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

213. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 28 April 1797 ⁠* 

Friday April 28th. 1797.

My dear Thomas

I have been regretting that you were not at Portsmouth in the great insurrection, [1]  that I might have had a full true & particular account of that extraordinary business; a business at which every body is astonished, for how such a body of such people could so have concerted & carried into execution a well organized mutiny is incomprehensible. where its effects will end too — is difficult to guess; for as all authority depends upon the opinion the governed entertain of the power of the governors, when they discover that the power is in their own hands, the very foundation of gov xx subordination, & consequently of authority must be shaken.

As I have no business in London (except indeed to dine at Grays Inn once at the latter end of June) till November, we intend spending the summer & autumn somewhere by the sea. where is not yet determined, but most probably somewhere in Hampshire & this you will learn from my Mother. we go about the middle of May — & it will shorten your journey to see us. London is a place for which I entertain a most hearty hatred, & Edith likes it as little as myself — & as for the sea — I like it very much when on shore.

I had a letter from Lisbon yesterday. my Uncles family has been very unfortunate. his poor old woman is dead, & so is his dog Linda. his mare who was lame he had given away to be turned into the woods — she has not been seen lately — & he thinks the wolves have eat her. twas an account that made me melancholy — I had been long enough an inhabitant of his house to become attached to every thing connected with it — & poor old Ursula [2]  was an excellent woman. he will never find her equal: — & I shall never think of Lisbon again without some feelings of regret. my letter was from my friend Thomas, now an inmate of my Uncles. I have learnt from other quarters that my Uncle is made Chaplain to our troops there.

My acquaintance here are more than are convenient — & I meet with invitations unpleasant to refuse & still more unpleasant to accept. this is another motive to me to wish for a country residence as long as possible. I find the distances in this foul city very inconvenient — tis a mornings work to call upon a distant friend — & I return from it thoroughly fatigued. We are going to dine on Wednesday next with Mary Wollstonecraft, of all the literary characters the one I most admire. my curiosity is fully satisfied, & the greater part of these people after that wish is satisfied leave no other remaining. this is not the case with her — she is a first rate woman — sensible of her own worth, but altogether without arrogance or affectation.

I have two reasons for preferring a residence near the sea. I love to pickle myself in that grand brine tub — & I wish to catch its morning evening & mid day appearances for poetry, with the effect of every change of weather. fancy will do much — but the Poet ought to be an accurate observer of nature — & I [MS torn] shall watch the clouds & the rising & setting sun & [MS torn] the sea birds with no inattentive eye. I have remedied one of my deficiencies too since a boy — & learnt to swim enough to like the exercise. this I began at Oxford & practised a good deal in the summer of 1795 at Baptist Mills. [3]  my last dip was in the Atlantic Ocean at the foot of the Arrabida Mountain [4]  — a glorious spot. I have no idea of sublimity exceeding it. I would wish my destiny fixed to settle ultimately in England. a fickle climate — & a system of increasing oppression pleads strongly against it to one who loves liberty & warm weather — & as for patriotism — the days are past when an Englishman could be proud of his country. that country is the best to live in where government will least molest us — but in your advanced states civilization leads to taxes & requisitions & militia bills xx world without end, Amen! — have you ever met with Mary Wollstonecrafts letters from Sweden & Norway? [5]  she has made me in love with a cold climate & frost & snow, with a Northern moonlight. — Now I am turned Lawyer I shall have no more books to send you — except indeed second editions when they are called for — & then my alterations will be enough as perhaps to give one, interested in the Author, some pleasure in the comparison. God bless you. Ediths love. we shall be here till the middle of May — after that time my Mother will tell you where we are if I should have no opportunity.

Grosvenor Bedford desires to be remembered to you

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey [6] 


Notes

* Address: For/ Mr Thomas Southey/ Phœbe Frigate/ Plymouth/ Single
Postmarks: Penny Post/ Pd Id/ NewingnCause; AP/ 29/ 97
MS: British Library, Add MS 30,927
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 309–311 [in part]. BACK

[1] The naval mutinies at Nore and Spithead of April–June 1797. BACK

[2] A servant in Herbert Hill’s household at Lisbon. BACK

[3] The River Frome ran through Baptist-Mills, an area on the edge of eighteenth-century Bristol. BACK

[4] See Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (Bristol, 1797), pp. 470–472. BACK

[5] Mary Wollstonecraft, Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796). BACK

[6] Robert Southey: Written at the top of fol. 1 r. BACK

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March 2009