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

205. Robert Southey to John James Morgan [fragment], 6 March 1797 ⁠* 

No 20. Prospect Place. Newington Butts.

Thursday March 16. 1797.

Amidst all the Bodderation of the Welsh Invasion & the Banks stoppage [1]  I have remained quietly employed, seeing little, hearing little, saying little & not thinking much. I do not impute the stoppage of the Bank to myself, tho I confess that having some apprehensions I did get cash for a five pound note. perhaps you may not know the history of the Dollars. it is a curious one. England used to purchase dollars from Spain to make use of in the India Trade — East I believe as well as West, & a considerable sum went annually from this country for that purpose. Mr Pitt [2]  took it into his head that he could make the King of Spains money somewhat cheaper than he could purchase it, more especially if the silver was not quite so good. the Spaniards wondered that the English did not want Dollars & Gimbernatt [3]  learnt in conversation from one of the persons employed in the Mint that he had been making dollars. he communicated this to Las Casas [4]  the Spanish Embassador & Las Casas made it the subject of one of what he used to call his Lectures to Ld Grenville [5]  [MS torn] consequence Gimbernatt received an order under the Alien[MS torn] Bill to quit this country — & Las Casas immediately wrote hisx {name} down as one of the secretaries to the Embassy. I saw a Dollar yesterday with the head of Carlos 3rd & the name of Carlos 4th  [6]  a Blunder which no Spaniard could xxxxly {probably} have committed. I had this account from Carlisle — the intimate friend of Gimbernatt . — he visited much at Las Casas house. a fine liberal Spaniard — a man who seems to have ingrafted the new French character on the old Spanish one. perhaps words cannot convey a higher encomium.

Gimbernatt is now at Paris. I never saw him — tho he heard many of my Lectures [7]  & used to call me The Professor. he sent me introductory letters in that character to Madrid, but they did not reach me till I had arrived at Lisbon.

I am at last about to send Joan of Arc to Paris. there it ought to be a national Poem. you will have the portraits of the Directory soon in the Monthly Magazine. I know not whether that of Rewbell [8]  may be depended upon, as it is from a German publication, posseses little character, & was upon the same paper with other portraits [MS illegible] if true, give the lie to physiognomy. the other four [MS illegible] Paris, by some accident the fifth was omitted. Phillips [9]  told me that the account of Jordans Bridge, which Evans had “proved upon paper”  [10]  was so compleatly confused, that he was obliged to get the Architect to translate it into intelligible English.

Blackstone [11]  & I agree better than perhaps you imagine. true it is that I should like to write Commentaries upon his Commentaries — but mine would be an illegal book. the study fixes my attention sufficiently, when my attention begins to flag, I relieve myself by employing half an hour differently, & then set to again with fresh spirits. I entered at Grays Inn instead of Lincolns Inn for two good reasons. the term is kept by dining once only in the Hall, & the expences at being called to the Bar are very considerably less. the [MS torn]t of these may probably induce [MS torn] to enter there likewise — & I can be your surety — if you want one.

my mornings are devoted to Law; x I allow the evening for pleasanter employments & divide it between the German Grammar & Madoc. with both of which I am getting forwards. I am fond of learning languages. nothing exercises a mans ingenuity more, he sees the progress he makes, & this at once gratifies & encourages. it is my intention to learn Welsh. I shall find it — almost — necessary, to render Madoc as compleat[MS torn] as I intend to. they who understand the language say it is [MS torn] fine one. curious it certainly is from its great & undoubt[MS torn] —quity & Meirion in the Monthly Magazine has produced as[MS torn] of its analogy to the Greek & Hebrew. philological inquiries [MS torn] to be ridiculed as they generally are — they may probably on[MS torn] solve many historical problems, & throw a strong & steady light over periods now involved in darkness.

William Owen is[MS illegible] the man who writes [MS missing] first volume [MS missing]

Ediths love to Mrs Morgan & Miss Parker. [12]  she has seen little {of} London as yet — & likes it not at all. we are as far removed from it as we could with convenience be — but it is a damnable place — & if I had the direction of earthquakes & volcanos — I should [MS missing]


Notes

* Address: John James Morgan/ St James’s Square/ Bristol/ Single
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: [illegible]
Endorsement: R. Southey Esq
MS: Duke University Library, Southey papers
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 121–123. BACK

[1] Fourteen hundred French troops had landed in Pembrokeshire on the night of 22–23 February 1797. They surrendered a few days later. The Bank of England had stopped exchanging its notes for gold in February 1797 because of excessive demands caused by fears of invasion. BACK

[2] The Prime Minister, William Pitt, the Younger (1759–1806; DNB). BACK

[3] Either the Spanish geologist Carlos de Gimbernat (1768–1834), or (though less likely) his father, the physician Antonio de Gimbernat (1734–1816). BACK

[4] M. De Las Casas (dates unknown), Spanish Ambassador in London. BACK

[5] William Wyndham Grenville, Lord Grenville (1759–1834; DNB), Foreign Secretary 1791–1801 and Prime Minister 1806–1807. BACK

[6] The Spanish kings, Carlos III (1716–1788; reigned 1759–88) and Carlos IV (1748–1819; reigned 1788–1808). BACK

[7] A series of ‘Historical Lectures’ ‘Unconnected with the Politics of the Day’, given by Southey in Bristol in 1795. BACK

[8] Jean-François Rewbell (1747–1807), a member of the Directory (1795–1796). BACK

[9] Sir Richard Phillips (1767–1840; DNB), proprietor of the Monthly Magazine. BACK

[10] A reference to two articles: ‘Jordan’s Suspended Bridges’, Monthly Magazine, 2 (December 1796), 883, and ‘Mr. Jordan’s Suspended Bridges’, Monthly Magazine, 3 (January 1797), 48–49. BACK

[11] Sir William Blackstone (1723–1780; DNB), Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769). BACK

[12] Probably a friend of the Southeys from the Bath and Bristol area. Her first name is not recorded. BACK

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March 2009