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434. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 6 September 1799 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

I direct to you at a venture – whenever this may find you, write by return & say where you are that I may know where to look for you.

We went from Bristol to Minehead where I passed as uncomfortable a fortnight as I ever remember. Edith was during the whole time exceedingly unwell. as she grew better we fell upon this plan. she should go to her sisters at Stowey, which was not far distant. & I would walk down the North coast to Ilfracombe. if on my return she was better we might proceed. if not – it was better to return to Bristol.

At Minehead I received a letter from Coleridge  [1]  – & another from his friend Poole. [2]  it seems Lloyd had made as many strange stories of me to him, as of him to me. I was convinced by proof irrefragable – & remained a fortnight at Stowey. from thence we all set sail together. the Coleridges for Ottery to his brothers – we for Sidmouth. we could get no lodgings at Seaton Sidmouth, or along that coast. so we housed ourselves as Hobsons Choice at Exeter. whither direct at Mr Tuckers. Fore Street-Hill. [3] 

Now Tom I mean to walk round the coast to Plymouth, & it will be very unlucky if we I should not meet with you. if you are at Torbay you can surely perhaps come to us. however I shall set off on my walk on Tuesday or Wednesday next. Coleridge will I believe walk with me & I expect to see a fine country. tho tho after the North of Somersetshire all that I have yet seen in this county is very tame & uninteresting.

I breakfasted with Aunt Molly at Bishops Lediard, [4]  & was somewhat amused at seeing that she sold leather breeches among other articles. also I passed the Cottage, [5]  which is an ill-looking place enough, & might with equal propriety be called a palace – being as much like one as the other. I slept one night at Taunton at the inn – & wishd you had been there to have given me a peep at the Tauntonians.

We go to Burton at Michaelmas [6]  which will soon be here. The Annual Anthology is printed. [7]  I will put my copy in my pocket for you. in the Dom Daniel [8]  some progress is made, almost to the end of the second book. the remaining part of Madoc shall come in my knapsack, if we I am likely to find you in port.

I have seen the Valley of Stones, which itself is wonderfully fine & stands close by some of the most magnificent scenery I ever beheld. Tom you have talked of Somersetshire & its beauties, but you have never seen the finest part of Somersetshire. the neighbourhood of Stowey of Minehead & Porlock exceed anything I ever saw in England before.

At Exeter I find some old books. my remarks upon the city are that it stinks. & that on public rejoicings they ring two bells at one church – & one at another – which make excellent ding dong music. the place by the beastly slovenliness or sluttishness or swinosity of its pork-people reminds me of Lisbon, & like Lisbon its situation is adapted for cleanliness.

I am very busy on many huge plans. among others a great hexameter work, in conjunction with Coleridge: [9]  you know I had a hankering after the metre at Westbury, & he got bit in Germany.

God bless you – I trust soon to see your lapelles –

yrs affectionately.

Robert Southey.

Friday. Sept. 6. 99.


Notes

* Address: To/ Lieutenant Thomas Southey./ Sylph Brig./ Torbay/ or elsewhere/ Single
Stamped: EXETER
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 198–200. BACK

[1] Coleridge to Southey, 29 July 1799, E.L. Griggs (ed.), The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956–1971), I, pp. 523–524. BACK

[2] Poole to Southey, 8 August 1799, E.L. Griggs (ed.), The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956–1971), I, p. 524. BACK

[3] Possibly the retired stationer and bookseller Richard Tucker (fl. 1779–1784), whose business had occupied premises on Fore-Street, Exeter. BACK

[4] Southey had breakfasted with his aunt on 12 August 1799, his twenty-fifth birthday; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 521. BACK

[5] Home of Southey’s wealthy bachelor uncle, John Southey. BACK

[6] 29 September 1799. BACK

[7] Annual Anthology (1799). BACK

[8] An early name for Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[9] Coleridge and Southey’s plan for a jointly-written poem in hexameters on Muhammad (570–632), the Prophet of Islam, did not make much progress; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 18–20. A fragment by Southey was published posthumously in Oliver Newman: a New-England Tale (London, 1845), pp. 113–116; and 14 lines by Coleridge in The Poetical Works of S. T. Coleridge, 3 vols (London, 1834), II, p. 68. BACK

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August 2011