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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

978. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 12 September 1804 ⁠* 

Dear Tom

It is a heartless & hopeless thing to write letter after letter when there seems so little probability of their ever reaching you. How the Devil it is that all your letters seem to find me, & none of mine to find you I cannot comprehend. I write & write & write always directing Barbadoes or elsewhere – & suppose that according to direction they go any where elsewhere than to the Galatea. [1]  Patience! & once more to tell you what I have already told you in half a score letters. All well. Edith, the Edithling, Harry & myself. the young Edith is four months old, a thriving, good natured, lively girl, of whom you would be very fond. What will surprize you Edith is actually growing fat, – my own skin & bones remain in the same state as you left them, but bating an occasional diabetes, I am in sound health. my intention is, God willing, to remain here till another year, & in the autumn of 1805 to go once more to Lisbon, & there remain one two or three years, till my history be well & effectually compleated. [2]  Meantime these are my employments; to finish the correction & printing of Madoc, [3]  to get thro my Annual work of reviewing – & to bring my history as far onward as possible. In the press I have 1. Metrical Tales & other poems – being merely a corrected republication of my best pieces from the Anthology. [4]  2. Specimens of the Later English Poets – i.e. – of all who have died from 1685 to 1800. this is meant as a supplement to George Ellis’s Specimens of the Early Poets, a book which you may remember at Bristol. [5]  It will xxx fill two volumes in crown octavo – the size of Ritsons English Romances [6]  if you recollect them. 3. Madoc. in quarto. whereof 22 sheets are printed. one more finishes the first part, which ends with his return to America, formerly xxx contained in six books, now split & enlarged into 18 sections – 1150 lines having been added. the most important of these additions were copied out in three letters for you by Edith – & all went either to the French or to the Sharks. Of how many sections the second part may consist I cannot yet tell. I expect to finish the 15th this evening, bringing me to the end of the old tenth book, about 1100 lines have been inserted between the old 7th & 8th, & there are yet about 500 of new story to be introduced. in about two months my work will be done. Mr Ballantyne my Scotch Printer will do his by Xmas. he printed the Minstrelsy of the Scotish Border [7]  which perhaps you saw at Bristol. the vignettes are these – one in the title page designed as emblematic of the main matter of the Poem, a Cross planted upon a rock, a palm tree hanging over it, & a spring gushing at its foot. the motto in hoc signo, [8]  in – or under this sign or banner. then each of the two parts will have a separate black letter half title (i.e. a title page in every respect except that neither my name, nor the publisher appear) for the first Pocock has drawn Madocs ship making to land, the ship copied from one of William the Conqueror, going out with a fair breeze. for the second a Great Snake, some 25 feet long, sunning himself at the mouth of a Cavern. [9]  This Snake, who is a God, I have killed very ingeniously. do you remember the cave in Lea Woods? [10]  with the chasm above – the opening in the second or inner chamber? such a cave with such a sky light have I given this snake for his temple – & then dropt down a great stone upon him just to break his back & fasten him down. To the notes, I design a fourth half title with a groupe of armour Welsh & Azteca – for the notes are to be all printed at the end. How am I to send you out a copy? will it not be the best way to consign it to some Bristol Merchants agents? which can easily be done. Tobin could send it to Nevis, [11]  if that lies at all within your reach. Probably by the time you can answer this question the volume will be ready to send. – Harry, as you should ere then have learnt either from himself or me, has been here since the beginning of July & will yet remain about six weeks longer. We mountaineerify together, & bathe together, & go on the lake together, & have contrived to pass a delightful summer. Edward set off to go on board the Salvador del Mundo [12]  about two months ago, there to remain till Admiral Colpoys [13]  shipped him off to some foreign station. he has since written to let me know his arrival. Dr Thomas has given him money to fit himself out with so little discretion that he makes that & his expences for a month xxx amount to 140£! I have put my Uncles affairs into a Lawyers hand & trust that they will now be managed xxx with more prudence & more care, for the Dr has most scandalously suffered them to go to wreck & ruin, neither acting like a friend, nor a man of business. Thus you have all the family news.

Wynn left us this morning. he came with Saxton xx a son of the Portsmouth commissioner [14]  & we made a pleasant four days. I expect Duppa every day. Your old friends Mr and Mrs Halliday [15]  are on a visit to Colonel Peachey here, who lives on the Island. we dined there a few days ago, & they claimed acquaintance with me on the strength of their acquaintance with you. I mean to write by them to Aunt Molly-Melinda, & tell her how we are all going on in the world. To the old Gentleman I think of sending Madoc in a respectable cover, carriage paid, & to announce its coming in a frank. I shall give him in the letter the latest news of you & see how he will take it, as probably he will think fit to acknowledge the book, if he chuses to accept it as I suppose he will. the volume will be exceedingly handsome – of course his will be a large paper copy – & it may flatter him to see the family name appear so respectably.

I am learning Dutch – & wish you were here to profit by my lessons at the breakfast table & to Mynheerify [16]  with me, as you like the language. my reason for attaining this language is that as the Dutch conquered, or rather destroyed the Portugueze empire in Asia, the history of the downfall of that empire is of course more fully related by Dutch than by Portugueze historians. how get you on with your Spanish? I am thinking that if peace take place & you get paid off while we are at Lisbon (which God grant) that you may join us there, & in that case you will find Spanish may soon change into Portugueze – so think of that, & let it be an additional motive for going on. – You ask for politics. I can tell you little; – but as for invasion it still continues the same humbug & bugbear as when it was first bruited abroad to gull the people on both sides the water. Bonaparte dare not attempt. would to God he did, defeat would be certain & his ruin inevitable. as it is he must lose reputation by threatening what he cannot execute, & I believe that the Bourbons will finally be restored. At home politics look excellently well. the coalition of Fox & the Grenvilles [17]  has been equally honourable to all parties, & produced the best possible effect, in rooting out the last remains of that political violence which for many years so divided the country. The death of the King, [18]  or another fit of madness which is very probable, or his abdication which most people think would be very proper, or the declining health of Pitt, [19]  or the actual strength of the opposition, are things singly or collected of which every one is very likely to bring this coalition to power, & in that case neither you nor I should want friends. So live in hope, as you have good cause to do. steer clear of the sharks & the land-crabs, & be sure that we shall both of us one day be as well off as we could.

The Hallidays are visiting Colonel Peachey whose wife I find was also of Bishops Lediard [20]  a Miss Charter. both she & her sister knew you well by name & all your Taunton friends. We are getting upon excellently good terms, for they are very pleasant & truly womanly women, which is the best praise that can be bestowed upon woman. Will you not laugh & cry zounds to hear that I have actually been employed all this evening in making arrangements for a subscription ball at Keswick? I – very I – your brother R.S. to what vile purposes may we come! It was started by Harry & Miss Charter [21]  at the theatre (for we have a strolling company at an alehouse here) – & he & I & General Peche [22]  have settled it – & all Cumberland will now envy the gaieties of Keswick. Mrs General [23]  insisted upon my opening the ball with her – I advised her as she was for performing impossibilities to begin with turning the wind – before she could hope to turn me – so I shall sup my tea, & talk with the old folks some hour or so – & then steal home to write Madoc – drink my solitary glass of punch – & get to bed at a good Xtianlike hour – as my father, & no doubt his fathers, did before me. Oh Tom that you were but here – for in truth we lead as pleasant a life as heart of man could wish. I have not for many years taken such constant exercise as this summer. Some friend or acquaintance or other is perpetually making his appearance – & out then go I to lacquey them on the lake or over the mountains. by the Lord I shall get a character for politeness!

I have so far altered my original plan of the history to resolve upon not introducing the Life of St Francesco [24]  & the chapters therewith connected, but to reserve them for xxx a separate History of Monachism, which will make a very interesting & amusing work. a good honest quarto may comprise it. the whole historical labours will then consist of three separate works. 1. Hist. of Portugal – the European part, 3 Vols. 2. Hist. of the Portugueze Empire in Asia 2 or 3 Vols. 3. Hist of Brazil. 4. Hist. of the Jesuits & Japan. 5. Literary History of Spain & Portugal. 2 Vols. 6. Hist of Monachism. In all 10 – 11 – or 12 quarto volumes & you cannot easily imagine with what pleasure I look at all this labour before me. [25]  God give me life – health – eyesight – & as much leisure as even now I have – & done it shall be.

God bless you.

Sept 12. 1804. I send this off in the middle of a month – to see if it will have a better chance [26] 


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Galatea./ Barbadoes/ Or Elsewhere/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ SEP 17/ 1804
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 302–306 [in part]. BACK

[1] Thomas Southey’s ship, HMS Galatea, a fifth-rate 32-gun frigate. BACK

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

[3] Southey was correcting proofs of Madoc (1805) while still revising sections of the manuscript not yet sent to the printer. BACK

[4] Southey’s poems from the Annual Anthology (1799–1800) reappeared in his Metrical Tales and Other Poems (1805). BACK

[5] Southey’s Specimens of the Later English Poets, which he jointly edited with Grosvenor Bedford, was published with Longman in 1807 as a companion to George Ellis’s, Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790, 2nd edn. 1801, 3rd edn. 1803). BACK

[6] Joseph Ritson (1752–1803; DNB), Ancient Engleish Metrical Romanceës (1802). BACK

[7] Walter Scott, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802). BACK

[8] Meaning ‘in this sign’, alluding to the early Christian tradition that the Emperor Constantine I (272–337) had a vision of the sun with a cross above it and the words ‘εν τούτῳ νίκα’ (meaning ‘by this, may you conquer’), which is often translated in Latin as ‘In hoc signo vinces’. Constantine adopted the phrase for his battle standards. BACK

[9] Madoc (1805) has only three illustrations: the engraved titlepage with Wynn’s shield upon a trophée; the palm and cross upon the rock (after the Table of Contents); and the snake before the cave, engraved on the titlepage for the second part, ‘Madoc in Aztlan’ (bound incorrectly after 320 instead of after 184). It is probable that the image of the ship by Nicholas Pocock (1740–1821; DNB) was omitted because Southey was displeased with the vessel’s anachronistic modernity; see Southey to Joseph Cottle, 25 August 1805, Letter 1097. BACK

[10] Leigh Woods, on the Avon gorge, near Clifton, Bristol. The cave is now part of the grounds of Burwalls, a large house currently used as a conference centre by the University of Bristol. BACK

[11] An island in the Caribbean Sea, located near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, about 350 km east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 80 km west of Antigua. BACK

[12] HMS Salvador del Mundo was a 112-gun ship of the line, captured from the Spanish at the battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797. BACK

[13] John Colpoys (c. 1742–1821; DNB), British naval officer who achieved notoriety for inciting the mutiny at Spithead in 1797. He was promoted to full Admiral in 1801 and appointed as Commander-in-Chief at Plymouth in 1803. In 1804 he gave up his command to take a seat in the Admiralty. BACK

[14] A son of Sir Charles Saxton Bart (1732–1808): Resident Commissioner of his Majesty’s Navy at Portsmouth. BACK

[15] Unidentified. BACK

[16] Dutch title of respect, originating in the phrase ‘Du mijn heer’ meaning ‘my lord’. BACK

[17] The followers of William Wyndham, Baron Grenville, who had formed a political coalition with Charles James Fox. BACK

[18] George III (1738–1820, King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB). BACK

[19] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806. BACK

[20] Bishop’s Lydeard: a town near Taunton, Somerset. BACK

[21] The sister of Emma Peachy, her first name and dates are unknown. BACK

[22] John Peche (dates unknown), who had served in the East India Company’s army, gazetted as Colonel in 1796 and Major-General in 1798. BACK

[23] The wife of General Peche; her first name and dates are unknown. BACK

[24] St Francis of Assisi (Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone; 1181/1182–1226): the founder of the Order of Friars Minor, more commonly known as the Franciscans. BACK

[25] Only the History of Brazil, of these projected works, was finished and published, in 1810–1819. BACK

[26] This postscript is written at the top of the first page of the letter. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013