Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1052. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, March–5 April [1805] ⁠* 

Keswick. March.

Dear Tom

It is time that another letter should arrive from you – & you may well imagine that I am always anxious to hear of your safety. Not but that in my reason I am satisfied that with your habit of body, your seasoning, & the mode of living you have adopted, you are as safe as a sailor can be. The papers tell me you have taken a ship from Teneriffe – & I have been wishing she had been sent into an English port instead of Barbadoes that I might have been purchased some of her Canary [1]  if it was good.

Not a particle of news to communicate since my last. Every thing remains just as it was. whether Madoc be published or not heaven knows – & if not heaven knows why – but I suppose not or I should surely have received some letter to acknowledge it from one or other of the many to whom it is to be sent. I am at my Spaniards letters, which I think of printing in two such volumes as the Amadis – as to size & type. [2]  my progress is slow, but what is done is to my taste, & if my old letters were at hand from which I could collect something, & also the books which are necessary for consultation I think four months would be an ample allowance of time to compleat the work. One of my ears would be a cheap price to pay if I could get you at my elbow to help me out with a few tough stories.

April 5. Your letters, of Jany 14 & Feby 19 are just come to hand. the same post brings news of the French at Dominica [3]  – & I perceive that had you been watering there – as you would if your Captain had not been changed [4]  you would have been in Limbo. Upon my life Tom so many hairs-breadth escapes almost make me superstitious – & I could willingly believe that a red ribband & star are in store for you. [5]  It is not such honours as that which I despise nor which deserve to be despised. the honours which are honourably acquired are useful to the community & fair objects of fair & laudable ambition. It is the making them hereditary which is mischievous. When once any great events are associated with a name that name ought to remain sacred, – I would no second Duke of Marlbro [6]  – no second Lord Nelson, [7]  enough for the children of such men the real advantages which their fathers can leave them, – the solid wealth, & the high example, tenfold more powerful that if they find themselves born Lords & Legislators, when if nature has not made them fools it is ten to one but education does.

Madoc was published only on March 27th Danvers was to send off your copy by the first ship to Barbadoes. the Annual Review has been delayed by a mutiny among the printers, but as Longman says in true Officer like style – the men have now returned to their duty, [8]  – & my valuable lucubrations are not likely to be long withheld from the world. As soon as it is published (which will be within the month certainly) I have ordered both this & the 2nd Volume to be sent for you to Charles of Antwerp – & they may very probably arrive in time to take their chance with the great quarto. –You do not get my letters. I can recollect four which you have not received specifically – & how many more heaven knows. But be you never uneasy at not hearing. no news is always good news in such cases as this, when only the ordinary chances of nature are to be taken into calculation. If any evil were to befall, you would learn it by private channels enough, – & if not my death would find such food for newspapers & magazines that you {it} would speedily travel wherever they find their way. We go well. Edward in the Egyptienne [9]  (for I must repeat the often-told tale) – Harry at Edinburgh, soon coming here for the summer. the Edithling in her twelfth month, still well – tho I have had some alarms – a great tyrant, & just now beginning to prefer her father to any body else, because he shows her the book & pictures in such a tone of voice as the showmen use – & gives her what he calls a small toss. She is by no means a pretty child – but has an uncommonly intelligent look. You would like her – & I wish you were here to see her.

When your bill of exchange arrives I shall consult my mercantile friends about the best means of employing it to advantage. I am uneasy about these Frenchmen & damn – as I do on every occasion – the miserable mismanagement in every department at home. Long before this Admiral Cochrane [10]  will have arrived – but what may have happened meantime God knows! & at all events your cruising is cut up till their three deckers are out of the way. however I hope the best. – I see Delafons of the Dasher is dead in the E. Indies. [11]  Is this the same Delafons? for I thought he had left the Dasher long since, & had got a 74. [12] xxxx xxxx xxxx in yours xxx xxxx xxx xxxxx xxx xxx xxxx xxxxxx xxx xxx xxxxxxxxxx The attack on Martinique is of course at an end [13]  – But no more of these things, it is idle to fill a letter from England with speculation on what may have happened in the W Indies.

No letter from the Old Gentleman yet – nor indeed from any body to whom Madoc has been sent, for there has not been time. I wrote to him in a very family sort of stile – telling him all about you, as if he had never taken it in his head to quarrel. Lisbon politics still remain unsettled – if Gibraltar be besieged we shall of course be expelled from so important a port, [14]  & indeed this is most likely, – in fact I almost expect my Uncle in England.

I have just begun to correct Joan of Arc for a third edition. flat & unprofitable work [15]  in the literal sense of the words, as the copy-right is not my own. So it must be set down to the account of reputation. the alterations will be minute & numerous, – such I trust as to make the language correct & to weed out all the feebler & faultier parts. The Vision is by Longmans desire to be printed at the end of the poem. [16]  The gap therefore in the second Vol of Poems is to be filled up – & this I think of doing with the best or least bad pieces from my very first volume – the Retrospect – the Rosamund to Henry – & perhaps one or two from the Monthly Magazine. [17]  they may get in silently – for to print new poems there would be injuring my purse without adding to my reputation. You see there is enough work for the printers & I hope to have the Letters of D Manuel Alvarez Espriella ready for the press by next winter. [18]  – If your consignment comes to hand I shall in putting xx it out consider myself as good security, & lend myself enough to furnish a house, if it seem adviseable to remove near London, & get my books about me, – for the evil of being without them is inconceivable to any but a man of literary pursuits. –

When the 3rd Annual reaches you look at McKinnens Tour in the West Indies, & you will see that your letters have been of use to me. [19]  If you would keep a journal & put down all you see & xxx you hear, my life on it it would prove exceedingly valuable. the best accounts we have of other countries are all made by such men as you, – who related what they saw – caring for nothing but to say merely what they wanted to say. As soon as ever such men ceased to write travels because style was thought of – travels ceased to be good for any thing. I wrote in one of my letters pretty fully on this subject. Send me all your stories about Pompey [20]  – get his history from himself, & write it as nearly as you can recollect in his own words. If you visit a planter see in what his house differs from an English one both inside & out. Little as you may think of your own letters they contain more than often gets into print – look at McKinnens book for instance! he writes without a heart, & with little pigs-eyes that see nothing above higher than his nose. I spared him because he is Mrs Keenans brother [21]  – & even his book was better than none. –

Coleridge is coming home from Malta full of Mediterranean politics, & earnestly desirous that we should take Egypt before the French take it, on which subject he has, as Secretary to the Governor Sir A Ball [22]  addressed several memorials to government. We expect him, if no accident intervenes, in May. [23]  Danvers comes about midsummer. Sam Reid is going to Liverpool, to take private pupils, a fit office for him, he will find good society there, & good encouragement. Will you believe that Miss Phillott is turned Methodist? outrageous Methodist? it is even so! I am sorry, because I liked her & thought her a woman of good solid sense. [24] 

Perhaps when you get made [25]  it may be the means of bringing you to England. I wish to God you were within reach. the longer I live the more important do family ties xxx become. When I read in the Whitehaven paper that the first Lieut. of the Galatea was killed [26]  – it went thru me like a shot – – Let us live in hope – & we have reason, & reason to be satisfied with the past as far as it depends on ourselves, for we have made our way up, when if we had not risen by our own efforts we should have been trodden down into the dirt. As for Harry he will make his fortune by marrying I have no doubt, with his face & manners. You will be Sir Thomas yet – & I promise you whenever Sir Thomas takes another ship there shall be a better song made about it than was made about the last. Never Admiral had such a poet as you shall have. –

My Specimens [27]  are now at last going to press, thus long delayed by Bedfords laziness, & the mutiny. [28]  this may bring me in something – but for this – & Madoc – & the Volume from the Anthology which is called Metrical Tales [29]  – I get nothing immediately – preferring to share the eventual profits. so I shall do with Espriella, & make the bookseller advance enough upon his credit to set my accounts square. My history [30]  goes on. indeed you would not wonder that I do so much if you knew in how utter a solitude we live, during the whole spring & winter without any neighbour whatsoever, & I always, except at meal times, in my study, taking no exercise except just in the home ground with the child in my arms – & yet – thank God – never in better health.

Ediths love. never lose an opportunity of writing & if you get no letters from me – blame any body rather than me – for I continue to write – God bless you Tom!



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey./ H. M. S. Amelia/ Barbadoes,/ or elsewhere./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ APR 8/ 1805
Endorsement: 6 B M
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A highly popular sweet white wine. BACK

[2] Southey’s translation Amadis of Gaul (1803) was published in four volumes duodecimo, printed by N. Biggs, Crane Court, Fleet Street; Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807) appeared in three volumes duodecimo. Both were published by Longman. BACK

[3] This Caribbean island, in British possession since 1763, was invaded by France early in 1805. The British retained possession and made the island a colony. BACK

[4] William Allen Proby, Lord Proby (1779–1804), eldest son of Sir John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort (1751–1828; DNB) was the captain of Thomas Southey’s ship, HMS Amelia, until he died on 6 August 1804 at Surinam, from yellow fever. He was replaced by William Charles Fahie (1763–1833). BACK

[5] The decoration of the ‘Order of the Bath’ or a knight of the realm. BACK

[6] John Churchill (1655–1720; DNB), a war hero, was made 1st Duke of Marlborough in 1702. He had no surviving sons, and his title was allowed (by a special Act of Parliament) to pass to his eldest daughter in her own right. BACK

[7] In October 1805, The Reverend William Nelson (1757–1835), brother of the naval hero Horatio, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté (1758–1805; DNB) inherited a barony when the latter was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar. He was subsequently created Earl Nelson and Viscount Merton of Trafalgar and Merton in the County of Surrey in recognition of his brother’s services, and inherited the Dukedom of Bronté in Italy. BACK

[8] In 1805 journeymen printers were paid by master printers per job, rather than by the day or week, according to a complicated scale of prices. Disputes about the scale were settled when a joint committee was set up with equal representation of masters and journeymen. BACK

[9] HMS Egyptienne was a 40-gun frigate, captured from the French in 1801, and commissioned into the Royal Navy. BACK

[10] Admiral Sir Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane (1758–1832, DNB), made commander of the Leeward Island station in 1805. BACK

[11] Captain John Delafons (d.1805), who had captained the 16-gun sloop Dasher in the East Indies from 1803, died at Prince of Wales Island, Torres Strait. BACK

[12] John Delafons’ brother, Thomas (b. 1772), was also a naval officer. In May 1801, as a Lieutenant, he was appointed to the 74-gun Irresistible, under Captain William Bligh (1754–1817; DNB). In 1805–1806, in command of the Nimble, he was in the Caribbean under Admiral Sir Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane. By 1844 he was infirm and had retired to Greenwich Hospital. A third brother, William (b. 1789) was in the West Indies from December 1805–1806, as a midshipman on the 74-gun Superb. BACK

[13] In 1804 the British had fortified Diamond Rock, giving them command of the sea approaches to the western side of the French colony of Martinique. In early 1805, French boats made an unsuccessful attempt to take the rock, but were swept out to sea by currents. In May, however, a large French fleet besieged the rock and the British were forced to surrender. BACK

[14] In the event the British garrison and fleet preserved Gibraltar from attack from the French and Spanish fleets. Britain and Portugal remained allied, and it was not until 1807 that French armies invaded Portugal from Spain. BACK

[15] Hamlet, Act 1, scene 2, line 133. BACK

[16] The third edition of Joan of Arc was published in 1806, with the ‘Vision of the Maid of Orleans’, originally published in the second volume of Southey’s Poems (1799), printed at the end. BACK

[17] In the new 1806 edition of the second volume of Poems (1799), Southey included two poems first published in his and Robert Lovell’s joint collection Poems (1795), ‘The Retrospect’ and ‘To Hymen’. ‘Rosamund to Henry, written after she had taken the veil’ appeared in the 1795 volume, but not in 1806. Other poems brought into the 1806 edition of Poems to make up for the removal of the ‘Vision’ were, ‘Translation of a Greek Ode on Astronomy, written for the prize at Cambridge, 1793’ (pp. 3–9); ‘To Hymen’ (pp. 25–39); ‘Remembrance’ (pp. 40–43); ‘To Recovery’ (pp. 49–51); ‘Youth and Age’ (pp. 52–53); ‘The Traveller’s Return’ (pp. 5 4–55); ‘Autumn’ (pp. 56–58); ‘The Destruction of Jerusalem’ (pp. 59–62); ‘The Spanish Armada’ (pp. 63–66); ‘St Bartholomew’s Day’ (pp. 67–69); ‘To a Bee’ (pp. 74–75); ‘Metrical Letter’, pp. 76–79. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), V, pp. 157–160. BACK

[18] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[19] Southey reviewed Daniel Mackinnen (1767–1830), A Tour Through the British West Indies, in the Years 1802 and 1803 Giving a Particular Account of the Bahama Islands (1804), in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 50–56. BACK

[20] ‘Pompey’ was a popular name for African slaves, after Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as ‘Pompey the Great’ (106–48 BC), a military and political leader of the late Roman republic. BACK

[21] Mrs Keenan (first name and dates unknown) was the sister of Daniel MacKinnen. Her husband, John Keenan (fl. c. 1780–1819), exhibited a portrait of Southey at the Royal Academy in 1803. BACK

[22] Alexander John Ball, 1st Baronet (1757–1809; DNB): Rear Admiral who directed the blockade of Malta and became its governor. Coleridge wrote a biography of Ball in The Friend (1809–1810). See S. T. Coleridge, The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke, 2 vols (London and Princeton NJ, 1969), II, pp. 252–256, 287–294, 347–356, 359–369. BACK

[23] Coleridge arrived back in England in August 1806, but did not come back to live in Keswick. BACK

[24] Miss Phillott (first name and dates unknown) was an acquaintance of Bristol days and a member of a prominent family of professionals and tradesmen centred on Bath. BACK

[25] Meaning promoted to captain. BACK

[26] On 14 August 1804, the boats of Thomas Southey’s ship the Galatea made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British sloop of war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe. Of the 90 men sent on the mission 65 were killed or wounded. Southey had suspected that his brother was among the dead, having read in The Cumberland Pacquet and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser that the first lieutenant had been killed. Thomas had been placed under arrest, and Lieutenant Charles Hayman (d. 1804), his replacement on the raid, died. BACK

[27] Southey’s and Bedford’s jointly edited anthology, Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[28] See note 8. BACK

[29] Southey’s contributions to the Annual Anthology (1799–1800) were republished under his own name in Metrical Tales and other Poems (1805). BACK

[30] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’, which was never completed. BACK

About this Page

Published @ RC

August 2013