2594. Robert Southey to John King, 6 May 1815

2594. Robert Southey to John King, 6 May 1815 ⁠* 

My dear King

I am glad to receive a letter from you, – however unwelcome its contents. – If Mr Butcher  [1]  had given me a hint of the circumstances I should of course have instantly relinquished the legacy, – but he informed me merely that he was ready at that time to pay it. Tell him that I relinquish it now, – & also the money (about the same sum) which was in poorx Charles’s hands. – How the situation may turn out for whom he was so anxious while he lived God knows – they xx are of a bad stock, – but I will not go to London without making enquiry after the boy, [2]  – & if there be but a trace of his Uncle in him, he shall never want any assistance that it may be in my power to afford. MrButcher mentioned my letters, & in my reply I desired that they might be given to you. Do you therefore claim them.

You & I are not among those persons who, as the adage says, are born with a silver spoon in their mouths. This worlds dross will never stick to our fingers. I have had many drawbacks during its last two years. I lost not less than 400£ by the Edinburgh Register, [3]  thro the knavery of a Scotchman: Coleridge has for two or three years thrown a heavy burthen upon me. Robert Lovell is some expence to me, tho not much, poor fellow, – & the other day a rascally Bristolman (Capt Perkins [4]  a cousin of my wife’s) by way of return for hospitalities which were never worse bestowed (even if he had not thus returnd them) – swindled me out of 30£. I have however God be thanked a right buoyant spirit; – my life was insured many years ago for 1000£, & the Laureateship I took because it enabled me to ensure for 3000£ more, – with this, & with my copyrights, my family will be placed above want, – & while I have health & eyesight. I shall be able (with close application) to raise ways & means, & accumulate literary property which will turn to most account when I am gone. My health (for which also I thank God) is good, & my eyesight answers all demands upon it; – but the left eye is not so goo strong as the sight – & I perceive in it, at times, a speck which floats upon the book before it, like a mote in the sunbeams.

My sheet anchor at present is the Quarterly Review, & to this a large portion of my time is necessarily devoted, because a large portion of my expenditure must be raised from it. But I find leisure for better things. My concluding volume of Brazil [5]  is advancing in the press, – & my Inscriptions will soon find their way there. [6]  – they satisfy me in their kind, – which is a very difficulty one. When much of the merit lies in diversifying subjects that in themselves have a sameness, no one will <could> serve as a sample of the others Xxxxx xxxxxxx Xxxxx which for xxxx found xxx xxxx xxxxxx before xxxx xxxx xxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxxxx & I will not fill up the paper by sending you now what you will receive ere long in another form. – I shall soon send you my Minor Poems [7]  in a revised form collected in three volumes with many corrections & some additions. They will do to stand on your shelf, & to lend to your acquaintances. – But I hope you will get time to read the Brazil History when it reaches you, because you will find in it much curious matter respecting human nature & the progress of society.

So poor Tobin is gone! I am old enough to have outlived half the persons with whom I was familiar twenty years ago! & old enough to dream, waking as well as sleeping, too much of the past. Thus it is, – in youth our reveries are of hope, – when we begin to [MS torn] down the hill of life they are made up of remembrances. Something of this feeling [MS torn] have expressed in some verses to my eldest daug[MS torn] poem upon a Jesuit story [8]  – And more of it [MS torn] subject – whenever I dare.

My children occupy some of my time. I hav[MS torn] than I expected to be. Herbert has completely xxxx fact a good foundation of Greek so that we must soon lay aside the Testament for something more difficult, – & we learn the German Testament together. You would be very fond of this boy if you knew him, for he has all the dispositions & aptitudes that could be wished. The youngest xxx gives me some uneasiness – in November there came a slight watery discharge from the inside of her right ear, – after which it swelled & gathered on the other outside. Poulticing did not bring it to supperation, & blistering did no good. The tumour was lanced & some pus discharged. But the inside continues to show sometimes pus, & sometimes an ichorus discharge, – in the smallest possible quantity, – & a fistulous opening is found close under the ear, which no doubt communicates with the inside. I have no expectation that this can be healed here, & suppose that I must one day take her to London. I xx am told however that nothing worse is to be apprehended, – & that by & by it may be healed by applying caustic to the opening.

Write to me. All that we can know of each other must now be by direct intercourse. Tell me when your affairs are settled – & believe me – I shall be very anxious to hear this.

God bless you

yrs very affectionately

Robert Southey.

Keswick. 6 May 1815


* Address: To/ John King Esqre/ Mall/ Clifton/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 120–122. BACK

[1] Possibly Edmund Butcher (1757–1822; DNB), eminent Unitarian and minister to a congregation in Sidmouth. He was an executor of Danvers’s estate. BACK

[2] Danvers’s nephew, John Danvers (b. 1807), son of his brother John Danvers (d. 1812), a bankrupt apothecary. Southey had been involved for some years in trying to help the family. BACK

[3] Southey had lost the money he invested in the Edinburgh Annual Register and his annual salary from writing for it. BACK

[4] Thomas Perkins (1778–1815), a Captain in the Royal Navy. Perkins died at Dover on 3 April 1815, so he may have been prevented from repaying Southey because of ill-health, rather than as part of a fraud. BACK

[5] Two further volumes of the History of Brazil appeared, in 1817 and 1819 respectively. BACK

[6] Southey’s series of Inscriptions on the Peninsular War. Only 18 of the projected 30 poems were completed and they were not collected together until they were published in Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 122–156. BACK

[7] Minor Poems (1815). BACK

[8] ‘To Edith May Southey’, Tale of Paraguay (London, 1825), pp. 9–15. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)