Printer-friendly versionSend by email

357. Robert Southey to John May, 11 November 1798 ⁠* 

Sunday. Nov. 11. 98.

My dear friend

I have received a few lines from my Uncle since I wrote, stating that he had sent twenty pounds to Burn [1]  for my mother, that he was writing in haste & would write more fully soon. I shall be in town either on Wednesday or Thursday morning next & will gladly be your guest. you shall then see what I write to my Uncle, & also what I have written to Dr Thomas. I am obliged to Burn for his offer of writing to my Uncle, but it will come more properly from me.

For your offer of pecuniary aid I thank you. but I need it not. I have kept pace with my increased expences, by what resources you shall know when we meet. At present I am unexpectedly perplexed about Harry, who I thought was properly situated till he should be old enough to commence some pursuit in life. but Burnett has taken an unhappy dislike to his situation, & is about to quit it. I am concerned very much on his account, & perplexed as to settling Harry. to educate him myself is utterly impracticable. my time was always little enough for my business, & now I am obliged to walk eight miles a day, & read & write less, xx I have been much indisposed in consequence of too sedentary a life, & this is my prescription. Harry is now nearly fifteen & a year well employed would make him fit for any thing.

Whom do you suppose I have met with for a fellow traveller to London –? with Pond. [2]  I met him in Cottles shop some days ago, & found his Egyptian knowledge very interesting just now. he is waiting the return of the frigate that brought him from Lisbon.

I have no written account of my Welsh Walk. Edith spent the days of my journey with Danvers’s mother, so Danvers & I wrote alternately. I saw enough to think the book makers who travel in Wales very stupid not to write more entertaining volumes. we were but seven days & a half walking to Hereford, one of which was spent with Maber, & I am sure if we had but doubled the distance I should enough matter, & that new enough for a volume. you will be amused to hear that we were examined on suspicion of being spies.

I am very glad you like my letters, [3]  because from knowing the country you can judge of their merit. to me it appears that the requisites for a traveller who means to publish his journal, are a quick eye & quick comprehension. if he can add to these botanical & mineralogical knowledge &c it is well, but these scientific views are of less import. very few persons are interested in the soil or plants of Spain, but sketches of the people & scenery, if characteristic & well chosen, necessarily amuse every body. the book will be ready by Xmas. I am sorry that we have been obliged after all to abandon the idea of giving prints, as the expence would occasion loss. the first cost of engraving six only would be 36 guineas – which with retouching & working off would run up the whole at least to 50.

When I see you I will show you my English Eclogues, [4]  & communicate to you some publishing plans which promise me at the expence of very little trouble, a little but regular profit. I am a good deal better since this exercise has been prescribed. but it takes up a great part of my time.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ 4 Bedford Square/ London/ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: NO/ 12/ 98
Endorsement: 1798 No. 26./ Robert Southey/ No place 11 Novr:/ recd: 12 do/ ansd: personally
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. 39–40. BACK

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

[2] John Pond (c. 1767–1836; DNB), astronomer, who became Astronomer Royal 1811–1835. BACK

[3] A second, revised edition of Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal was published in 1799. BACK

[4] Six ‘English Eclogues’ were published in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. [181]–232. BACK

About this Page

Published @ RC

August 2011