31. Robert Southey to Thomas Davis Lamb, [c. 23 November 1792]

31. Robert Southey to Thomas Davis Lamb, [c. 23 November 1792] ⁠* 

Dear Tom — again
I take my pen
Resolvd to write to you,
Resolvd to send
To you my friend
A story long & true.

To say as how
If time allow
To Oxford I went down;
And eke to tell
What me befell
Within that gallant town.

Ordine rect. [1] 
Without neglect
Confusion too without
We will approach
Towards the coach
And thence we will set out.

But by the by
To tell no lie
I ought to say the mail
For tho I rhyme
At no one time
Shall Falshood cloud my tale.

A viel of clouds
The welkin shrouds,
Full dismal lookd the sky
Inside no room!
Unlucky doom
Upon the roof get I.

And by my side
Did one more ride
A lawyer’s clerk was he
His horn guard blows —
I blew my nose
And merrily on went we.

Scarce ten miles got
(Unhappy lot!)
When down descends the rain —
No hope I fear
Said I is near.
I wish I was home again.

Faint heart then said he
Neer won fair Lady,
Perhaps the weather’ll mend —
And should it not
Twill be forgot
When your journeys at an end

Now if you will
Dear Tom stand still
And listen to my dress
You then shall hear
What much I fear
You’d never be able to guess.

For next my breast
Poor I was drest,
With my father’s warm fur cap
As in inside
I could not ride
It servd me thus by hap.

My own old bear
Was over there
To speak of more were vain
Half the guards coat set
To keep out wet
For bitterly came the rain.

To Faringdon
Suppose we’re gone
The lawyers clerk got down.
The whole coat mine
Miles nine & nine,
No more from Oxford town.

But there a man
His journey began
Of whom we’ll more anon.
His name indeed
I can’t areed
Whether Dick Jemmy Martin or John.

At Oxford town
As I got down
I saw them all intent
Upon the ground
In searching round
However in I went.

There as awhile
I sat in stile
My negus was prepard, —
My trunks up stairs
The coachman bears
And with him comes the guard.

Into my hose
My hand then goes
Some money them to give —
God help us all!
No purse at all
I found as sure as you live.

‘’Tis gone I swear.
“No purse is there
No purse can there be found! —
Why to be sure
That purse wer’nt yours
We found upon the ground.

I will soon say.
Perhaps it may
Of leather it was made.
I do declare
Two pockets there
Wherein guineas four were laid

God help us all
They both out call —
The man that was with you.
Did that purse own.
None could disown
What all believd was true.

Perhaps we can
Find out this man.’
Perhaps I said we may
Where he is gone
We ask anon
And find he went away.

Coachman & Guard
Both now prepard
Along with me to pack
Two waiters wait
On us in state
And followd them boot-jack.

Hap-hazard we go,
Not very slow,
Towards the inn next door —
A waiter out came
Who was calld to by name
Before we proceed any more.

Stop stop they cry
Here come to I
To speak a bit we want ye
Say has there been
Unto your Inn
A man with a hare & portmanteau?

Who just came down
Into this town
On outside of the mail?
The guard thus said
And scratchd his head
And listend for the tale.

But here my friend
I must make an end
Tho only for a time
In a post or so
I’ll let you know
The rest of the story in rhyme.


Why I proceed after this you will soon see. but though I go on that is no reason why you should — if you are one half as tired with reading as I am with writing you will fling this letter behind the fire.


As you may read
I thought indeed
Before to make an end
But I will say
Without delay
Why I go on my friend.

I thought it better
Stead of one letter
To send my tale in two
Until I gues’t
You’d think it best
To make one postage do.

Calld by his name
The waiter came
To us along the way.
He scratchd his head
And then he said
What I am going to say.

Just now there came
One just the same
As you describe I grant ye
I do declare
He had a hare
And likewise a portmanteau.

We cry o ho
And is it so
Where is he? waiter said —
And so says John
Why he is gone
This minute up to bed

All in a row
Up stairs we go
Our anger you may guess.
But here we stay
Tom, whilst I say
What was this honest mans dress.

His shirt did hide
His meagre side
The jordan in his hand
A nightcap red
Upon his head
As barefooted he did stand.

Where is the purse?
With a hearty curse —
Says he was that purse thine?
No no says I
As I stood by
But that same purse is mine

O-ho says he
That Sir may be
I only took the same
With me to keep
Whilst I did sleep
Lest any rogue should claim.

And then to me
The purse gave he
Tis well it is no worse —
Twas kind (I say)
To walk away
To take care of my purse.

Full many a name
Of evil fame
This fellow then they gave
As — cheating rogue
And gallows dog
Thief villain rascal knave

Whether he slept or no
I do not know.
One guinea still remaind
This guinea too
With much ado
We from the gutter gaind

With many a thank
This last was drank
By those who got my purse
And going to bed
We all of us said,
Tis well it is no worse.

Next morn I rise
And ope my eyes
My little trunk I make fast.
A letter write
And send to invite
The King of Men to breakfast.

How you would stare
To see his hair
It looks so royal well
Which when at school
He made a rule
To grease as we can tell.

Why should I express
What you can guess
His rooms how neat & fine
So cleanly too
(Tom without you)
Without your help or mine

Why say how fine
The royal wine
How ruby red his nose.
Of all such stuff
Enough enough
The morning past suppose.

I go God save me
Of Baliol College head —
And when he came
My own sweet name
In modest manner said

Dear Tom his wig
Is not so big
As many Doctors more —
And so I may
Presume to say
His wisdom is the more —

So instantly
To look at me
For fellows two did he send
And luckily
Whom should I spy
In one but a very good friend.

Oh my dear Thomas
Indeed I promise
That I was very glad
Without examination
Or any vexation
To swear away like mad

As they provide them
To dare my fidem
And go to the Vice Chancellor
And nothing loth
To buy an oath
Of which he was the seller.

He then a book
Very shabby to look
Gave me — wasn’t that kind?
For which nice gift
Indeed I left
But one pound-four behind.

Now Im in clover
When all is over
When without being examinated
Im cappd gownd & swore
And what is more
To conclude matriculated.

My rooms to see
Away went we
Rooms which my good friend found
One room to keep in
Another to sleep in
The floor upon the ground.

But every chair
Dear Thomas there
Is like the roaring sea —
There’s a simily good
As Homer could
For no bottom we could see

Tho’ mine be small
Yet none at all
You know would never do
So I must have
As you perceive
Some chairs Dear Thomas new.

To church next day
I went my way
A sermon grand to hear
But to say next
What was the text
Would be as tiresome as the sermon I fear.

Your friend not grave is
Enough such sight to stand
The great wigs all —
Each in his stall
With a trencher in his hand

Like so many old women
A very odd trim in
Black gown with stripes of red
So dull the sermon by hap
That they all took a nap
And nodded each one his great head.

So heres an end
My very dear friend
Without any more adoe
I need not tell
That I got home well
Else I should not be writing to you.

Some compliment
Pray Tom present
To all my friends at Rye
Pray write & tell
If (as I hope) youre well —
And so dear Thomas good bye.


All this whole sheet I have written without intermission — my hand really aches. pray write & let me know what is become of you?


* Address: Thomas Davis Lamb Esqr/ Mountfield Lodge/ Rye/ Sussex
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: DNO/ 23/ 92
Watermark: A crest within a circle
Seal: Red wax [design illegible]
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng Poet c. 2. AL; 4p.
Previously published: Reminiscences of Oxford by Oxford Men 1559–1850, ed. Lilian M. Quiller Couch (Oxford, 1892), pp. [403–] 408. BACK

[1] The Latin translates as ‘in the right order’. BACK

People mentioned

Lamb, Thomas Davis (1775–1818) (mentioned 11 times)
Davey, John (d. 1798) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Balliol (mentioned 1 time)
Mountsfield Lodge, Rye (mentioned 1 time)