1158. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [22 February 1806]

1158. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [22 February 1806] ⁠* 

Your letter had made me very uncomfortable – you say two franks full of Espriella [1]  have been sent me, & I have received only one, – I beseech you find out that you have blundered & not sent the second, or there will be two days weary labour for me to supply what, after all, dislike at the employment will prevent me from supplying so well. for my transcript differs materially from the rude drafts both in language & arrangement. The one which arrived contains from page 1 to 7 – & from 11 to 14 – one halfsheet of the sequence being missing.

I shall not hurry to town. Wynn knows what I want & it is not to be had till it is vacated. And were it otherwise Fortune is the only being that I shall ever stand upon ceremony with – she may depend upon it that if she does not think proper to call upon me I shall never look after her. Seriously speaking no possible good could arise from my leaving Keswick in February rather than in March. You know all I wish is an appointment at Lisbon, one or two, whichever turns up first. It is asked for me & it is in Fox’s gift, & I am promised Ld Hollands interest & Lady H.s also which may be worth more as Ladies have a way of being pertinacious. If I were looking after preferment it should be thro female patronage.

Today is the twenty second of February, & my reviewing is this day finished which is a day & half sooner than my calculation, – tomorrow month or five weeks I may start, its a hideous journey & I ache as I sit in my chair at the thought of what my poor uncushioned bones are to go thro. I will stop at Congreve very willingly. Is there no coach from Birmingham to London thro Coventry? I want to see that old town, & to avoid the long circumbenditus thro Oxford

I have two questions to answer. Wild geese are not to be had here. Last year the General offered a high price for one – which he & I were to have eaten together, but without avail. – I have never seen them but once since we have lived here & that was two winters ago. – Of Colonel Taylor you can have heard me say nothing, for I know nothing of him. you may possibly have heard me say that I had read one of his books which would be a very useful guide to any person going overland to India, but is of no value to anybody else. [2] 

So you have been reading the history of Shuey-ping-sing & Tieh-chung-u. [3]  It is genuine & worth all the other books about China put together – except Barrows. [4]  Percy published also two volumes of Chinese Miscellanies, [5]  but they are taken from the Jesuits, & are not of much value. I look upon novel reading as being exactly to the mind what rank debauchery is to the body – Over-stimulation instead of true delight, – & after debility. Read travels & history – & in general old ones rather than new ones. I recommend to you Glass’s History of the Canaries [6]  – a quarto about five & Thirty years old. Whence the native islanders originally came is a problem beyond my powers of conjecture – you will reverence them & execrate the Spaniards.

The purpose of this letter is to express the forlorn hope about the lost frank – if it be lost let me know what pages are lost, & send those directly before & after that I may know where to begin & where to end in supplying the loss. Now farewell


No news of Coleridge! [7] 


* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Congreve/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: [possibly partially a later editorial addition] Feb-22 1807 No. 2 – Jf Bath [Kirkpatrick comments ‘the date is written in pencil, presumably in Warter’s hand. The rest is written in ink, not in Mary Barker’s hand’.]
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 184–186.
Dating note: From internal evidence and endorsement/ editorial comment. BACK

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

[2] John Taylor (d. 1808), writer and East India Company employee, who rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He published Travels from England to India in 1789, by the Way of the Tyrol, Venice, Scandaroon, Aleppo, and over the Great Desert to Bussora in 1799. BACK

[3] The heroine and hero, respectively, of Thomas Percy’s (1729–1811; DNB) translation of the Chinese novel Hoa ch’iu chuan, which he discovered in a Portuguese manuscript and published in 1761 as Hau Kiou Choaan, or The Pleasing History (1761). BACK

[4] John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), 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). Southey reviewed this work in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 69–83. BACK

[5] Thomas Percy, Miscellaneous Pieces Relating to the Chinese (1762). BACK

[6] George Glas (1725–1765), translator of Juan de Abreu de Galindo (dates unknown), An Account of the Discovery and History of the Canary Islands (1764). BACK

[7] Coleridge was in the process of returning from Malta via the continent and reached England in August 1806. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)