1003. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 16 December 1804

1003. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 16 December 1804 ⁠* 

Dear Cottle

I have <not> written to you since your friend Mr Porter [1]  was here in July – to whom I will beg you when you see him to make my remembrances, for he seems to be a worthy man, thinking well upon many subjects & meaning well upon all. Since that time I have been xxxxxx busied with idle company – for this place swarms in summer, or hard at work to make up for the time so lost, or expended in mountaineering. Madoc I trust will find his way to you in about six weeks or two months. [2]  the whole of the poem is printed, & the notes will occupy no very long time. you will see a very handsome book & find a full third of the volume altogether new. So that I have something to show for my time notwithstanding so man large a portion of it was spent abroad.

For this month past have I been thinking to write this letter, in the hope of persuading you to make a book about Bristol, your native place & mine. how worthless a book Barratts [3]  is every body knows, & indeed all such books as his are by their very nature unreadable what I would urge you to collect is not a History of Bristol, but Anecdotes of Bristol to relate just so much of its History as would make a not-tiresome chapter – to preserve all the strange occurrencies which have happened there & which can still be recovered from the memory of old persons, − the biographies of all the remarkable persons born there or living there – an account of what is beautiful or remarkable in or near it &c &c. such a book published with good views & portraits would infallibly sell – I would have related as far as possible what Bristol was − & what it now is – such a book in short of the city now, as if had been written a century ago would have delighted you & every body else.

Let us look closer into this matter. to begin with the history. ask your good Mother what Bristol was when she first saw it, or can remember it: when it ended at the College Green, & at the Barton, when the old bridge was standing, & the old shambles, & St Leonards Church, before Bridge Street – Union Street – Clare Street were built – or Park Street – College Street & all your end of the city – when Kingsdown & Clifton were villages &c &c. Changes such as these interest every body who know the places: we take a sort of family interest in topographical anecdotes, & it would be no difficult matter to show why this is the case, & how we are the better for it. For the ornamental illustrations of this part see next what can be recovered. Barrets view of the old bridge [4]  may be made picturesque, & perhaps drawings exist of St Leonards, [5]  as they must of the Cross when it stood in the College Green. [6]  – Next for the remarkables of Bristol – there is that strange tale of Mr Loves death, [7]  − the poor man at Penpark hole [8]  Gooderes murder [9]  some fifty years ago. John the Painter. [10]  Pedleys escapes from xxx newgate. [11]  The Lawfords gate witches. [12]  the storyes of the fairies at Mangotsfield. [13]  George Lukins, [14]  of whom there should be a portrait if possible − &c &c – once look for such things & enough will be found. – I can help you to a bloody murder & a Ghost both excellent ingredients. The Bristol papers which are probably filed at the printers would of course preserve an great number of interesting circumstances. For biography John Henderson [15]  would come within your reach − & there are some of our old navigators who sailed from Bristol – for it was once an adventurous place. the establishment of the different sectaries there, their growth & present state. discipline of the Moravians. [16]  public amusements when established. manufactories <each> when first introduced – & in an Appendix a catalogue of all books published at Bristol, which would be a very curious document of the progress of provincial literature.

Such a book would sell best in numbers or parts with plenty of prints, views of the city & in the city of which latter description many, & very interesting ones might be found. in fact the best way of proceeding would be if such an artist as Holmes [17]  would combine with you, he furnish the drawings – you the work. calculations of expence you can make better than I can – the prints would cost from 8 to ten pounds each − & the plates remain a more substantial property than copyright. I am supposing them of octavo size in the manner of Brittons book. [18]  – Now if such a scheme should hit your fancy I have said enough − & if it should not, it would be useless to say more. Only that I think you would do it exceedingly well & that you would find much amusement in collecting materials, as so much would be to be gathered by personal enquiries from old people. if you think of it at all seriously I will hunt out all the corners of my memory for you. had my poor mother been alive she would have been a mine of information.

Like a great jack ass I began this upon a sheet which had the beginning of another letter on the other side – so you see it is pieced & will still pass muster as a single sheet for single it is. How are you going on & your family? what are you about? the Psalms you must ere this have done with. [19]  Your sisters? your mother? Robert? are they all going on well?

I am hard at my Annual work of reviewing which is I trust more than half done. [20]  dull work which takes me from better things. My history [21]  has had a long stand – yet have I since we removed to Keswick written a quarto volume of it. In another month I hope to return to it fresh & hungry. What my plans are of settling, or how long we may remain where we are it would not be easy to say or even guess. This dreadful pestilence in the South of Europe deranges all my plans. [22]  I cannot go to Lisbon while it is in such danger, & yet am unwilling to chuse an abiding place till I have been there. even if it were conveniently in my power to chuse & fix. I saw our letter in the Gentlemans Magazine, [23]  − & suppose you saw the Review of the work in the Edinburgh which was exceedingly civil. [24] 

Harry past the summer with me – he is a very fine young man & has just been elected President of the Medical Society at Edinburgh, being the youngest President ever chosen. he is also President of the Speculative Society there. From Tom it is long since I have heard so that I look very anxiously for a letter. It was said in a provincial paper that he was killed, but on enquiry at the Admiralty it appeared that it was one of the other Lieutenants. [25]  I have been very uneasy about him, & am not yet comfortable. Edward will come to the gallows. a fate thing which I have so long foreseen & so made up my mind to, that I only wish it was over. I begged Danvers to caution you against him, as he goes about taking up money in my name. My little Edith is just inoculated with the Cow Pock. [26]  she is a sweet child – but so prematurely quick that I do not in my heart expect to rear her.

Edith desires to be remembered to you & all your good family –

God bless you Cottle –

yours very affectionately

Robert Southey.

Dec. 16. 1804. Keswick.


* Address: To/ Mr Cottle/ Portland Square/ Bristol
Postmark: [partial] 1804
Endorsements: 173 71
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 366–369. BACK

[1] Probably the Reverend Joseph Porter (dates unknown), a clergyman based in Bristol. BACK

[2] Madoc was published by Longman in 1805. BACK

[3] William Barrett (1727–1789), The History and Antiquities of Bristol (1789). BACK

[4] Barrett’s view of the old bridge is a plain architectural drawing in The History and Antiquities of Bristol, opposite page 96. BACK

[5] St Leonard’s church, Redfield, Bristol. BACK

[6] The Bristol High Cross, a monument commemorating British monarchs, was removed from College Green, the area in central Bristol adjacent to the cathedral, in the mid-eighteenth century. BACK

[7] The Reverend Samuel Love, a canon of Bristol cathedral, died aged 29 in 1773, and a monument was placed in the cathedral to his memory. Love was a poet who described in verse a remarkable occurrence that took place shortly before his death: a robin took to settling on one of the pinnacles of the cathedral organ and singing while it played during services. He was the subject of a poem by Hannah More (1745–1833; DNB), ‘On the Rev. Mr. Love. In the Cathedral at Bristol’, in The Works of Hannah More, 6 vols (London, 1834), VI, pp. 13–14. BACK

[8] On 17 March 1775, Reverend Thomas Newman (dates unknown), a canon of Bristol cathedral, fell to his death into Pen Park Hole, near Filton, north Bristol, while trying to plumb its depths. Pen Park Hole is a deep cave, with an underground lake, discovered in the seventeenth century. BACK

[9] In January 1741 Sir John Dineley Goodere (c. 1680–1741) was murdered, in a dispute over an inheritance, on board HMS Ruby, at its moorings in the King Road, at the confluence of the rivers Avon and Severn, outside Bristol, by his brother Samuel Goodere (1687–1741) and two sailors under his command. Samuel was executed at the Hot Wells, near Bristol. BACK

[10] John the Painter (1752–1777), also known as James Aitken or John Aitkin, was an arsonist who, sympathising with the American colonists in their war with Britain, set fires in naval dockyards in Portsmouth and Bristol in 1776 and 1777. He was hung from the mast of a ship with a reported 20,000 people witnessing the execution. BACK

[11] In December 1780 Joseph George Pedley (dates unknown), faced with the seizure of papers which would have revealed his fraudulent financial dealings, burnt down his own house in Bristol. Imprisoned in the city’s jail – Newgate, so-called after the London prison of that name – Pedley escaped, on 1 April 1781, but was caught in Newcastle. BACK

[12] According to Eleanor Keate (dates unknown), reports that a previous occupant haunted the house that she and her husband owned outside Lawfords Gate, Bristol, rendered it unsaleable for three years. See Keate’s The Unfortunate Wife (Bristol, 1779), p. 5. Henry Durbin reported the events which occurred at the Lamb Inn, near Lawfords Gate, Bristol, in 1761. The daughters of Giles, the inn’s landlord, found ‘fairies’– a poltergeist – moving objects supernaturally in their bedroom. See A Narrative of Some Extraordinary Things that Happened to Mr Richard Giles’s Children (Bristol, 1800), p. 11. BACK

[13] The poltergeist at the Lamb Inn, communicating by a series of knocks in answer to investigators’ questions, declared it had been summoned by a witch of Mangotsfield, a nearby village. Giles’s death in an accident the following year was attributed to witchcraft. BACK

[14] George Lukins (b. c. 1744) was, on Friday, 13 June 1778, exorcised by seven clergymen, having, he believed, been possessed by demons who made him speak in voices not his own. The Narrative of the Extraordinary Case of George Lukins, of Yatton, Somersetshire, who was Possessed of Evil Spirits for 18 Years: Also, an Account of his Remarkable Deliverance, in the Vestry-Room of Temple Church (Bristol, 1788) was supervised by John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB). The Methodist interpretation that Lukins was possessed by evil spirits was contested by John Ferriar (1761–1815; DNB), who viewed Lukins as an imposter, and his symptoms were attributed to epilepsy and St Vitus’ Dance in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 58, part 2 (July, 1778), 609–610. BACK

[15] John Henderson (1757–1788; DNB), a Bristol child prodigy, who by the age of eight was teaching at Kingswood school. Henderson was educated as a Methodist, and became a brilliant classical scholar at Oxford, where he became interested in magic, alchemy and the occult. Returning to Bristol, he helped patients in his father’s establishment – now changed from a school to an asylum – including, in 1788, Southey’s acquaintance the poet William Gilbert (1763–1825). Henderson died young, without publishing the great works expected of him, his constitution destroyed by drink. Southey owned a treatise by Henderson and quoted from it in his 1797 Letters Written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal. See letter 214 of this edition. BACK

[16] The Moravian congregation in Bristol dates from 1746, the first British Moravian community having been established in London in 1740. BACK

[17] George Holmes (d. 1852), an Irish artist resident in Bristol from about 1802, had published Sketches of Some of the Southern Counties of Ireland, Collected during a Tour in 1797 in 1801. BACK

[18] John Britton, together with his friend Edward Wedlake Brayley (1773–1854; DNB), produced a series, county by county, of lavishly-illustrated accounts of the historical features of Britain, entitled The Beauties of England and Wales (1801–1818). BACK

[19] Cottle’s revised edition of his New Version of the Psalms of David was published in 1805. BACK

[20] Southey reviewed, in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805): John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), An Account of Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa, in the years 1797 and 1798, including Observations on the Geology & Geography, the Natural History ... and Sketches of the Various Tribes Surrounding the Cape of Good Hope, Vol. II (1804), 22–33; Robert Percival (1765–1826), An Account of the Cape of Good Hope (1804), 34–41; Daniel Mackinnen (1767–1830), A Tour Through the British West Indies, in the years 1802 and 1803 giving a Particular Account of the Bahama Islands (1804), 50–56; John Barrow, Travels in China: Containing Descriptions, Observations and Comparisons Made and Collected in the Course of a Short Residence at the Imperial Palace of Yuen-min-yuen, and on a Subsequent Journey from Pekin to Canton (1804), 69–83; Sir John Froissart’s Chronicles of England, France, and the Adjoining Countries, from the Latter Part of the Reign of Edward II to the Coronation of Henry IV, trans. Thomas Johnes (1748–1816; DNB) (1804), 189–194; George Heriot (1766–1844), The History of Canada, From its First Discovery: Comprehending an Account of the Original Establishment of the Colony of Louisiana, 194–197; Part the First of An Address to the Public from the Society for the Suppression of Vice, Instituted, in London, 1802, Setting Forth, with a List of the Members, the Utility and Necessity of such an Institution, and its Claim to Public Support (1803), 225–231; Edward Ledwich (1738–1823), The Antiquities of Ireland (1804), 398–413; Original Correspondence of Jean Jacques Rousseau, with Mad. La Tour de Franqueville and M. Du Peyrou (1804), 485–488; Anna Seward, Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Darwin, ... with Anecdotes of his Friends and Criticisms on his Writings (1804), 488–93; David Irving (1778–1850), The Lives of the Scotish Poets; with Preliminary Dissertations on the Literary History of Scotland and the Early Scotish Drama (1804), 493–499; Walter Scott, Sir Tristram: A Metrical Romance by Thomas of Ercildoune (1804), 555–563; Charles Abraham Elton (1778–1853), Poems (1804), 564–565; William Day (dates unknown), The Shepherd’s Boy: being Pastoral Tales (1804), 567–568; E. Warren (dates unknown), The Poet’s Day, or, Imagination’s Ramble (1804), 568; Cupid turned Volunteer: in a Series of Prints, Designed by her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth; and Engraved by W. N. Gardiner, B.A., with Poetical Illustrations by T. P [Thomas Park (1758/9–1834; DNB)] (1804), 568–580; Thomas Green Fessenden (1771–1837), Original Poems (1804), 571; John Blair Linn (1777–1805), The Powers of Genius (1801), 571; Thomas Clio Rickman (1761–1834; DNB), An Ode in Celebration of the Emancipation of the Blacks of Saint Domingo, November 29, 1803 (1804), 572; Robert Bloomfield, Good Tidings (1804), 574; William Robert Spencer (1770–1834; DNB), The Year of Sorrow (1804), 574–575; British Purity: or, the World we Live in. A Poetic Tale, of Two Centuries…By Lory Lucian and Jerry Juvenal, … Assisted by S. Scriblerus, etc. [pseud.] (1804), 575; William Falconer (1732–1769), The Shipwreck, (1804), ed., James Stanier Clarke (1766–1834; DNB), 577–580; William Tooke (1777–1863), ed., The Poetical Works of Charles Churchill: with Explanatory Notes and an Authentic Account of his Life, (1804), 580–585; J. Amphlett (dates unknown), Invasion: a Descriptive and Satirical Poem (1804), 585; Joseph Jefferson (1766–1824), Horae Poeticæ. Poems, Sacred, Moral and Descriptive (1804), 586–587; Alexander Campbell (1764–1824; DNB), The Grampians Desolate, a Poem in Six Books (1804), 587–591; William Crowe (bap. 1745, d. 1829; DNB), Lewesdon Hill (1804), 593–594; John Finlay (1782–1810), Wallace, or, The Vale of Ellerslie, and other Poems (1804), 594–596; Jessie Stewart (dates unknown), Ode to Dr. Thomas Percy (1804), 597; John Belfour (1768–1842), Fables on Subjects Connected with Literature. Imitated from the Spanish of Don Tomas de Yriarte (1804), 597–598; Transactions of the Missionary Society (1804), 621–634; Edward Davies (1756–1831; DNB), Celtic Researches, on the Origin, Traditions, & Language, of the Ancient Britons; with some Introductory Sketches, on Primitive Society (1804), 634–644; [Anon.] No Slaves - No Sugar: Containing New and Irresistible Arguments in Favour of the African Trade by a Liverpool Merchant (1804), 644–648; William Tennant (1758–1813), Indian Recreations, Consisting Chiefly of Strictures on the Domestic and Rural Economy of the Mahommedans and Hindoos (1803), 658–670; John Gardiner (fl. 1758–1792), Essays Literary, Political and Economical (1804), 670–674; Richard Duppa, Heads from the Fresco Pictures of Raffaele in the Vatican (1802), 918–923. BACK

[21] Southey’s projected ‘History of Portugal’, which was never completed. BACK

[22] Yellow fever was epidemic in Iberia in 1804, and killed an estimated 60% of Gibraltar’s population. BACK

[23] For this letter, which explains the uses to which the income from the edition of Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB) had been put; see Southey and Joseph Cottle to the editor of Gentleman’s Magazine, 6 August 1804, Letter 974. BACK

[24] The notice of the Chatterton edition appeared in the Edinburgh Review, 7 (April 1804), 214–230. BACK

[25] Thomas Southey’s ship, HMS Galatea, a fifth-rate 32-gun frigate, had, on 14 August 1804, made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British sloop of war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe. Of the 90 men sent on the mission, 65 were killed or wounded. Southey suspected that his brother was among them because the first lieutenant had been reported as dead, but he was absent from the raid because he had been placed under arrest. Charles Hayman (d. 1804) was made first lieutenant in his stead and died in the attack. BACK

[26] To provide inoculation from smallpox in the light of the publication of the experiments of Edward Jenner (1749–1823; DNB) on vaccinating against smallpox using cowpox serum in An Inquiry Into the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ (1798). BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 2 times)