1999. Robert Southey to Robert Gooch, 15 December 1811

1999. Robert Southey to Robert Gooch, 15 December 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 15. 1811.

My dear Gooch

I have a letter from Wm Taylor of a dismal character. [1]  After stating the sum of their losses he says “we cannot subsist, in our contracted shape, on the interest of what remains. The capital will last our joint lives, but I shall be abandoned at once to solitariness & penury. To what can I look forwards, but to a voluntary interment in the same grave with my parents? O that nature would realize this most convenient doom.” [2] 

Now my reason for transcribing this passage to you is, because it has made a deep impression on me, & haunts me when I lie down at night. You know more of Norwich than I do, & more of Wm Taylors connections. Who is most in his confidence? Is it Dr Sayers? – I thought of writing directly to him, but was withheld by a suspicion that there is no great warmth of heart about him. But what I would say to the person who may be most likely to enter into my x wishes is that Wm Taylors friends should raise such an annuity for him, as would secure him from penury, & at once relieve his mind from the apprehension of it: – either raising xx xxxx a sum sufficient to purchase it (the best way because the least liable to accidents) – or by yearly contributions, – Dr S. (xx any other the fittest person) receiving & regularly paying it, & he never knowing particularly from whence it comes, but merely that it is his. The former plan is the best, because in that case there would be only to purchase the annuity & put the security into his hands, – & this might be done without any person appearing in it, – the office transmitting him the xxx necessary documents. – This of course is a thing upon which the very wind must not blow. Ten years hence, or perhaps five, if the fir least desirable of these plans should be found most practicable, you & Harry may be able to cooperate in it. [3]  I am ready now, either with a yearly ten pounds, or with 50 at once: – if more were in my power more should be done. But if his friends do not love him well enough to secure him at least 100£ a year, one way or the other, – the world is worse than I thought it.

To whom shall I write to propose this? – At one time I thought of Mrs John Taylor, that she might chuse the fittest person to take upon himself the business. [4]  Is Pitchford [5]  a fitter man than Sayers, – I doubt Sayers’s constitutional indolence – & yet he is Wm T’s oldest friend. Give me your advice, & no time shall be lost.

Thank you for your letter. If Sharps intelligence were to prove true, & I were to have the honour of being introduced to the Serjeant at Arms [6]  it would do the Register much good & me no other harm that that of bringing me to London in the spring xxx beginning of the year instead of in the fall of the leaf. [7]  It would be pleasant enough to stand at the Bar of the House & read my own justification, pleading privilege of history against privilege of parliament.

Morales [8]  died in 1591, Pedro Ponce [9]  must have flourished about 1550.

You do not say whether you have seen Sharon Turner, – that introduction was the best I could give you, because I thought it would give you a friend, – you could not fail to esteem & love Turner when you knew him. He is the happiest man I have ever known, – & that could not be the case unless he were a very wise as well as a very good one.

There are a good many large G.s staring me in the face in my xx memoranda-papers in different books – denoting so many Goochiana’s. You shall have a sheet full of them hereafter, – I am just now finishing an enlargement of my book of Bell & the Dragon to be printed seperately, with all the stitchers inserted which were before suppressed, & a considerable number of new ones embroidered on. [10]  [closing line and signature cut off]


* Address: To/ Dr Gooch/ 64. Aldermanbury/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 18 DE 18/ 1811
Endorsement: Decr. 15th. 1811
Watermark: IPING/ 1806
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 86. AL; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 322–323 [in part]. BACK

[1] For Taylor’s letter of 10 December 1811, J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 349–353. BACK

[2] The financial crisis, caused by a series of risky investments made by Taylor’s father, William Taylor Senior (1731/2–1819), came to a head in 1811. The Taylors had to move to a smaller house in King Street, Norwich, and were financially pressed. BACK

[3] Henry Herbert Southey wrote himself to Taylor on 13 January 1812, offering financial help, which was refused; see J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 367–369. BACK

[4] The ‘Madam Roland of Norwich’, Susanna Taylor (1755–1823; DNB), mother of Susan Reeve. BACK

[5] Taylor’s friend John Pitchford (1772–1839), son of the surgeon, botanist and contributor to the Norwich Cabinet, John Pitchford (1737–1803). BACK

[6] Francis John Colman, serjeant-at-arms (i.e. the chief law enforcement officer in the Houses of Parliament) from 1805–1811. He died in Portugal on 12 December 1811. His successor was John Clementson (1780–1856), who served in a temporary capacity from January–March 1812, when the post went to Henry Seymour (1778–1844), who held it until 1835. BACK

[7] A long aside in the Edinburgh Review, 18 (August 1811), 420–423n, had questioned whether the ‘virulent personal abuse … levelled at the most respectable members of the Legislature’ in the Edinburgh Annual Register was in breach of Parliamentary privilege and hinted that action against the author and publishers might be taken. In the event, the Edinburgh Review’s suggestion was not acted on. BACK

[8] The Spanish historian Ambrosio Morales (1513–1591). BACK

[9] Pedro Ponce de Leon (1520–1584), a Spanish Benedictine, believed to have devised the first method for teaching deaf-mutes to speak and write. Details of this were either not recorded or were subsequently lost. BACK

[10] The Origin, Nature, and Object of the New System of Education (1812), an expansion of Southey’s appraisal of the educational systems advocated by Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster (the ‘Dragon’), Quarterly Review, 6 (October 1811), 264–304. Southey had complained to John Murray, 23 October 1811, about the ‘curtailment’ by the editors of his original article; see Southey to John Murray 23 October 1811, Letter 1971. BACK

People mentioned

Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 4 times)
Sayers, Frank (1763–1817) (mentioned 3 times)
Turner, Sharon (1768–1847) (mentioned 2 times)
Reeve, Susan (1788–1853) (mentioned 1 time)
Sharp, Richard (1759–1835) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)