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

2170. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 2 November 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov. 2. 1812.

My dear Tom

You have another niece whose name is to be Isabel, for want of a better, however this I think is a bel name. I could not have ventured upon its masculine for a boy, because the pun on jest would have been an unlucky one. Isabeau, otherwise a good name of Anglo-Norman days. She was born a little before noon, this day, but we had been upon the alarm ever since two o clock on Saturday morning: slow but not xxx {otherwise} unfavourable for Edith, but a very bad time for me. Send me as good an account from St Helens, in all respects, except the gender, for as far as that goes I hope the young one will be qualified for an Admiral.

Your Omniana [1]  will be directed to Mr Castle’s. [2]  The book is published & may perhaps reach Durham before you receive this. Have you had the proofs of Nelson? [3]  the seventh reached me this afternoon. It will be a beautiful book as far as relates to the printers work, the plans [4]  will no doubt be correct as coming from the Admiralty xxx xx xxx Murray promises to have as good an engraving as can be had of the portrait. [5]  My part looks better in Mr Moyes’s handy-work [6]  than it did in my own – & I augur well of its success.

Xxx There came a letter to me yesterday which would have amused you had you been here. – From an Evangelical Parson to return me thanks for the benefit he has received at my hands by reading Thalaba at the recommendation of the Christian Observer. [7]  He says it has “strenghtened his faith”, & requesting permission to send me “a sketch of the instruction to be drawn from it”. [8]  – the moral of Thalaba by an Evangelical! And he concludes with a fine compliment & the happy quotation about The Poets eye in a fine frenzy. [9]  – There are few persons who cannot find out some claim of acquaintance at second or third hand, & this gentleman tells me that he is the person who bought Lloyds car two years ago.

Have you noticed some notable advertisement about Seilis, implying that he did not kill himself? [10]  There is a damnable story about this mystery, – which is believed & very believable, – & a still more damnable one invented for obvious purposes of mischief. The key to this dark affair is said to be that Seilis (an Italian) was jealous of Neal [11]  the page, – who had supplanted him in the D.s favour. Likely enough, & bad enough. – The xx cursed story which is spread abroad is thus explained in an epigram which Sharp repeated to me – .

Xxx xxxx xxx xxx
What Neal did to the D. or the D. did to Neal
Is known only to those who have seen them.
But I fear that the dirty affair to conceal
They did for poor Seilis between them.

Sharp says this was written by Sheridan [12]  – which is not to be believed, how he could for a moment that Sheridan the uniform defender of the Princes should be the author of such an attack is inconceivable. The Independent Whig [13]  is now under prosecution for insinuating this. I suppose it ventured upon so preposterous a lie, in full confidence that the business would not be brought forward in public by the D. You must know that there are a set of wretches who live upon the vices and follies of the Princes; they watch their private lives get at their secrets, & then lay them under contributions as the price of abstaining from telling these things to the public! O Tom. It is not all the hurricanes of this tempestuous time that will wreck that good ship the Constitution, – but she has a whole xxxx {cargo} of Jonahs on board, [14]  any one of them would sink the best life-boat.

Our love to Sarah & a kiss to Margaret – I am very tired, & wish it was bed time.

Harry has been miserably tormented in your old way, [15]  with great danger of fistula, but is recovering. An Amsterdammer & xxx suppurated. He has taken a house – 28 Queen Anne Street, Cavendish Square.

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ Capt Southey/ St. Helens/ Auckland
Postmark: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Omniana, or Horae Otiosiores (1812). BACK

[2] Tom’s father-in-law, Samuel Castle (d. 1815), a Durham solicitor. BACK

[3] The Life of Nelson (1813). Tom had not received the proofs; see Robert Southey to John Murray, 25 November 1812, Letter 2184. BACK

[4] Of Nelson’s major battles. No battle plans appeared in the Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[5] Southey’s Life of Nelson (1813) contained a portrait engraving by an unnamed artist. Its source was an 1800 pencil portrait of Nelson by Simon de Koster (1767–1831). BACK

[6] The printer of the Life, James Moyes (d. 1839), of Greville St, Hatton Garden, London. BACK

[7] Thalaba, the Destroyer (1801). The Christian Observer, 9 (June 1810), 389, had praised Southey for being ‘unequalled’ in ‘sublimity of conception, eloquence, and depth of feeling’ and cited Thalaba as ‘by far the best’ of his ‘performances’. BACK

[8] See also Southey’s reply to Longmire, 4 November 1812, Letter 2172. BACK

[9] Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 1, line 12. BACK

[10] On 31 May 1810 Joseph Sellis, valet to Prince Ernest Augustus (1771–1851; DNB), Duke of Cumberland, fifth son of George III and later King of Hanover 1837–1851, was found with his throat cut in the Duke’s apartment at St James’s Palace. It was widely believed that the Duke had murdered Sellis to prevent him revealing scandalous details about Cumberland’s private life – both incest and homosexuality were rumoured. BACK

[11] Cornelius Neale (fl. 1812) also worked as a valet to the Duke. He was implicated in the stories of murder and homosexuality that surrounded the incident. BACK

[12] The playwright, theatre proprietor and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816; DNB). BACK

[13] The Independent Whig was an anti-government Sunday newspaper, published 1806–1821. It was owned by Henry White (1759-c. 1828). On 24 May 1813 White was sentenced to fifteen months in prison and fined £200 for libelling the Duke of Cumberland. BACK

[14] In Jonah, 1, Jonah incurred God’s wrath by fleeing from his duty as a prophet on board a ship. God sent storms to threaten the ship and the sailors threw Jonah overboard (where he was swallowed by a whale). A ‘Jonah’ was therefore someone who threatened the safety of a ship. BACK

[15] i.e. Harry was suffering, as Tom once had, from haemorrhoids (‘Dutchmen’ and ‘Amsterdammers’ in Southey family slang). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013