1180. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 14 May [1806]

1180. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 14 May [1806] ⁠* 

My dear Harry

Your letter which slipped into the wrong cover was but of a few lines, scrawled in great hurry, just to congratulate you that you had past over the Pons Asinorum [1]  of Medicine, to wish you all due success in purging & vomiting his majestys subjects; & to convey John Mays congratulations also, by way of saving you the postage of a letter from him himself. [2]  It contained nothing more except an expression of strong displeasure at Jeffrays conduct about Nathan. [3]  I do not think Wm Taylor acted wisely in applying to him – after the application it was certainly at Jeffray’s option to review the book in what time he pleased, because the application in itself was not strictly right; but there can be no excuse for his affixing Wm Taylors name, under such circumstances, & after such a reviewal. [4]  It is a breach of decorum to affix an authors name to a publication which is not avowed; & in the present case it is a breach of confidence. I do not think Wm Taylor will feel so much hurt at it as I do. If Walter Scott should mention the thing to you, as it is probable he may, for I have made no scruple of speaking of Jeffrays conduct upon this business just as I think of it, do not let him suppose that I in the slightest degree reflect upon him.

Your Norwich friends are all wishing to see you. Mrs Taylor is growing much altered since I first saw her – & decaying very fast. [5]  I perceived many retrenchments in their establishment, & foresee that whenever her death shall take place, which cannot be at any very distant period, Wm Taylor will not remain long in Norwich. Whether Dr Reeve will settle there or not will soon be seen; if he marries Susan Taylor [6]  I suppose he will. I thought Mrs John Taylor might as well not have talked to me about you & her daughter, & both Wm Taylor and his mother thought so too. [7]  I called on Philip – Chloe was out of town, & Philip called on her return to fix a day for my dining there – which was not till my place was taken for London. [8]  I dined during the week of my sojourn there with Dr Sayers, Pitchford, Joseph Gurney & Dr Smith. [9]  You will I suppose bend your way hither when you are bedoctored, & we will talk over Norwich, & other prospects.

I was very unwell in London with cold & cough; the air half poisoned me, – my lungs were never so sensibly affected before. for ten days I abstained from animal food & drank only water; by this means & by keeping very early hours, avoiding all fatigue, & talking very little I got better, but the cough was sufficient to show me that six months in London would be my death. Fox glove operated so strongly upon me as a diuretic that I could not take it. On my return I have picked up another cold, which will soon go off. Oh what a comfort it is to be at home! & yet it is not possible to more be comfortable in any house not ones own than I was at Rickmans. His wife is one of the best-natured women in the world, & he as you know just a man after my own heart. I kept aloof from my acquaintance as much as possible, & confined myself to the circle of my own old friends – Bedford, Duppa, Elmsley &c – Two days I was at Mrs Gonnes in the country – one with John May. Wordsworth flourishes in London, he powders & goes with a cocked hat under his arm to all the great routs. No man is more flattered by the attentions of the great, & no man would be more offended to be told so. His home is at Sir G. Beaumonts – I dined there one day, & refused a second invitation, because I do not xxx over much like them, & when that is the case have an unlucky way of showing it. – I met Dr Laird, [10]  & asked for some votes for him in the dispensary.

My accounts in the Row are not in a very prosperous state. [11]  3–17–1- being the whole of my profits for Madoc, as yet. A small edition is to be printed, [12]  but the sale of that will be slow – poetry does not sell without some adventitious circumstances favour it. If it be by a Peer, or a Shoemaker, or a Scotchman, personal, political, or obscene, it will do; – but when there is nothing to help it forward but it except its own intrinsic merit, I find there is much to praise to be got, xxx & little pudding. Espriella is in Richard Taylors hand, who has sent me two sheets. [13]  I am going to reprint Palmerin of England, & this with the Cid will be a pretty fair work for summer & autumn. [14]  – I met Mr Allen [15]  with Ld & Lady Holland at Sharpes, & talked with him about our common pursuits – he is a steady, clear headed man; & will produce something good.

Phillips has quarrelled with Dr Aikin, & the Dr will in consequence start another magazine with Longman against the Monthly. [16]  Artaxerxes [17]  has a plan for such a thing I drew up at his request some time back, [18]  & which he laid aside only for want of an editor. If I am not mistaken Phillips will injure himself materially by this breach, for it will be their own faults if they do not make the best periodical publication extant. Wm Taylor will of course desert with the Doctor, & I shall willingly give a hearty shove at the off-set. [19] 

George Dyer gives a good account of your Thesis as delivered in substance at the Medical Society. [20]  I have promised him a copy to assist in furnishing his floor – which I beg you will not forget in forming your list of presentations.

God bless you


Wednesday May 14.


* Address: To/ Henry Herbert Southey Esqr/ at Mr Guthrie’s Bookseller/ Nicholson Street/ Edinburgh/ Single.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: MY/ 1806/ 19
Endorsement: 06
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d.3. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] That is, the first hurdle. From the Latin for ‘bridge of asses’ and the term given to Euclid’s (fl. 300 BC) fifth proposition in Book 1 of his Elements of geometry, the theorem on isosceles triangles. BACK

[2] Harry graduated as MD from Edinburgh University on 24 June 1806. BACK

[3] William Taylor published a translation of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s (1729–1781), Nathan the Wise; a Dramatic Poem in Five Acts in 1805. BACK

[4] The anonymously translated Nathan the Wise was reviewed in the Edinburgh Review, 8 no. 15 (April 1806), 148–154. The review concludes by identifying Taylor as the translator. BACK

[5] William Taylor’s mother – Sarah (1735/6–1812; DNB), daughter of John Wright of Debenham, Suffolk, and later Diss (DNB). BACK

[6] Henry Reeve (1780–1814; DNB), a Norwich physician and travel writer, married Susan Taylor (1788–1853), eldest daughter of John Taylor (1750–1826). These Taylors, also Unitarian, were not related to William Taylor. BACK

[7] Susannah Cook, daughter of John Cook, a former Mayor of Norwich (dates unknown), the wife of John Taylor (1750–1826), a successful Norwich businessman and Unitarian hymn writer. BACK

[8] Perhaps Philip Meadows Martineau (1752–1829), surgeon, who had briefly supervised Henry’s medical studies in Norwich. Chloe is untraced. BACK

[9] John Pitchford (1772/3–1839), one of the Norwich intellectuals with religious and literary interests who had gathered around Sayers and William Taylor; Joseph Gurney (1757–1830), a member of the Quaker banking family and brother to John Gurney. Sir James Edward Smith (1759–1828; DNB): botanist, botanical author, founder of the Linnean Society. BACK

[10] James Laird (1779–1840/1), a doctor trained in Edinburgh and London who was in 1807 physician to the Carey St Dispensary, Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Also in 1807, Laird was the youngest founder member of the Geological Society. Arthur Aikin and Humphry Davy were also members. BACK

[11] With Southey’s publisher, Longman, in Paternoster Row, London. BACK

[12] This appeared in 1807. BACK

[13] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807) was printed by Richard Taylor (1781–1858; DNB), printer and naturalist, who would go on to establish the publishing firm of Taylor and Francis with his son William Francis (1817–1904; DNB) in 1852. BACK

[14] Southey published an English translation of Palmerin of England, by Francisco Moraes in 4 volumes in 1807 and the Chronicle of the Cid in 1808. BACK

[15] John Allen (1771–1843; DNB), political and historical writer, especially on Spanish topics in the Edinburgh Review. BACK

[16] The result of the quarrel was that Aikin left his position as editor of Phillips’s Monthly Magazine and became editor of the short-lived Athenaeum magazine (1807–1809), published by Longman. BACK

[17] Nickname for Longman after the Persian emperor Artaxerxes I (also named Longimanus) who reigned 465–424 BC. BACK

[18] See Southey to [Thomas Norton Longman], [10 January 1806], Letter 1144. BACK

[19] William Taylor worked as a reviewer for the Annual Review under the editorship of Arthur Aikin. BACK

[20] The Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, a student-run society established in 1737. BACK

People mentioned

Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 6 times)
May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 2 times)
Phillips, Richard (1767–1840) (mentioned 2 times)
Aikin, Arthur (1773–1854) (mentioned 2 times)
Elmsley, Peter (1774–1825) (mentioned 1 time)
Davy, Humphry (1778–1829) (mentioned 1 time)
Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 1 time)
Gonne, Mary (1768-1825) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)