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

2426. Robert Southey to John King, 23 May 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 23. 1814.

My dear King

I have hardly heart to write to you, or to cast a thought towards Bristol. – Out of my own blows this loss has been the heaviest that I could have sustained, – xx it throws a gloom over the recollections of half my life. [1]  You too will feel it deeply.

I write because I am very uneasy respecting Coleridge’s daughter who is beyond all doubt in a very alarming state. She is in her twelfth year & has long been in weak health, – subject to frequent febrile attacks & especially to nervous sleeplessness. But at present she has decided dropsical symptoms, – & her kidneys are in such a state that her urine is deeply tinged with blood. The swelling first appeared in the face & then in the abdomen; yesterday it seemed to diminish & to day is absent again; but the bloody appearance of the urine continues xxx xxxxxx xx the quantity is materially increased by the medecine. She is xxxxx xxxxxxxx & this morning when she xxxx xxxxxxx at breakfast her face was almost instantly xxxxxxx xxx xxx xxxxxxx to day her appetite returned & her spirits which had been xxxxxxx recovered xxxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxx back. I wish most earnestly that she were within reach of you – she has long required good medical superintendance, – but Coleridge leaves every thing to chance – it is useless to write to him, he never answers a letter & probably never opens one, & he may very likely never know that his child is ill till he reads of her death in the newspapers.

In the autumn she was supposed to have strained one of her feet, a slight pain & swelling began which was then accounted for, & for which she has been twice blistered, before this more formidable disease put all slighter ailments out of mind. Edmondson thinks her affliction scrofulous, for that there is a scrofula in the blood is now too certain, Hartley having at this time an abscess in his neck. Mrs Coleridge is not fully aware of this, nor perhaps is she quite sensible of the extent of Saras danger. God knows she is unhappy enough without these fresh afflictions.

I am looking toward the Continent. In three years the first term of my lease will expire. [2]  It is a long time to look forward, – but should I live so long, & be able to raise the means (which is doubtful enough) I feel very much inclined to take my family abroad for some years into a cheaper land & a more genial climate; & not to return till we had seen somewhere up the Rhine or in your country [3]  & not to return till I had seen something of Germany & of Italy also. The diminished expences of living might perhaps cover the costs of the journey, & my labours would be as productive there as here. This is but a dream as yet, but I think it would be desirable for the children & for myself. It is very possible that the state of Europe may frustrate it, for even if no fresh wars should break out, those countries which have been the scene of hostilities will long be overrun with banditti. This is so much the case in Portugal that it is not safe to go from Lisbon to Setubal without a guard.

I am drawing near the end of Roderick [4]  – which is now almost my sole employment. This evening the first portion of the notes goes off to the printer that they may be seperately paged & not delay the [MS missing] text is completed. You will like the poem – wheth[MS missing] a different question, & I do not compliment them [MS missing[ with any sanguine expectations. Lewis & Clarkes [MS missing] the last chance of finding Welsh Savages in America [MS missing] credit of the Welshmen, who beyond all doubt would hav[MS missing] any of the five nations. [5]  There are many very curious things in this book: among others a cure of paralysis by means of the vapour bath, which will interest you. [6]  They have discoverd (& very strange it seems that it should not have been discoverd before) that the testicles of the bear are in separate bags, at some distance from each other. [7]  They confirm the account which my Brazilian friends give of mountain explosions, [8]  & they assure us that 2000 miles from its mouth the Missouri apparently contains as great a body of water as when it forms the Mississippi, tho it received innumerable rivers in its way, so great is the evaporation. [9]  This fact removes at once the apparent impossibility of admitting the identity of the Niger with the western branch of the Nile. [10] 

God bless you my dear King

Yrs very affectionately

R Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ John King Esqre/ Mall/ Clifton/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 99–100. BACK

[1] The death of Charles Danvers, one of Southey’s oldest and closest friends. BACK

[2] Southey’s lease on Greta Hall. BACK

[3] Switzerland. BACK

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

[5] Meriweather Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clark (1770–1838), Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean (1814), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 317–368. The book finally disproved the existence of the Madogwys (descendants of Prince Madoc) of popular legend and the basis of Southey’s poetic magnum opus Madoc (1805). In 1815 Southey added a footnote to the ‘Preface’ to the fourth edition of Madoc clarifying that contemporary expeditions had found nothing, and ‘it is now certain that no Welsh Indians are to be found upon any branches of the Missouri’, or, for that matter, anywhere else; Madoc, 4th edn, 2 vols (London, 1815), I, p. viii. BACK

[6] Lewis and Clark, Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean, 3 vols (London, 1815), III, p. 209–210. BACK

[7] Lewis and Clark, Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean, 3 vols (London, 1815), I, p. 274. BACK

[8] Lewis and Clark, Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean, 3 vols (London, 1815), I, p. 376. BACK

[9] Lewis and Clark, Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean, 3 vols (London, 1815), I, p. 302. BACK

[10] A common assumption since classical times, found, for example, in the writings of Pliny the Elder (AD 23–AD 79). BACK

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August 2013