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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1095. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 22 August 1805 ⁠* 

Thursday. August 22. 1805. Keswick.

My dear Tom

I have received two letters from you, both at once & by ship to Liverpool. One of June 12. the other of no date but marked 3 Extract – by which I understand that you have sent off two former ones which have not come to hand. I look very anxiously for them, – for this is full of interesting information.

Your news about the prize money is truly vexatious. but the matter must not be quietly given up. I am taking measures to get the subject into the Courier – if Stuart be not sold body & soul to the Devil. most likely he will take the matter up there, or let me do it, & I have good hope that by getting a paper so abominably ministerial on our side, government may be persuaded to give up so iniquitous a measure as that of robbing the sailors to indemnify the merchants. Depend upon it whatever can be done by paragraphs or pamphlets I will set about: & if the ministry will have the money, they shall have their full share of odium into the bargain. [1] 

Danvers has been here, & in the course of four weeks I have walked with him above four hundred miles – thro the whole Lake country. Henry was with us, & we wished oftentimes for you. Danvers has written often to you, but he sent his letters mostly by private hands, for which reason I suppose they have miscarried. Your reviews have been waiting at Bristol for ship. [2]  by this time they are probably on their way, as Danvers left them with William Reid [3]  to send off by the first conveyance. Madoc you must long since have received. the only review of it as yet is the notice in the Supplement to the Monthly Magazine. the criticisms there are usually provided by a Mr Norgate of Norwich one of the vilest of all possible criticasters, but Wm Taylor has taken me out of his hands, & so Madoc shines thro a page & half – a large allowance for that place. [4]  Of the sale I have heard nothing these past two months, but that time about 3 out of the 5 hundred must have been sold, which is much for a book of so heavy a price. I am already thinking of the alterations for a second edition, & mean to alter the catastrophe. At present the interest is in the last book transferred from Madoc to Yuhidthiton, a great & grievous fault; this I shall try to amend. [5] 

I wrote to you as soon as the letter by favour of Old Neptune arrived. As both seem to have taken the same course it will now be desirable to have others thrown over in that track, & if half a dozen should in half a century follow one another it would prove the existence of a current. [6] 

Our neighbour Colonel Peachey invited us lately to meet Lord Somerville [7]  at dinner. both Harry & Danvers, who was of the party, conceived a strong dislike to him. he was very amusing & certainly does not want talents; but his mind & his manners are very coarse & vulgar; – he is a nondescript mulish compound of butcher & courtier, both bad breeds, & the mixture worse than either. I liked him so little as to be glad that he offered no kind of civility on taking leave, which might have made it necessary to call at his London door. From hence he went into Scotland, & there saw his neighbour Walter Scott, the poet of the Border, who was on the point of coming here to visit Wordsworth & me. To Scott he spoke of the relationship with us, – he said of me & Wordsworth that however we might have got into good company he might depend upon it we were still Jacobines at heart, & that he believed he had been instrumental in having us looked after in Somersetshire. this refers to a spy who was sent down to Stowey to look after Coleridge & Wordsworth: the fellow after trying to tempt the country people to tell lies, could collect nothing more than that they {gentlemen} used to walk a good deal upon the coast, & that they xxx were what they called poets: – he got drunk at the inn & told his whole errand & history, but we did not till now know who was the main mover. [8]  If you will recollect how well this dirty xxx of poaching for perjury assorts with his views upon John Southeys money, [9]  you will be able to form xxx a good estimate of his Lordships honourable morality.

Continue I beseech you to write your remarks upon all you see & all you hear: but do not trust them to letters – lest they should be lost. keep minutes of what you write. such letters are as your last would make a very interesting & very valuable volume. little is known here of the W Indies except commercially – the moral & physical picture would have all the effect of novelty. In particular look to the state of the slaves – if you were now in England it is very possible that your evidence might have considerable weight before the House of Lords now that the question of abolition is again coming on. Keep your eye upon every thing – describe the appearance of the places you visit as seen from the ship – your walks on shore – in short make drawings in writing nothing is so easy as to say what you see, if you will but disregard how you say it, & think of nothing but explaining yourself fully. Write me the history of a Planters day – what are his meals – at what hours – what his dress – what his amusement – what the employment – pleasures – education &c &c of his children & family. Collect any anecdotes connected with the French expeditions – with the present or the last war, – & depend upon it that by merely amusing yourself thus you may bring home excellent & ample materials, to which I will add a number of curious historical facts gleaned from the Spanish historians & travellers. [10] 

I have the book you speak of & the head of Cortes – which is one of the very finest I ever saw, from a picture by Titian. [11] 

Danvers has taken me so much from home that D Manuels [12]  letters have stood still, as well as every thing else. my walks however will furnish him with materials, & you will see the journal of our adventures over the mountains whenever the volumes reach you. [13]  few persons have ever seen the country more thoroughly than we have done. I have a heavy batch of reviewing come in: in fact William Taylor & I are the Gog & Magog [14]  of the work, we do about a third between us, & all that we do not do is dull.

The seas are clear for you once more & I hope that by this time you have picked up some more prizes. Your climate too is now getting comfortable, & I envy you as much in winter as you can envy me in summer. – I had almost forgot to say that Bob Hall [15]  with his one fin has been here – he only called one evening & went off next day – I was out – but he came went to him before breakfast & found him in bed. he came up afterwards, but neither ate nor drank – just setting off to Harrowgate [16]  with his mother & Aunt. he is a good comfortable size & seems to like being prisoner very well. [17]  – All well. little Edith runs about & talks. Ediths love & Harrys – who will write directly.

God bless you.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey./ H. M. S. Amelia/ Barbadoes/ or elsewhere/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ AUG 26/ 1805
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 343–344 [in part]; Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 391–394. BACK

[1] In December 1804, the naval ship HMS Amelia, of which Thomas Southey was a lieutenant, had captured the Spanish brig Isabella and the ship Conception, both laden with wine and brandy, and the ship Commerce, laden with cotton. It was customary for naval officers to be allotted a share of the value of ships and cargo captured in armed conflict, but in this case the prize money was withheld because the ships were captured before war was officially declared. Southey took up his brother’s cause to have his share reinstated. It was presumably Southey’s influence that caused The Courier to publish a paragraph supporting the sailors’ claim to the prize-money on Saturday 24 August 1805. This was followed by a longer defence of their position in The Courier on 31 August 1805 under the title ‘Indemnification to the Spanish Merchants’. BACK

[2] Southey was sending his brother copies of the Annual Review for 1804 and 1805. See his letter to Tom dated March-5 April [1805], Letter 1052. BACK

[3] Bristol insurance broker William Reid (dates unknown). BACK

[4] Thomas Starling Norgate (1772–1859) contributed the ‘Supplement’ or ‘Retrospect’ to the Monthly Magazine from 1797–1806, but there were a few exceptions written by Taylor, including a review of Southey’s Madoc (1805). This appeared in the Monthly Magazine, 19 (July 1805), 656–658. See David Chandler, ‘“A Sort of Bird’s Eye View of the British Land of Letters”: “The Monthly Magazine” and Its Reviewers, 1796–1811’, Studies in Bibliography, 52 (1999), 169–179. BACK

[5] The poem ends with Yuhidthiton, the remaining leader of the defeated and chastened Aztecas, leading his people into exile, rather than with Madoc, the Welsh colonist, presiding over a new American civilisation. This was not altered. On the history of the poem’s drafting and revision, see the editor’s introduction to Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), II. BACK

[6] Southey had received two letters that Thomas, on shipboard in the Caribbean, had thrown overboard in bottles. For an account of these experiments; see Southey to the Editor of the Athenæum, [April 1807], Letter 1314. BACK

[7] A distant relation of Southey’s by marriage, John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB), agriculturalist. BACK

[8] Coleridge relates the episode in Biographia Literaria, making light of it in order to downplay his reputation of having been a Jacobin. See S. T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ed. James Engell and Walter Jackson Bate, 2 vols (London and Princeton NJ, 1983), I, pp. 193–197. BACK

[9] In 1807 a lawsuit brought by Somerville so that he might benefit from the will of John Southey’s son, Cannon Southey (dates unknown), was decided against him. BACK

[10] Thomas took ‘his brother’s advice and these materials were eventually published as A Chronological History of the West Indies (1828). BACK

[11] Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Oaxaca Valley (1485–1547) led a Spanish expedition that brought much of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early sixteenth-century. His portrait was painted by Tiziano Vecellio [Titian] (1488/90–1576). An engraving after Titian’s portrait appears in Antonio de Solis y Ribadeneyra (1610–1686), Historia de la conquista de México, población y progresos de la América septentrional, conocida por el nombre de Nueva España (1684). Southey owned an edition of 1798 and the 1724 English translation, in which the engraving also features (no. 721 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library). BACK

[12] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella: Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[13] Southey’s descriptions of the Lake District in Letters from England comprise Letters 41–43. BACK

[14] Menacing and remote lands, enemies of Israel and God’s people, in Revelation 20. 7–10. A pair of giants in British legend. BACK

[15] Probably Robert Hall (1778–1818), a naval officer who was in 1800 a lieutenant – Thomas Southey’s rank – but who, unlike Tom, was promoted commander (in 1808). Hall later became an administrator of the naval dockyard in Kingston, Canada. BACK

[16] Harrogate. BACK

[17] British officers taken prisoner in the Napoleonic wars were often exchanged for French captives and so returned to their home countries, where they remained on parole. BACK

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August 2013