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

2329. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 15 November 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov. 15. 1813

My dear Tom

Thank God I am once more by my own fireside. Yesterday I arrived & am now no otherwise sensible of having been xxx five & forty hours travelling than that my ancles are somewhat swolln.

And now for the first time I can sit down in quiet & perfect comfort to write a Letter. – Your report concerning Ballantyne & W Scott was like most reports a great deal of falsehood founded upon some little truth. There is so bankruptcy in the case, – & Scott is just so far involved with them, that his friends find it necessary to bear them through their difficulties.

I was sworn in as Laureat on Thursday the 4th & my appointment dates from the 12th of August, – being both my birthday & the Princes the coincidence is remarkable. Pye [1]  died on the 11th & as a thing of course the succession begins from the following day. Last Thursday I made my appearance at the Levee in the Doctors full dress suit. The coat was taken in for the occasion & I was sans doubt on that day the best drest poet in Christendom. Croker took me. The spectacle was very fine, – the apartments are magnificent in the highest degree, & nothing can be imagined more splendid than the crowd of uniforms, of all sorts & all services. The number of stars, medals, &c made it a proud sight for an Englishman. I saw Graham there & Sir Samuel Achmuty & Sir John Stuart, [2]  – & was introduced to General Anson, [3]  by Mr Littlelton, who also introduced me to Mr Richard Wellesley, [4]  the Marquis son, a man of prepossessing appearance. From the Marquis I receivd a message in the handsomest terms expressing his pleasure at hearing that the subject of the Peninsular affair was in my hands, [5]  & his willingness to afford me every assistance & facility in his power. – The ceremony of presentation was short & easy – my name was announced by the Lords in waiting – “How do you do Mr Southey – I am very glad to see you” – said the Prince to me, – as he said to every body else. – I, as I had been taught by Sir Domine, bent my right knee, managed the sword with my left hand, & putting the right under his just lifted it toward my lips, xx then rose & past on.

Your feelings respecting this appointment will very soon be changed. In me, of all men, it would have been at once gross folly & rank cowardice to have refused it. It becomes honourable if I make it so, – & what reason have I to distrust either my own intentions or my own powers? – As for the ridicule which it at first provoked, a well-turned jest will amuse me as much as it can x any one else, – & even a dull one does me the unintended service of making me appear of importance to the reader. The more abuse, the more censure, the more satire, the more sarcasm the better, – because the lathe will soon be turned. For be you assured that I shall derive honour from the office from by giving honour to it.

I have bought Du Tertre, [6]  xx Lygons History of Barbadoes, [7]  & Atkins [8]  (I think is the name) of Dominica. They are on the way with my other [MS missing] I shall look over them to see what they contain ap[MS missing] to my Brazilian subject [9]  & then forward them to you. In the latter you will probably find something in the two former & especially in the first a great deal. [10]  The more I think about your opus the better the plan appears, – as a task at once practicable, pleasant & profitable for you, & a book which will really fill up a chasm in history. If we could dispose of an edition of 500 copies by subscription at £2.2 (supposing one quarto volume to compose the whole as I expect it will), you would clear by it at least five hundred guineas. Or if we could only get 200 copies thus disposed of I think a bookseller might be found to take all risk & charges & give you that number of copies as the price if the work – here would be 420£ gain – no bad prize for a Captain on shore.

My time was so fully occupied during my absence from eight in the morning till eleven at night, that I had no possible leisure for writing any other letters than those which carried home the account of my proceedings. I was weary beyond measure of new faces & perpetual change, scarcely ever dining two days together in the same place nor with the same company. – In the way of documents I got hold of some good private as well as offical correspondence, & shall have every assistance which the public office can give me. [11]  I must now turn to & fetch up my lee way, – letters to write by the score, & heaven knows how many other league-long operations before me! Thank God here I am once more in health & good spirits, ready to begin all & go through all. – Love to Sarah & Margaret & Maryhannah – I thought of them at Bowes.

For want of red wax I must seal with black. – The seal – a fine Scotch topaz – was a present from Scott, which I got cut in London –

God bless you

RS.

I like Bewicks block [12]  very much indeed – but as you observe the water should be made more apparent. Xxx {Two} thousand impressions will be as many as I can possibly want for very many years: for many of these books are my Uncles, & I should not put them in all my own, – for instance xxx is may xxx xxx xxxx all that are in Duck Row [13]  would go without them.

Will you buy for me half a dozen of your Durham-Toasting Cheeses & pack them off by the Carrier. Tell me the cost & I will send it with the amount of Bewicks Bill. – I think my Uncle will have a block cut. [14] 


Notes

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

[1] The poet-politician Henry James Pye (1745–1813; DNB), Poet Laureate 1790–1813. BACK

[2] The army officers Thomas Graham, Lord Lynedoch (1748–1843), Sir Samuel Achmuty (1758–1822; DNB), and Sir John Stuart (1761–1815; DNB). BACK

[3] General Sir George Anson (1769–1849), MP for Lichfield 1806–1841 and a prominent cavalry commander in the Peninsular War. BACK

[4] Littleton’s brother-in-law, Richard Wellesley (1787–1831). He was to have a fairly undistinguished political career as MP for Queenborough 1810–1812, East Grinstead January-March 1812 and Ennis 1820–1826. BACK

[5] Southey had agreed to write a History of the Peninsular War for Murray. It was published in 1823–1832. BACK

[6] The missionary and botanist Jean-Baptiste du Tertre (1610–1687), Histoire Generale des Antiles habitées par les François (1667). Southey copy was no. 2828 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] Richard Ligon (c. 1585–1662; DNB), A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (1657); no. 1679 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] Thomas Atwood (d. 1793), History of the Island of Dominica (1791). BACK

[9] i.e. to the History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[10] With his brother’s encouragement, Tom was working on a Chronological History of the West Indies (1827). It was published by Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green. BACK

[11] i.e. materials for and help in the writing of the History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[12] Southey had commissioned an engraved bookplate from Thomas Bewick (1753–1828; DNB). BACK

[13] The part of Greta Hall where Southey kept less valuable books. BACK

[14] I like Bewicks … block cut: written at top of fol. 1 r. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013