369. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey,
5 January 1799
My dear Tom
Ever since you left us have I been hurried
from one job to another. you know I expect a parcel of books
when you went away they came & I had immediately to kill
off one detachment.  that was but just done when down
came a bundle of French books, to be returned with all
possible speed. this was not only unexpected work, but
double work because all extracts were to be translated. well
– that I did – & by that time the end of the month came
round – & I am now busy upon English books again. what
with this & my weekly communications to Stuart
 – & my
plaguey regimen of exercise, I have actually no time for any
voluntary employment. in a few days I hope to breathe a
little in leisure.
I am sorry it is low water with you – &
that we cannot set you afloat. we are heavily laden &
can with hard work barely keep above water. I have been
obliged to borrow. by & by we shall do better but we are
just now at the worst – & these cursed taxes  will take twenty pounds from me
at least. if it were to buy rats bane for the scoundrels one
would not growl.
We had an odd circumstance happened to us on
Wednesday. just as we were beginning breakfast a well dressd
woman, in a silk gown, & muff, entered the room. I am
come to take a little breakfast said she – down she laid her
muff, took a chair &
come & sat down by the fire. We thought she
was mad – but she lookd so stupid that we soon found that
was not the case. sure enough breakfast she did – I was
obliged then to go down & laugh. my mother
behaved very well, but Margery could
not come into the room. When the good Lady had done she rose
& askd what she had to pay? – nothing Maam said my mother.
nothing? why how is this? – I don’t know how it is said my Mother
& smiled, but so it is. What – do’nt you keep a public?
no indeed Maam – so we had half a hundred apologies, & the servant had a
shilling, we had a good morning laugh for ourselves & a
good story for our friends & she had a very good
breakfast. I wish you had been here.
going to a Mr Maurice, a gentleman who
takes only a few pupils, at Normanston, near Lowestoff,
Norfolk <Suffolk I know not which>. you may perhaps
know Lowestoff as the most easterly point of the island. it
is a very fortunate situation for him.
The frost has stopt the pump & the press.
my Letters  are just
done but not yet publishd. our bread has been so hard frozen
that no one in the house except myself could cut it, &
it made my arm ache for the whole day.
I do not know where Lloyd is. it is
long since I have heard from him. indeed my own employments
make me a vile correspondent.
The Old Woman of Berkeley cuts a very
respectable figure on horseback, & Beelzebub is so well admirably drawn that one
would have suppose he had
sat for his picture.  I shall pass the next week in town
& hurry out the volume.  I
have been obliged to suffer the printers delay because I had
not time to furnish him with copy.
My Mother is
in the College
Green – I wish she were any where else. she always
leaves it in most wicked spirits. tis a miserable house
& neither man or beast is happy in it.
I know not how you exist this weather. my
great coat is a lovely garment my mother
says, & but for it I should I believe be found on
Durdham Down in the shape of a great icicle. at home the
wind comes in so cuttingly in the evenings that I have taken
to wear my Welsh wig; to the great improvement of my
personal charms. Edith says I may say that.
I shall make a ballad upon the story of your
shipmate the marine, who kept the fifth commandment 
so well. by the help of the Devil it will do. & there
can be no harm in introducing him to the Devil a little
before his time.
God bless you. Ediths love
– & Margerys.
Saturday 5 Jany. 1799.
A happy new year!
* Address: To/
Mr Thomas Southey./ H.M.S. Royal
Library, Add MS 30927
Previously published: Charles
Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence
of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London,
1849–1850), II, pp. 2–5 [in part]. BACK
 To review for the Critical
 The new income tax announced
in December 1798. BACK
Letters Written During a Short Residence in
Spain and Portugal (1799). BACK
 ‘A Ballad Shewing how an Old Woman Rode Double and Who
Rode Before Her’ and an accompanying engraving published
in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp.
 ‘Honour thy father and
thy mother’, Exodus, 20: 12. Tom Southey’s
shipmate had allegedly persuaded his father to murder
his mother and then turned King’s evidence against his
father, so he would be hanged for the crime; see
Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood
Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 193. BACK