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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1301. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [started before and continued on] 30 March 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

I have desired Our Fathers which are in the Row [1]  to send you a book which you will not like much, & whi but which, were it even less interesting to you, it is fitting that you should have as being mine. [2]  It is abominably incorrect, & Grosvenor Bedford has played the very Devil with his absurd omissions & more absurd insertions. He has taken more liberties with what I had actually done, than I should have thought it decent to have taken with him. There is no help for this – only that I have ordered some cancels for the sake of public decency, – & that it is very likely there must be a supplementary volume. [3]  You need not however tell people that it is a bad book – they will find out soon enough themselves. The printing is beyond any thing execrable.

I have something to tell you with which you will not be pleased. In consequence of some arrangements of Coleridge it became necessary that I should either resolve upon quitting the place at a given time, or of remaining with it. The latter suited me best – it was in fact the only choice to be made – & here then we have resolved to remain indefinitely – to fit up the house more decently & to gather together the books. As soon as the weather permits the plastering is to be done, – & as soon as that is done I shall give xxx give you your last trouble with the books which will be to ship them off for Whitehaven or Workington, – taking out one tea chest full of the most valuable for fear of accidents. We are just beginning to inclose the garden where we shall plant shrubs &c – & heartily do I wish that you were here to be chief Gardener out of doors & headman in the improvements within.

Mrs Coleridge is on her way to Bristol with the two younger children [4]  – she will bring the pattern of a certain marble paper, of which I will thank you to get me four quire at Barry’s, [5]  – if he have not so much he can get it. You will wonder at so large an order, – but the truth is we conceive that it will make a very good bordering for a room, & be much cheaper as well as much prettier than any to be obtained here.

It is my full intent to see you in the latter end of the year, God willing, – & you must make up your mind the first summer you can, to revisit Keswick & see all the things which you left unseen – Sir Dominie is gone for Lisbon. I shall miss him when we launch the boat, & very often envy him.

Heaven knows when the intolerable delays of the printer will let Espriella [6]  appear! I have not three days work to do {to} it, – & am hurrying him thro every possible channel, – for fear you know lest another translation should appear first. I am hastening towards the end of Palmerin, & shall feel a great weight off my shoulders when it is done. [7]  Another book that for you, which you will not like – but I pray you remember that I do not expect you to read it.

Edith goes on well, & Herbert is growing a very fine boy. He is plagued with an eruption on his head, which is very ugly, & teazes him much with itching, but I know not whether we ought to be sorry that it is there. At least Edmundson advises us to repel it – wherein he agrees with Dr Underwood, [8]  whose book I have bought, & with my own opinion, – we keep it clean by washing it twice a day with butter & beer, & that is all we do. The little Tartar has eyes as fit for the Grand Khan as Ediths would be for his favourite Sultana, but they are of the finest colour that can be conceived, & he begins to get very kissable.

Rex is right. I am he that is greater than Miller in the Athenæum – which he of course knew by the Rats. [9]  I dare say my quaintness annoys no one so much as Dr Aikin, – that family has a dread of any thing out of their own way – they are as much afraid of it as a cat is of wetting her feet. I will lay my life that I do not feel half so much satisfaction in putting one of my odd things into a reviewal, as King Arthur does in drawing his expurgatorical pen thro it. It would move any Christians heart to confession – yea it would set free set a very Jobs gall bladder in fermentation [10]  could it be told how {unrelentingly} that said King Arthur has caponized the Cocks of my conceit. [11]  I look at my own articles when the volume comes down, & feel upon the perusal – just as I should do if when calling for a glass of soda water I found the footman had drawn all the corks half an hour before dinner – for fears the bottle should burst. Oh he is a cruel King Arthur – & he serves William Taylor just as he serves me –

Your information concerning Miss Scott [12]  is the first which I have heard since her return to England. What is her complaint supposed to be? It could not surely be consumption – or she could not have lasted so long?

Count Burnetski flourishes as an author. his Polish letters are to extended to a little volume which Longman prints, & his Specimens are very likely to form a very respectable book. [13]  – Thank God for the Abolition! but Lord Percys motion ought to have been supported – I have addresst a sonnet to him upon it which you will firstsoon see in the Courier. [14]  About the Catholick question I compleatly agree with the King. [15]  Upon this subject I suppose Coleridge & I differ from the other friends of freedom, but I have been deeply concerned that that accursed religion cannot be in the slightest degree fostered without great danger; – & that Europe is about to be as strikingly divided into two great religious-political parties as it was in the days of the Palatine is very probable.

____

Monday March 30. – This evenings post enables me to give you some information concerning myself. Wynn did his best to snatch something for me out of the fire – as he says. He could get only the offer of a place in the West Indies worth about 600£ a year, [16]  – or a pension of 200£ (as a man of letters) at home x – the latter he chose – before my answer [17]  could reach him, which answer he rightly divined. Fees & xxx Taxes take away one fifth of this – I remain therefore with a net income of 160, – the precise sum which I have hitherto received from him – & that of course I receive no longer, now that it is no longer needful, – Are you not amused at my getting a pension from his Majesty? –– I am therefore neither richer nor poorer than before – but better satisfied, – & peace will give me an additional 20 pounds – which is a reason for wishing for it. Will you procure some Jerusalem – or underground – artichokes & give Miss Fricker to send with the things to her sister – I want to set them in the garden, & there are none to be had here –

God bless you

RS


Notes

* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ APR 2/ 1807
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 414–417 [in part].
Dating note: Warter dates the letter 2 March 1807; it was written over several days. BACK

[1] The firm of Longmans of Paternoster Row. BACK

[2] Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[3] Although planned, a supplementary volume never appeared. BACK

[5] Bartholomew Barry (dates unknown), of 21 High Street, was Southey’s favourite Bristol bookseller and stationer; he frequently sent Danvers orders for books to be supplied by Barry. BACK

[6] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). It was being printed by Richard Taylor (1781–1858; DNB). BACK

[7] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[8] Michael Underwood (1737–1820; DNB), A Treatise on the Diseases of Children (1784; with many further editions). BACK

[9] King had recognised as Southey’s a piece in the ‘Omniana’ section of the Athenæum; A Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information (February 1807), p. 138, which suggested novel ways of diminishing the rat population: eating them as a delicacy; using their fur in clothing; inoculating them with smallpox. Southey was ‘greater than Miller’ in the sense that his jokes were cornier than those of Joe Miller, putative author of a famous joke book: Joseph Miller (1684–1738), was a popular comic actor on the London stage from 1709 until his death, after which the publisher T. Read issued Joe Miller’s Jestbook, compiled by the hack writer John Mottley (1692–1750). Many further editions appeared, and ‘a Joe Miller’ became shorthand for a bad joke. BACK

[10] Meaning that even the biblical character, Job, who remained steadfast to God despite the extreme tests sent to try his patience, would be galled by such treatment. BACK

[11] By ‘caponized’ Southey means castrated. BACK

[12] Unidentified. BACK

[13] View of the Present State of Poland (1807); from essays originally published in the Monthly Magazine. Specimens of English Prose Writers (1807); a companion to George Ellis’s Specimens of the Early English Poets. BACK

[14] On 17 March Hugh Percy, Earl Percy (1785–1847; DNB) had launched a motion in parliament proposing the gradual abolition of slavery in Britain’s Caribbean colonies. The poem was published in The Courier on 22 April 1807 and is included in Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, vol. V, Selected Shorter Poems, ed. Lynda Pratt (London, 2004), pp. 426–427. BACK

[15] The so-called Ministry of All the Talents, of which Wynn was a member, fell in March 1807 because the King would not accede to its plan to introduce an act emancipating Catholics from the civil penalties and restrictions placed upon them. BACK

[16] The post of Register of the Vice-Admiralty Court of St. Lucia. BACK

[17] See Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [25 March 1807], Letter 1298. BACK

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August 2013