1053. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 4 April 1805

1053. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 4 April 1805 ⁠* 

Dear Harry

I am vexed – & surprized at what your letter tells me about money matters – thinking that affair had been completely settled. [1]  – if you can anticipate your next quarter – the summer will set things to rights. in fact I have some reason to expect my Uncle in England – do not mention this to John May or to any person whatever, for it depends on a contingency – & I am in daily & anxious expectation of knowing more.–

Come as soon as you please. Coleridge is coming home [2]  – this will so far affect you that you must after his return get a bed in the town – for there will be no spare one else for Danvers or any body else. You will therefore have to pay for a bed-room – & this will be all your expence. the sooner you come the better for both I & Duppa & Johannes [3]  want exercise.

If the Venereal disease [4]  had existed in the East the first European who went there would have caught it – but it is never mentioned by any of the Port. historians – tho they often say how dreadfully these people suffered from other disorders. Certainly it was not in Polynesia till we carried it there. – & they <people there> are probably of Malay or perhaps Chinese origin – for the Chinese seem to have been very early colonists.

Calomel [5]  I give whenever it seems needful – & digitalis as a diuretic. the child goes on well at present, but the most critical time is yet to come for she has only four teeth as yet, & the more difficult ones remain. She is always out when the weather permits. While her digestion continues well I have little fear. No person can know the symptoms of the disorder more accurately than I do – it certainly may be prevented – but of all diseases it is that which my children would be most likely to inherit, from the state of my own brain. Nothing but regularity & self-management keeps my nervous system in order.

Have you got Madoc? Longman tells me it is sent in a parcel to one of the Edinburgh booksellers for you. [6] 

I have an unexpected & unprofitable business come upon me. that of correcting Joan of Arc for a third edition. the Vision is to be printed at the end – & Artaxerxes wants to supply its present place with verses out of my Letters [7]  – but I shall prefer putting in silently the best pieces out of that volume which was published in xxx with poor Lovell. [8]  All this is to me matter of some trouble & no emolument – the copy right being gone – To Joan of Arc I shall do much [9]  – but little which will be perceptible to ordinary readers. there is something to weed out – & throughout a looseness of language with much that is awkward, much that is peculiar & much that is good for nothing to weed out. Troublesome & wearisome work – but the Poem deserves this at my hands, it gave me a lift in the world which nothing else could have done.

Johnes talks of translating Joinville. [10]  Longmans asked my opinion which are in favour of it – if his Froissart sells. [11]  for Joinville is a more interesting author, as having more unity of subject – but Johnes wants sadly to have his English weeded.

Walter Scotts poem has delighted me & I am very sorry it did not come to my hands for the Review. [12]  I would have blown the trumpet for him with a hearty good will. As for Dr Brown – judging by the specimens in the Monthly – it is Gods Mercy <well for him> that he did not get into my clutches. I should certainly have recommended him to try stewed prunes for his costiveness. It will be Gods mercy if he does not break a blood vessel in straining for a sonnet one of these days – I never saw more execrable bombast nor more abominable English. [13] 

Come – quam celerrime [14]  – I shall have dealings with the Devil for heaven knows how long. these new editions – the Specimens now at last going to Press since the Mutiny have quelled, [15]  – & my Spaniards letters [16] de queis tacendum est, [17]  – for I shall let them pass as genuine as long as I can; – suspicion & curiosity help on a book wonderfully. I have begun – & got on some way. Necessity is the mother of Invention – & by the Lord Necessity never was likely to have a larger family – in an honest way – than since she became connected with me.

God bless you.


Thursday April 4. 1805.


* Address: For/ H. H. Southey Esqr/ to be left at Mr Guthrie’s – Bookseller/ Nicholson Street/ Edinburgh./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d.3. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] See Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 26 January 1805 (Letter 1029) and 5 February 1805 (Letter 1032), and Southey to John May, 26 January 1805, Letter 1028. BACK

[2] Coleridge did not arrive back in England from Malta until August 1806, and he did not return to live in Keswick. BACK

[3] Southey’s ass, John. BACK

[4] Henry Southey was soliciting information from his brother for his university dissertation to graduate as MD. It was on the origins and course of syphilis, in which he suggested an American origin for the disease. BACK

[5] The common name for mercury chloride, which was taken for various ailments. BACK

[6] Complimentary copies of Madoc (1805) had been sent by Longmans on Southey’s behalf, at the end of March 1805. BACK

[7] Southey’s Letters Written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (Bristol, 1797) included translations from the Spanish and original verse. BACK

[8] The third edition of Joan of Arc was published in 1806. The ‘Vision of the Maid of Orleans’, originally published in the second volume of Poems (1799) was printed at the end of the poem. In the new 1806 edition of the second volume of Poems (1799), Southey included two poems first published in Southey’s and Robert Lovell’s joint collection of Poems (1795), ‘The Retrospect’ and ‘To Hymen’. Other poems brought into the 1806 edition of Poems to make up for the removal of the ‘Vision’ were, ‘Translation of a Greek Ode on Astronomy, written for the prize at Cambridge, 1793’ (pp. 3–9); ‘To Hymen’ (pp. 25–39); ‘Remembrance’ (pp. 40–43); ‘To Recovery’ (pp. 49–51); ‘Youth and Age’ (pp. 52–53); ‘The Traveller’s Return’ (pp. 54–55); ‘Autumn’ (pp. 56–58); ‘The Destruction of Jerusalem’ (pp. 59–62); ‘The Spanish Armada’ (pp. 63–66); ‘St Bartholomew’s Day’ (pp. 67–69); ‘To a Bee’ (pp. 74–75); ‘Metrical Letter’, pp. 76–79. BACK

[9] For the alterations, see Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), I. BACK

[10] Thomas Johnes (1748–1816; DNB), translated the Memoirs of John Lord de Joinville, Grand Seneschal of Champagne Written by Himself, which was published in 1807. BACK

[11] 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 (1804). BACK

[12] Scott’s The Lay of the Last Minstrel: A Poem (1805) was reviewed by Anna Laetitia Barbauld in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 600–604. BACK

[13] Thomas Brown (1778–1820), a Scottish philosopher, contributor to the Edinburgh Review and poet, who published his Poems in 1804. BACK

[14] Meaning ‘as quickly as possible’. BACK

[15] Southey’s and Bedford’s jointly edited anthology, Specimens of the Later English Poets, was in production after the printers’ strike of early 1805. BACK

[16] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[17] Meaning ‘about which silence is best’. BACK

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