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288. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 18 February 1798 ⁠* 

Feby. 18th 98.

My dear Tom

You will perhaps be surprized to hear that I write this from Westgate Buildings. but thus stands the case, Edith has been unwell, & in consequence of this we are arrived here on our way to Bristol for the spring & summer.

My Mother’s trip to London did her good. she slept there only three nights & returned the fourth. I embargoed the likeness for you, but have left it in London, as these are troublesome things to carry – & there is a danger of breaking the glass. I have brought down Bedfords book [1]  for you – the Edda is ready to send [2]  – & in about five weeks – it cannot be more than six possibly – my new edition [3]  & Lloyds book [4]  will be ready to send. I will get the Magazines [5]  to go by the same parcel.

Yesterday I was at Bristol & looking over a mans shoulder at the newspaper – I was astonished to see my Uncles arrival in England. if this visit be not on account of his health it will give me very great pleasure to see him again. [6] 

On Monday last I went to Covent Garden to see Joan of Arc or the Maid of Orleans. [7]  perhaps an account of this may interest you more than any thing else I could say. it opens with a view of the town of Orleans, & a skirmish between young Talbot & Alençon & their respective soldiers. of course the English take the French flag & Alençon, wounded, is left on the ground, & carried into an alehouse close by kept by Joan & her sister {Blanch.} Some English soldiers storm the alehouse, & are proceeding to behave somewhat uncivilly to Joan & her sister when Young Talbot enters & protects them. immediately both sisters fall in love with him. (do’nt swear Tom!) they make love to him, & he prefers Blanch. Envious & enraged Joan goes conspires with Alençon & they try to poison Bl young Talbot. she is discovered – goes to a rocky desart place, & there calls up the Devil – (do’nt swear Tom!) up comes old Lucifer – red hot – hissing from hell. he gives her a compact to sign. she hesitates. the rock opens & discovers Talbot & Blanche in a bower, with Cupids hovering over them. she xxxxx xx She resolves – the & signs her name in letters which appear traced in fire as she writes them. then Beelz Lucifer gives her a banner, she proclaims her mission – takes the armour from the tomb, which falls to pieces – defeats the English, captures Talbot & her sister, & throws them into a dungeon. they escape – another battle ensues – her sword & shield break – she is taken prisoner – but pardoned at the intercession of her sister – out she rushes to the place of her incantation – & up comes Lucifer. the rock opens & discovers the mouth of hell – like a large cod fish. the mouth opens – a legion of Beelzebubs come out – & bear in Joan amid fire & flames. Tom I did not swear at all this – but I believe had you been there, you would have rapped out some most seamanly oaths.

Lloyd has at last resolved to publish his poems with Lambs, the volume will be very small – & I should suppose cannot be long in printing. [8]  it is therefore probable that this volume may be ready to send with the parcel. He is now gone to Birmingham on account of his brothers illness, who goes worse, & [MS torn] never, I fear, recover. [9] 

We had this morning a letter from Harry. it is likely [MS torn] may visit Yarmouth this spring. thus it falls out. I have two terms to keep at Grays Inn, both which may be kept in three weeks, now in the time between those two dinners, I may amuse myself by walking to see George Burnett.

Edith bore the journey very well. she desires me to inform you that she has got a Robert – commonly called a Bob – alias wig. We go to Bristol in the middle of next week – you will direct to Cottles.

God bless you – our loves.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: [in another hand] Bath Feb: nineteen 98/ T Williams/ Mr. Southey/ H.M.S. Mars/ Plymouth/ or elsewhere
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 50–52. BACK

[1] Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s translation of Musaeus (fl. c. early 6th century), The Loves of Hero and Leander (1797). BACK

[2] Amos Simon Cottle’s Icelandic Poetry, or the Edda of Saemund Translated into English Verse (Bristol, 1797), which contained a verse epistle ‘To A. S. Cottle from Robert Southey’, pp. 30–40. BACK

[3] Possibly Joan of Arc (1798). BACK

[4] Charles Lloyd’s novel Edmund Oliver (1798). BACK

[5] Possibly the Monthly Magazine, to which Southey had been contributing since 1796. However, the reference is unclear as he was also writing for the Critical Review at this time. BACK

[6] Herbert Hill’s arrival in England as a passenger on the Prince of Wales was widely announced in the London Press (e.g. The Oracle) on 17 February 1798. BACK

[7] ‘An entire new Grand Historical Ballet of Action, called Joan of Arc, or the Maid of Orleans’ was first performed at Covent Garden on Monday, 12 February 1798, so Southey attended on the first night. BACK

[8] Charles Lamb and Charles Lloyd, Blank Verse (1798). BACK

[9] James Lloyd I (1776–1853). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2011