2253. Robert Southey to John King, 4 May 1813

2253. Robert Southey to John King, 4 May 1813 ⁠* 

My dear King

You as well as myself have so little leisure for correspondence, that I should not address a letter to you without good & sufficient cause. – George Fricker you know is here, – & I dare say you know enough of his inside to suppose that this will be his last home. [1]  He is indeed miserably ill, & has every symptom of pulmonary consumption, except what the expectoration might be expected to furnish: but no matter has yet been expectorated. Mr Edmondson, who in the healing art is the magnus & only Apollo [2]  within our sphere reach, wishes to know what your opinion was of the primary liver affection; – your ideas of the case xxxxxxxx, he says, might assist him in forming a more correct opinion of it. He thinks it a very bad case, tho not yet absolutely hopeless. To me it appears desperate. A little while since he had the most violent night sweats, but these <have> been entirely subdued by bleeding. Twice there has been a considerable expectoration of blood since the first hæmorrhage, & from the state of his respiration, & the perpetual sense of stricture & fulness of which he complains, more of this is to be apprehended. The lungs are now the chief seat of disease, – but if this disease should be palliated or suspended, the original affection of the liver remains. Give me I pray you a letter, the first part of which may be for the Doctor upon this subject, – & the rest for myself. – He suspects an adhesion.

My life of Nelson ought about this time to reach you. This book has been a thing of accident rather than of choice. [3]  When Clarke & McArthurs twenty-pounder xx piece of biography appeard, I was fetched upon to review it, & had no little inclination for the task, because I felt so little qualified for it, that I should certainly have declined it, if ‘goodly guerdon’ [4]  had not been proferred upon such large terms that my poverty consented. I sent off the reviewal thinking that of all the moneys for which I have ever furnishd printers-devil with bescrawled paper, none was ever worse earned. However it was liked well by the talking part of the London public & Murray asked me to enlarge it into a volume which he might sell for a dollar. [5]  – That it appears in two volumes instead of one is more attributable to the printer [6]  than to me – for my manuscript exceeded my calculation of its extent not more than one fifth.

The next book which I shall have to send you will be the conclusion of the Hist. of Brazil: [7]  this will go to press in the course of the summer a few weeks after my hands are rid of the Register. [8]  – I take more exercise than I used to do, getting out now whenever the weather will permit for an hour or hour & half before breakfast, with such of the children as are big old enough to accompany me. This I have done since Christmas, when a sudden sickness in the midst of dinner without any assignable cause, – brought on some old feelings xxxxxxxx which I did not like to be reminded of. – Probably I am the better for this regular exercise, – in my digestion certainly, which was becoming torpid, – I am well at present thank God, – & having learnt at Lisbon to consider pulmonary disease as in some degree infectious I keep as much as possible out of poor Georges atmosphere; – indeed it is such as warns one to keep at a distance.

In one thing only do I find the effect of years, – that I can no longer read for the mere amusement of the hour & nor go on adding plan to plan of literary works, but am fain to xxxxxx xxx remember what the hour of the day is, & how much xx there is to be done before night. On this account I should be glad, if it were practicable, to emancipate myself from all periodical work: as that however cannot yet be, I take it in good part & go to it with good will. – My poem [9]  is about half written & hangs at present in its progress, more for want of convenient leisure than from any other cause. The difficulties in the management of the story & developement of the characters are got over, & there are parts in it which I am confident you would prefer to any thing of mine. But of its general MS torn]tation I xx expect little. Kehama [10]  made its way more by its grandiloquence than by any thing else – & Roderick will be as much below the standard of contemporary taste in point this point, – as it is above it in every thing else.

I hoped to have been setting out for the South about this time, but it is impossible. The Register is not yet published, & the Quarterly is calling upon me for xx a paper upon the History of the Dissenters [11]  which as yet exists only in ideas. – Tell Danvers that I did not review Mr Belshams book. [12]  If I had Mr Belsham would gave been treated with all courtesy. Tell him too that if Mr Somebody who is to bring the Baptist Miss. Number [13]  will bring also from Gutchs No 5742 – Mrs Vigors Letters from Russia 6/s [14]  – & another book of about the same price the number of which I have mislaid – but the title as Kindersleys Letters from Teneriffe, Brazil &c [15]  – I shall be xx much obliged to him. & will of course show the bearer all due civilities.

Lord Sunderlins family, whom Mrs King will x recollect, have been here for some time. – We see them much & like them much.

What a change in the world has the march to Moscow produced! [16]  I have no fears for the result as far as the event of the war. For the German spirit is rousd, – the contest is for life or for death, & with equal armies in the field, an armed & exasperated population must turn the scale. In what state Europe will find itself after the xxxxxxxx overthrow of this monstrous tyranny offers <is> a wide field for speculation, – x according to my apprehensions no country has so much to fear & xx so little to hope as England; – for change is certainly at hand, & change of every kind in our state of polluted morals perverted feelings & x lamentable ignorance, – or half knowledge which is even more dangerous – must be for the worse.

God bless you –

Yrs affectionately

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ John King Esqre/ Mall/ Clifton/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] George Fricker died at Greta Hall on 24 June 1813; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 28 June 1813, Letter 2274. BACK

[2] Greek god of medicine. BACK

[3] The Life of Nelson was a development of Southey’s review of John Charnock (1756–1806; DNB), Biographical Memoirs of Lord Viscount Nelson, &c., &c., &c.; with Observations, Critical and Explanatory (1806); James Harrison (d. 1847), The Life of Lord Nelson (1806); T. O. Churchill (fl. 1800–1823), The Life of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronté, &c (1808); and James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) and John McArthur (1755–1840; DNB), The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from his Lordship’s Manuscripts (1809), see Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. BACK

[4] Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), Faerie Queene (1590–1596), Book 1, canto 7, stanza 15. BACK

[5] Five shillings. BACK

[6] James Moyes (d. 1839), of Greville St, Hatton Garden, London. BACK

[7] Two further volumes of the History of Brazil were published, in 1817 and 1819 respectively. BACK

[8] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813). BACK

[9] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

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

[11] Quarterly Review, 10 (October 1813), 90–139. A proposed second part was not written. BACK

[12] The Unitarian minister Thomas Belsham (1750–1829; DNB). The book is probably his Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey (1812), reviewed disparagingly in Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 422–437, by the Anglican clergyman, Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759–1821; DNB). BACK

[13] One of the volumes of Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, 1800–1817. Southey eventually owned a five volume set, no. 2213 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[14] An unknown edition of Jane Vigor (1699–1783; DNB), Letters From a Lady who Resided some Years in Russia, to her Friend in England, first published in 1775. BACK

[15] Jemima Kindersley (1741–1809; DNB), Letters From the Island of Teneriffe, Brazil, the Cape of Good Hope and the East Indies (1777). BACK

[16] The French invasion of Russia in 1812 had ended disastrously for the French forces. The War of the Sixth Coalition against France had just begun in Germany. BACK

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