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

222. Robert Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 11 June 1797 ⁠* 

Sunday. June 11th. 1797.

You who love to be at the end {opposite} end of a stick & a string with {to the} maggot at the others would like Christ Church, in summer. in winter you would like it still more for as the waters swell up to the first floor you might sit by the fire side up to your knees in water & fish. I delight in a clear stream — there is such a world of business going on in it! — I shall muse upon in verse one day. a flat country is not the most beautiful, & yet every kind of country has beauties of its own. I have got some acquaintance here too “for my names-sake” [1]  — & am in a far way of finding out all the sedition in this place, which tho the borough belongs to George Rose, [2]  is more than meets the eye. Were we more comfortably settled as to lodgings I should be well satisfied with this place. but we are in bad hands. our landlady — or rather house-lady, is a woman of whom her husband is tenant for life, remainder in fee to the Devil. if we can remedy this I shall for several reasons wish to remain here. if not — off we go for Dorset or Devonshire.

I am in want of books: tho it is some consolation to know that I should feel the same want anywhere — for they are {not} easily got. I am coming to the River of Amazons or Maragnon & have no charts to guide me. Manuel Rodriguez has written a folio upon the very subject I want in Spanish — but I cannot procure it. there is an 8-vo translation from Acugna. London 1698 [3]  — that too I cannot get. & to go blundering up such a stream is but bad work. bear me in mind when you see a catalogue − will you.

There is a man here who loves a good dinner; Darteneuf [4]  we might learn improvements in epicurism from him. one day he had procured two fine jacks for dinner on the following day. & to have them fresh put them in a trough of water, over night. the next morning — one had eaten the other. [5] 

I shall arrive in town (God willing) on the evening of Tuesday the 20th & remain the two following days. will you get me your sonnets ready? I shall have a cargo for Phillips [6]  to bring up.

it is Sunday morning − & I am fearful that I shall not have time to finish this for the post — for — I am actually going to church! − why? − because I want to see the inside imprimis — secondly because I want to see all the persons I know.

The church is a very fine one, & contains much to interest the antiquarian much to please the architect, & much to delight one who without being either likes architecture & antiquities. the clergyman [7]  went round with me after the service − & we are to visit him this evening. I believe the best effect of a church establishment is that it places in every village of the kingdom one who has certainly had the education of a scholar, & generally {has} the manners of a gentleman. I hate the word gentleman. it has been so prostituted to puppies — but what can one substitute? Under the new order of things this advantage ought to be preserved, & public instructors scattered over the country. I hoped at one time to have seen something like the Grecian schools of philosophy revived in France — but France has disappointed me in her internal conduct, & if it be true that Baboeuf [8]  be put to death — she has now no man left whom we may compare with the Grecians. for me, I attack not establishments because their titles disgust me. I would destroy Greatness & Wealth because I wish to annihilate Poverty & all the vices that arise from want. how this is to be done is a difficult question — I think I know the solution — but if no solution be impossible I should {not} hesitate to adopt the belief of Rousseau & tell mankind if they wish for happiness to seek for it in the savage state.

I am in a state of very unpleasant certainty respecting my brother Tom. he was sent with a prize to Falmouth May 6th − & has not yet been heard of. the Captain concludes he is taken prisoner, & has no other apprehension. this is particularly unpleasant — as God knows when we may hear any thing of him! he may be in Spain perhaps — but be he where he may, there can be no regular communication by letter.

farewell. I want somebody to bathe with me sadly. here is fresh water & salt water & noble bathing in both, but I cannot endure a solitary dip. write. God bless you

yrs truly

Robert Southey

Direct to the Post Office Christ-Church. Hants.


Notes

* Address: Horace Walpole Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: ‘CHRIST/ CHURCH’
Watermark: [Obscured by MS binding]
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22
Unpublished. BACK

[1] John 15: 21. BACK

[2] Pittite supporter George Rose (1744–1818; DNB), MP for Christchurch, Hampshire, 1790–1818, and Senior Secretary to the Treasury, 1783–1801. BACK

[3] A reference to two books Southey required for Madoc: Manuel Rodriguez (1633–1701), El Marañon y Amazonas. Historia de los Descubrimientos, Entradas, y Reduccion de Naciones, Trabajos ... Assi Temporales, como Espirituales en las Dilatadas Montañas y Mayores Rios de la America (1684) and Voyages and Discoveries in South-America. The First up the River of Amazons to Quito in Peru, and Back Again to Brazil, Perform'd at the Command of the King of Spain. By Christopher D'Acugna. The Second up the River of Plata, and Thence by Land to the Mines of Potosi. By Mons. Acarete. The Third from Cayenne into Guiana, in Search of the Lake of Parima ... By M. Grillet and Bechamel. Done into English from the Originals, Being the Only Accounts of Those Parts Hitherto Extant. The Whole Illustrated with Notes and Maps (1698). BACK

[4] The celebrated epicure Charles Darteneuf (d. 1730). BACK

[5] other: Inserted here, in another hand: ‘Var. lect.–? they had eaten each other’. BACK

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

[7] Probably William Jackson (dates unknown), Vicar of Christchurch Priory 1778–1802. BACK

[8] The French revolutionary and early socialist thinker François Noel Babouef (1764–1797) was executed on 27 May 1797. BACK

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Published @ RC

March 2009