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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1166. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 17 March 1806 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

I have been waiting for some time past in the hope of telling you the time of my departure & the arrangement of my operations, thinking it not impossible that we might meet. But my operations are very uncomfortably disconcerted by a request on the part of John May & another friend of my Uncles that I would go into Herefordshire & myself make enquiry upon the spot what is the reason why a living valued at nearly 400£ a year, does not pay its own expences. [1]  Sir Wm Scott [2]  has given it as his opinion that there is roguery in the Lawyer, – which I do not believe because Duppa recommended him to me, as a man whom he had been at school with, & knew to be honest: he said also that some friend of Mr Hills should go & investigate there previous to any farther steps. they very naturally look to me, – who am alas of all men living the least fitted for such a task – however I shall go; & have only proposed to them that it be on my return from London, instead of on my way there, – that I may learn when in town what specific enquiries to make & how to set about them. In either case I do not think it would be much out of my way to call at Bristol, & perhaps if it be on my return you would spare a few days to walk up the Wye with me.

Miss Barkers visit to Bath has been prevented – for which I am sorry as I wished you to see both her & her drawings. But if you go there about this time or some few weeks hence, you will find the Colonel & his wife – who will both be very glad to talk about the Lakes with you.

As for Edward – you know my mind about him too well to require any repetition of the hopelessness with which I regard him. Carry his hat to my account – if he does not pay you – as I suppose he never will. And as for his wax likeness – if it were meant for me I should consign it to the fire – but as it is for Tom lay it aside – dont send it across the water

We have heard of  Coleridge, not from him. he was well at Naples in the early part of January, having been forced to return there, & so we are in daily expectation of hearing that he is arrived. [3]  I suppose you have seen in the Monthly Magazine that one of his brothers children (a very fine boy) has been killed by a fall on shipboard: – an accident which has very nearly killed the father. [4] 

I expect to start on the 30th & if my Herefordshire business be delayed shall go first to Norwich for a few days. Of the many persons who will be glad to see me in town I suppose poor Burnett has the greatest reason, as I shall lend give him a hearty shove. [5] Wynn is about to be married, which will greatly improve his breakfast table. I have seen the Lady some years ago, but she was then young & I remember nothing of her – a daughter of Sir Foster Cunliffe. [6] 

Of the exordium to Madoc many persons I suppose think as you do, it is in fact conceit if the poem be bad, confidence if it be good. [7]  I think the po[em] a good one, & have no objection to say so. To omit it would be to confess that it ought not to have been there. Now if I thought the poem would be improved by rewriting it half through – you know I would do it. I would spend a week to weed out any real fault which a true critic could object to – but here the fault, if any there be, is in the feeling – not in the expression – I do not think it faulty, & stand it must. Tis an old part of the Poets privilege to be allowed to praise themselves, & it is almost the only one that I shall resolutely use whenever I see occasion so to do.

One word more of Edward. he must certainly know where his Aunt is, & ought to give Mrs Smith her address.

Harry will go to Lisbon with me in the Autumn, [8]  at least my Uncle & I have so settled it, & I have no reason to suppose but that he will very gladly fall in with the plan, tho he has met your friend Mr Auchterlony, [9]  & likes him much.

I am afraid I shall hardly have done with your Books yet. There is the long passage about the Lakes to be extracted from your Aunt, [10]  – & nobody can make it for me, on account of the writing. Pray xxx is the old traveller Fynes Moryson  [11]  of the same family?

Poor Jackson has symptoms of angina pectoris, but they are accompanied with other symptoms not described in the Scotch Cyclopædia, [12]  which gives me some hope. I think of sending the case to Beddoes, as soon as Edmundson will give it me. Burnett took Hartley in hand while he was here, & I have gone on with him ever since. I am sorry he is not satisfied with Lambs taste which is infinitely better than his own. Lamb is a man whom I could trust to select for me – which is more than I could poor George.

I will write & tell you of my movements. if I come to Bristol perhaps Rex can give me a bed – I cannot stay more than three days – one with you one with him – & one for the sake of old times I cannot but give to Cottle

God bless you

yrs affectionately

RS.

March 17. 1806.

frost & snow! the bitterest weather we have had this winter.


Notes

* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Endorsement: 17 Vols [MS illegible]
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAR 20/ 1806
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Herbert Hill had the living of a parish at Staunton-on-Wye, Herefordshire, which, while he was in Lisbon, he had left in the care of Dr Thomas, father of his business agent William Bowyer Thomas, who had died in 1802. Southey intended to investigate the payment of tithes on Hill’s estate for him while he was abroad. BACK

[2] William Scott, Baron Stowell (1745–1836; DNB), judge and politician. BACK

[3] Coleridge was returning across Europe from Malta and arrived back in Britain in August 1806. BACK

[4] The Monthly, 21.1 (February 1806) carried this report on p. 98: ‘On board the Phoenix, of 44 guns, in the Sound, Master Coleridge, a youth of 14, who had just made his naval debut on board that ship. He was trying to go aloft, and taking hold of a rope that was not fastened, he unfortunately came down by the run on the deck, and was killed on the spot. He was the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Coleridge, of Ottery St. Mary’. The dead boy was Bernard Frederick Coleridge (1792–1805), the son of Lt. Col. James Coleridge (1759–1836). The father’s reaction is described in Lord Coleridge, KC, The Story of a Devonshire House (London, 1905), p. 114: ‘On December 9, 1805, he fell from the top-mast [of the ship Phoenix] and was killed on the spot. He was then aged thirteen. …The news was carried to his home in a letter sent by special messenger. His father, who was standing in the dining-room, gave a cry, and with the letter in his hand fell senseless on the floor. He was carried to bed in a sort of fit, and for some weeks his reason, if not his life, was in danger’. BACK

[5] Southey had encouraged George Burnett to produce an anthology of Specimens of English Prose Writers, from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Seventeenth Century. It was published in three volumes with Longmans in 1807 and formed a companion work to George Ellis’s Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790; 2nd edn 1801; 3rd edn 1803) and Southey’s own Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[6] Wynn married Mary Cunliffe (d. 1838), daughter of Foster Cunliffe, 3rd Baronet (1755–1834) on 9 April 1806. BACK

[7] The exordium to Madoc (1805) was published as:

Come, listen to a tale of times of old!
Come, for ye know me! I am he who sung
The Maid of Arc; I am he who framed
Of Thalaba the wild & wonderous song.
Come, listen to my lay, & ye shall hear
How Madoc from the shores of Britain spread
The adventurous sail, explored the ocean ways,
And quelled Barbarian power, & overthrew
The bloody altars of idolatry,
And planted in its fanes triumphantly
The Cross of Christ. Come, listen to my lay.
See volume 2 of Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), p. 8. BACK

[8] Southey’s projected visit to Portugal did not take place. BACK

[9] Untraced. BACK

[10] Danvers’s aunt was the traveller Celia Fiennes (1662–1741; DNB). Danvers gave Southey a manuscript of her diary, excerpts of which were included in his and Coleridge’s Omniana (1812). BACK

[11] Fynes Moryson (1565/6–1630), traveller and writer. BACK

[12] The Encyclopedia Britannica, first published in Edinburgh 1768–1771. BACK

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August 2013