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

2199. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 5 January 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany. 5. 1813.

My dear Charles

I have been waiting any time this last eight days to write to you, in expectation that poor unfortunate Mark Anthony, who is no sooner out of one scrape about the fair sex than he runs his head into another, should make his appearance; but where this unlucky hero of All-for-Love, or a Clerkship well Lost, may be, he knows best, for we have neither seen nor heard any of him since I wrote to say he would be welcome. [1] 

The box was long upon the road, & most exceedingly pleased I am with its contents. Pray present my very sincere thanks to Robert Hancock [2]  he could not possibly have gratified me more, & he could not possibly have succeeded better. We all agree in thinking it as happy a likeness as ever has been taken. Your mothers picture is also admirably copied. It brings her back perfectly to my recollection, & I value it more than I shall express. It hangs in the parlour over the fire place, in place of that ill-looking miniature which xxx made me look like a gentleman of fashion out of humour. [3]  I cannot provide a frame for yours till I go to Whitehaven xxxx & chuse one. We think of an expedition there when the spring comes on, for the sake of looking in the neighbourhood for sea-bathing, – & open a communication with which may supply me with various articles not to be obtained at Keswick.

You have learnt from the newspapers that Coleridges tragedy [4]  which was rejected in 1798 by Sheridan [5]  & Kemble [6]  is about to appear at New Drury Lane. I have little doubt of its success. The immediate profits in that case will pay his debts & set him afloat; – & what is yet of greater consequence the spur of popular applause, to which no man is more sensible, may tempt him to make xxx xxx use of the opening which he has gained & exert himself in this which is the most lucrative of all modes of writing & to him one of the easiest. This is very desirable, & I who as you know am not prone to be sanguine in my expectations from Coleridge think it by no means unlikely.

Well might you speak of the ill-printing of the Omniana. [7]  I did not see the book till yesterday, & it is another sample of the manner in which Pople has served me with his worn-out types! I suppose he has been an embarrassed man: – nevertheless it is vexatious to have two books sent out into the world in so beggarly a manner. [8] 

My Life of Nelson [9]  will make a very different appearance. By some miscalculation which lies between Murray & the Printer, [10]  & of which I am altogether clear, they have printed it in so open a page that it runs to two volumes instead of one, greatly I believe, to the injury, or certainly to the xxxx xxx impediment of its sale. You will probably get it early in March. As far as all mechanical execution goes it will be a very beautiful book. There will be a good portrait, at least no expense will be spared in procuring one, & plans of the three great battles, have been furnished me from the Admiralty by Crokers interference. [11]  What is of more importance I am very well satisfied with my own part, – tho the subject was one with which I should never have meddled had I not been xxx drawn or driven into it by the review. [12]  You will be pleased with the tone & temper of the book. I have There will be some original matter in it, & a good deal of impressive xxx narratives. No battles ever did so well upon paper as Nelsons.

In the last Quarterly I reviewed Landors Play, [13]  & the Calamities of Authors, [14]  – but as the number has not reached me I cannot say whether these articles stand as they were written. The proofs of an essay on the state of the poor or rather the populace are now upon my desk, – being part of an article for the next number. [15]  It is an attack upon Malthus, [16]  – upon the Manufacturing System, & upon the Cobbetts & Hunts [17]  who have produced this Luddite [18]  feeling in the mob. I go to the conclusion as soon as this letter is folded up. It is to recommend modes of employment for those who want work, – public education upon a national establishment, – military & naval schools to receive as many children as may be offered, – extensive colonization, – & those means of improving our own state at home, & advancing the human race, of which the operation would be without contingent evil or inconvenience, & the effect certain.

Buonaparte’s escape is vexatious. [19]  General Maitlands [20]  & Lord Wellingtons blunders more so. But I verily hope that the Russian destruction of Moscow has delivered Europe. [21]  Nothing can be finer than the whole conduct of the Russians. It is fitting that this Monster xx should drink the cup of humiliation to its xxx dregs before he dies, & nothing can prevent this, unless the Whigs betray this country to as abominable a peace now, as the Tories did in the days of Marlborough. [22]  Give me that man for minister, be he who he may, whose principle it shall be that there must never be peace with Buonparte. If that principle were solemnly avowed by the Government & recognised by the public, he could not maintain himself upon his throne for three months after it xxx was known in France.

We are going on well & our weather is delightful. The Senhora is as you may suppose a great acquisition to us. – Which is become of Sam Reid? Remember me to Rex & believe me dear Charles

Yrs very affectionately

R Southey


* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Endorsement: 1813/ Jany 5
Postmark: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928
Unpublished. BACK

[1] An oblique reference, but Southey may be talking about his brother-in-law, George Fricker, who had just lost his job in Bristol after falsely being accused of assaulting a young woman. Hence the references to Mark Anthony, the great lover of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and John Dryden’s (1631–1700; DNB) All for Love, or the World Well Lost (1678). BACK

[2] Robert Hancock (1731–1817; DNB) had made a pencil and chalk drawing of Southey in 1797. He had sent his portrait of Danvers to Southey, and the picture had just arrived. BACK

[3] It is not clear which painting Southey is referring to here. BACK

[4] Remorse was staged at Drury Lane, London, 23 January-12 February 1813. This made it a moderate success and Coleridge sent his family £100. BACK

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

[6] John Philip Kemble (1757–1823; DNB), actor. BACK

[7] Omniana: or Horae Otiosiores, a two volume compilation, including material by Coleridge, published in 1812. BACK

[8] The other book referred to is the third edition of Madoc (1812); see Southey to Charles Danvers, 7 October 1812, Letter 2154. BACK

[9] The Life of Nelson, published by Murray in 1813. BACK

[10] James Moyes (d. 1839), of Greville St, Hatton Garden, London. BACK

[11] 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). The book also contained a fold out plan of the Battle of the Nile (1798). BACK

[12] Southey’s biography of Nelson was an expansion of his article in Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. BACK

[13] Walter Savage Landor, Count Julian: A Tragedy (1812), Quarterly Review, 8 (September 1812), 86–92. BACK

[14] Isaac D’Israeli (1766–1848; DNB), Calamities of Authors; Including some Inquiries Respecting their Moral and Literary Characters (1812), Quarterly Review, 8 (September 1812), 93–114. BACK

[15] The Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor. The first of a series of Southeyan articles on the poor appeared in the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. BACK

[16] The political economist Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834; DNB). BACK

[17] The radical Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773–1835; DNB). BACK

[18] The Luddite movement smashed textile machinery that was seen as threatening employment. It was based in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Lancashire. BACK

[19] Napoleon had abandoned his defeated Army that was retreating through Russia in November 1812 and was organizing the defence of his central European empire. BACK

[20] Frederick Maitland (1763–1848; DNB). British soldier. He commanded an army from Sicily, which had landed at Alicante in Spain in August 1812. However, he resigned his command in November 1812 having accomplished little. Wellington’s troops had captured Madrid in August 1812, but then retreated to Portugal to avoid encirclement. BACK

[21] As French troops entered Moscow on 14 September 1812 the city caught fire (probably accidentally) and this prevented the French Army gaining any benefit from occupying the Russian capital. In October, the French were forced to retreat. BACK

[22] John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722; DNB). Southey is referring to the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), at the conclusion of the War of the Spanish Succession, which was widely-criticised for being too lenient to the French. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013