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837. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 8 September [1803] ⁠* 

Greeta Hall. Keswick. Thursday night. Sept 8. {1803}  [1] 

Dear Tom

We arrived yesterday. yours reached me today. I was glad to hear from you – a first letter after such a loss is always expected with some sort of fear – tis pulling off the bandage that has been put on a green wound. your letter was is a very good one – I have laid it with those which I preserve.

Edith was very ill at Bristol. on the way we staid five days with Miss Barker in Staffordshire – one of the people in the world whom I love best. To escape from Bristol was a relief. the place was haunted, & it is my wish never to see it again. here my spirits suffer from the sight of little Sara  [2]  who is about her size – but not such a child – Oh Christ I shall not see such another! However God knows that I do not repine, & that in my very soul I feel that his will is best. these things do one good. they loosen one by one the roots that rivet us to earth – they fix & confirm our faith till the thought of death becomes so inseperably connected with the hope of meeting those whom we have lost, that death itself exer is no longer considered as an evil.

Did I not tell you in the universal panic & palsy Longman has requested me to delay the Bibliotheca? [3]  this is a relief to me. I feel freer & easier. in consequence I do not go to Richmond, but remain here where I can live for half the expence. my design is to finish & print Madoc, [4]  that by the profits I may be enabled to go to Portugal. but my plans have been so often blasted that I look upon every thing as quite vague & uncertain. this only you may know that while I am well I am actively employed – & that now, not being happy enough for the quiet half hours of idleness, I must work with double dispatch.

I hope you will see the Annual Review. [5]  there are some admirable things by Wm Taylor in it. my own part is very respectable – & one article I hear is by Harry. [6]  I shall probably do more in the next volume. you could have helped me in the maritime books. Do you know Harry is an Ensign in the Norwich Volunteers?

Edward has written to me. he was to go on board the following day. his damnable Aunt was at Plymouth – spending her money – or rather my Uncles there, & all the while insisting that she cannot supply him with linen for want of cash! I could not at that time see to his fitting out as I should have done. but when once fairly quit of her the boy shall not want as far as my means will go. it is you & I who have fared the worst. the other two will have fewer difficulties to cope with – yet perhaps they will not go on so well. Men are the better for having suffered. of that every years experience more & more convinces me.

Poor Bella [7]  is going very fast. it was a great shock to me to see her. – Edith suffers deeply & silently. she is kept awake at night by recollection – & I am harrassed by dreams of the poor childs illness & recovery. but this will wear away. Would that you could see these Lakes & Mountains! how wonderful they are – how aweful in their beauty – all the poet-part of me will be fed & fostered here. I feel already in tune, & shall proceed to my work with such a feeling of power as old Sampson had when he laid hold of the pillars of the temple of Dagon. [8]  the Morning Post will somewhat interrupt me. Stuart has paid me so well for doing little – that in honesty I must work hard for him. Edith will copy you some of my rhymes.

Amadis [9]  is most abominably printed: never book had more printers blunders. how it sells is not in my power to say. in all likelihood badly, for all trade is suspended, to a degree scarcely credible. I heard some authenticated instances at Bristol. Hall the Grocer [10]  used to have tea & sugar weighd out in pounds & half pounds &c on a Saturday night for his country customers. thirty years established business enabled him to proportion the quantity to this regular demand almost to a nicety. he has had as much as twenty pounds-worth uncalled for. Mrs Morgan [11]  on a Saturday used to take upon the average 30£ in her shop. she now does not take five. but this will wear away. I am quite provoked at the folly of any man who can feel a moments fear for this country at this time.

We look to the Morning Post with daily disappointment for news of the Galatea. [12]  Stuart has sold the paper having thus realized 25,000 pounds – while his advice & influence upholds it little difference will be perceived, but whenever that be withdrawn I prophecy a slow decline & downfall.

How comes on the Spanish? you will find it useful before the war is over I fear, – fear because the Spaniards are a good & honourable people & in spite of the plunder which will fall to the share of the sailor I cannot but wish they may be spared from suffering in a war to which they assuredly are averse.

God bless you Tom! you must inquire of Danvers for Joe. [13]  he will look after him & drop a card occasionally at his door. poor fellow I was sorry to leave him. – xxx twas a heart-breaking day that of our departure. Can’t you contrive to chase some French frigate thro the Race of Holy head up to the Isle of Man, engage her there & bring her into Whitehaven? – Ediths love –

RS.


Notes

* Address: [deletion and readdress in another hand] To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Galatea/ Cork {Cove} / Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298; CORK
Postmark: SE/ 27/ 1803
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850), II, pp. 226-229 [in part]. BACK

[1] {1803}: Inserted in another hand. BACK

[2] Sara Coleridge was born 23 December 1802 and so was three months younger than Margaret Southey. BACK

[3] The ‘Bibliotheca Britannica’ was a planned – but unexecuted – chronological history of all literature produced in Britain. Southey was to have been its editor. BACK

[4] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[5] Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803). BACK

[6] The review of Jean-Louis Giraud-Soulavie (1751-1813), Historical and Political Memoirs of Louis XVI (1802) in Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 308-311. BACK

[7] The Southeys’ servant, she died in 1804. BACK

[8] Judges 16: 30. After Samson was captured and blinded by the Philistines he was taken to the Temple of Dagon. There he prayed to God, felt his strength return and pulled down the pillars of the temple. BACK

[9] Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803). The printer was Nathaniel Biggs. BACK

[10] Joseph Hall (dates unknown), grocer and tea-dealer in Maryport St, Bristol. BACK

[11] Possibly Sarah Morgan (dates unknown), milliner of 23 High St, Bristol. BACK

[12] Tom Southey’s ship, a 32-gun Royal Navy frigate. BACK

[13] Tom Southey’s dog. BACK

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August 2011