvenience than ought to be incurred. We shall start the last week in May or the first in June, be about a week on the road, – a month at Streatham & in London, – then to Bath to stay three days with Miss Barker, who is there with Sir Edward Littleton. Then to Bristol that Edith may see George & her sisters. [6]  I have written to my Aunt pressing her to return with us, in which case I will leave Edith at Bristol & go to fetch her, visiting Poole by the way. She writes in great depression of spirits & I fear will hardly be prevailed upon to travel so far from her own country, tho I have promised to convoy her back when she is tired of this – if she tires of it. – We return thro Liverpool, but it will be late in July before we reach that place, & I heartily wish you may prevail on Dr. J. [7]  to let you off.

It is the unmerciful extent of the Register [8]  which has thus thrown me out of my plans. This is very inconvenient to me on many accounts. I am particularly vexed about Hort [9]  – tell him I hope I shall see him next year, – & when I see him at Bristol I will tell him so myself.

No letter from Mr Smith. I fear he is almost past letter writing. [10]  We must try elsewhere. The Xt hospital presentations of which you speak are very few in number, so few that it is hopeless to think of them. If the boy [11]  were old enough the sea would be the surest way of providing for him.

I have been applied to to translate Lucien Buonaparte’s poem! [12] 

God bless you. We are going on well, & I am far more delighted with the campaign in Portugal than I should have been had Mr T. S. left me the whole of his fortune.

Yrs very affectionately

R Southey.

Keswick. April 23. 1811.


Notes

* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Endorsement: 1811/ 23 April
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Thomas Southey’s death was reported in his local newspaper the Taunton Courier on 18 April 1811. Southey received word from his aunt Mary on the evening of 20 April; see Southey to Herbert Hill [begun before and continued on 20 April 1811], Letter 1905. BACK

[2] Possibly William Oliver (1775–1830) of Hope Corner, Taunton. BACK

[3] Thomas Southey’s manservant, surname and dates unknown. Thomas Southey also left a bequest to Taunton hospital, reported in the Taunton Courier (5 September 1811). BACK

[4] i.e. The devil (Old Nick). BACK

[5] i.e. the formal declaration made by a plaintiff in a civil action, ‘Will not prosecute’. BACK

[7] Possibly Dr Lewis Jardine (1765–1824), brother of the deceased Unitarian Minister, David Jardine. BACK

[8] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811), for which Southey wrote the historical sections. BACK

[9] William Jillard Hort (1764–1849), Unitarian minister at Frenchay Chapel in Bristol 1803–1815 and later in Cork. He taught in the school run by John Prior Estlin and was the addressee of Coleridge’s ‘To the Rev. W. J. H.’, Poems on Various Subjects (London and Bristol, 1796), pp. [12]–14. Southey’s delayed schedule had meant the cancellation of a proposed visit by Hort to Keswick; see Southey to Charles Danvers, [begun before and continued on] 31 March [1811], Letter 1892. BACK

[10] Smith died on 3 May 1811. Southey had written to him on [c. 23 February 1811] (see Letter 1874) asking him to help Danvers’s brother, John Danvers (d. 1812), a surgeon and apothecary in Woolwich, who had been made bankrupt in 1808. BACK

[11] Southey was discussing the possibility of arranging for Danvers’s nephew to be admitted to Christ’s Hospital, a prominent London school, founded in 1552, which educated many of its pupils free or at reduced rates. BACK

[12] Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Délivrée (1814). Southey refused the commission. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013