2337. Robert Southey to John May, 28 November 1813

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

2337. Robert Southey to John May, 28 November 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov. 28. 1813

My dear friend

Leave-taking is one of the evils of life, & I do not therefore regret that we did not meet in London just to say farewell. Here I am, recovered from three months of mental dissipation, & from three hundred miles mail-coaching, – the least fatiguing of the two: – my wife & children [1]  all, thank God, in health, my books about me, my papers in order, & I myself in full enjoyment of health, happiness, & uninterrupted leisure.

I learnt at the Chamberlains Office that it is necessary to give you a letter of Attorney, because a receipt cannot be transmitted from hence, but must be signed at the office. Will you therefore procure one empowering you to receive all monies payable to me as Laureate, & Henry will thro Rickman transmit it to me in a frank for signature, & I will return it thro the same channel, & apprize you at what time the salary will be in course of payment. My appointment dates singularly enough from the 12th of August which is both the Prince’s birth day & my own, – the day after Pye’s death. [2]  With pensions one quarter is never paid till another is due, & the Chamberlains office may perhaps be somewhat longer in arrear. There will be fees to the amount of nearly £20 to be deducted from the first quarter.

From Ballantyne I have heard nothing since I saw you – but a letter from Scott was awaiting me, in which he says he had seen James B (the Printer, had spoken to him on the subject, & was convinced that I should find the treatment which I was so well entitled to expect. – I account for the delay in closing my account by the much longer & heavier ones which they have to settle. That I shall lose my share in the Register [3]  (£209) seems sufficiently certain. What is due to me I expect to recover, & am about to demand from them a bill payable to you in London.

When the Laureateship was first mentioned to me I thought little of it, & doubted whether I should accept it, if it were placed at my acceptance. I think very differently now. As an honour it was given me, & honourable I will make it. & I derive a satisf from the use to which it is applied a satisfaction greater than a much larger salary would have given me if devoted to my own immediate use.

My Ode [4]  will be finished in the course of the week, – it is at once a Te Deum, [5]  & an exhortation not to stop short in victory. I shall probably like it less than an Epistle to the Prince with which it is my intention to accompany it, concerning the office & myself. [6]  Could I but strike off a beginning this would soon be written. I mean to do a good deal of volunteer duty, & meditate among other things a series of monumental inscriptions for the peninsular war. [7] 

I found some valuable letters from Spain on my return. One from D Pedro Maria Ric [8]  respecting Palafox & Zaragoza [9]  which was especially gratifying. He tells me that the Junta of Aragon have sent me a series of their journals [10]  – which I was very desirous of possessing. I am in high odour among in Spain, & shall obtain from thence every information which I know how to ask for. This is a great point. Perhaps no historical work was ever undertaken under more favourable circumstances. – I have not seen you since the battle of Leipsic! [11]  Ask Mrs Walpole [12]  xxx what she thinks <now> of my rose-coloured politics? My faith was that nothing founded upon evil could be permanent, – & that faith is now abundantly justified. We have now to look for the recovery of Italy, [13]  on the capture of Davousts army, [14]  & the submission of Denmark. [15]  These we may expect, & it would not surprize me to hear that Buonaparte falls by the hands of the French. I think it likely that the Bourbons will be restored. I am not sure that I wish for their restoration. Pereat iste  [16]  however, – let who will succeed him.

I am anxious to know what intelligence you have from Brazil concerning the ship.

I left directions concerning the Bust. [17]  Two in a week are all that can be cast without injuring the mould, – & the <artist> has fifteen & may probably have twenty to make. – Edith joins me in kind remembrances to Mrs May

God bless you –

Yrs very affectionately

Robert Southey.

Remember me to John Coleridge when you see him.


* Address: To/ John May Esqre/ Richmond/ Surry.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ 1 DE 1/ 1813; 10 o’Clock/ DE 1/ 1813 FNn
Endorsement: No. 169. 1813/ Robert Southey/ Keswick 28th November/ recd. 1st Decembr/ ansd. 9th Feb. 1814
MS: Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[2] Southey’s predecessor as Poet Laureate, Henry James Pye (1745–1813; DNB), had died on 11 August 1813. BACK

[3] The sum Southey had invested in the Edinburgh Annual Register. BACK

[4] Southey’s first Laureate ode Carmen Triumphale, published, after much revision, in a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. BACK

[5] ‘Thee, O God’, a Latin hymn of praise. BACK

[6] The ode was not accompanied by an epistle. BACK

[7] Only 18 of the projected 30 inscriptions were written. BACK

[8] The Spanish aristocrat and politician Pedro Maria Ric y Monserrat, Baron de Valdeolivos (1776–1831). BACK

[9] José Rebolledo de Palafox y Melzi (1780–1847), Spanish general, who in 1808 and 1809 commanded the defending forces at the first and second sieges of Zaragosa. BACK

[10] A contribution to what became 24 volumes of Spanish Gazetas, 1808–1813, no. 3472 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[11] The French were defeated by an allied army (composed of troops from Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden) on 16–19 October 1813. BACK

[12] Sophia (d. 1829), widow of Robert Walpole (1736–1810), envoy to Portugal, 1771–1800. BACK

[13] There was no decisive victory for the Austrians in Northern Italy and the French Army of Italy only surrendered at the end of the war in April 1814. BACK

[14] The army commanded by the French Marshal Louis-Nicolas d’Avout (1770–1823), which was besieged in Hamburg. It did not surrender until the end of the war in April 1814. BACK

[15] Denmark was increasingly isolated and withdrew from the war under the terms of the Treaty of Kiel, 14 January 1814. BACK

[16] ‘Let him die himself’. BACK

[17] The bust of Southey sculpted earlier in 1813 by James Smith (1775–1815). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013

People mentioned

Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 2 times)
George IV (1762–1830) (mentioned 2 times)
Ballantyne, John (1774–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Isabel (1812–1826) (mentioned 1 time)
Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 1 time)
Ballantyne, James (1772–1833) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)
Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)