It is not easy for a man who does not know how to speak or write in French, to write a letter in this language without a grammar or dictionary. Oh well! he will take time to learn. and if you want to be irritated by reading letters of the greatest barbarity, here is your correspondent – you know I do not like the French language. it does not have the softness of Italian, nor the delicacy of Portuguese, nor the majesty of Spanish. French poetry is to my taste detestable – for an epigram, for a song, it is good enough. for an epic – for tragedy – holy God! what harmony. what a frightfully strange mouth is needed to pronounce it. A man of genius such as Voltaire – or the even greater Rousseau, will overcome the language. in fact in order to produce good work, a good worker is more valuable than good instruments.
You know of the arrangement that I have made with Messrs Longman & Rees for the works of Chatterton. my friend Rickman has drawn a view of the Church of St. Mary Redclift  for the frontispiece – it will be a beautiful engraving. but another will be required for the other volume, and Mr Duppa a knowledgeable artist, (perhaps you will have heard of the heads adapted from Michelangelo’s Last Judgment that he has published?)  has suggested to me that the best subject would be the view of the interior of the apartment in which the collection of supposed manuscripts was deposited. I make so bold as to beg you to make the drawing  – there is no need for me to excuse myself from soliciting humbly an act that can be called charitable. I think the antique chamber – and the old chest would also make a sufficiently pretty and very appropriate illustration.
The climate of my homeland is so execrable that today, in the spring, my hand shivers so much with the cold, notwithstanding I am so close to the fire that my legs are well roasted.
Believe me my friend that I <have formed> with the greatest and truest satisfaction, the hope that I will have you for my companion during my exile in Ireland. To live in a wild land – amongst the most strange and barbarous people, without a single friend – this prospect of the future was very terrible – Even curiosity will not last long without a companion. I have considered a tour of Killarney. and to the North to see the famous rocks of the Giants,  on which journey Rickman has promised to be my associate. I will not be sorry if I am able to exchange him as a traveller for you. The mountains and waterfalls of Wicklow will not be equal to those of your sublime land, nor the Fortunate Isles  that you have visited. But I believe it will be worthy of your paintbrush.
Unfortunately for the science of Galvani S. Patric did not leave one of these  – oh I am stupidly ignorant of this beast – what are they called? your friends – the little animals so slender and cold-blooded <by nature> of which you have murdered so many thousands with your scientific cold-bloodedness? all the venom of the island since that <time> has passed into the human inhabitants. If you had one of these people –in your laboratory, you could only analyse his potatoes and his whiskey, these are their primary constituents – Coleridge has suggested that they are a truly antediluvian race, whose ancestors did not want to enter the Ark with Noah,  but escaped in a small boat, that landed on Mount Tauré!  as for me I have another theory more favourable to the nation’s vanity. I believe that they are from a much nobler origin than the other peoples of the world, because – all the others are from the loins of Noah. – by Jove  it is worth nothing in this execrable language – because – I mean because other people spring from the loins of Noah, & they from the Sirloins of Pasiphae’s lover.  there is a very aristocratic descent.
The final treaty  is expected every day, every hour I can say. a friend  who has needlessly been waiting some weeks for a passport to France, has this morning received intelligence from the Immigration Office that he will be able to go in a few days without restrictions.
Have you read Schiller’s tragedy about Joan of Arc?  They say that La Pucelle a witch is in love with an English officer – ! Mr Cottle the great Poet – who first blew the epic trumpet, and since the Jewish trumpet  – at present is printing in his own press a new poem on a subject which is not so new, & has already been treated – it is a sermon <in verse> preached by John the Baptist  – it will be a desirable study when you are not able to sleep, because it is really soporific, & it is the most agreeable way to take one’s medicine by the eyes than [MS obscured] the mouth.
I am hoping in a little while to write passably in French – this was written without effort, with the same disregard of the laws of grammar that the first Consul  has demonstrated for all the other laws –
I have the honour to be – that is to say I am truly
& with regard
Here I have received a letter from our good friend Danvers – to which I will reply the day after tomorrow.
* Address: To/ Mr King./ Pneumatic Institution/
Bristol – Hot-Wells
Seal: [partial, illegible]
Endorsement: March 16 1802; The right hons Isaac Corry &c &c &c/ Gt George St Westminster
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 4p. The French version (original) is to be found in Letter 663a
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 186-189 [in French only]. BACK
 John King’s drawing was used for the engraving opposite the title page of The Works of Thomas Chatterton, 3 vols (London, 1803), II, unpaginated. It was entitled ‘Interior of the Room in Redcliff Church where Rowleys Manuscripts were Said to have been Deposited’. BACK
 Luigi Galvani (1737-1798), Italian doctor and physicist, had conducted experiments on frogs and shown the link between electricity and muscular activity. In legend, St Patrick (5th century) had cleared Ireland of snakes. BACK