1164. Robert Southey to John May, 14 March 1806

1164. Robert Southey to John May, 14 March 1806 ⁠* 

My dear friend

I have been thinking over your letter in much perplexity. Certainly I will myself make enquiry upon the spot, but there are some reasons which induce me to wish to do it on my return from London, rather than on my way there.  [1]  One main one is that when in London I should be able to learn what enquiries to make, & in what manner to set about them, – of which I feel at present most uncomfortably ignorant. The other xxx may perhaps appear less cogent to you than it seems – & than it really is to myself. There is a good deal of cross country road to get over, in a track untravelled by stages. Had I a chair of my own, or a servant on horseback with me, this would signify nothing – but as it is it would x occasion a heavy expence in post-chaises. Now when I shall be returning in May, the weather will not be so cold but that I can travel in the stage as far as it goes without a great coat, – & then more meo  [2]  sling my knapsack & pedestrianize the rest of the way. But x at this time it is impossible to leave the great coat behind – & as impossible to walk with it. However if you think time of consequence I will pursue your plans.

There are some circumstances which lead me to think with my Uncle that the roguery is in the parishioners. The tithes were let for 200 £ per year, for two years, to Downes – x (my Uncles lessee) [3]  if any man could have made xxxx this a good bargain he could, – but he did not renew, & complained heavily that he was a loser while he held them. Every thing had gone to ruin under the former Incumbent. If the survey was made by a Londoner it is xxxxxxx <probably> over-rated – & that too upon the supposition that every thing is tithable in kind. Sir Wm Scotts [4]  advice about dilapidations proved very unfortunate. 80 £ only had been given by some country assessors. my Uncle had down a man from London who gave some hundreds – the consequence was that he never received a single shilling. Poor Thomas forever thought he had been ill advised. the first sum was inadequate but it would have been paid – the latter was extravagant & the executrix evaded it altogether by pleading that there was no property to discharge it. The Herefordshire people are notoriously litigious – the country is a sort of nursery for pettyfogging attornies. As for Evans [5]  himself, Duppa recommended him to me precisely on the ground of his honesty – they were schoolfellows, & Duppas father inhabits the same town. I cannot suspect him, but still after such an opinion we should deserve to be cheated if we did not look into it. The only method which I at present discover, it is that when I go, I should go at once to Dr Thomas, who lives some twenty or thirty miles from the place, – apprizing him first of my intention, & request him to accompany me there: but do you not think I shall be able to do this far better after I have talked the matter over with some persons who are capable of advising me in what manner to set about it, & specifically what points to investigate? in this case also there will be time to receive instructions from my Uncle himself. All this I submit entirely to you – & will make my arrangements as soon as I receive your opinion. You will of course let me know it as soon as you can, & if you agree with me, it will save a mail, if you will have the goodness to apprise my Uncle of it, & desire him to direct his instructions to me in town.

I purpose leaving this place in something less than three weeks. If the Herefordshire journey be postponed till my return, & if Wm Taylor is not going to London during my stay there, I purpose going to Norwich & staying a week with him, on, or rather out of – the way. But I shall have occasion to write again & will then tell you of my movements –

God bless you

yrs affectionately


March 14. 1806.


* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ Richmond/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ MAR17 /1806; 10o’Clock/ MR.17/ 1806F.N.n
Watermark: shield/ 1803/ T Botfield
Endorsement: No. 117 1806/ Robert Southey/ No place 14th March/ recd. 17th do/ ansd. 22d do
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos, The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 107–109. BACK

[1] Herbert Hill had the living of a parish at Staunton-Upon-Wye, Herefordshire, which, while he was in Lisbon, he had left in the care of Dr Thomas, father of his business agent William Bowyer Thomas, who had died in 1802. Southey was preparing to investigate the payment of tithes on Hill’s estate for him while he was abroad; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 17 March 1806, Letter 1166. BACK

[2] ‘As is my habit’. BACK

[3] The first name and dates of Hill’s tenant are unknown. BACK

[4] William Scott, Baron Stowell (1745–1836; DNB), judge and politician. BACK

[5] Untraced. BACK

People mentioned