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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1130. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 7 December 1805 ⁠* 

December 7. 1805.  Keswick

Dear Tom I was preparing last night to write to you, but the newspaper came, & seeing therein that a mail was arrived I waited till this evening for a letter & have not been disappointed. Thank you for the turtle, & thank Heaven it has never reached me; – in bodily fear lest it should I wrote off immediately to give it to Wynn, [1]  & if he had not been in town should have given it to any body who would have been kind enough to have eased me of so inconvenient a visitor. How the Devil Tom could you think of sending me a turtle! When indeed I come to be Lord Mayor it may be a suitable present [2]  – but now! – Its carriage down would have been not less than forty shillings – & we should have been quite as much puzzled with it as the Old Gentleman was. Nobody would have known how to kill it, how to cut it up, or how to dress it – there would have been nobody here to help us to eat it nobody to whom we could have given it. – Whether Wynn has got it I cannot tell, but most likely xxx it has been eaten upon the way. [3] 

You mention the contents of poor Ld Probys [4]  common place books. If you can procure them for his father Ld Carysfort, [5]  both he & Wynn will be exceedingly obliged to you. [6]  I am desired by Wynn to say this, – or indeed if you can send any thing that belongs to him which would be likely to be valued by his friends. If you can get the papers direct them to Wynn – 5. Stone Buildings, Lincolns Inn – London – by the by you asked his direction, & this is it.

Your Extracts are very interesting, but several have miscarried – the Devil seems to be Post-Master General on that station. Go on as you have begun, & you will soon collect more & more valuable materials than you are aware of. Describe a W. Indian tavern – its difference from ours. Go to church one Sunday, to describe church & congregation. Inquire at every town if there be any schools there – any dissenters – how the Methodists get on. collect some Jamaica newspapers, – & if you can the magazine which is printed there. Your Tortola [7] -letter is a very delightful one. Put down all the stories you hear. When you go ashore take notice of the insects that you see – the birds xxx all make parts of the picture. xxx Lose nothing that a Creole, or any man acquainted with the Islands, tells you concerning them. Send me all the stories about Pompey [8]  – he must be a curious character. ask him his history. What sort of churchyards, have they? any epitaphs? where do they bury the Negroes? is there any funeral service for them? [9] 

My last was directed to St Kitts, [10]  where it seems I must direct always! – in all my last letters I have advised you to get to Europe if you can. Sir Samuel is made Admiral in the last promotions. [11]  I have heard nothing of his having a command – but certainly he is a man to look to, & one who will not be laid aside upon the shelf. I go to Lisbon next year, most likely not till the Autumn. Whether Edith goes will depend upon the state of politics, for xxx it would be foolish to take her if there should be much danger of being turned out. My Uncle is still there & will stay as long as he can. Edward has left the service a third time – is with his Aunt, & struts about in regimentals – tho he has no commission. he told Danvers three months ago he was to be gazetted the next week as Lieutenant in the Caermarthenshire – now he says it is to be in the regulars at once. Nothing that he says is to be believed. He never tells truth – unless there is any thing to be got by it.

I am happy to hear you have got rid of the Amsterdammers. [12]  the complaint seems to be so common that I think myself fortunate to have lived at this age without ever having experienced it. – You talk of invasion. depend upon it, it never will & never can be attempted while our fleet is what it is, – & poor Nelson [13]  has left its name higher than ever. Good God what a blaze of glory as he departed in! – the Spaniards you will see behaved most honourably to the men who were wrecked & who fell into their hands – & about our wounded, – & the French very ill. Continental Politics are too much in the dark for me to say any thing. it is by no means clear that Prussia will take part against France – tho highly probable, & now highly politic. if she should I think Bonapartes victories may prove his destruction.

Still busy reviewing – the 2d & 3d Annuals should be at Barbadoes by this time. You have somewhere an account of my articles in the 2d. In the third look at these articles as mine – Chap.1. Numbers. 5. 6. 9. 11. Chap 3 – Nos 8. 9. 17. Ch. 5 – No 11. Ch. 8. – 9. 10. 11. 16. 17. Ch. 10 – 1. 3. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 11. 13. 14. 17. 18. 19. 21. 22. 23. 27. 30. 31. Ch. 12. – 2. 3. 4. 7. 8. Ch. 21. – 8. – All these good bad & indifferent are mine. [14]  Wm Taylors you can always discover, & – except in the scientific part, there is little or nothing good in the work but what comes from him or from me. His chief department is in the historical & political part, – & whatever he touches he fertilizes. In the next volume he reviews Madoc, [15]  who has been abused beyond all bounds in the Monthly [16]  xxx such clumsy malice as fairly to defeat itself. the passages quoted to be abused there & in the Edinburgh [17]  struck Windham, [18]  so much that he expressed great admiration to Wynn – & sent for the book. Surely you have it from Barbadoes by this time. – The Spaniard [19]  goes on well – about half done. I give to it all the intervals of reviewing & shall have it published in the spring, when I must go to London, to get the Specimens [20]  concluded over which Bedford {will then} have been dawdling eigh two compleat years!! – I mean to publish the history of the Cid in a little volume [21]  – with learned notes, full of Spanish erudition. All this will fill up my winter & spring After this year I review no more. – It will be very hard if better employments should not pay me better. I do not regret the time thus far bestowed upon it, – by no other means could I have acquired such facility of stile – it has been a useful apprenticeship, & has had also the advantage of making me acquire much information, & looking into my own opinions upon many subjects on which I should not else have thought. – No farther news of the sale of Madoc. the reviews will probably hurt it for a time – that is in their power & that is all they can do. Unquestionably the Poem will stand & flourish. I am perfectly satisfied with the execution, – now eight months after its publication, in my cool & self-distxxxting judgement. Wm Taylor has said it is the best English poem that has left the Press since the Paradise Lost. indeed this is not exaggerated praise – for unfortunately there is no competition.

I want you grievously to tell Espriella stories about the navy, & give him a good idea of the present state, [22]  which of course I cannot venture to do except very slightly & very cautiously, fully aware of my own incompetence. Some of your own stories you will recognize. the book will be very amusing, & promises more profit than any of my former works. Most praise I have had for Amadis, [23]  for the obvious reason that it excited no envy, – they who were aiming at distinction as poets &c without success had no objection to allow that I could translate from the Spanish. But praise & fame are two very distinct things. Nobody thinks the higher of me for that translation, or feels a wish to see me xxx xxx for it, as they do for Joan of Arc & Thalaba. [24]  Poor Thalaba got abused in every review except the Critical [25]  – & yet there has not any poem of the age excited half the attention, or won half the admiration that that has. I am fairly up the hill.

Little Edith looks at the picture of the Ships in the Cyclopædia [26]  & listens to the story how she has a poor Uncle who lives in a ship, & loves her dearly & sends her a kiss in a letter. She is a plain child – but you would love her very dearly – I never saw a more promising intellect. – the profile came safe & highly do I value it. – Rickman has taken himself a Rickwoman. I have not yet seen her, but expect to be her guest in March or April. – Harry at Edinburgh, fagging Law for his degree in July. – Coleridge daily expected in England, & his return notwithstanding as uncertain as ever. [27]  Charles of Antwerp well – do you write to him? he has sent you a set of Couriers with the Annual Review. Poor Cupid [28]  has been hung at last for robbing a hen roost! Your three half-crown sticks you see were bestowed upon him in vain. He is the first of all my friends who ever came to the gallows – & Heaven send that one of our relations may not one day or other follow him! – I am very sorry for him, – poor fellow – I was his godfather. – Of Joe [29]  the last accounts were good. Thus have I turned my memory inside out to rummage out all the news for you & little enough it is. We live here in the winter as much out of the way of all society as if we were cruising at sea. From November till June not a soul do we see – except perhaps Wordsworth once or twice during the time. Of course it is my working season, & I get thro a great deal. – Ediths love – God bless you Tom –



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey./ H. M. S. Amelia/ St Kitts/ or elsewhere./ Single
Stamped: [partial] KESWICK
Postmark: [partial] E/ DEC10
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. 357–60 [in part]. BACK

[1] See Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 24 November 1805, Letter 1125. BACK

[2] Turtle was served annually to the Lord Mayor of London and assembled dignitaries on the day of the Lord Mayor’s show. BACK

[3] The turtle did not reach Keswick, but died in quarantine; see Southey to Thomas Southey, 1–5 January 1806, Letter 1140. BACK

[4] William Allen Proby, Lord Proby (1779–1804), eldest son of John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort (1751–1828; DNB), who was the previous captain of Thomas Southey’s ship HMS Amelia and had recently died of yellow fever. BACK

[5] John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort: judge, diplomat, Whig politician and poet, who was the author of Dramatic and Narrative Poems (1810). He was a fellow pupil of Southey’s at Westminster School. BACK

[6] Southey had recently described these in a letter to Wynn; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 24 November 1805, Letter 1125. BACK

[7] The largest island in the Caribbean group, the British Virgin Islands. BACK

[8] ‘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

[9] Tom eventually published his ‘extracts’ as A Chronological History of the West Indies (1828). BACK

[10] One of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies. BACK

[11] Vice-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, 1st Baronet (1762–1814; DNB), had been in command of the fleet in which Tom Southey served, and was replaced by Admiral Sir Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane (1758–1832; DNB). BACK

[12] Amsterdammers was a Southey family name for haemorrhoids; see Southey to John Rickman, 26 June 1807, Letter 1336. BACK

[13] Horatio, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté (1758–1805; DNB), who had recently been killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805. BACK

[14] Southey reviewed, in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805): John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), An Account of Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa, in the years 1797 and 1798, including Observations on the Geology & Geography, the Natural History ... and Sketches of the Various Tribes Surrounding the Cape of Good Hope, Vol. II (1804), 22–33; Robert Percival (1765–1826), An Account of the Cape of Good Hope (1804), 34–41; 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), 50–56; John Barrow, Travels in China: Containing Descriptions, Observations and Comparisons Made and Collected in the Course of a Short Residence at the Imperial Palace of Yuen-min-yuen, and on a Subsequent Journey from Pekin to Canton (1804), 69–83; Sir John Froissart’s Chronicles of England, France, and the Adjoining Countries, from the Latter Part of the Reign of Edward II to the Coronation of Henry IV, trans. Thomas Johnes (1748–1816; DNB) (1804), 189–194; George Heriot (1766–1844), The History of Canada, From its First Discovery: Comprehending an Account of the Original Establishment of the Colony of Louisiana, 194–197; Part the First of An Address to the Public from the Society for the Suppression of Vice, Instituted, in London, 1802, Setting Forth, with a List of the Members, the Utility and Necessity of such an Institution, and its Claim to Public Support (1803), 225–231; Edward Ledwich (1738–1823), The Antiquities of Ireland (1804), 398–413; Original Correspondence of Jean Jacques Rousseau, with Mad. La Tour de Franqueville and M. Du Peyrou (1804), 485–488; Anna Seward, Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Darwin, ... with Anecdotes of his Friends and Criticisms on his Writings (1804), 488–93; David Irving (1778–1850), The Lives of the Scotish Poets; with Preliminary Dissertations on the Literary History of Scotland and the Early Scotish Drama (1804), 493–499; Walter Scott, Sir Tristram: A Metrical Romance by Thomas of Ercildoune (1804), 555–563; Charles Abraham Elton (1778–1853), Poems (1804), 564–565; William Day (dates unknown), The Shepherd’s Boy: being Pastoral Tales (1804), 567–568; E. Warren (dates unknown), The Poet’s Day, or, Imagination’s Ramble (1804), 568; Cupid turned Volunteer: in a Series of Prints, Designed by her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth; and Engraved by W. N. Gardiner, B.A., with Poetical Illustrations by T. P [Thomas Park (1758/9–1834; DNB)] (1804), 568–580; Thomas Green Fessenden (1771–1837), Original Poems (1804), 571; John Blair Linn (1777–1805), The Powers of Genius (1801), 571; Thomas Clio Rickman (1761–1834; DNB), An Ode in Celebration of the Emancipation of the Blacks of Saint Domingo, November 29, 1803 (1804), 572; Robert Bloomfield, Good Tidings (1804), 574; William Robert Spencer (1770–1834; DNB), The Year of Sorrow (1804), 574–575; British Purity: or, the World we Live in. A Poetic Tale, of Two Centuries…By Lory Lucian and Jerry Juvenal, … Assisted by S. Scriblerus, etc. [pseud.] (1804), 575; William Falconer (1732–1769), The Shipwreck, (1804), ed., James Stanier Clarke (1766–1834; DNB), 577–580; William Tooke (1777–1863), ed., The Poetical Works of Charles Churchill: with Explanatory Notes and an Authentic Account of his Life (1804), 580–585; J. Amphlett (dates unknown), Invasion: a Descriptive and Satirical Poem (1804), 585; Joseph Jefferson (1766–1824), Horae Poeticæ. Poems, Sacred, Moral and Descriptive (1804), 586–587; Alexander Campbell (1764–1824; DNB), The Grampians Desolate, a Poem in Six Books (1804), 587–591; William Crowe (bap. 1745, d. 1829; DNB), Lewesdon Hill (1804), 593–594; John Finlay (1782–1810), Wallace, or, The Vale of Ellerslie, and other Poems (1804), 594–596; Jessie Stewart (dates unknown), Ode to Dr. Thomas Percy (1804), 597; John Belfour (1768–1842), Fables on Subjects Connected with Literature. Imitated from the Spanish of Don Tomas de Yriarte (1804), 597–598; Transactions of the Missionary Society (1804), 621–634; Edward Davies (1756–1831; DNB), Celtic Researches, on the Origin, Traditions, & Language, of the Ancient Britons; with some Introductory Sketches, on Primitive Society (1804), 634–644; [Anon.] No Slaves - No Sugar: Containing New and Irresistible Arguments in Favour of the African Trade by a Liverpool Merchant (1804), 644–648; William Tennant (1758–1813), Indian Recreations, Consisting Chiefly of Strictures on the Domestic and Rural Economy of the Mahommedans and Hindoos (1803), 658–670; John Gardiner (fl. 1758–1792), Essays Literary, Political and Economical (1804), 670–674; Richard Duppa, Heads from the Fresco Pictures of Raffaele in the Vatican (1802), 918–923. BACK

[15] William Taylor reviewed Madoc (1805) in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 604–613. BACK

[16] John Ferriar (1761–1815; DNB) reviewed Madoc in the Monthly Review, n. s. 48 (October 1805), 113–122. BACK

[17] Francis Jeffrey reviewed Madoc in the Edinburgh Review, 7 (October 1805), 1–29. BACK

[18] William Windham (1750–1810; DNB), Secretary for War and the Colonies, 1806–1807. BACK

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

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

[21] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid was published in 1808. BACK

[22] The navy is discussed in Letter 76 of Letters from England. BACK

[23] Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[24] Southey’s poems Joan of Arc (1st edn 1796, 2nd edn 1798, 3rd edn 1806), Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[25] Reviews of Thalaba the Destroyer were: British Critic, 18 (September 1801), 309–310; Monthly Mirror, 12 (October 1801), 243–247; Francis Jeffrey, Edinburgh Review, 1 (October 1802), 63–83; Monthly Review, 39 (November 1802), 240–251; Anna Seward, The Poetical Register, and Repository for Fugitive Poetry, for 1801 (London, 1802), pp. 475–486; William Taylor, Critical Review, 2nd series, 39 (December 1803), 369–379. BACK

[26] Ephraim Chambers’ (1680?–1740; DNB) Cyclopedia, or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, which was first published in 1728 and reprinted many times in the eighteenth century. An expanded edition, updated by Abraham Rees (1743–1825; DNB), was published from 1778–1788. BACK

[27] Coleridge was acting as Public Secretary to the British Civil Commissioner in Malta and though due to return, he did not arrive back in England until August 1806. BACK

[28] A dog, formerly belonging to Southey and entrusted to Danvers. BACK

[29] Thomas Southey’s dog, who was being looked after by Danvers. BACK

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August 2013