1131. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 10 December [1805]

1131. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 10 December [1805] ⁠* 

Dear Harry

I well remember that the passage in Gomara is inaccurate. [1]  some word or words must have been omitted. por entonces is – at that time, entonces is then. it means either that Luis Bertoman says so que (fice) en Calicut – or that he says the disease was there – which is most likely. – There is no difficulty in explaining why mention of the Bubas is not made till the second voyage – only recollect how very scanty the original accounts are, & in what manner made up. Barros published Decades [2]  in different years, the 1st & 2d in 1553. the third 1563. the fourth was not published till long after his death, by Joam Baptista Lavanha 1613. [3]  Thuanus [4]  wrote at the close of the 16th century – I have no documents to say in what precise year, but he is too late to be of any importance as an authority. Oviedo is the great authority. [5] 

You need not trouble more about the Magazines for I have been obliged to do without them.

Lloyd is gone into Warwickshire – at least he told me so in a note, in which he made no mention of your affairs, [6] x at which omission I expressed my surprize in reply. It is precisely as I told you – these things are vinegar & mustard to season the insipidity of his existence, – & in this instance he has taken so largely as to be in danger of being taken by the nose. You begin to understand how totally he is wrecked & ruined. However do, as I do, keep on good terms with him, for the sake of what he has been. Mrs Ll. too is truly an estimable woman. Make her let Emma [7]  understand that you will not give up the matter, can not must be your language, potentially speaking, & perhaps you yourself may regard the words as synonymous – which xxx <the> German auxiliary show verbs show not to be the case. If you persevere, she will, – but I do not think she uses you quite well, things having gone so far, in not writing to you herself. Lloyd of course pleaded Quaker to the challenge.

Be careful in the dissecting room – I know a man whose father lost his life by a scratch there, & King has a very narrow escape.

Tom has sent me a turtle! which happily has never arrived. I wrote in bodily fear to Wynn to give it him, & if it be not eat by the way he will get it. [8] 

The Count was going tomorrow – but I have set him upon making Specimens of the English prose writers, [9]  & he will find a fortnights work here – I can give him so much help, & Lamb so much, & perhaps Wm Taylor, that he is sure of getting thro this, & Longman will doubtless print it at my recommendation. I look upon the invention of a job which he can do as only less extraordinary than squaring the circle or doubling the cube. To night he begins his labour, & is at this very time transcribing from Bishop Latimer [10]  – who, if you do not happen to know it, is one of the most amusing writers in the language.

You will have seen the Monthly Review of Madoc. [11]  bad could not be better – for never was any thing more clumsily overdone. In consequence of the extracts there & in the Edinburgh [12]  Windham has sent for the book, declaring himself to be completely at issue with the Reviewers. this Wynn tells me.

The Spaniard goes on well. [13]  Have you time to write for him a sketch of the system of medical education? & of the Brunonian theory? [14]  it matters not how briefly. Can you describe also the road from Melrose to Edinburgh. for I would take him that way & home by Berwick. [15] 

Your winter will not pass the more agreably for your Ambleside adventure. the affair is intricate enough for a novel, & rather too much so for real life. If indeed you were at full leisure & could play at bo-peep over the country it would be very well. However do not let your spirits be cast down, for if she does not use you confoundedly ill, you may certainly have her, – & if she does she is not worth having.

I must go to town as soon as my reviewing is over to finish this business over which Bedford has will then have dawdled for two years. [16]  If Wm Taylor should not happen to meet me in London I will return, or go, thro Norwich. My plans of emigration must in great measure be regulated by political affairs. It will not do to remove my family, if there be any chance of the expulsion of the English, in which case I shall be quite enough of incumbrance to myself. [17]  We shall see how your novel goes on – as the Colonel calls it, – if it should not keep you in England, perhaps a journey thro the north of Portugal would be the pleasantest way of passing a few months, & certainly the most profitable. It would suit me to travel with a family Physician.

Sarah Hutchinson is here – & desires her love to Mrs Fearon [18]  – to whom & to her husband I will beg you to remember me –

We have news of Coleridge – he left Malta in September, to return thro Naples & Venice. so that his arrival may daily be expected. [19] 

God bless you. You know what are the two things needful for going thro the world well. – that you are provided with the one – viz. thin pantaloons, both Latrigg [20]  & I well know. but don’t let the cold pudding sit heavy enough upon your stomach to make the heart heavy. You know by G.D’s escape care how the one is affected by the other. Keep up your spirits, mend your handwriting, & above all things – don’t go out in the streets without the muzzle.


Tuesday. Dec. 10.


* Address: For/ H. H. Southey Esqr/ Mr Guthrie’s. Bookseller/ Nicholson Street/ Edinburgh –
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d.3. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 409–412. BACK

[1] Henry Southey was soliciting information from his brother for his university dissertation to graduate as MD. This was on the origins and course of syphilis, in which he suggested an American origin for the disease. The passage Southey refers to is in Francisco Lopez de Gomara (c. 1511–1566?), La Historia General de las Indias, con Todos los Descubrimientos, y Cosas Notables que han Acaescido Enellas, dende que se Ganaron Hasta Agora (Anvers, 1554), p. 36. Gomara quotes Luis Bertoman as to the presence of the disease in Calicut. BACK

[2] Joao de Barros (1496–1570) and Diogo de Couto (c. 1542–1616). Southey’s edition of their work was Decadas da Asia fos Feitos, que os Portuguezes Fizeram na Conquista, e Descombrimento das Terras, e Mares do Oriente (1778–1788), no. 3180 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[3] Joao Baptista Lavanha (1555–1624), a Portuguese engineer who wrote on mathematics and navigation. BACK

[4] Jacques Auguste de Thou (Thuanus; 1553–1617), a French historian. BACK

[5] Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478–1557), Sumario de la Natural Historia de las Indias (1526), or Historia General y Natural de las Indias, Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Océano, of which the first part was published in 1535 and publication of the second part was interrupted by the author’s death. BACK

[6] Southey is referring to the consequences of Harry’s meeting Emma Noel (d. 1873), while at the home of Charles Lloyd near Ambleside. She was the daughter of Gerard Noel Edwardes, of Exton Park, Rutland (1759–1838; DNB), who had adopted the surname Noel in 1798, and inherited a baronetcy in 1813 to become the 2nd Baronet Barham. When her family objected to the couple’s plans to marry, the relationship soon ended. BACK

[7] See note 6. BACK

[8] For the letter to Wynn; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 24 November 1805, Letter 1125. The turtle did not reach Keswick, but died in quarantine; see Southey to Thomas Southey, 1–5 January 1806, Letter 1140. BACK

[9] Burnett’s Specimens of English Prose Writers, from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Seventeenth Century was published in three volumes with Longmans in 1807. This compilation formed a companion work to George Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790, 2nd edn. 1801, 3rd edn. 1803) and Southey’s own anthology, jointly edited with Bedford, Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[10] Hugh Latimer (c. 1485–1555), Bishop of Worcester, preacher, and protestant martyr, whose sermons could be found in The Sermons of the Right Reverend Father in God, Master Hugh Latimer, ... Many of which were preached before King Edward VI (1758). BACK

[11] John Ferriar (1761–1815; DNB) reviewed Madoc (1805) in the Monthly Review, n.s. 48 (October 1805), 113–122. BACK

[12] Francis Jeffrey reviewed Madoc in the Edinburgh Review, 7 (October 1805), 1–29. BACK

[13] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[14] The Brunonian system of medicine was named after its founder, the Scottish medic John Brown (1735–1788; DNB), who argued that all diseases were explicable as results of over, or under, stimulation of the nerves. Brown’s system attracted many followers – notably Thomas Beddoes, who treated Southey’s nervous collapse in 1799–1800 – but it became discredited because Brown prescribed opium and alcohol to achieve a healthy degree of stimulation, at the cost of his own addiction. Brown’s ideas are not discussed in Letters from England, the medical topics of Letters 50, 51 and 52, being quackery, animal magnetism and faith healing. BACK

[15] Southey’s fictional traveller did not get as far as Scotland. BACK

[16] Southey’s and Bedford’s jointly edited anthology, Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[17] Southey abandoned his plans to travel to Portugal owing to his wife’s opposition. BACK

[18] Wife of Henry Fearon, MD (1780–1822). BACK

[19] Coleridge had been acting as Public Secretary to the British Civil Commissioner in Malta. Though due to return, he did not arrive back in England until August 1806 and never returned to live in Keswick. BACK

[20] A fell near Keswick on descending which Harry had split his trousers. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)