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

169. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 28 August 1796 ⁠* 

Dear Lightfoot.

Burnett left us on Thursday morning last for Manchester, where he will study two years before he mounts the pulpit. I have a longer course of study to look on to — my rhyming days are almost over — & considering how much I have done I have not been very long about it. tho I am thrown back a year or two I do not regret the time thus occupied — Joan of Arc may give pleasure, & cannot do harm.

Allen has been at the Hot Wells with his wife. she is dying in a consumption. perhaps you may know something of her — her father is Dr Forster of Oxford & she had a brother at Balliol. she was a widow with two children when Allen married her, her fortune enough for herself & them — but he was to support himself. an odd bargain. he behaves to her with the utmost attention. she is a woman of accomplishments — but I hear of dissipation — her physiognomy is bad, & tho he will of course severely feel her loss — I do not think it can be deemd a severe misfortune.

Wynn has been lately with me. I had not seen him since I left Oxford — & you may easily guess what a thousand things we had mutually to communicate. he is at present with great industry & the fairest prospects studying the Law. he enquird for you.

I expected Bedford — but an abscess near the os coccygis unfortunately confined him. the knife of a skilful surgeon has cured him — & he is now going to Hastings for the benefit of Sea Air.

Charles Collins is to be married at Christmas. all the friends who once so highly esteemd & loved him, have now but one opinion of his character — that he is equally vain impertinent cold-hearted & selfish. I know nothing of him but from Wynn & Bedford.

Elmsley (who has twenty thousand pounds of his own) is as fat & as happy & as studious as usual. he serves as a walking Encyclopedia to Wynn — who always refers to him when he wants information. I believe no man has more knowledge — & no man makes a less parade of it. his brother is lately made Governor of Canada, [1]  & he thinks of travelling in America for two or three years.

how infinitely more interesting now do the revolutions in the private little circle of my own friends appear to me than all the changes that are now convulsing Europe!

my Joan of Arc has been very succesful. I sold the copy-right to Cottle — than whom there does not exist a more excellent man. my own profits have been about eighty guineas. the book has had no friends to assist it — it has however acquired reputation enough. my Letters [2]  are in the Press — & with a small volume of Poems will finish my literary career — which I shall thus have concluded at an age when others usually begin. among the Poems will be The Triumph of Woman which I believe you have seen — & the Botany Bay Eclogues. a Hymn to the Dii penates [3]  is to conclude it.

This done I am defunct to the literary world. if I live to get into practise & realize a small independance — I may rise again. you see you must expect very little more {few} public accounts {more} of your friend — will you not be equally pleasd with private ones? with hearing from time to time of his situat[MS torn] & I trust — of his happiness?

farewell Lightfoot. I hope we shall meet again one of these days. in the mean time let me hear from you whenever you have leisure.

yrs most truly

Robert Southey.

Bristol. August 28th. 1796.


Notes

* Address: For/ The Reverend Nicholas Lightfoot/ at/ Kingsbridge/ Devonshire
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 110
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Peter Elmsley’s brother, John Elmsley (1762–1805), was Chief Justice of Upper Canada from 1796 to 1802, and of Lower Canada from 1802 to 1805. BACK

[2] Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal was published in 1797. BACK

[3] Southey’s Poems (1797), published in December 1796. BACK

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Published @ RC

March 2009