2480. Robert Southey to John May, 10 September 1814

2480. Robert Southey to John May, 10 September 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. 10 Sept. 1814.

My dear friend

I wrote to Coleridge in the beginning of last month, telling him that if I did not hear from him in the course of three weeks I could no longer delay applying to his brothers on behalf of his children. A fortnight after my letter was written a gentleman [1]  brought a few lines of introduction from him, in which he said that I should have received an answer to my letter before that note would reach me. None however has arrived, & indeed I have no doubt but that my letter has never been opened.

C. used to receive an annuity of 150£ from Thomas & Josiah Wedgewood, [2]  given him on an a xxxx xx for the purposeng of enabling him to devote himself to such literary pursuits as might be worthy of his powers. Thomas W. died having settled his half of the annuity by will by upon C. the other half was withdrawn by the other brother between three & four years ago, on the plea that it was not convenient for him to continue it longer. [3]  In reality the condit purpose for which it was granted was not answered by any performance of the implied condition, & C. more suo  [4]  had so neglected these friends, that the only feeling which they entertained toward him was <had long been> that of resentment.

When C. from mere caprice thought proper to live in a state of semi-separation from his wife, he left her <then> this whole annuity, for herself & her daughter, promising to support the boys [5]  as well as himself. He insisted also that she should have a house which he could call his own. – This building <which I inhabit> consists of two houses under one roof, with a door of communication; our Landlord used to inhabit <live in> the smaller of these tenements; just before his death I took a lease of the two – (they are partly furnished, –) at the rent of 45 £ for the one, 30 for the other. The former was for myself, the latter for Mrs C. We formed but one family, but the houses were considered as distinct in point of rent & taxation.

When the Remorse [6]  was acted C. sent his wife 100 £ the whole of which was consumed in the payment of debts previously contracted. [7]  The two boys are at school at Ambleside, the schooling of the elder has been given him, on the score of attachment to him for his talents, by the schoolmaster Mr Dawes. 10. 10 £ is paid for that of the other, & both are boarded in the village; – their expences, including their cloathing, consume, tho every economy is used, nearly the whole of the £67- 10/ which is all that Mrs C has to receive. In Consequently the rent not only falls on me, but I have also her & her daughter to maintain, – & she is also contracting debts, tho it is xxx impossible for any person to manage with more frugality.

I say all this to you that you may fully understand the circumstances in which these poor children & their mother are placed. The father must be considered as a man labouring under a kind of moral madness, & I hope should hope that his brothers will not let any feeling of indignation against him prevent operate to their injury: – in that case they will indeed be worse than fatherless. The object for which I am now solicitous is to place Hartley at the University, – that being the only destination for which he is qualified either by education or nature. Lady Beaumont has offered 30 £ a year for toward that <this> specific purpose. Poole of Stowey (who is his godfather) 10 £. Wherever he go some College assistance must of course be sought for him, & this requires consultation enquiry: if it be to Cambridge he must inevitably go as a sizer; – at Oxford there is a degree of degradation attending the Servitors which should be avoided. [8]  Hartley owing to an order of his fathers that he should learn Greek first & not be regularly taught Latin, is an irregular scholar. He will astonish the tutor with his Greek, more than he will disappoint him in some minor points. But he is very diligent, & of extraordinary abilities.

If Hartley makes his way at College, (it must be his own fault if he does not, & he is certainly a boy of good heart & good principles) he will be enabled to he assist his brother in his turn.

That C. may by some fit of exertion afford occasional assistance to his family is always possible, but every day lessens the probability, & increases his own difficulties, – for he is literally living upon the bounty of his friends for the time being. – What I have said of my own part of the burthen I have said to no one but you; & Wordsworth is the only other person who knows it. You are perfectly acquainted with my circumstances, & know that if my ability was equal to my will. But the point upon which I wish you to address his brother is the situation of the children, & the in particular the pressing necessity of putting the eldest forward in that line of life which will soonest enable him to assist his brother

God bless you



* Address: To/ John May Esqre./ Richmond/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 13SE13/ 1814; [partial] 10o’Clo/ SP.1/ 1814F.N
Endorsement: No. 176 1814/ Robert Southey/ Keswick 10 September/ recd. 14th do/ ansd 28th do
Watermark: J Dickinson & Co/ 1811
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos, The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 136–137. BACK

[1] Coleridge to Southey, 10 August 1814, E. L. Griggs, Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956–1971), III, p. 521. The bearer of the letter of introduction from Coleridge was Zachariah Henry Biddulph (c. 1792–1842), a young Bristolian who was later Vicar of Old and New Shoreham, 1828–1842. BACK

[2] Josiah Wedgwood II (1769–1843), brother of Thomas Wedgwood. He was a partner in the family pottery business 1790–1841 and took over its management in 1805. The annuity to Coleridge had been paid since 1798. BACK

[3] Josiah Wedgwood withdrew his share of the annuity in 1812. BACK

[4] The Latin translates as ‘in his usual manner’. BACK

[6] Remorse was staged at Drury Lane, London, 23 January-12 February 1813. This made it a moderate success. BACK

[7] Coleridge to Sara Coleridge [27 January 1813], E. L. Griggs, Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956–1971), III, pp. 429–431. BACK

[8] A sizar at Cambridge University was a student who received benefits such as lower fees or free meals in return for performing set tasks, originally of a menial nature. Servitors at Oxford University were in a similar position; in the past they had acted as servants to other students. They were distinguished by their plain black gown and round hat. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)