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353. Robert Southey to John May, 22 October 1798 ⁠* 

Westbury. Monday. Oct. 22. 98.

My dear friend

You have been I suppose some time in expectation of hearing from me. the indisposition of my companion delayed the commencement of our journey for some days, & when we were on the way I found my time of rest fully occupied in necessary business & the due letters home. Maber tells me to take Edward to St Pauls any time before he is twelve years old. this is well. the difficulty now is to get from him from his aunt. on this subject I have repeatedly written to my Uncle, but I never can get any reply. You remember my writing to him in February after I had seen you & Burn. [1]  the account I sent him of his sister was such that I thought if he did not himself come over to make some settling of her affairs himself, he would certainly appoint Dr Thomas to do it. this letter he has never noticed, tho I know by his alluding to one part of it that it reached him. I scarcely know how to act. it is very unpleasant to be always addressing him upon this subject & receive no reply, yet something must be done, & however disagreable the business may be, it certainly will not become less so by being deferred. it is always better to meet evils than to wait for them.

how it is that Miss Tyler is so perpetually embarrassed I am utterly at a loss to conceive. I know the perpetual facility of obtaining money in small sums from my Mother for many many years, may have been one great cause for thoughtless expenditure. there is a great degree of weakness in my Mothers character. she has never lost the fear she felt when a child for an elder sister who has perpet always asserted her superiority. & this fear is carried to so criminal a length that my Aunt has often drawn from her the money which should have gone to discharge her debts, & made her borrow money {sums} which she saw no prospect of repaying. now I trust there is a stop put to this. & now as my Aunt can no longer be supplied by her sister, she must be compelled to that line of conduct which if she had adopted twenty years ago would have spared her family the greater part of their after difficulties.

Miss Tyler however expected my Mother would still supply her with money from me; this did surprize my Mother who knew how utterly impossible this was. even if it were in my power it would be wrong to assist her in keeping up a false appearance of high life. but my mother & cousin are with me, this doubles my house keeping expences, & I have been obliged to pay thirteen pounds, the amount of one of my Oxford bills – all of which I thought my Uncle had discharged, but which I now daily expect to come in upon me. one bill of five pounds I have paid which remained of my Mothers debts. all this has exhausted the resources up to this time upon which I calculated to furnish a house in town. still however I shall do well. I have already seen too much the consequences of debt – & I will keep myself unembarrassed.

As Miss Tyler therefore can draw nothing from this quarter, her circumstances require some immediate investigation, & as I can get no letter from my Uncle, my Mother & I both think it right to let write to Dr Thomas. my Mother is with her three or four days in a week. & says that her habitual violence of temper is now increased by long indulgence absolutely to a state of derangement. her grandmother resembled her in this particular & died in confinement. this idea makes my Mother wretched. what should be done is this. she should by the sale of her furniture pay her debts as far as it will go, & live in lodgings upon the income my Uncle allows her. an income amply sufficient. I know not its exact amount, but have reason to believe it is the whole of his Herefordshire preferment, which cannot fall far short of 200 a year.

I have written all this to you, because you & Burn know so much of our family affairs – & because it is not pleasant to have xx no one to communicate with upon such subjects. whether or no Dr Thomas, like my Uncle, will rather let things go on & grow worse, than undertake a very disagreable office I know not. it will certainly be proper to state to him her exact situation.

God bless you. I have been somewhat unwell but am better. Edith is but poorly, tho infinitely better than when she left London. I will write again soon. let me hear from you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ 4. Bedford Square/ London/ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: OC/ 23/ 98
Watermark: crown and horseman
Endorsement: 1798 No. 25/ Robert Southey/ Westbury 22 October/ recd: 23 do/ ansd: 2 Novr:
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin
Previously published: Charles Ramos, The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 37–39. BACK

[1] William Burn (dates unknown) was attached to the British Factory, Lisbon. BACK

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August 2011