3147. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 5 June 1818

3147. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 5 June 1818⁠* 

My dear Harry

Do you know any thing of a Dr William May, who has introduced himself here as being well known to Dr Southey, & having the honour to be a member of the same College? [1]  From more circumstances than one I am led to suspect that there is something the matter with this well-bronzed M.D. He professes to be writing a book upon consumption, for which he prescribes high living & xxx half killed one poor girl by giving her 70 drops of laudanum in the course of a day. I believe he is trying to establish himself somewhere in this country, & his coming upon such a scheme without any introduction whatever, looks very much as if there were some reasons why he could not procure any.

We like the carpet well. Yesterday there came a present from the Imperial Guard, a lamp intended I suppose for me to write by, – with one of those ground-glass half globes to soften the light. A handsome thing, – but troublesome. My writings are not likely to smell of it: if they smell of any thing, it will be of a tallow candle.

I am tormented with my summer catarrh. The best remedy for it would probably be the warm bath at its commencement, but the sun does not heat Derwentwater sufficiently for it to serve that purpose, – however it is an admirable tepid bath at this time, & I have enjoyed it accordingly. Our weather for the last month has been the finest possible, but visitors never will come to the Lakes early enough in the year.

Today I have a letter from Edward in style Edwardic. He is strolling xx in Cornwall, & wants a humble engagement at xxx Drury Lane, [2]  supposing that I have some interest with the Committee, & not knowing that Drury Lane is in a state of dissolution.

Both the Press & I are getting on straitly with Brazil – a third of the volume is printed, & as much more in forwardness. [3]  Before I see you in the winter I shall have brought forth this & the Life of Wesley [4]  of which five sheets are printed & the printer has about ten more in his hands, including what Senhouse has probably by this time left with you for G.C.B. – It will be some interruption if I go into Scotland this year, this depends upon Rickmans motions of which I shall soon be informed. [5] 

I live in daily hope of the deliverance of All the Saints from Limbo, – from whence they will most properly pass to Pater Noster. [6]  What an arrival it will be when they reach their ultimate destination, – ultimate as far as concerns me I hope, – for then there must be many changes & removals in store. With proper care there is no reason why a book should not last as the world itself is habitable.

Is there any chance of seeing Mrs Gonne at the Lakes this year after the number of the Noachidae shall have been increased? [7]  Our love to her & Louisa. I have lately learnt a comfortable opinion of the Jews, that when the Messiah shall have come & established that Heaven upon Earth which they expect, the Women are to lie in every day, – fine times for Gooch if he should live to see them. [8] 

God bless you


5 June 1818


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ 15 Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ 8 JU 8/ 18
Endorsment: June
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.92. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] William May (1763–1827) from East Looe, Cornwall, who received a medical qualification in Leyden in 1787 and became an Extra–Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in 1788 (Henry Herbert Southey became a Licentiate in 1812). He practiced in Truro and Plymouth and published an Essay on Pulmonary Consumption (Plymouth, 1792). Henry Herbert Southey’s Observations on Pulmonary Consumption had appeared in 1814. BACK

[2] That is, Edward, a strolling player, hoped that Southey would get him a place in the company of actors at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane – London’s premier company. The Theatre was overseen by a Board of Directors, and a sub–committee that managed its affairs. Several important literary figures were members of the sub–committee (including, briefly, Byron), but Southey was not one of them. By 1818 the Theatre was in severe financial difficulties and owed over £80,000. BACK

[3] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[4] Southey’s Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[5] The Scottish tour with Rickman was delayed until August–September 1819. BACK

[6] That is, to the delivery to Longmans, in Paternoster Row, London, of the 53–volume set of lives of the saints, Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), that Southey had bought in Brussels in 1817. They became no. 207 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] The children of Noah – whose three sons, Ham, Shem and Japtheth, were believed to be founding fathers of the entire human race. Henry Herbert Southey’s second child, Henry Herbert Southey Jnr, was born on 20 June 1818. BACK

[8] Southey recorded this idea in his Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1851), IV, p. 442, but did not provide a source. As Gooch was an obstetrician such a situation would be good for his business (if a little exhausting). BACK