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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1456. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 5 May 1808 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 5. 1808.

My dear Danvers

Of our journey homeward, safe arrival, & finding all well & as it should be, you have heard from Tom. Since he wrote I have been in a state of happy confusion, occasioned by the arrival of my books – two and twenty packages. Here they are at last, after so many years xxx {that} I have been wanting them, wishing for them, & yet never able to get them together, here they are gathered under together under one roof. It was only yesterday that we got them stowed away, – I have had a range of shelves {run up} along one side of the passage which connects the two houses, – from the floor to the ceiling, – that holds about 1350 volumes, & is denominated Duck Row, [1]  – tho there is only the dark end to which that name can properly be applied, those which are in the light being Drakes. There must be yet a small stand of shelves on the upper landing place, to hold about 200 which are still kicking to windward, – & to receive droppers-in. I have seven stands upon brackets in my study, which support the parchmentarians, [2]  & the carpenter is making three more, to go over the three doors in the passage, – that is, the study door, our own bed-room, & that wherein you slept. Heartily do we wish you were coming to us this summer; you would delight to see me in my glory, with all my riches round me.

My son walks barefoot, & will I think tread evenly enough on his feet; – the want of shoes will be some inconvenience xxx – but that cannot be helped. He is a beautiful boy, terribly violent, & almost unmanageable. All this he will outgrow, if it please God that he lives. I am in great favour with him, & when he & I have the book of the birds & beasts before us, I teaching him the language of all & he repeating them after me, I verily believe such a concert hath not been heard since Noah & his live stock came out of the Ark. What you hear at Exeter Change [3]  is nothing to it. Emma is the quietest of infants: there is scarcely any trouble with her, –an agreeable variety this from all her predecessors. She will be like neither brother nor sister, for her eyes are dark grey. I hear her voice so seldom & see so little of her (our nurse not having yet been called away) that I hardly think of her as one of the family, & forget her existence till she makes her appearance.

Tom suffered little inconvenience on the journey – still I believe he will have reason to repent his obstinacy in running away from King so soon. The parts do not gather strength, & he is plagued with a procidentia, [4]  which on the day that he walked much was painful, – & will no doubt become a serious complaint one day or other; – unless he stops at Bristol long enough to have it thoroughly remedied, before he goes to another ship. – I hope King has received the book; if it be not yet come it will soon.

I hope also & trust that by this time King has perceived the villainy of that portrait, [5]  & thrown it behind the fire. It looks like a sneaking, sawneying methodist parson, – the one thing in the world which is most unlike me.

Tom copied out for all that is fairly written of Kehama, [6]  & I have sent it to Lander. [7]  The offer which he made me deserved this on my part – tho & if any thing were to induce me to finish the poem, it would be because such an offer had been made me by such a man; tho of course, it is what I should not accept. If he likes it I shall make an effort to go thro the story, by writing before breakfast as I did at Westbury, & at your house; – & see when it is finished whether there be any probability of securing the fair price of so much labour, either by subscription, or sale of copy right.

Our fair weather began on May Day, exactly as it did four years ago when Edith was born, we ha are obliged to leave off fires, tho a week ago we were creeping into them. The boat is launched, & we have begun our summer cruises on the Lake. Herbert went on the water yesterday for the first time, & was not a little delighted with the stroke of the oars but he found out another amusement which not quite so well, that of throwing things out the x overboard. One of his stockings went, & it required good watching to save his leathern-cap from following it.

Harry has had his first fee – a two guinea one. He pronounced the patient to be at that time dying, & die she did in two hours: – so the Doctor lost his patient, but lost no credit. – I suppose the parcel from Bristol will soon make its appearance. Remember me to all friends, & in particular say to Mr Heincker [8]  that it will give me great pleasure to show him every thing within reach of Keswick when he comes this way.

God bless you –

yours affectionately

Robert Southey


Notes

* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol/ Single
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 62–64 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey named his more dilapidated books ‘ducks’. BACK

[2] That is, Southey’s valuable manuscripts. BACK

[3] A menagerie on the Strand, London. BACK

[4] A prolapsed rectum. BACK

[5] Perhaps the portrait made by James Sharples (1751–1811) in 1795, which shows Southey in profile, hair short, plainly dressed, as if about to address someone. BACK

[6] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[7] For this, see Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 2 May 1808, Letter 1455. BACK

[8] Untraced. BACK

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August 2013