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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

891. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 31 January 1804 ⁠* 

Tuesday. Jany 31. 1804.

Dear Tom

If I had not taken it for granted that you were long ere this beyond the reach of these wet winds, you should of course have heard from me. so strongly was I convinced of this that I have been twice on the point of writing to Barbadoes, when some other letters that required reply have come in & prevented me – & I had now vowed a vow unto the Lord not to let the week pass without doing it.

From this uttermost end of the North it will not be easy, or indeed possible to send any thing to the West Indies except what will go in compass of a letter – else you should have the Irises [1]  bundled up for you. But Danvers can send off by merchant ship an occasional parcel, & when I have any books to venture, he shall buy, beg, borrow or steal newspapers to accompany them.

My plan for Madoc stands thus at present, that Longman shall risque all expences & share the eventual profit, printing it in quarto & with engravings – for I am sure the book will sell the better for being made expensive. Miss Barker will make the drawings, which will be chiefly designed to set the dresses, weapons & other unusualities more vividly before his eyes than probably his own imagination could do. Having now thank God cleared off all my Annual reviewing [2]  (oh Tom such a batch! almost as much again as last years rabble) I am now for a while at full leisure & of course direct it principally to Madoc, [3]  that that may be off my hands – for I should not be willing to leave the world till I have left that in a fair state behind me. I am now finishing the 14th section – the Battle which you received being the 6th. [4]  If no unforeseen event disturb me, it will be finished by the end of spring & published in the ensuing winter. The farther I may advance the better I am pleased & as you may suppose the more rapidly I get on. We will send you the series on in letters, directed Barbadoes or elsewhere, tho Edith will not be able to lend a hand long – as she expects to be confined in April. [5]  Whether or no I rejoice at this it would not be easy to say – I should much rejoice to have, but now shall fear so much to lose – that perhaps the balance is on the wrong side. Of that no more. we must take things as they come, & I shall never make wry faces, be my cup what it may.

They tell me that Walter Scott has reviewed Amadis in the Edinburgh review, [6]  to what purport I know not, but probably a favourable one, if it be his doing, for he is a man whose taste accords with mine, & who, tho we have never seen each other, knows that I respect him, as I know that he on his part respects me. The same friendly job has been performed in the Critical at last for Thalaba, by William Taylor, this too I have not seen. [7]  Arthur Aikin writes me word that the Annual (or what he calls our Review) succeeded beyond expectations. of 2000 copies, 1200 have sold (tho its delayed appearance, & the great alarm of politics at its publication & almost ever since have been exceedingly unfavourable –) & the demand continues still unabated, he had received many congratulatory letters on its execution. Unless he & Longman flatter, they look upon me as one of their main pillars – in fact I believe myself to be their left arm allowing Wm Taylor to be the right. this year I have had books that demanded more severity – but you will see better articles than were in the former volume. look in particular when you get the book for the History of the Methodists, & the Essay on Population. [8] 

As for politics Tom we that live among the mountains, as the old woman said do never hear a word of news. this talk of war with Spain I do not believe, & I am at last come round to the opinion that no invasion is designed x but that the sole object of Bonaparte is to exhaust our finances, booby! not remembering that a national bankruptcy, while it ruins individuals makes the state rich. One person in twenty (take a very large proportion by guess) would be affected & perhaps one in a hundred ruined, the rest all so much the richer as the whole xxxxxxx of taxes to pay that interest would be taken off. how long the present Duncery may go on God knows. I am no enemy to it, for they mean well, – but in this broil with the Volunteers they are wrong, & dangerously wrong as far as regards their own popularity. [9]  I wish every Volunteer would lay down his arms – being fully convinced that in case of necessity he would take them up again – but this attempt to increase the system of patronage by depriving them of their covenanted right of electing their own officers, is rascally & abominable. The elections universally made show that the choice always falls upon men who have either the claim of property, character, or talents. – Of more permanent political importance will be a circumstance of which there is no talk at all. Inquiries are making into the actual state of the poor in England – an office has been established for the purpose & the superintendance by Rickmans recommendation assigned to Poole, Coleridges friend of whom you must have heard me speak, a man of extraordinary powers, more akin in mind to Rickman than any one whom I know. This is a very gratifying circumstance to me to see so many persons with whom I became acquainted before the world did rising in the world to their proper stations.

The Edinburgh Reviewers have received a severe & almost deadly blow from John Thelwall, who now lectures upon Elocution, & is beyond all exception the most egregious coxcomb in existence. In reviewing a book of his they have had the villainy not merely to misrepresent but even to forge quotations, for the purpose of abusing & ridiculing him. he has published a pamphlet & proves these facts most victoriously, addressed by name to Jeffray the reviewer. [10]  his pamphlet is foolishly written, but brings the charge so home that Jeffray certainly ought to be sent to Coventry, & cut off from commerce with all men of honour & honesty. – Godwins Life of Chaucer is a vile catchpenny compilation. I am sorry it fell to my lot to abuse it for tho I do not like such an ugly dull fellow, nor can ever tolerate his company – still less do I like to be his executioner. [11]  all I could do was to plaister his back with a little traumatic praise after I had laid on the cat-a-nine tails. –

Ediths love. no news of Edward – he must be with his wise Aunt of course. – Huzza! a negro commonwealth in St Domingo! [12]  upon my soul I know of no earthly event that would have given me so deep & pure a joy

God bless you.


Notes

* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Galatea/ Cove of Cork/ or elsewhere/ Single./ [inserted in another hand] Barbadoes
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmarks: FE/ 6 /1804; S/ FEB 26/ 1804; SCE/ 13/ 1804
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. 254–256 [in part]. BACK

[1] The Iris; or, Norwich and Norfolk Weekly Advertiser was the Norwich newspaper edited, from 1803–1804, by Southey’s friend William Taylor. BACK

[2] Southey reviewed, in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804): James Burney, A Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean ... Illustrated with Charts (Vol. 1; 1803), 3–12; James Stanier Clarke (1766–1834; DNB), The Progress of Maritime Discovery, from the Earliest Period to the Close of the Eighteenth Century, Forming an Extensive System of Hydrography (1803), 12–20; James Curtis (dates unknown), A Journal of Travels in Barbary in 1801 ... With Observations on the Gum Trade of Senegal (1803), 20–23; Louis Maria Joseph, Count O’Hier de Grandpré (1761–1846), A Voyage in the Indian Ocean, and to Bengal ... To Which is Added a Voyage in the Red Sea, Including a Description of Mocha, and of the Trade of the Arabs of Yemen (1803), 48–54; John Davis (1774–1854), Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States of America, During 1798, 1799, 1800, 1801, and 1802 (1803), 54–59; Lockhart Muirhead (dates unknown), Journals of Travels in Parts of the Late Austrian Low Countries, France, the Pays de Vaud and Tuscany in 1787 and 1789 (1803), 59–63; Charles William Doyle (1770–1842), A Non-Military Journal; Or, Observations Made in Egypt, by an Officer upon the Staff of the British Army: Describing the Country, its Inhabitants, their Manners and Customs (1803), 63–66; William Wittman (fl. 1799–1804), Travels in Turkey, Asia Minor, Syria, and Across the Desert into Egypt During the Years 1799, 1800, and 1801, in Company with the Turkish Army and the British Military Mission (1803), 66–71; [Ann Blund (dates unknown)], Journal of a Short Excursion among the Swiss Landscapes (1803), 79–80; Isaac King (dates unknown), Letters from France (1803), 88–90; 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), 187; Transactions of the Missionary Society (Vol. 1, 1803), 189–201; William Myles (1756–1828), A Chronological History of the People called Methodists ... With an Appendix, Containing Two Lists of the Itinerant Preachers ... With the Last Will and Testament of the Rev. J. Wesley (1803), 201–213; Thomas Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society; with Remarks on the Speculations of W. Godwin, M. Condorcet and Other Writers (1803), 292–301; William Godwin, Life of Geoffrey Chaucer ... Including Memoirs of ... John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; with Sketches of the Manners, Opinions, Arts and Literature of England in the Fourteenth Century (1803), 462–473; George Mason (1735–1806; DNB), The Life of Richard Earl Howe (1803), 499–501; Joseph Ritson (1752–1803; DNB), Ancient Engleish Metrical Romanceës (1802), 515–533; George Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets (3rd edn 1803), 538–542; Richard Mant (1776–1848; DNB), The Poetical Works of the Late Thomas Warton (1802), 543–546; William Hayley (1745–1820; DNB), The Life and Posthumous Writings of William Cowper, Esq. (1803), 457–462; Peter Bayley (bap. 1778–1823; DNB), Poems (1803), 546–552; Henry Kirke White, Clifton Grove, a Sketch in Verse, with other Poems (1803), 552–554; Josiah Walker (d. 1831), The Defence of Order, a Poem (1803), 557; The Inquiry. Part 1, 557–558; William Barnes Rhodes (1772–1826; DNB), Epigrams (1803), 558; James Woodhouse (bap. 1735–1820), Norbury Park, a Poem with Several Others Written on Various Occasions (1803), 558; Henry William Tytler (1752/3–1808), The Voyage Home from the Cape of Good Hope (1803), 559; Luke Booker (1762–1835; DNB), Calista, or a Picture of Modern Life, a Poem (1803), 564; D. A. G. B. Cassano (dates unknown), Il Fiore della Poesia Italiana (1802), 562–563; Percy Clinton Sydney, 6th Viscount Strangford (1780–1855; DNB), Poems from the Portuguese of Luis de Camoens (1803), 569–577; William Lisle Bowles, The Picture, Verses Suggested by a Magnificent Landscape of Rubens (1803), 582; John Peter Roberdeau (bap. 1754–1815), Fugitive Verse and Prose (1803), 582–583; George Owen Cambridge (d. 1841), Works of Richard Owen Cambridge, Esq. with an Account of his Life and Character (1803), 583–585; Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker, Baroness de Staël-Holstein (1766–1817), A Treatise of Ancient and Modern Literature (tr. 1803), 643–650; Asiatic Researches; or Transactions of the Society Instituted in Bengal for Enquiring into the History and Antiquities, the Arts, Science and Literature of Asia (vol. VII, 1803), 898–908. BACK

[3] Southey’s poem Madoc, which he had written in 1797–1799 and was revising for publication. It was published in 1805. BACK

[4] This became Madoc (1805), Part 1, Book 7. BACK

[5] Edith May Southey was born on 30 April 1804. BACK

[6] Walter Scott reviewed Southey’s translation of Amadis the Gaul (1803) in the Edinburgh Review, 5 (October 1803), 109–136. BACK

[7] William Taylor reviewed Southey’s poem Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) in the Critical Review, 2nd series, 39 (December 1803), 369–379. BACK

[8] See note 2. BACK

[9] The government wished to bring the Volunteers (civilian local defence units that set their own rules) under its control, not least because membership exempted a man from service in the militia or army reserve. BACK

[10] In 1804, Thelwall published a Letter to Francis Jeffrey on Certain Calumnies and Misrepresentations in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ accusing Francis Jeffrey of leading an attempt to break up his lecture in Edinburgh, and of misrepresenting his poetryin the Edinburgh Review, 3 (April 1803), 197–202. BACK

[11] Southey refers to his review in the Annual; see note 2. BACK

[12] Having defeated French forces in November 1803, the black general and former slave, Jean Jacques Dessalines (1758–1806), declared the former French colony’s independence on 1 January 1804, renaming it Haiti. BACK

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August 2013