1140. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 1 January [1806]

1140. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 1 January [1806] ⁠* 

Dear Harry

The contents of your letter concern me more than they surprize me. I think you have been used ill, & wish you to think so. The displeasure of Miss N.s [1]  parents she must have foreseen, – it was naturally to be expected, & would just as naturally have given way to proper obstinacy on her part. I see nothing that you <can> do – except by any accident you meet her again, & then you must run away in the first slow waggon. – You have this for your consolation that what has happened to you, has happened almost without exception to every body before, – one such disappointment being as regular as the small-pox – & as impossible to be suffered a second time. It has too this advantage – that a man marries his second love with sobered expectations & as Goldsmith says not expecting rapture, makes shift to find contentment. [2] 

I would advise – if you have no better plan – to accompany me to Portugal, – if my Uncle thinks it advisable – which most likely he will. In that case I will determine upon leaving my family here, & you & I will have a thorough journey over all the Northern provinces. you can easily qualify yourself to give the botany & mineralogy. I shall go in September. [3]  You cannot spend twelvemonths more pleasantly, or with greater increase of knowledge.

The Count is gone to London to be fed by the Ravens. – Tom writes me that from his own knowledge calomel [4]  & cold-bathing are the best remedy in the yellow fever. [5]  It went twice thro the Amelia. [6]  the first time she lost 80 men – & got fresh manned. The second time by adopting this method she lost only five.

I should be very happy to believe that Walter Scott knows more about the sale of Madoc [7]  than myself – but this is the first tidings of the kind which has reached me, & it is not very likely. All I know is that the Edinburgh [8]  & Monthly Reviews [9]  have, by the passages which they quoted for censure persuaded Wyndham [10]  that it is a very fine poem, – which – if he buys it in consequence is a good thing.

The Influenza has attacked me – first – like a cowardly damned sneaking foreigneering Influenza it attacked me behind. & I thought I had worked it off – but have had since a slight fever, & been dosed with James’s powder. [11]  Today I begin a course of bark [12]  – altogether I have been almost disabled a fortnight, & Edith has had her share also – her throat has been considerably ulcerated.

The booksellers will find out Dyer for you. remember me to him, poor fellow, & tell him Keswick is but little out of the straight line to London.

Edward says he has turned Roman-Catholic. By this time I suppose that like me you will rather laugh at the pantomical changes of his rascality than feel affected by it. Heaven knows what he has in view by this trick. He lodges in the Lower Green. [13]  how he lives I cannot tell. John May had instructions to supply him £40 a year, my Uncle then supposing him fixt in the navy. The best news we could hear would be that he was fairly & honestly fit for a mad-house. That boy must come to some disastrous end. I said so in 1798, & every month brings something to confirm the opinion. There is not one spark of common honesty or feeling in him.

I console myself for the successes of France [14]  by the probable effect at home & shall scarcely think them unfortunate, if they rid us of Pitt. [15] 

As soon as ever the reviewing is over I go to town, but this illness has thrown me back, & it will certainly not be before the end of March. I shall get out the Cid [16]  probably while there. D. Manuel advances – Duppa has written for me two letters, which match to a miracle. [17]  I heartily xxx wish all this was cleared off & that I was at the history again. [18] 

God bless you


Jany 1.

Mult Multos & felices. [19] 

The Antinomians are to be damned they say. If a man should die with his belly full of James’s Powder I hope he is in no danger of being damned by mistake. [20] 


* Address: To/ H. H. Southey Esqr/ Mr Guthrie’s – Bookseller/ Nicholson Street/ Edinburgh/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: JA/ 3
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. 413–414. BACK

[1] Henry Southey had met 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, their relationship ended. BACK

[2] ‘They lived together for many years in great tranquillity, and not expecting rapture, made a shift to find contentment’, Oliver Goldsmith (1728?–1774; DNB), The Citizen of the World, or, Letters from a Chinese Philosopher, Residing in London, to his Friends in the East (1762), Letter 18. BACK

[3] Southey’s projected visit to Portugal did not take place. BACK

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

[5] For an account of this treatment; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 August 1806, Letter 1207. BACK

[6] The deaths from yellow fever, on board HMS Amelia, where Thomas Southey was serving as a Lieutenant, included that of their captain, William Allen Proby, Lord Proby (1779–1804), the eldest son of Sir John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort (1751–1828; DNB). BACK

[7] Southey’s poem, Madoc, had been published in March 1805. BACK

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

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

[10] William Windham (1750–1810; DNB), Secretary for War and the Colonies, 1806–1807. BACK

[11] James’s fever powder, containing phosphate of lime and oxide of antimony as sweating agents, was the invention of the physician and medical writer, Robert James (bap. 1703–1776). BACK

[12] ‘Fever Bark’ was a popular treatment for illnesses such as influenza. BACK

[13] College Green, in Bristol, near the cathedral and the home of Southey’s Aunt Tyler. Southey and Coleridge had lodged in College Street, by the green, in 1795. BACK

[14] Recent French victories were at: Castel Franco (Italy), 23 November 1805; Austerlitz (Czech Republic), 2 December 1805; Hollabrunn (Austria), 15 December 1805. BACK

[15] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), had become Prime Minister for the second time on 10 May 1804; he died in office on 23 January 1806. BACK

[16] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid was published in 1808. BACK

[17] Richard Duppa contributed the description of the monuments in Westminster Abbey (in Letter 23), to Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). He also contributed the discussion of shopping in London in Letters 7 and 11. BACK

[18] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal,’ which he never completed. BACK

[19] An abbreviation of the New Year greeting in Latin, ‘Ad multos et felices annos’ meaning ‘Here’s to many and happy years’. BACK

[20] Antinomianism is the doctrine, held by some Christians, and considered heretical, that they are exempt from the obligations of moral law. Southey is making a pun on the name of followers of this belief, who would be subject to excommunication from the church, and an ingredient of James’s powder, the metallic element, antimony. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Edward (1788–1847) (mentioned 1 time)
Guthrie, John (d. 1824) (mentioned 1 time)
Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 1 time)