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

2378. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 8 February 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. Feby 8. 1814.

My dear Tom

I was glad to learn by Sarahs letter that the parcel had arrived. [1]  By this time you are conversant enough with original writers to excuse Du Tertres [2]  prolixity for the sake of his facts, & to enjoy the native liveliness of a style like Lygons. [3]  Perhaps you never knew the relations between maidservants and pork till you saw it stated in his history. [4] 

Here we are in the midst of tempests, but all well thank God. You must not be in a hurry about Roderick, – he is carrying easy sail, & will finish his voyage in due time. The fourth proof came this evening, & I have desired to have only one a week till I can afford to have more. Last night I began the 14th book, the probable extent will be twenty. [5] 

I had no business in the Carmen to touch upon Moscow or Leipsic both of which are of that description {nature} that I would rather describe them in historical narrative than in verse. [6]  My object was to produce a xx triumphant xxxxxxxx xxxx xxx. It is our fashion to have a poem on such occasions, – the Greeks who knew better would have had an oration, – & I who agree very much with Akenside [7]  in my poetical creed, endeavoured to produce an oration in verse. I coud only touch upon great events without entering into detail, & {was bound} to press dwell preferably upon those victories which we ourselves had won. To have particularized would have led me on to an immeasurable length. I growled at finding xx xxxxxx xx xxx that xxxx it was there could be any reason why I should not speak fairly out in the Carmen, – little accustomed as I have been to lay myself under any restraint of this kind, but I am well-contented now, – for both each of the poems is better than the Carmen was when they were both in one, – the alterations & additions have improved them, & each has more unity of plan & purpose. [8] 

A Northumberland man who knows your neighbours dined with me yesterday. He travels about forming Bible Societies, – in which I see great good, tho I am no Bibliolater. Bates his name is, of Hallon Castle, [9]  – I liked the cut of his jib, & am only afraid he will take me for an Evangelical, – tho God knows I was guilty of no hypocrisy. He wanted me to go a meeting, take the chair & make a speech, – honours which I begged leave to decline, – but I declared myself friendly to his object & ready to become a subscriber, & I urged him very strongly to form a missionary society, associated with the Church-Mission, in preference, – or to any other if that could not be: – he was willing enough, but I suspect that he is one of those men who cannot think of two things at once.

The Register [10]  has not reached me yet. I do not know who wrote the Life of Windham. [11]  You would find some home arguments upon the Catholic question. The spirit is at this time moving me very strongly to exhibit some of the tenets of that mythology & its consequent manners & morals in a few Catholic Eclogues. Did you ever see one which I wrote some fifteen years ago, between xxxx of which the Devil & St Anthony were the speakers? [12]  This with some needful corrections {alterations} would be one, & then xx the commencement of another has been lying by me as long. Their keen satire & their originality might be likely enough to attract notice, & I could soon run thro them when once fairly in the vein.

Kate the other day made a curious speech to her mother. “When it’s fine weather you’ll go to God Williams.” How a Quaker would xx exult in this innocent xxxxxxxx mistake.

Love to Sarah & a kiss to the young ones.

God bless you

RS.


Notes

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

[1] A parcel of books sent to assist Tom with his researches for a Chronological History of the West Indies (1827). BACK

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

[3] 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

[4] Richard Ligon, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (London, 1657), p. 59: ‘There was a Planter in the Iland that came to his neighbour and said to him: Neighbour I hear you have lately bought good store of servants, out of the last ship that came from England, and I heare withall, that you want provisions, I have great want of a woman servant and would be glad to make an exchange; If you will let me have some of your womans flesh, you shall have some of my hoggs flesh; so the price was a set a groat a pound for the hogges flesh, and sixe pence for the Womans flesh. The scales were set up, and the Planter had a Maid that was extreame fat, lasie, and good for nothing. Her name was Honor; The man brought a great fat sow, and put it in one scale: and Honor was put in the other, but when he saw how much the Maid outwayed his Sow: he broke off the bargaine’. BACK

[5] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). It ran to 25 books. BACK

[6] Southey’s first Laureate ode Carmen Triumphale, published, after much revision, in a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. It did not touch on the French occupation of Moscow in September 1812, or the Battle of Leipzig (16–19 October 1813), a crucial defeat for the French. BACK

[7] Mark Akenside (1721–1770; DNB), whose poetry Southey had long admired. BACK

[8] Southey incorporated the deleted stanzas from Carmen Triumphale into an ‘Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte’, published in the Courier, 3 February 1814. BACK

[9] Thomas Bates (1775–1849; DNB), a famously combative breeder of cattle, particularly shorthorns. He leased the Halton Castle estate from 1800–1818. Bates was a member of the Tindale Ward and Its Vicinity Auxiliary Society, an adjunct of the British and Foreign Bible Society. BACK

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

[11] ‘A Review of the Life and Genius of the Late Right Hon. William Windham’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.2 (1813), xi–xxl. This was a life of the politician William Windham (1750–1810; DNB). BACK

[12] See Southey to William Taylor, 18 March 1799, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Two, Letter 391. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013