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

2188. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 6 December 1812 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

Your news of S. Reid made me so uncomfortable about him that I could not rest till I had written to him; [1]  – with little hope indeed of turning him from his purpose, but in the only manner which has any chance of doing it. By showing him that he may do more good by staying at home. I have endeavoured to convince him that for foreign service the Methodists & other such enthusiasts are the men. That if he could be content to do good silently & certainly his surest way would be to act as minister to some congregation – provided his opinions admit of it – otherwise to continue his present course of life & contract new duties by marriage. But if, like Clarkson, he must have some specific object in view – for which to devote himself, I have asked him if such objects are not to be found in England, & thrown out hints to him of two either of which would give scope enough to his zeal. The one to become the founder of some such institution for women as you may remember was once the subject of much correspondence between Rickman & xxxx me [2]  – the other to form a society for reclaiming the Gypsies. Mrs R. & his sisters [3]  will thank me for setting him upon a scheme like this, if it should have the effect of keeping him in England. I think I see you laughing at my notion of setting Sam to preach to the Gypsies – I laugh too, but it would be really a good thing to set the Evangelicals & the Philanthropicals at them. They are at once a pest to the community & a disgrace to it, & if Sam could be persuaded to xxxxxx xxx fancy this his call, it would take so xx well that funds would not be wanting, for any reasonable plan which might be devised. The other is a worthier object, & blessed will that man be who shall carry it into effect.

I hope Georges disappointment has been removed ere this. For I repeated the lost order for his books, as soon as this new edition of Kehama [4]  was published, & he probably has received them now: if not they are on the way.

Unluckily I do not know a single person in Glasgow, or in any part of its vicinity, – nor any person connected with that part of Scotland from whom I could procure any introduction for David & Ashburner. [5]  This I am sorry for, as I should have been very glad to have rendered them this service.

Harrys habitation is 28 Queen Anne Street, Cavendish Square. He has been very fortunate in finding a small house in so good a situation. – But poor fellow he has been miserably ill since his arrival in town, somewhat in Toms old way, – so as to be in danger of fistula.

Wordsworth has lost another of his children this week. Poor little Tom, the measles produced an inflammation of the lungs which carried him off in a few hours. [6] Lloyd after a second & worse fit of derangement is good health recovered to temporary health.

If there were any thing like punctuality in carriers the box would be here tomorrow. I am obliged to James [7]  for the accounts you gave me of the Serampore mission. Their setting-to the next day to recast the types is a fine incident worthy of honourable remembrance & sure to meet with it. It is a great consolation that the whole loss is reparable by money. [8]  If Perceval [9]  had been living I think a grant might have been obtained for this purpose, & never would public money have been better bestowed. Considered in a mere literary point of view this mission has produced greater fruits in a given time than any other institution from the beginning of the world.

I am about half way thro my poem, [10]  & getting on with it. It promises well, & will have some situations of higher passion than are to be found in any of its predecessors. I begin to regret than any other occupation should delay its progress. – Nelson is far advanced in the press, – you will probably have it in February, & will not complain of any want of elegance in its appearance. [11]  Pople ought to be a better printer, for xxxxx the son of the cunning woman from whom he learnt the craft was an amateur in types, & had a better real sense of typographical beauty. Was you with me on St Augustines Back [12]  one day when he xxxxx xx printed out the turn of the tail in xx a capital Italic R & said “that’s sweet!” –

God bless you


Dec 6. 1812.


* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: 1812/ 6th Decr
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Reid was thinking of becoming a missionary; see Southey to Samuel Reid, 5 December 1812, Letter 2187. BACK

[2] Rickman’s plan for beguinages, or communities of poor women, who would work and live together. BACK

[3] Rebecca Ford Reid (1765–1851), Samuel Reid’s stepmother; and his sisters, Elizabeth Peasley Reid (1779–1818) and Rebecca Ann Rickards (1785–1834). BACK

[4] The third edition of The Curse of Kehama, published in 1812. BACK

[5] Unidentified. BACK

[6] Thomas Wordsworth died on 1 December 1812. BACK

[7] Probably Isaac James (1759–1828), classical tutor at Bristol Baptist College. BACK

[8] On 11 March 1812 the printing office of the Baptist-run Serampore mission had been gutted by fire. The blaze caused an estimated £7000 of damage, and destroyed ‘all the papers and accounts of the mission from its establishment … fourteen founts in the eastern languages, a large assortment of types lately received from England, and more than twelve hundred reams of paper’, alongside copies of bibles and completed and draft translations of Indian texts. Work on recasting the types began immediately and ‘with a few months the press was in full operation’. See John Clark Marshman (1794–1877; DNB), The Life and Times of Carey, Marshman and Ward, Embracing the History of the Serampore Mission, 2 vols (London, 1859), I, pp. 468–470. BACK

[9] Spencer Perceval (1762–1812; DNB), Prime Minister 1809–1812 had been assassinated on 11 May 1812. BACK

[10] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[11] The Life of Nelson was published in 1813. BACK

[12] Pople had been apprenticed to Nathaniel Biggs, whose business was based in St Augustine’s Back, Bristol. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013