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

2154. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 7 October 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Oct 7. 1812.

My dear Danvers

As I wrote to poor unfortunate George you would not be surprized at not receiving an answer in reply to your last letter. [1]  You anticipated its effect truly, – I was most compleatly astonished, & my astonishment at one time found a very natural vent in the form of laughter, – but it is a vexatious business; & it affected Edith so much that I was really afraid xx in the course of the night that some serious injuri consequences might have ensued. [2]  Many questions occurred to me – which it was impossible to get answered, – who should have a key of Mr Lunells [3]  yard? how was it possible that three men should not succeed in forcing a woman thro an open door? & some other circumstances tending to excite a suspicion that it was a trumped up story by the girl. If however she swears to her story & to him, & the Landlady swears to an alibi, the case must then be decided by character, & George I think is safe enough. Still Juries are so very far from being infallible that I am not without {some} anxiety xx x concerning the court – for disagreable as it would be to himself to be convicted, I verily believe it would produce more serious evil to me just at this time. – Who would ever think of drawing such a piece of ill luck as this in the lottery of life? However if Georges Counsel does his duty, there can be little fear. He must be prepared to prove the history of in what manner he past the evening, & to show that he was sober. If it were not for the unaccountable circumstance of the key, the case could hardly be brought into court. – Was the door found unlocked the next morning, or is it pretended that he stopt to lock it? I cannot help suspecting roguery. It is so absurd to suppose that he would have chosen a place to commit the crime in which so naturally not only lead to suspicion, but to proof against him, – & that any stranger should have a key seems inexplicable. – I wrote to him about money, & wish I could manage better about it. However you will be able to get my draught draft cashed, & the discount is not worth a thought. I used to draw upon Ballantyne at three days sight, but he has taken advantage of the failure of these Northern banks to make me draw at three months. [4]  I suspect this is an excuse, for their brother (the bookseller) deals with me like a shuffling fellow; I have let him know that I perceive this, & if he does not feel it his interest to act honestly there will very soon be a breach between us. This would be x a great present inconvenience, – that I should ultimately have reason to regret it is not so certain.

The books may wait for the seeds. I shall be very glad to receive the picture. Get a frame for it, like your own, or handsomer if you see a pattern more to your taste. Edith has at last got a picture of me to her mind. Downman [5]  the artist came here with a letter from Murray soliciting my likeness: he was so succesful that I sate for another, for my own chimney piece – & he has given me one of Edith to keep it company, which is said by every body to be exceedingly like – no doubt it is so, but it strikes me less than it does every body else. Mine I believe satisfies every body.

The Senhora is getting in order, but not very rapidly. Dawe [6]  who I believe you knew was coming with recommendation from Coleridge, has taken possession of C’s study, to begin a huge picture in, the subject a woman rescuing her child from an Eagles nest, – a high-land story. It promises admirably, – Kate has lain for the child – she is too old, but serves to give him the attitude. [7]  I & the Senhora are of his privy council, xxxx he consults with us about all his designs & alterations, & we flatter ourselves that we have given him good advice. Dr Bell went away this morning. I wish most sincerely you had seen him, his very looks would delight you, – & to hear him speak of his system would xxxx make you nauseate the quackeries & nonsense of Lancaster.

I thought ere this to have sent you the Omniana, [8]  & know not why Pople delays to finish it. Murray tells me he is about to give up the printing business as soon as he has worn out his types. Pople ought to have told me this, instead of printing Madoc [9]  with types which xxxxx xxxx such types that Longman is actually ashamed of the book, & well he may be. I fear he is in a bad way, & if this is the case Robert Lovell will be adrift before the end of his apprenticeship.

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Stamped: [partial] KES
Endorsement: 1812/ Octr 7
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890
Unpublished. BACK

[1] George Fricker was accused of an assault on a young woman in Bristol, but the matter seems to have been dropped. Southey certainly believed in George’s innocence. His letter to George does not seem to have survived. BACK

[2] Edith Southey was heavily pregnant. BACK

[3] William Peter Lunell (1758–1840), prominent Bristol merchant, antiquarian and anti-slavery activist, with premises in Brunswick Square. George Fricker was his employee. BACK

[4] The Workington Bank, along with other country banks, had failed earlier in 1812. The failure caused much local inconvenience. BACK

[5] John Downman (1750–1824; DNB). BACK

[6] The history and portrait painter George Dawe (1781–1829; DNB). BACK

[7] Dawe’s residence at Greta Hall whilst he worked on the 9 foot by 8 foot canvas ‘Mother Rescuing her Child from an Eagle’s Nest’ was not without controversy. The picture was based on William Hayley’s (1745–1820; DNB), ‘The Eagle’, first published in Designs to a Series of Ballads (1802). BACK

[8] Ominiana appeared later in 1812. BACK

[9] Pople had printed the third edition of Madoc, published in 1812. BACK

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August 2013