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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

928. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 28 April [1804] ⁠* 

April 28. Keswick.

Dear Tom

I expected to have had some family information to send you by this mail, but you must now be content to wait for the next. the delay will be of less import to you than to me, for I am waiting to see Edith safe [1]  that I may then speed off to London, & Harry is waiting my return to move from Edinburgh to & come here for the summer, & Miss Barker is waiting for me to call for her on the way back. I take up with me the first part of Madoc to leave with the printer, [2]  & also as much of my specimens [3]  as can be compleated here. in this the authors will be arranged chronologically according to their deaths, & I am surprized to find how many names of poets I have collected here, xxx all xxx since the the year 1685 (that of Charles 2d’s death) [4]  when I begin. they amount to 250, of whom not 100 are included in the great collection of Anderson. [5] 

You have no Madoc by this packet because Edith cannot without inconvenience stoop to the posture of writing, & I, in the daily expectation which we have been in for the last four weeks, have been working like a pack horse to get ready for my journey, [6]  having lingered over my beloved Portugueze book [7]  somewhat later than would have been prudent but for this delay.

Politics both abroad & at home become exceedingly interesting – there can be no doubt that Pichegru was murdered. [8]  the mode of suicide is physically impossible – I have made the remark & assigned the reason as soon as the first account reached us, & found the same positive inference deduced from the same argument in the Iris. [9]  no man can die by suffocation with strangulation without a struggle. the least struggle would have loosened the end of the stick, & of course relaxed the pressure. Besides there are enough reasons deducible from the circumstance of the exposure, & from the situations of Pichegru & Bonaparte to be certain that he was murdered. What will become of Moreau? [10]  & how long will this foolish & frantic tyrant be able to maintain himself? Now that he has once dipt his hands in blood there is no safety for him. he holds out no hope to France that can induce the people to tolerate another system of terror. – Our Morning Post comes with most provoking irregularity. we have just lost the debate which virtually defeated & must oust the prime Addington administration, [11]  & to night again we have been disappointed. It is very probable that this coalition will drive the King mad again. [12]  to have a ministry of his own chusing turned out by Fox & Pitt the two men whom he most hates will pr very likely overset him, & if he relapse he cannot in common decency be permitted again to appear as the Executive Power. I look ere long for a Regency. The Iris some few weeks ago recommended an Abdication as the most decent, most expedient & most impressive measure, but such a measure requires more courage & more talents & more popularity than can at present be united in any administration.

It is astonishing that Lord St Vincent should make so wretched a First Lord of the Admiralty. his blockading system may be accounted for by his rooted dislike to all the systems of the old English school – but with respect to convoys he had suffered our trade to be at the mercy of the Enemys privateers. Three & forty merchant men have been captured within three months! & we with such a navy. I abominate that man both for his public & private conduct. his blockading system is in every light absurd. we lose {in one year} more ships by the winds in consequence than we should in battle for were the enemys ports open, in ten. [13] 

From London I will send you more politics, & from better sources, for I shall be in the way of hearing much. What a change will it be from this utter solitude to such society as I fall into in London! – & yet do I look forward with far less pleasure to the society of London than to the bookstalls & booksellers shops – for in that way I have been famished here. think Tom not to have bought an old book for nine months! – I – who never in Bristol let nine days pass without carrying home a handfull!

No news of Edwards having got a ship as yet. [14]  this does not surprize me for both Rickman & John May, thro whom the application is made, are in daily expectation of hearing from me, & will not write till they do. I shall be heartily glad when he is once more on board, & should be still more so to hear the ship was ordered to the East Indies.

Charles Lloyd rode over to dinner last week. it would provoke you to see him. there was a poor madman some years ago who conceived that his soul was annihilated [15]  – some such accident must have befallen Lloyd for all his former talents are gone. he talks only on the most trivial subjects – his neighbours – the weather &c – & never two minutes together on the same. It is beyond measure wearying to be with him. he teazes you by hopping from one thing to another like a jack-a-lanthorn. [16] 

Your letter from ‘half seas over’ [17]  reached me – that by the Topaz [18] – I mean. I am now daily expecting news of your arrival at Barbadoes – & not without hope that some of my sailors may reach port. As we are beginning to be comfortably warm here you I suppose are a little too xxx hot. It would heartily rejoice me to hear you were homeward bound. do not forget my land crabs & my alligator. it would delight me to give Carlisle a live alligator. [19] 

Poor Bella [20]  is gone at last, after a very long decline, but a very easy one. no one ever suffered less.

I have lately thought of compiling a very humble but very useful volume – to collect in the course of my reading all such facts as can in any way be useful – arrange them under proper heads, & so publish them as hints for practice or experiment – in as cheap a way as possible that they may be widely circulated. if I had thought of this scheme two years ago I might now have had extracts enough for the purpose, with what Coleridge could have supplied from his Germans. [21] Cottle has published his second edition of Alfred [22]  whereof you know the history. Oh what a poemm! George Burnett has been a surgeon in the Militia & is now going to Poland as librarian to some nobleman whose name ends in ski, he knowing no Polish, no German & nothing at all about a library! – Ediths love. God bless you.



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey./ H. M. S. xxxxx Galatea/ Barbadoes/ or elsewhere/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: [partial] E/ S; [partial] E/ MAY 180; [partial] C/ 804
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s second child, Edith May, was born on 30 April 1804. BACK

[2] The poem Madoc, which Southey had written in 1797–1799 and since then had been intermittently revising. It was in fact printed in Edinburgh by James Ballantyne and published in 1805. BACK

[3] Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807), jointly edited with Grosvenor Charles Bedford, and published with Longman. BACK

[4] Charles II (1630–1685, King of Great Britain 1660–1685; DNB). BACK

[5] Robert Anderson (1749–1830; DNB), The Works of the British Poets (1792–1795), which included biographical and critical articles. The work consisted originally of thirteen volumes, to which a fourteenth was added in 1807. BACK

[6] Southey was planning a visit to London. BACK

[7] Southey’s projected ‘History of Portugal’, which was never completed. BACK

[8] Jean-Charles Pichegru (1761–1804): a French revolutionary general and victor over the Austrians and British, who became a royalist. He planned a coup d’etat in 1797, was imprisoned, escaped to Britain in 1798, and returned to Paris in August 1803 to head an uprising against Napoleon Bonaparte. Betrayed, he was arrested on 28 February 1804, and was found strangled in prison on 5 April. BACK

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

[10] Jean Moreau (1763–1813): a French revolutionary general jailed on 15 February 1804 for his supposed involvement in a royalist plot, launched from Britain, against Napoleon’s life. Moreau survived his imprisonment. BACK

[11] Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844; DNB), Prime Minister since 1801, was forced from office in May 1804 by a coalition of former enemies William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Charles James Fox and Lord Grenville. BACK

[12] George William Frederick, King George III (1738–1820; DNB) was recurrently mad. He suffered an episode of madness in 1804, and in 1811 another bout which lasted until his death. BACK

[13] In 1803 the First Lord of the Admiralty John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent (1735–1823; DNB), introduced a naval blockade of ports from Toulon to the Texel to prevent the French fleet launching an invasion of Britain. BACK

[14] Southey had heard from Lisbon, that his brother Edward was to go to sea; see Southey to John Rickman, [c. 18 March 1804], Letter 914. BACK

[15] Unidentified. BACK

[16] Meterological phenomena (ignis fatuus), also known as ‘will-o-the-wisp’ or ‘St Elmo’s fire’. BACK

[17] A maritime expression for a drunken sailor. BACK

[18] HMS Topaze was a Royal Navy 32-gun frigate, which had been built by the French in 1791 and taken into British service after being captured in 1793. BACK

[19] Thomas Southey had promised to bring some land crabs back from the West Indies; see Southey to John Rickman, 20 January 1804 (Letter 886) and Southey to John King, [1]–5 March 1804 (Letter 904). Although he kept his promise, the last of these died on the return journey; see Southey to Richard Duppa, 5 August 1806, Letter 1206. The alligator was for dissection. BACK

[20] A servant of the Southeys, her surname and dates are unknown. BACK

[21] An early reference to the project that culminated in Southey’s and Coleridge’s jointly authored volume Omniana; or Horae Otioisiores (1812). BACK

[22] The second edition of Cottle’s Alfred; an Epic Poem, in Twenty-four Books was published by Longman and Rees in 1804. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013