Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

2253. Robert Southey to John King, 4 May 1813 ⁠* 

My dear King

You as well as myself have so little leisure for correspondence, that I should not address a letter to you without good & sufficient cause. – George Fricker you know is here, – & I dare say you know enough of his inside to suppose that this will be his last home. [1]  He is indeed miserably ill, & has every symptom of pulmonary consumption, except what the expectoration might be expected to furnish: but no matter has yet been expectorated. Mr Edmondson, who in the healing art is the magnus & only Apollo [2]  within our sphere reach, wishes to know what your opinion was of the primary liver affection; – your ideas of the case xxxxxxxx, he says, might assist him in forming a more correct opinion of it. He thinks it a very bad case, tho not yet absolutely hopeless. To me it appears desperate. A little while since he had the most violent night sweats, but these {have} been entirely subdued by bleeding. Twice there has been a considerable expectoration of blood since the first hæmorrhage, & from the state of his respiration, & the perpetual sense of stricture & fulness of which he complains, more of this is to be apprehended. The lungs are now the chief seat of disease, – but if this disease should be palliated or suspended, the original affection of the liver remains. Give me I pray you a letter, the first part of which may be for the Doctor upon this subject, – & the rest for myself. – He suspects an adhesion.

My life of Nelson ought about this time to reach you. This book has been a thing of accident rather than of choice. [3]  When Clarke & McArthurs twenty-pounder xx piece of biography appeard, I was fetched upon to review it, & had no little inclination for the task, because I felt so little qualified for it, that I should certainly have declined it, if ‘goodly guerdon’ [4]  had not been proferred upon such large terms that my poverty consented. I sent off the reviewal thinking that of all the moneys for which I have ever furnishd printers-devil with bescrawled paper, none was ever worse earned. However it was liked well by the talking part of the London public & Murray asked me to enlarge it into a volume which he might sell for a dollar. [5]  – That it appears in two volumes instead of one is more attributable to the printer [6]  than to me – for my manuscript exceeded my calculation of its extent not more than one fifth.

The next book which I shall have to send you will be the conclusion of the Hist. of Brazil: [7]  this will go to press in the course of the summer a few weeks after my hands are rid of the Register. [8]  – I take more exercise than I used to do, getting out now whenever the weather will permit for an hour or hour & half before breakfast, with such of the children as are big old enough to accompany me. This I have done since Christmas, when a sudden sickness in the midst of dinner without any assignable cause, – brought on some old feelings xxxxxxxx which I did not like to be reminded of. – Probably I am the better for this regular exercise, – in my digestion certainly, which was becoming torpid, – I am well at present thank God, – & having learnt at Lisbon to consider pulmonary disease as in some degree infectious I keep as much as possible out of poor Georges atmosphere; – indeed it is such as warns one to keep at a distance.

In one thing only do I find the effect of years, – that I can no longer read for the mere amusement of the hour & nor go on adding plan to plan of literary works, but am fain to xxxxxx xxx remember what the hour of the day is, & how much xx there is to be done before night. On this account I should be glad, if it were practicable, to emancipate myself from all periodical work: as that however cannot yet be, I take it in good part & go to it with good will. – My poem [9]  is about half written & hangs at present in its progress, more for want of convenient leisure than from any other cause. The difficulties in the management of the story & developement of the characters are got over, & there are parts in it which I am confident you would prefer to any thing of mine. But of its general MS torn]tation I xx expect little. Kehama [10]  made its way more by its grandiloquence than by any thing else – & Roderick will be as much below the standard of contemporary taste in point this point, – as it is above it in every thing else.

I hoped to have been setting out for the South about this time, but it is impossible. The Register is not yet published, & the Quarterly is calling upon me for xx a paper upon the History of the Dissenters [11]  which as yet exists only in ideas. – Tell Danvers that I did not review Mr Belshams book. [12]  If I had Mr Belsham would gave been treated with all courtesy. Tell him too that if Mr Somebody who is to bring the Baptist Miss. Number [13]  will bring also from Gutchs No 5742 – Mrs Vigors Letters from Russia 6/s  [14]  – & another book of about the same price the number of which I have mislaid – but the title as Kindersleys Letters from Teneriffe, Brazil &c [15]  – I shall be xx much obliged to him. & will of course show the bearer all due civilities.

Lord Sunderlins family, whom Mrs King will x recollect, have been here for some time. – We see them much & like them much.

What a change in the world has the march to Moscow produced! [16]  I have no fears for the result as far as the event of the war. For the German spirit is rousd, – the contest is for life or for death, & with equal armies in the field, an armed & exasperated population must turn the scale. In what state Europe will find itself after the xxxxxxxx overthrow of this monstrous tyranny offers {is} a wide field for speculation, – x according to my apprehensions no country has so much to fear & xx so little to hope as England; – for change is certainly at hand, & change of every kind in our state of polluted morals perverted feelings & x lamentable ignorance, – or half knowledge which is even more dangerous – must be for the worse.

God bless you –

Yrs affectionately

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ John King Esqre/ Mall/ Clifton/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891
Unpublished. BACK

[1] George Fricker died at Greta Hall on 24 June 1813; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 28 June 1813, Letter 2274. BACK

[2] Greek god of medicine. BACK

[3] The Life of Nelson was a development of Southey’s review of John Charnock (1756–1806; DNB), Biographical Memoirs of Lord Viscount Nelson, &c., &c., &c.; with Observations, Critical and Explanatory (1806); James Harrison (d. 1847), The Life of Lord Nelson (1806); T. O. Churchill (fl. 1800–1823), The Life of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronté, &c (1808); and James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) and John McArthur (1755–1840; DNB), The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from his Lordship’s Manuscripts (1809), see Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. BACK

[4] Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), Faerie Queene (1590–1596), Book 1, canto 7, stanza 15. BACK

[5] Five shillings. BACK

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

[7] Two further volumes of the History of Brazil were published, in 1817 and 1819 respectively. BACK

[8] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813). BACK

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

[10] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[11] Quarterly Review, 10 (October 1813), 90–139. A proposed second part was not written. BACK

[12] The Unitarian minister Thomas Belsham (1750–1829; DNB). The book is probably his Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey (1812), reviewed disparagingly in Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 422–437, by the Anglican clergyman, Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759–1821; DNB). BACK

[13] One of the volumes of Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, 1800–1817. Southey eventually owned a five volume set, no. 2213 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[14] An unknown edition of Jane Vigor (1699–1783; DNB), Letters From a Lady who Resided some Years in Russia, to her Friend in England, first published in 1775. BACK

[15] Jemima Kindersley (1741–1809; DNB), Letters From the Island of Teneriffe, Brazil, the Cape of Good Hope and the East Indies (1777). BACK

[16] The French invasion of Russia in 1812 had ended disastrously for the French forces. The War of the Sixth Coalition against France had just begun in Germany. BACK

About this Page

Published @ RC

August 2013