1741. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 5 February 1810

1741. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 5 February 1810 ⁠* 

Feby. 5. 1810. Keswick.

My dear Lightfoot

I have more than once been thinking of addressing a letter to Crediton for the sake of ascertaining whether you were in this world or the next, & had not my occupations been so numerous & so constant that every hour brings with it its business, you would long ere this have been troubled with a question to that effect. – The history of my unfortunate brother Edward I can carry on as far as last summer. – Having obtained the Ensigncy to which you allude he wrote to inform me of it, to which <&> I replied by a letter of exhortation. Some months afterwards he acquainted me with his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant, – & I wrote to him again in a manner which implied more hopes of his reformation than I really felt. In July last there came a letter to me from a Major Chamberlayne [1]  with the army in Portugal, stating that he had discovered a brother of mine in the ranks, – that he had taken him by the hand, – & obtained him a commission in a Portugueze regiment which he was then raising, – & that Lord J Fitzroy [2]  had insisted upon fitting him out for this new appointment. I replied to Major Chamberlayne as such conduct from one who was a perfect stranger to me deserved, – & expressed an ominous apprehension that even this fresh opportunity of retrieving himself would be lost upon poor Edward; – an apprehension xxxx founded not merely upon my thorough knowledge of his nature, but also upon the melancholy symptoms shown in a letter from himself, which arrived by the same post as Chamberlaynes, – in which he imputed this change in his fortunes wholly to his own good conduct, & never mentioned one of the persons who had so generously befriended him. My fears were soon verified – & the last I heard of him by a circuitous channel was that he was taking up money, xxx drafts upon Mrs Tyler, – had left the regiment, & sold his mule, – in short was become a vagabond again. By what means he lost his Militia Commission & was reduced into the ranks of the regulars I have never learnt. – You see how th hopeless it is, – it is a case of moral insanity, – perfectly incurable.

Since last you heard <from> me I have had two daughters born, – & laid one of them to rest, – a sweet child of 15 months, – cut off in a few hours by an attack of cholera morbus as we suppose it to have been. I have x now three living, & God be praised doing & promising well. the eldest in her sixth year, the youngest not quite having completed her first. As my expences increase my means increase with them. I hold the pen of a ready writer, & find time to raise my ways & means, as well as to produce works for which however great the reward may be which they will entail upon my name, I expect no remuneration. I bear a part in the Quarterly Review, – in the first number there is a defence of the Missionaries in India with which I think you would be pleased. [3]  – I am at present engaged in writing the historical part of a new Edinburgh Annual Register, [4]  the first volume of which will appear next spring. These are anonymous labours, which obtain me immediate reputation with the booksellers & being written bonâ fide & with hearty good will bear upon them a stamp which any person who knows me will recognize as the mark of Robert Southey, – a man who never let <any> one mistake his principles – what<how>ever they might mistake his character.

The first vol of my Hist of Brazil [5]  will be published in a few weeks & I have just sent a Poem [6]  to press, which every body will stare at. & most people will abuse. You will be surprized at hearing that I dedicate it to Landor of Trinity, a man of such marvellous genius that I regret to think we should have been so near neighbours without knowing each other in the days of our youth. [7]  Have you seen Espriellas Letters? [8]  if so you would probably father them upon me. – The Remains of H K White  [9] . which I published for th his family have been in an extraordinary degree succesful. It will amuse you to hear that this work procured me a letter from – Horse Campbell; – who is a Methodist of the first order, having been expelled the Diocese of Oxford for field preaching. [10]  He began by recalling himself to my recollection – as if any body could possibly have forgotten him! – told me he had skipt all the poems, having no taste for any poetry above the pitch of a Tabernacle Hymn, – & that the object of his writing was to learn whether I might not have supprest some papers as too pious, – which would have been in a high degree consolatory to such Xtians as himself, – if so he should he happy to subscribe to their publication. He then proceded to express the concern he was under for the state of my soul. & concluded by inviting me & all my family (if I had any) to Shrewsbury – where I suppose I was to put my soul under his care. – I would as willingly trust my body to him upon the strength of the anatomical knowledge which he picked up from Dr Pegge  [11]  & his aide de camp Mr West. [12] 

Bedford is my most constant correspondent. In worldly circumstances he <is> well off having an official situation of nearly 1000£ a year, [13]  – but his lot has been a heavy one. Family misfortunes press upon him, his brother Horace lost his senses & died a few years ago, – & worst of all he is in <such> a state of health himself, that I very very much fear he will soon follow him. It will be a heavy blow to me whenever that happens, – there has scarcely elapsed a month during 18 years in which we have not interchanged letters, – & tho it would be unjust to others to say that he is the dearest of my friends, – he is the most familiar of them, – a word which in this sense implies so much affection, that it brings tears into my eyes when I use it. xxxx

Duppa past a few days with me in the autumn. I wish Crediton were nearer that I might the sooner hope to be introduced to your wife, [14]  – make acquaintance with my God-daughter, [15]  & see whether you look like a schoolmaster.

If you have not seen Espriella I will send a copy with the new edition of Thalaba. [16] xxx xxxx xxxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xx xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxx xx xxxx xxxxx xxx xxxxxxxxxxxx

God bless you my old friend

Robert Southey. [17] 


* Endorsement: 1810
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d.110. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Possibly Thomas Chamberlain (d. 1828), Major in the 24th Foot Regiment. BACK

[2] Lord John Fitzroy (1785–1857), attaché at the British Embassy in Lisbon and son of Augustus, 3rd Duke of Grafton (1735–1811; DNB), Prime Minister 1768–1770. BACK

[3] For Southey’s ‘Account of the Baptist Missionary Society’, Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. BACK

[4] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810). BACK

[5] Southey’s History of Brazil, published in 3 volumes 1810–1819. BACK

[6] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[7] Southey had been a student at Balliol College, Oxford, which is next door to Trinity College, Oxford, and the two had overlapped at the university in 1793–1794. BACK

[8] Letters from England (1807), narrated by the fictitious Don Manuel Alavarez Espriella. BACK

[9] The Remains of Henry Kirke White (1807) BACK

[10] Henry Campbell had married Anne Rose of Shrewsbury in 1805 and was presumably living in that town. Southey had last seen him in 1801 when was on his way to become Rector of St Johns, Antigua. BACK

[11] Pegge’s anatomy lectures were very popular with Oxford students in the 1790s. BACK

[12] Mr West (first name and dates unknown) was Pegge’s assistant in his anatomy demonstrations. BACK

[13] Bedford was Clerk of Registers and Issues at the Exchequer 1806–1822. BACK

[14] Bridget Prideaux (dates unknown), whom Lightfoot had married in 1801. BACK

[15] Frances Jane (Fanny) Lightfoot (1806–1882). BACK

[16] Letters from England (1807), and the second edition of Thalaba the Destroyer, published in 1809. BACK

[17] sense implies … Southey: written at top of fol 1 r. BACK

People mentioned

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)