390. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 14 March 1799 

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390. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 14 March 1799 ⁠* 

My Dear Tom

You must long before this have received my books [1]  – two of each – the large poems I keep for you and I suppose the journals and register have now reached you. When you are in London you will find it I imagine much cheaper and pleasanter to go to a Boarding House than to a Coffee house. Certainly I shall see you in town as I shall be there on May Day and your business cannot be dispatchd before that. My dwelling place there is not at all certain, but probably it will be with Bedford. Unless I pass the interval between the terms with him I shall ramble somewhere – perhaps to Cambridge. Or I may look at those parts of Surrey which I have never seen – or walk thro Kent, or walk with you to Portsmouth and return by Chichester & Arundel which will be new to me. Of all these possible plans to remain at Brixton will suit me best, there is fine feeding in the Library [2]  there and leisure like that of ones own home.

We are suffering frost and snow again to my great annoyance, as I daily cross the down. My contributed volume, [3]  (which will after all retain the most abominable name Almanack of the Muses – which God knows can offend nobody more than it does me) will go to Press on Monday week. Contributions I have but few, and expect not many to a new work sanctioned by no editors name. Some clergyman [4]  in consequence of the advertisement, called at Cottles and said he would bring some verses of a friend (of course meaning his own) for the work – not in the common style. We daily expect them “for the Editors judgement.”

That this publication will become popular and sell well I have no doubt. Consequently rhymes will shower upon us for the after volumes, and we shall have waggon loads fit for the fire.

Charles Lloyd has published a poem ‘suggested by the fast.’ [5]  It is a mess of metaphysics and aristocracy, which will be thought very deep because it is very dark; which few but his own friends will buy, fewer still understand, and scarcely anybody like; which supports bad principles by bad arguments, and which defends a weak course with no strength at all. Some twenty or thirty lines I think beautiful, and there are not many persons who will think {with} [6]  me in that respect – the rest deserves the fate it must meet – neglect and oblivion.

He has also published a Letter to the Anti-Jacobins [7]  which I have not yet seen. Charles Lloyd has so long accustomed himself to do nothing without assigning a reason for it, that he will always be able to find reasons for doing anything. Neither his virtues nor his talents will ever be useful to others or honourable to himself. He veers like a weathercock in his opinions – and possibly may for that very reason, one day hold like the weathercock a conspicuous place on the church.

It is not yet known here whether the war has certainly recommenced in Germany or not. [8]  If it has it can only end in the utter subversion of the French or Imperial power. The new system or the old one must fall. Europe must be devastated by the Revolutionary whirlwind or poisoned by the plague-vapours of despotism and superstition and persecution. We must either suffer under the Inquisition or the Revolutionary Tribunal. This is the alternative to which our ministry are driving us – and which only a change here and Peace can preserve us from. The Income bill [9]  produces not a fifth part of the years expences. The high aristocrats wince at it. What will they do next year when perhaps the capital not the income will be tythed?

I believe from my soul that Fox [10]  could save the country. But I never expect to see its salvation. I love England – the country of Alfred [11]  – of Coeur de Lion [12]  – of Milton – of Sidney. [13]  But a land enslaved shall never be my country – in proportion as I loved it free should I grieve for and loathe it enslaved.

Tom I wish we had a South Sea Island.

God bless you,

Yr affectionate brother,

ROBERT SOUTHEY.

Love from all.

March. 14. 1799.


Notes

* Address: Mr. Thomas Southey/ H.M.S. Royal George/ Portsmouth
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Mac Coll, who notes that in 1931 the MS was in the possession of the daughter of Reverend Henry John Ferrall. He, in turn, had been given the MS by Miss Warter, Southey’s granddaughter
Previously published: D. S. Mac Coll, ‘A Southey Letter’, Times Literary Supplement (9 July 1931), 547. BACK

[1] Poems (1799) and Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1799). BACK

[2] The private library of the Bedford family. BACK

[3] Southey’s Annual Anthology, the first volume of which appeared later in 1799. BACK

[4] Unidentified; possibly the Revd Christopher Hardy Sherive (d. 1800), Rector of Bridport, who contributed to the 1800 edition of the Annual Anthology. BACK

[5] Charles Lloyd, Lines Suggested by the Fast, Appointed on Wednesday, February 27, 1799 (1799). BACK

[6] {with}: Editorial insertion by Mac Coll. BACK

[7] Charles Lloyd, A Letter to the Anti-Jacobin Reviewers (1799). BACK

[8] The French Army had advanced into Germany, but was decisively defeated by Austrian forces at the Battle of Stockach on 25 March 1799. BACK

[9] The December 1798 budget had announced an income tax for 1799 of 10% on incomes over £200. BACK

[10] Charles James Fox (1749–1806; DNB). BACK

[11] Alfred, the Great (848/9–899; reigned 871–899; DNB). BACK

[12] Richard I (1157–1199; reigned 1089–1099; DNB). BACK

[13] Algernon Sidney (1623–1683; DNB), republican politician. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2011