1013. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 8 January 1805 *
William Taylor tells me you have had your name entered at Cambridge & design to keep terms there. I am inclined to think he has mistaken the will for the deed, & misinterpreted the kakography  of your letter,  – for I do not think that you would take this step without first consulting both him & me, & I cannot conceive that you can need any advice at all upon the subject, it being so utterly impossible with your means, & so little desirable if <xxx> possible. I do not know any one thing which would be so certainly prejudicial to you as this which you are wishing for. In the first place you are too old – it being more usual to go under eighteen than above it. in the next place you would find yourself behind hand in University attainments – for the sake of obtaining immediate gratification you would devote yourself to these – which would lead to nothing, & you would find when too late that you had abandoned one pursuit – without getting any other. Be content as you are: repeated change of profession is folly in those who can afford it, – in you it would be something worse. what only makes them ridiculous would ruin you. An English degree is of no other use to a physician than as it enables him to be a Fellow of the College of Physicians. he may practice in London as a Licentiate without it.
You ask me concerning the origin of the Venereal Disease.  Since the question arrived I have found the passage on which I suppose the common opinion is founded, & which is certainly irrefragable. It is in a work by Oviedo whose whole title you may <see> in one of the Madoc notes  – so I need not hunt for it again. He says that the first Spaniards who went to the West Indies (N B where he was xxx settled) caught it there, where it was a very common but very mild disease – & he goes on with the history of the war at Naples &c to account for its names in France & in Italy. Possibly some analogous disease may have existed in Europe before, which was & this may have been a worse sort – as if the Small Pox had turned out the vaccine. Certain it is that till the discovery of America it was never known as a general & dreadful malady. If you want more particulars tell me, & I will translate the passage from Oviedo at length & send you chapter & verse.
As no proofs have reached me of late I conclude you are doing my office & that the work is nearly at an end.  indeed every days delay is now injurious to the sale.
A Aikin has sent me another & last parcel which will take up a fortnights time.  there is in it a Scotch Ode in folio or foolio addressed to Percy.  We go this evening to the Generals.  – No news of Tom – nor of Coleridge – nor of any thing public for the Iris is dead & gone.  Your friend John  is well. Our winter has been truly delightful. frost & sunshine all December. thaw & sunshine with passing showers now, & no snow yet in the valley, nor any remaining on the hills.
Tuesday Jany 8. 1805.
 Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478–1557), De la Natural Hystoria de las Indias (1526) is cited in Madoc (1805), in a note to Part 2, Book 8, lines 60–62. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), II, p. 327. BACK