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

2598. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 16 May 1815 ⁠* 

My dear Harry

Wordsworth & his wife are within three minutes walk of you, – lodging at 24 Edward Street Cavendish Square. Call upon him, & if you give him a dinner, get John May & John Coleridge to meet him. He has left Hartley at Oxford, – think of that fish in a Quadrangle! you remember his way of running round & round with his head on one side, – he has not yet left it off, & I tell him that tho there is no hope of his squaring the circle, [1]  yet when he gets into the Quadrangle of Merton he will soon set about circling the square.

I look to see you in August. 80£ will cover your journey {expences} upon a liberal allowance. Would it not make your journey the pleasanter if Marianne [2]  came with you instead of the maid? – here are Sara & Edith who may be offered as handmaids at the toilet right willing, & not inexperienced: – I need not say we shall be xxxxx glad to see Marianne & she will never have a better opportunity of seeing this country.

Tom begins to feel embarrasments come upon him thick & thronging, as you have long foreseen. One immediate cause is that his house has been disfurnished to supply T. Taylors family who are come upon William [3]  for support, – but this only deprives him of an accommodation on which he had no reason originally to calculate. I have a letter from him tonight stating his wants, – & could give him nothing but a promise in reply of something within three months: when that which is now impossible will only be inconvenient. However I shall be getting forward ere long: especially when the H of Brazil [4]  is off my hands, & this xx in which I am daily making progress.

I am very sorry to hear Gooch is ill. Is it his asthma? or any thing worse?

You have not hunted out the Kraken [5]  for me: & I shall want the extract ere long. I am verily persuaded that there is a huge beast of this kind, – tho I shall never go & fish for one. Did I tell you that I had found an account of what seems to be a dead one seen “floating many a rood’? [6] 

Poor Smith [7]  who made my bust is dead. – You have heard of this pestilence at Cambridge? [8]  There was a youth of fine promise there who wrote to me from school, & was thro my means placed at Emanuel, – & he has been cut off by it, – a cruel stroke upon his family, who looked – he was the eldest son of a half-pay officer [9]  with a large family, Dusautoy his name, Totness his home. He was doing well at Cambridge, & must have highly distinguished himself had his life been prolonged. The disease evil is far more serious at Cambridge than has been publicly stated. The letter which brought me this ne tidings says that in three days Cambridge as to its Colleges would be an uninhabited desert. [10]  14 or 15 young men had fallen victims.

It would not surprize me if we were to have some fresh pestilence in Europe. The Influenza is perhaps some old pestilence in a mitigated form, – worn out as diseases sometimes seem to be. Doubtless our habits preserve us from some of those maladies which were of old so fatal, – but they may perhaps predispose us to others, – & the fever at Gibralter [11]  has shown that we are no more able to overcome these general scourges when they reach us than our forefathers were.

I am in good hopes respecting the war. Buonaparte must be very weak, – or he would not court the Jacobines & Carnot [12]  &c must be actuated by personal hatred towards the Bourbons, not by principle, or they would never take part with Buonaparte. I am in fear for the pictures & statues, & yet it is my deliberate opinion that it would be far better they should all be destroyed than suffered to remain as trophies of the French at Paris. [13]  Perhaps when they xxxx come to feel what a siege is the people may cut this scoundrels throat & thus preserve themselves. He I think would be likely enough to fire the x city when he found the game xxx hopeless.

Have you seen some capital political squibs in the Courier lately? [14]  I should like to know whose they are, for they are some of the best things of their kind. – Have you got another house yet?

God bless you


16 May 1815.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 19 MY 19/ 1815
MS: Bodleian Library, Don. d. 3
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 122–123. BACK

[1] A geometrical conundrum proposed by ancient Greek mathematicians. It was conclusively proved to be impossible only in 1882. BACK

[2] A nickname for Henry Herbert Southey’s second wife, Louisa Gonne. BACK

[3] William Taylor (dates unknown), a gentleman farmer with intellectual interests and brother of George Taylor (1772–1851), father of Southey’s later friend, Henry Taylor. Presumably, ‘T. Taylor’ was another relative. BACK

[4] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[5] A huge legendary sea creature that lived off the coasts of Norway and Iceland. In Omniana, or Horae Otiosiores, 2 vols (London, 1812), I, pp. 273–274, Southey had asked readers to send him ‘well authenticated particulars’ of the ‘Squid-hound’. BACK

[6] Paradise Lost (1667), Book 1, line 196. See Southey to Rickman, [c. 6 January-c. 13 January 1815], Letter 2359, for the ‘Squid-hound’. BACK

[7] James Smith (1775–1815), who sculpted a bust of Southey in 1813. BACK

[8] The ‘Cambridge fever’ of January-April 1815 was probably an outbreak of typhoid and drew attention to public health in the city. BACK

[9] James Du Sautoy (1761–1859), who had retired from his post as a Lieutenant in the Royal Marines in 1798. He was barrack-master of the cavalry at Totnes 1803–1822. BACK

[10] Possibly from Samuel Tillbrook (c. 1784–1835), Fellow of Peterhouse and later Rector of Freckenham, Suffolk 1829–1835. BACK

[11] There had been a serious outbreak of an infectious fever at Gibraltar in 1814. BACK

[12] Lazare Nicolas Marguerite, Comte Carnot (1753–1823), member of the Committee of Public Safety 1793–1794, Director 1795–1797, Minister of War 1800. He was an old Jacobin, for whom Southey retained some respect. During the ‘Hundred Days’ he was Minister of the Interior, 20 March-22 June 1815. BACK

[13] Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, 30 May 1814, France had not been compelled to return the art treasures looted from the rest of Europe during the wars of 1793–1814. BACK

[14] Two spoof letters allegedly written by a Quaker from Pennsylvania, Ezekial Grubb, to his friend in the American government, Tobias Brande of Bigmuddy in Maryland, published in the Courier (14 April and 13 May 1814). These described the political situation in Britain and were extremely hostile to the Whig opposition. They were widely reprinted, e.g. in The New Whig Guide (1819). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013