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

27. Robert Southey to Thomas Phillipps Lamb, [c. 6 October 1792] ⁠* 

My dear Sir

I am at length enabled to answer you with respect to my future situation at Oxford. excuse me if I say Dr Vincent has behaved to me with his accustomed generosity & liberality — virtues which he praises so much & practises so little. I am rejected at Christ Church — when I say so without feeling very warm allow me to possess more patience that either you or I imagined. let me not however attribute the calm state of my mind to so good a motive I cannot help hoping one day to tell him that he has behaved to me in a manner equally ungenerous & unjust. before I wrote that letter (for which I must reproach myself as expressing contrition I did not feel & apologizing for an action which I thought needed no apology) before I was persuaded to write he had engaged his honor never to mention the circumstance. as Queen Bess [1]  once said God forgive him but I never can.

enough of a subject upon which I may perhaps have expressed myself with too unbecoming a warmth. I have always acknowledged myself imprudent a harsher term I cannot submit to with truth.

I heard yesterday from Tom — he left Edinburgh last Monday & mentions that the 18th of October he expects to be in Bristol on his road to King Weston. now he says he fears that he shall neither be able to see his Majesty or me. & as he gives not the least hint where a letter may meet him I have no means but by you of informing him that on that day & after that day till Xmas I shall certainly be in the College Green at Bristol. since as I can only enter at Baliol. Oxford this term it will only detain me three days so that I shall positively be here & as positively expect to see him.

at all events I will by this days post write to York & for fear of accidents only tell him I shall expect to see him. if it misses it is but the postage lost to government & the paper to me — the latter loss to one who daubs so much is nothing — the former may be supplied by the superfluous taxes next encampment.

I am sorry to add that he will not obtain an audience of the King of Men. his Majesty being obliged to visit Oxford before that period — as that University was remarkable for its loyalty to his royal ancestors tis to be hoped he will be equally dutiful to the University.

French affairs still very bad. is the report of Brunswicks [2]  success true? the mobocracy may thank themselves for it & richly do they deserve an event which I dare to say would not have happened had fayette been their lead[MS torn] leaving their present hostilities out of the question do [MS torn] Prussians have been plagues to human nature for this last century [MS torn] were sent to plague mankind & their leaders to plague them. the French are tygers & apes but what are those animals disciplined till they forget obedience to every divine law & every dictate of humanity in a blind submission to their military despot?

I heard it lately observed that the past character of the French differs widely from their present. the Philosopher of Ferney [3]  afford one proof to the contrary & I think history many more. the national ferocity has more than once broke out. the horrid massacre of St Bartholomew [4]  the death of Calas [5]  the punishment of the maniac Damien [6]  & the enormities they committed in America before they appeared as protectors of revolution (you see I use an ambiguous term) are so many views of their real disposition prominent amidst all the tinsel of affectation. “they order these things better in England”. [7]  Peg Nicholson [8]  is only in Bedlam Tom Paine is treated with lenity [9]  — but woe be to him who dares attack the divine right of Schoolmasters to flog or who presumes to think that boys should neither be punished absurdly or indecently.

vires acquirit eundo [10]  says somebody of something I forget who or what. I have undergone enough to break a dozen hearts but mine is made of tough stuff & the last misfortune serves to blunt the edge of the next. one day it will I hope be impenetrable tis well I can speak with levity. but however seriously my dear Sir I wish you to kill your mutton & eat in in peace (I wont add quietness for you dont wish it. my best respects to Mr & Mrs L. & all friends

believe me your much obliged humble sevt

R Southey.

your black seal much alarmed me.

Toms letter made me easy.


* Address: T P Lamb Esqr/ Mountsfield Lodge/ Rye/ Sussex
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: OC/ 6/ 92
Seal: Red wax [design illegible]
Endorsements: Southey/ Dog {Puppy} Dash/ Bitch — Flush
MS: Duke University Library, Southey papers
Previously published: John Wood Warter, Selections From the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 5–8 [where it is dated ‘College Green, Bristol, 1792.’]. BACK

[1] Elizabeth I (1533–1603; reigned 1558–1603; DNB), cited in David Hume (1711–1776; DNB), History of England, 4 vols (London, 1764), IV, p. 311. BACK

[2] Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1735–1806), commander of the Prussian forces that invaded revolutionary France in 1792. Brunswick had captured Longwy on 23 August and Verdun on 2 September 1792. BACK

[3] Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), French writer and philosophe. He owned an estate at Ferney. BACK

[4] The massacre of the Huguenot leaders in Paris on 23–24 August 1572. BACK

[5] Jean Calas (1698–1762), Protestant merchant of Toulouse who was executed for murdering his son. Voltaire campaigned to prove his innocence and the verdict was overturned in 1765. BACK

[6] Robert-Francois Damiens (1715–1757) attempted to stab Louis XV (1710–1774; reigned 1715–1774) and was tortured to death. BACK

[7] Southey is adapting Laurence Sterne (1713–1768; DNB), A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (London, 1768), p. [1]. BACK

[8] Margaret Nicholson (1750?–1828; DNB) attempted to stab George III (1738–1820; reigned 1760–1820; DNB) with an ivory-handled dessert knife on 2 August 1786. She was declared insane and confined in the Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam) for the rest of her life. BACK

[9] Thomas Paine (1737–1809; DNB) was charged with seditious libel for publishing The Rights of Man (1791–1792). He was convicted in absentia in December 1792. BACK

[10] The Latin translates as ‘we gather strength as we go’, Virgil (70–19 BC), Aeneid, Book 4, line 175. BACK

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March 2009