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

206. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 16 March 1797 ⁠* 

Thursday. March 16th 1797.

20. Prospect Place. Newington Butts.

I found your letter last night on my return from Vanbrughs Field, where I had dined with Miles. [1]  I like him much. there is a kindliness in his manners which I must not libel by calling politeness; his countenance displays an evident wish to please, & any physiognomist would give it unlimited credit for sincerity. Jolly [2]  was there — I know not whether you have seen him — a young man of good natured imbecillity, with very white hair very whitely powdered, so that I know not whether Nature or the Barber had most to do in giving him the character of weakness. we staid till eight — the Bedfords [3]  were with me, & a hackney coach which we fortunately found at Deptford saved us a long & unpleasant walk.

And now Tom I wish you were at Portsmouth. I am in lodgings — comfortably settled, tho not likely long to remain in these apartments, as they are too small for a man with a tolerable collection of books. however now I have a home — & the sooner you can come, & the longer you can stay — the better. I am entered at Grays Inn & xx studying hard at Law. I do not find the study unpleasant. in little more than two years I shall be able to do business as a special pleader — I have friends able & willing to push me forwards — & doubt not of success.

this if things remain as they are. if they take a better turn — I am only what I have been — an adventurer with a better chance.

I am not sufficiently acquainted with the subject of finance to hazard — or indeed to form any opinion. certain however it is that the funding system cannot endure for ever, whether this blow be the death-blow cannot be asserted upon the same grounds. at any rate it must have one good effect, that of putting an end to the war, for how can money possibly be raised for its continuance? Lord Jervis’s victory [4]  happened very unfortunately, to cast a lustre upon an unfortunate unjust & now unpopular war. any successes that keep up the spirit of the mob are sincerely to be deprecated. it is only loss after loss that can awaken this infatuated people to a sense of their situation — perhaps it is now too late.

You seem indeed to have made a very Quixote-like expedition. but of all expeditions the French invasion in Wales [5]  was the most curious. it is now pretty well understood. fourteen hundred galley-slaves were taken from Brest, put on board ship — & landed in Wales. this answered a double purpose. it transported fourteen hundred rogues from France — & it alarmed England — so much so indeed as to occasion the immediate run on the Bank, which made it stop payment.

the Bank of England notes in circulation amount to 13 millions. their property to 17. so far well. but of that 17 millions 11 are due from government — & are in fact more worth nothing more than their annual interest. but where is cash to answer these notes? because they had not cash to answer the notes already in circulation, they issued these pound notes. this is remedying the evil for the present, but certainly increasing it in the end. the quantity of species in the kingdom amounts but to 20 millions. & this has in all probability been of late years much lessened. for the English guinea is worth 23 shillings at Hamburgh, & in consequence vast sums have been melted down & exported.

Have you received my Books yet? if not write to my Mother for them. my letters & Poems are ready for you — with Cottles Poems & Coleridge’s. [6]  I desired my Mother to send them to you by the first opportunity.

I have seen Major Hill, [7]  & breakfasted with him. he was very civil — & should be glad to see me at Chatham.

We have been here now nearly a month. I read much Law — & find time to write. for company I have neither leisu[re or MS torn] inclination, & therefore confine myself to a very fe[MS torn] friends. I did an unusual thing in dining with Miles [MS torn] yesterday — but some civility on my part was due to him. he talks of quitting Greenwich, & going to reside in the country at least an hundred miles from the metropolis. I shall be sorry if he goes — tho I shall think him right in going. a man must be made of very strange materials who would remain one hour longer in this accursed city than he can possibly avoid. I hate it & always hated it, with all my heart & with all my soul & with all my strength. I long & labour to be independant that I may quit it for ever.

God bless you.

yr affectionate brother

Robert Southey.

Ediths love. she wishes your ship at Portsmouth & you here.


Notes

* Address: Mr Thomas Southey/ Phoebe Frigate/ Plymouth/ Single
Stamped: BRIDGE ST/ WESTMINSTER
Postmark: [illegible]
MS: British Library, Add MS 30,927
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A friend of the Bedfords, he lived at Vanbrugh Fields, Greenwich. His first name is not recorded. BACK

[2] Unidentified. BACK

[4] John Jervis, Earl St Vincent (1735–1823; DNB), had defeated the Spanish fleet at the battle of Cape St Vincent on 14 February 1797. BACK

[5] Some 1400 French troops, under the command of the American Colonel William Tate (dates unknown), landed near Fishguard on the night of 22–23 February 1797. They surrendered a few days later. BACK

[6] Joseph Cottle, Poems, 2nd edn (1796); and either or both of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Poems on Various Subjects (1796) and Poems, by S. T. Coleridge, Second Edition. To Which are Now Added Poems by Charles Lamb, and Charles Lloyd (1797). BACK

[7] The older half-brother of Herbert Hill. Southey gives a detailed account of him, and of their meeting in 1797, in a letter to John May, 24 November 1805. BACK

Published @ RC

March 2009