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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

1. Robert Southey to Thomas Phillipps Lamb, [c. June 1791?] ⁠* 

Bath, 1790.  [1] 

Dear Sir,

We arrived very safely in Town,
Without once overturning, or once breaking down.
Next morning I mounted full early the box,
And set off for Bath with Tom’s friend, young Simcox;  [2] 
Long before we arrived at the jolting stones’ end,
The name of Tom Lamb made the coachee my friend.
Good horses – good roads (and the weather was fine) –
With only one jump brought me safe here by nine.
Down hill fell a leader – a terrible fall!
And I thought coach must tumble, and coachman and all.
Off fled I from the box, but the harness was weak,
And so we were safe when we saw the pad break.
New harness – a can of most charming strong beer –
Set us off: on we went without stopping to fear.
But such a long ride on the box shook my head,
So I eat a small supper and hurried to bed.

At the end comes the song – sir, I wish it were better,
But it seems very nicely to finish the letter.
God knows song and letter are both bad enough;
One thing – there’s no sentiment – horrible stuff!

When Miss in a new novel writes to her friend,
You don’t know the subject when you come to the end.
A rout, masquerade, private party and ball,
Fashion, sentiment, love, all make nothing at all.
The rich sentimentalist dreams of a grove,
Purling streams, sighing zephyrs, and countrified love.
Such love such as his ne’er can stoop to be mean,
So Sentiment flies to the famed Gretna Green.
For the poor sentimentalist, wealth is but care;
Let me marry and live upon love and sea air.
Or often when Sentiment reigns, traitor power,
Reason flies, and credulity mourns her sad hour,
Till husbandless, houseless, without wealth or land,
Poor Sentiment closes by walking the Strand.

Does Sentiment ever turn out any better?
Yes, it makes eighteen lines, and so fills up my letter.

At No. 9. Duke St., Bath, my dear sir, when you’ve time,
Right glad shall I be to hear from you in rhyme.
Where’er they are due my best wishes express,
And believe me your much obliged servant,

R. S.

–––––––––––


The fault of new wine, sure, you need not be told,
Since wine’s good for nothing unless it be old,
So experience will tell us, deny it who can;
And if old wine is best, pray why not an old man?
Derry down.

Age mellows the spirit and softens the whole,
Ripens wisdom, and purifies spirit and soul.
Wisdom, wit, wealth, and wine, thus it always amends;
So allow than an old man is best, my dear friends!
Derry down.

If the wine should turn sour, why the fault lies not there –
The thunder got in, or too warm is the air.
’Tis a well known old truth, and deny it who can,
’Tis heat and ’tis rage make a crabbed old man.
Derry down.

Common lamb you may bake, boil, broil, stew, roast, or fry,
But fish, flesh, and fowl, here’s a Lamb can supply;
In December as merry and jovial as June,
Can sing a new song to a famous old tune.
Derry down.

How rarely you see a fine sturdy old oak,
That unhurt from the duns is secure from the stroke.
But the axe cuts the trees down and murders the heir,
So old oaks and old men now are equally rare.
Derry down.

Thus like an old oak to maturity grown
I behold here around a young grove of my own:
May every young shoot stand like me age’s shock,
And prove sturdy chips from the sturdy old block.
Derry down.

Notes

* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Warter
Previously published: John Wood Warter, Selections From the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. [1]–3. Warter, I, p. [1] n. * implies that his text was taken not from the original MS but from a set of ‘copies’ of Southey’s letters to Lamb that ‘came into my possession amongst the MSS. of the late Mrs. Southey [i.e. Caroline Bowles]’. Although many of these inherited MSS are now in the British Library, these papers are not included. BACK

[1] Warter dates 1790, but this is unlikely given that in a letter to his daughter Edith May Warter, 5 June 1838, Southey recalled only two holidays at Rye, both at Whitsun, in 1791 and 1792. The description of the journey from Rye to London given here does not match that sent to Grosvenor Charles Bedford on 11 June 1792 (see Letter 13). This letter to Lamb was therefore probably written after Southey’s visit to Rye at Whitsun 1791, and should be dated c. June 1791. BACK

[2] Simcox (first name and dates unknown), a friend of Thomas Davis Lamb. BACK

Published @ RC

March 2009