416. Robert Southey to John May, 10 June
My dear friend
I have been daily in hope of knowing our
destination after Midsummer certainly enough to communicate
it. but this is still unsettled. the day after I last saw
you a letter from Biddlecombe reached me at Brixton. it stated
that there was a place at Burton which he thought would suit us – it had
been divided into two tenements, both which with a little
garden we might have for not more than eight pounds a year.
I immediately wrote that this would do if there were the
required number of bed-rooms – that is – rooms for myself –
mother – a servant – & one for a friend. to
this I have daily & vainly expected an answer. it will
probably bring intelligence that the place is ours – but
time presses & I now wait with some impatience.
This house, or rather tenement to speak with
singular propriety, is about two
hundred yards from our former abode at Burton, & Biddlecombe says, in every respect more
convenient. I shall feel disappointed if we do not fix
there. in that case we shall be within reach of you, &
if as you expect Mrs Tonkin & her
family  should settle near Salisbury, I shall
not be at so great a distance as to prevent me from
sometimes seeing them.
In my journey home I collected one piece of
information which you may use as a useful warning. when they
have new horses to put in the Mail they always put them in
first on a Sunday night, because they carry no letters &
there is of course time for an accident. so I was endangered
quite enough to resolve upon no more Sunday night
Edith I found –
or rather she found me, for I reached Bristol before dinner
& she not till after tea; I found her then however
better than she had been at Stowey. My Mother is recovering from a sad plunge. her
cough which is habitual increased violently by some
accidental cough, & she relapsed into all her old
alarming symptoms; now however she is rapidly growing well.
I should think my
Mother consumptive were it not for her often
recovering when apparently in so hopeless a state. she has
all consumptive symptoms except the quick pulsation. however
I am going to try the fox glove, by Beddoes’
advice  – & by Davy’s I am going
to try the Nitrous acid as a tonic for Edith. 
Myself I am without complaints or unpleasant
feelings. the season suits me, & I have the appetite
& the sleep which I wanted thro the whole winter.
The papers tell me you are an Uncle.  I congratulate
you. I am used to the name, but it gave me at first strange
notions of age.
This instant I have been a good deal alarmed
– tidings have reachd me that Edward has this
morning broken his arm. he is however in a way of doing
Mother is not to know it – it would be useless
& might injure her – indeed necessarily would. he had
got upon a strange horse in the street. if it lessons him it
will be well, & I believe there is no hope from any
thing but from a rough lesson. The boy vexes me.
I hardly know what I write now. be good
enough to remit my
mothers money. you shall know our destination as
soon as it is known.
God bless you –
Monday. June 10. 99.
* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ 4. Tavistock Street/ Bedford Square/
Postmarks: [partial] BRISTOL/ JUN 12;
[partial] B/ JU 13/ 5/ 99
Endorsement: 1799 No. 37/
Robert Southey/ No place 10 June/ recd: 17 do/ ansd: 18 do
Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of
Previously published: Charles Ramos,
The Letters of Robert Southey to John May:
1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp.
Tonkins were friends of Southey’s uncle Herbert
Hill. They had formerly lived in Lisbon, where
Southey had met them during his visit of
 For Thomas
Beddoes’s advocacy of the use of fox-glove see his
Essay on the Causes, Early Signs, and
Prevention of Pulmonary Consumption for the Use of
Parents and Preceptors (Bristol, 1799), pp.
 For Humphry Davy’s
researches on the use of nitrous acid and nitrous oxide,
Researches, Chemical and Philosophical,
Chiefly Concerning Nitrous Oxide, or
Dephlogisticated Nitrous Air, and Its
Respiration (1800). BACK
Oracle, 7 June 1799 had announced the birth
of a son on 1 June to May’s elder brother, Joseph May,
and his wife Fanny (née Stert). BACK