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

1919. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 8 May 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 8. 1811.

My dear Tom

Longman tells me he has 109 copies of Kehama left, which he hopes will soon go, – & therefore as it is desirable one edition should be ready by the time the other is sold, he wishes the second may go forthwith to press. [1]  Moreover he has only 50 of the small Madoc, [2]  – so this also goes to press tomorrow. I am exceedingly glad of this, for the current edition is so ill clumsily divided, & so ill printed that I never could look at it without displeasure. Slow & sure Tom. There will now be three of my poems in the press at once. [3]  I make no alterations except adding something to the notes, for which service if Sarah were here I should be glad to put her in requisition.

My Aunt Mary has not written to me again, which I am sorry for, because her letter made me something rather uneasy about her own state of health, & because I am anxious to know what she has done with her own littler property. Besides I prest her earnestly to return come to Keswick, promising to fetch her. I have not heard what Mr T Southey died of, [4]  but it seems he was ill sometime, & repeatedly declared his determination that not a shilling should ever go to one of his own family. For my own part I give him a receipt in full for all injustices toward me. I always thought the Olivers [5]  most likely to be his heirs, & that opinion implies as much reason as there could be for so unreasonable a thing as making them so.

Poor Mr Bunbury died last night. His new house is just finished – & the garden &c about which he took so much pains for the last three or four years – now in compleat order for somebody else to enjoy. – I see too by to nights papers that Mr Smith the Quaker is dead – this I have long expected to hear.

Let me pass to some chearfuller topic. What for Heavens sake has Cunliffe Owen been about? [6]  – I am afraid the story cannot be all false, if he has been playing the rascal in giving information as they say, far better had he been shot in your ships boats.

A homo from Edinburgh [7]  brought me the Register [8]  sheets yesterday & an ill-looking letter from Ballantyne. I had urged him to turn over the super abundant bulk of the first volume into the second, & turn out some of the anneafiaries [9]  to make room for it: by way of comfort he tells me that the second is still fuller than the first that he dares not raise the price yet, & that this extra bulk {quantity} will eat up the profits of the year. So that I have the pleasure of three months additional labour, xx the only payment for which will be to find myself 50 or 60£ minus in my division of profits when the accounts come to be made up. 464 pages are printed. he has 100 more in his hands, & I have still God knows how much to write. To night I shall finish the Austrian war, except the Tyrolean affairs. they will fill one chapter. the Douro & Galician campaign 1. Talavera 1. subsequent events 1. Gerona 1. Tamames & Ocana 1. Change of ministry & Buonapartes divorce 1. [10]  seven chapters still before me! they will keep me till the end of the month – but certes I trust not longer. so I expect to be at Streatham (God willing) the first week in June. By the Lord I shall like my old friend in the Pilgrims Progress [11]  when the burthen is off my shoulders! Not that my attention has ever flagged nor that I am in the slightest degree weary of the work. Thank God I do not know what it is to be weary of doing that which ought to be done.

This obstinacy on the part of the Spanish Regency about placing troops under British officers is a great & provoking evil.

I have seen Jeffrays review, [12]  was there ever such a compound of contradictory malice, insolence & ignorance! The man however cannot speak half so contemptuously of me as I think of him, & he has the comfort of knowing that.

Pelayo [13]  has been standing still. I lay the fault upon Puss Katharine, – tho some of it is owing to myself. Perhaps I may get on with at it at Streatham. indeed as soon as I begin to think seriously of printing it, & to see in imagination the goodly image of a first proof sheet, – then I shall spur on amain

The men are at work upon our house rough-casting it at last. Your nephew has began Robinson Crusoe yesterday. [14]  To day having read thro Mr Crusoe’s description of the evils Robinson must expect at sea, he looked up to his aunt & exclaimed – ‘poor miserable man!” – So I think the Moon has {discovers} no inclination to be a sailor. – Ediths love –

God bless you



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ St Helens Auckland/ Bishops Auckland/ Durham.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The second edition of The Curse of Kehama appeared in 1811. BACK

[2] The duodecimo second edition of Madoc (1807), as opposed to the quarto first edition of 1805. A third edition was published in 1812. BACK

[3] The third poem was Joan of Arc, the fourth edition of which appeared in 1812. BACK

[4] Thomas Southey’s death was reported in his local newspaper the Taunton Courier on 18 April 1811. He left nothing to his brother’s children. BACK

[5] William Oliver (1775–1830) of Hope Corner, Taunton was Thomas Southey’s main heir. The Oliver family were old friends of his. BACK

[6] The naval officer Lieutenant Charles Cunliffe-Owen (1786–1872). British newspapers (e.g. the Caledonian Mercury, 6 May 1811) carried reports from the ‘French papers’ that Cunliffe Owen, while a prisoner at Besancon, had tried to persuade two French officers to become involved in a scheme to capture the port of Belleisle-sur-Mer. The clumsy plot had been uncovered and Owen had told all he knew to the French authorities, resulting in the arrest of his co-conspirators. Owen had been taken prisoner on 10 September 1810, when boats from HMS Dreadnought, on which Tom Southey was serving, had captured a Spanish merchant ship, which was moored in a creek near Ushant. The boats came under heavy fire and six British sailors were killed, over thirty wounded and two boats drifted onto the shore and their men were imprisoned; see the account in The Times, 15 September 1810. Despite these disasters, Owen escaped in 1813 and eventually became a Captain in 1852. BACK

[7] Unidentified. BACK

[8] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811). BACK

[9] Probably a way of referring to the detailed ‘Chronicle’ in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 2.2 (1811), 1–336. BACK

[10] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 575–797. These events actually filled ten chapters. They included Austria’s unsuccessful war against France in 1809; the campaign in Spain in the summer of 1809, including the Battle of Talavera, 27 July 1809, the siege of Gerona, the French defeat at Tamames on 18 October 1809 and victory at Ocana on 19 November 1809; Spencer Perceval’s succession as Prime Minister on 4 October 1809; and Napoleon’s divorce from Josephine de Beauharnais (1763–1814) on 10 January 1810. BACK

[11] In John Bunyan (1628–1688; DNB), The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), when Christian sees the Cross, the burden of sin falls off his back and into the sepulchre. BACK

[12] His appraisal of The Curse of Kehama (1810), Edinburgh Review, 17 (February 1811), 429–465. BACK

[13] An early version of what became Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[14] Daniel Defoe (1659/1661–1731; DNB), Robinson Crusoe (1719). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013