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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1235. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 6 November 1806 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

It is so likely that you may see Tom on his road hitherward before a letter from me could reach him, that my motive for writing this evening rather than awhile hence, is to beg you to send the Missionary Reports of both sorts, [1]  by him rather than in the box: they will come sooner, & I want them as soon as they can come. I should also be glad of half a quire of marble paper (glazed) xxx of four or five different sorts. [2] 

When I mentioned putting up shelves I thought that only those books which were damp would be taken out of the boxes. It will be necessary to keep the door locked – & then they will be safe – but I hope the mice will not get at them. In the spring most certainly I hope to settle them somewhere or other.

Coleridge is come [3]  & grown quite fat, – a good symptom as it is the habit of his family.

These elections make the newspapers very amusing. Had I a vote for Westminster, much as I abominate travelling, I would go up for the pure pleasure of giving it that honest Paull against that thorough scoundrel Sheridan, [4]  – a scoundrel who for the last twenty years of his life has had nothing to keep him from utter infamy but his supposed political consistency, & who has now compleatly forfeited that, & thrown away the last rag that {which} covered the nakedness of his rascality. – It is said & with much probability that the main reason for the dissolution was to get Paull out & so put a stop to proceedings against Marquis Wellesley, means having been taken to prevent him from getting a borough, which was easily enough accomplished, all parties joining against a man who was too honest to belong to any. I certainly wish his charges had affected any other man rather than the Marquis, – because had it not been for that pending accusation I believe he would have succeeded to Fox, [5]  – & tho the best thing for the national character would be to mark him with the heavy hand of disgrace for his manifold iniquities in the East, the best thing under the circumstances for the government would be to make him Minister, he being a man of great abilities, & as ambitious as Bonaparte himself. Just such a man do we want to have at the head of affairs, – one who would say to Bonaparte if you will have all the continent we will have all the colonies – if you will exclude us from the land we will exclude you from the seas. Who would throw open the ports of Spanish & Portugueze America, take the Mauritius & other French Isles in the East – expel them from the West Indies, make Sicily English, take Sardinia under our protection, & garrison Alexandria. If he cannot be sent over in chains to India & hung in the presence of the Embassador from the court of every native prince, & then his skin strippt & sent round the country, – I would give him the reins at home.

There is a grievous & total want of talent not merely in administration but in the whole legislation, & that necessarily arising from the formation of the house of commons. Vide Espriella when he makes his appearance. [6]  Meantime the effect produced by such men as Robson [7]  & Paull, so below par as they are in their abilities, by mere dint of unimpeachable honesty, & plain straight-forward good intentions is highly consolatory. For his own sake I wish Fox had died twelvemonths sooner, – otherwise I am not sure whether the sacrifice which he made of his character was not desirable for the country. It has taught the country the true meaning of parties, & the no-meaning of all the obsolete words – Whig & Tory.

Rd Taylor [8]  goes on so slowly with Espriella that if he does not spur me I must even spur him – Do’nt expect over much from the book or you will be disappointed; – not that I am not myself well pleased with it, for I like well what is done, – but this is the inevitable consequence of over-expectations. Can you procure for me in Bristol (I have tried in London without success) Whitfields Journal, [9]  & the Life of Alexander Kilham, the founder of the New Methodists? [10]  Both books are what they call out of print, – but both likely enough to be found second-hand. I wish very much to xxx get them, as they [?are] the only document I want for those letters in Espr. which relate to the state of religion in England, – perhaps the most curious part of the book. [11] 

Edith & both the children [12]  go on well. We know not whether Coleridge means to lecture, [13]  nor how long he means to remain at home, – his plans & purpose being as vague & weathercockical as ever –

God bless you

RS.

Thursday Nov 6. 1806

If it could be so managed I should like to meet Tom at Kendal & go with him to the Caves [14] 


Notes

* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ NOV10/ 1806
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey is referring to the Transactions of the Missionary Society and the Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society. The Transactions of the Missionary Society were first issued as separate numbers, each dealing with a specific mission, from 1798 onwards. They were gathered into volumes, the first including the transactions for the years 1795–1802 in the Pacific and South Africa, the second, of 1804, beginning with further South African transactions. The Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society were published as a periodical from 1793 and then bound in volumes between 1800–1817. BACK

[2] From Bartholomew Barry (dates unknown), a Bristol bookseller and stationer. Southey frequently sent Danvers orders to be supplied by Barry. BACK

[3] Coleridge had travelled abroad to Malta for his health in 1804, taking up a temporary post there as Public Secretary to the British Civil Commissioner. He arrived back in England in August 1806, and came back to Keswick in October, but did not live there for long. BACK

[4] James Paull (1770–1808; DNB), Indian trader (1790–1805) and radical politician, who stood for Westminster in the general election of November 1806, against Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816; DNB), the famous radical Whig, and Sir Samuel Hood (1762–1814; DNB) for the Tories. Sheridan (the son of an Irish actor) had most to fear from Paull’s challenge, and he allied himself with Hood, hypocritically concentrating on Paull’s humble origins as the son of a tailor in order to defeat him. BACK

[5] That is, as Foreign Secretary. BACK

[6] See Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella: Translated from the Spanish (1807), Letter 48. BACK

[7] Richard Bateman Robson (1753–1827), MP for Okehampton, a radical Whig. BACK

[8] Richard Taylor (1781–1858; DNB), printer and naturalist, who would go on to establish the publishing firm of Taylor and Francis with his son William Francis (1817–1904; DNB) in 1852. BACK

[9] George Whitefield (1714–1770; DNB), Calvinistic Methodist leader, whose Journals were published in an unauthorised version in 1738. The authorised version, The Two First Parts of Whitefield’s Life, with his Journals Revised, Corrected and Abridged, appeared in 1756. Whitefield is discussed in Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella: Translated from the Spanish (1807), Letter 53. BACK

[10] The autobiographical Life of Alexander Kilham (1762–1798), founder of the ‘methodist new connection’, was first published in 1799. BACK

[11] Letter 53 of Letters from England discussed the Methodists. BACK

[13] Southey had previously informed Danvers that Coleridge intended to lecture ‘at the Royal Institution upon the Principles common to the Fine Arts’; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 18 October 1806, Letter 1229. He did not in fact lecture there until 1808, on the subject of the Principles of Poetry, Shakespeare and Milton. BACK

[14] Kendal is a starting point for a tour of the limestone dales of the Lancashire/Yorkshire border, which contain many caves, including Yordas cave, described by Wordsworth in The Prelude (1850), Book VIII, 560–589. BACK

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August 2013