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

2416. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 6 May [1814] ⁠* 

P 55. [1]  If consumption originates in the Azores, it surely must originate also at in Madeira, – climate, race & habits of life being the same. But a Port. Dr Pitta has lately published an English book about Madeira which you should look for. [2] 

P. 60 Stable boys grooms &c – pass a good deal of time in stables , where perhaps incipient colds may be cured by the climate.

P.61. So in this vale, – consumption has increased with the increased use of cotton among the women, in place of worsted, flannel & shifts.

P. 62 Sir Kenelm Digby was too eminent a man to be designated thus lightly. [3] 

I have found a passage for you in Izaak Waltons Life of Dr Donne [4]  which must relate to the human milk prescription. “His old friend & physician Dr Fox, a man of great worth, came to him to consult his health; who after a sight of him, & some queries concerning his distempers, told him that by Cordials, & drinking milk twenty days together, there was a probability of his restoration to health; but he passionately denied to drink it. Nevertheless Dr Fox, [5]  who loved him most entirely, wearied him with solicitations, till he yielded to take it for ten days; at the end of which time he told Dr Fox he had drunk it more to satisfy him, than to recover his health; & that he would not drink it ten days longer upon the best moral assurance of having twenty years added to his life; for he loved it not, [ie his life] [6]  & he was so far from fearing death which is the King of terrors, that he longed for the day of his dissolution.” [7]  – Donne died of consumption. Perhaps Dr Zouch, who edited all Izaak Waltons Lives may have a note upon his passage, but certainly old Donne would not have rebelled against the prescription had it been any other kind of milk than human. [8] 

I find also tho too late for your present use in Abraham Parsons’s Travels that at Aleppo ‘the air is reckoned pernicious to people in consumptions; in which disorders those who can afford the expence usually go to some part of the sea coast, mostly to Latachia which often recovers them.” –  [9]  Th[MS torn] Parsons was Uncle to Berjew the apothecary at Bristol, [10]  & his book is an exceedingly interesting. It may yet be of use to you to know that at Aleppo “the night air in summer is so dry, that a sheet of the finest writing paper exposed to it all night, may be written on in the morning without the least sign of its having imbibed any moisture.” P. 65. [11] 

Obs: on P. Cons. will be title enough, & better than if more were said.

RS.

Keswick. May 6.


Notes

* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish House/ London./ Proof Sheet inclosed
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 9 MY 9/ 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 3
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The first part of this letter deals with comments on the proofs of Henry Herbert Southey’s Observations on Pulmonary Consumption (1814). BACK

[2] Nicholas Cayetano de Bettencourt Pitta (d. 1857), Account of the Island of Madeira (1812). BACK

[3] The natural philosopher and writer Sir Kenelm Digby (1603–1665; DNB). BACK

[4] Izaak Walton (1593–1683; DNB), Life of Donne (1640). Walton had been an admirer and friend of the Anglican clergyman and poet John Donne (1572–1631; DNB). BACK

[5] Simeon Foxe (1569–1642; DNB), physician and friend of Donne. BACK

[6] […]: in Southey’s hand. BACK

[7] The Lives of Dr John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton; Mr Richard Hooker; Mr George Herbert; and Dr Robert Sanderson. By Izaak Walton. With Notes, and the Life of the Author, by Thomas Zouch, 2nd edn (York, 1807), p. 83. BACK

[8] The biographer and Anglican clergyman Thomas Zouch (1737–1815; DNB). His note had cited this passage as evidence that ‘Dr. Donne seems to have entertained an indifference to and an alienation from every secular pursuit … he has his attention principally fixed upon another and a better state. His desires and affections being mortified and entirely subdued, he familiarizes to his thoughts the idea of death’; The Lives of Dr John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton; Mr Richard Hooker; Mr George Herbert; and Dr Robert Sanderson. By Izaak Walton. With Notes, and the Life of the Author, by Thomas Zooch, 2nd edn (York, 1807), p. 83, n.d. BACK

[9] The traveller and commercial consul Abraham Parsons (d. 1785; DNB), Account of Travels in Asia and Africa (London, 1808), p. 65. BACK

[10] Parsons’ Account was published posthumously by his nephew John Paine Berjew (1748–1833), who practised medicine in Bristol. BACK

[11] Abraham Parsons, Account of Travels in Asia and Africa (London, 1808), p. 65. BACK

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August 2013