The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

280. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 24 December 1797 ⁠* 

24th Dec. 1797. Sunday.

My dear Tom

I went yesterday with this folded sheet to get it franked but Wynn had left town for the Xmas, & was not expected to return till Thursday next, & I was not willing to delay longer a letter already delayed too long. We are about to remove our quarters. the people of this house are shamefully dishonest. Harry slept with Lloyd whilst he was here, & they even charged a shilling {a} night for that! we think of returning to Prospect Place to avoid the risque of getting again among the Philistines, & to be as near the fresh air as we can. Lloyd leaves us in consequence of this arrangement, as the distance does not suit him.

I have also another motive for wishing to live out of the town, to avoid the swarm of acquaintance who buz round me & sadly waste my time, an article I can but little afford to throwx away. I have my law — which will soon occupy me from ten in the morning till 8 in an office, excepting the dinner time. my Joan of Arc takes up more time than you would suppose, for I have had a mine of riches laid open to me in a library [1]  belonging to the dissenters, & have been disturbing the spiders. add to this that I write now for the Critical Review, & you will see that I cannot afford to keep levee days.

My Mothers affairs go on but badly. my Aunt has been with her, & you know how mischievous an effect her presence always has. the house has been advertised, & as Cottle has undertaken to manage every thing when a tenant can be found, I am xxxx satisfied that every thing will be done properly. but the difficulty lies in finding a tenant — & in the mean time my mother writes that her affairs grow worse. at this season this is somewhat strange.

Burnett is much pleased with Harry, & I hope Harry will be pleased with Burnett. I know of no situation at once so comfortable & so advantageous for him.

I keep a large copy of my poems for you. they have sold uncommonly well. 1000 were printed & I hear 750 are already gone. the Joan of Arc is scandalously delayed at Bristol. I have had only five proofs in all, & this delay, as the book is wanted, is a serious loss. a print of the Maid will be prefixed — solely for the sake of giving Robert Hancock [2]  some employment, & an opportunity of making his name known as an engraver. I have got a promise of having him introduced to Alderman Boydell, [3]  the great publisher of engravings. he is still at Bath. & I am in hopes I shall be the means of essentially serving him.

You will be surprized to hear that I have been planning a charitable institution which will in all probability be established. it was planned with John May & Carlisle. & the outline is simply this. many poor wretches whom perish after they have been healed at the hospitals by returning to unwholesome air, scanty & bad food, cold & filth. we mean to employ them in a large garden, for every person may be usefully employed in some manner here, & their x health will be established by such employment. when in good order the produce of the garden will support the institution. in the long winter evenings the people will be employed in making nets, baskets & matting, & the women in making sheeting, all things that will be wanted at home, & for the overplus a ready sale will be had among the supporters of this Convalescent Asylum. my name will not appear in this business & tho in fact I shall be one of the main springs, I leave the credit to Lords & Esqrs. I will send you our printed plan as soon as it is ready. six hours labour will be the utmost time required from the strongest persons. for extra work they will be paid — & thus they may leave the Asylum with some little money, & with some useful knowledge. We are much pleased with this scheme, as it will make every body useful whom it benefits. a man with one leg may make holes for cabbages with his wooden leg, & a fellow with one arm follow & put in the plants.

If you ever go to Kingsbridge call upon Lightfoot, he will be very glad to see you. he is a clergyman, & Usher at a school there.

Would you were here tomorrow — we would keep holy day — but tis very long since Xmas has been a festival with us. God bless you. direct to Wynn. Ediths love.

yrs affectionately

R Southey.

Captain Danvers [4]  is brother to my friend Charles. a violent aristocratxx, but withal one of the pleasantest & most gentlemanly men I ever met with. I break the wafer to say this. [5] 


Notes

* Address: To/ Mr Southey/ H.M.S. Mars/ Plymouth/ or elsewhere/ Single
Stamped: HOLBORN
Postmark: EDE/ 25/ 97
MS: British Library, Add MS 30,927
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 326–328 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey was making use of Dr Williams’s library, London, which had been established by a bequest from the dissenting minister, Daniel Williams (c. 1643–1716; DNB). BACK

[2] Either the engraver Robert Hancock (c. 1731–1817; DNB) or his son Robert Hancock Junior (dates unknown). An engraving of Joan of Arc, by ‘R. Hancock’, appeared as the frontispiece to the second edition of Southey’s poem in 1798. BACK

[3] The engraver and printseller John Boydell (1720–1804; DNB). BACK

[4] Captain Danvers’s first name and dates of birth and death are unknown. BACK

[5] Captain Danvers ... this: Written upside down on fol. 2 v . BACK

Published @ RC

February 2009