1229. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 18 October 1806

1229. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 18 October 1806 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

It would be in vain to tell you how I am perplexed & distressed about the books. To have them sent here – when according to all human probability I shall not remain here myself six months longer – would be a grievous expence & yet upon my soul I do not see what else is to – or can be done. Rickman has no room for them. To ask favours at the Cottage [1]  is what I have no inclination for – yet if I should go abroad with a probability of remaining there I would in that case beg leave to deposit all my books there, & fit up a library for him. But the fact is that the situation of Lisbon is more precarious than ever, & it is in the highest degree improbable that I can remove my family there. [2]  In that case – if it be still possible for me to go there in the spring without them, I shall think of settling them here & look upon this as my home. But what to do with the books now? Can Martha  let me a garret in her house, where those which are damp may be put up – a few shelves you could have knocked up for me. If it can be managed thus the whole may be removed there from Kings or at least every thing except the books – the linen <&c> would be more accessible & could be opened & taken care of.

I wonder you advise me to go to Taunton. Thomas Southey might well think me a hungry hunter after legacies if I were he were to see me come from this distance to pay him a visit – at an expence which I can so very ill afford. In the Spring I must go to London – whether on the way to Portugal or not – then there will be no unfitness in my proceeding to Somersetshire & returning by way of Bristol – but to set off from hence on purpose – without pretext or the shadow of a pretext, would make me contemptible in my own eyes & in his too – he might well laugh at me as one whose mouth was gaping for what would never drop into it. In the spring something will probably turn up to decide my plans & settle me.

I have a notion that No 7 was that packing case which came to pieces – so that you had the books repacked in two. It must have been a large packing case by the number of books which it contained. If you find it take out a folio Dante [3]  likewise – of which there is a fine copy of the valuable edition of the Cat. the Nobiliario [4]  is the book most wanted of all which I have sent for – do not take the trouble of looking for the others which you could not find – they are of no consequence.

Toms prize money [5]  is less than you seem to suppose. He left me in my desk a draft for 50£ – which I am using [6]  – as I should else have borrowed that sum elsewhere, & shall repay into his agents hands in about six months I trust. He will whisk away his money in post chaises so fast that he will soon find it is ebb tide with him. Wynn has recommended him to his Uncle for promotion, but says he cannot flatter us with hopes of early success: he underlines the word as if depending upon success ultimately. Meantime my Uncle has collected certain documents respecting S. America which Ld St Vincent [7]  will be glad of, & which he will give to Tom. I think Tom will return here very shortly – if he is not employed – to fag hard at Spanish & Portugueze – which may both be of essential importance to him.

I thought it was in Park Street you lived – but directed them to travel in the stage – arrive in the morning – & call at the office.

It would be of some use if it were mentioned in the papers here that Madoc is printing in America – & also that Thalaba was printed there – piece by piece – in the newspaper. [8]  I would have asked you to have inserted a paragraph to this purpose in Rudhalls paper [9]  – had he been alive. it would have been copied into the London papers – & serve xxx more effectually than an advertisement. I suppose it is the same Boston bookseller who published Joan of Arc. [10] 

Scotts is a bad ballad [11]  – I heard Jeffray read it – there is one masterly line in it – which I forget – but the rest is good for nothing. Clarkson has been visiting William Smith the Member, & Coleridge visiting him there – he has been in England between nine & ten weeks [12]  – we expected him last Saturday – & received instead a letter saying he was going to Bury with Mrs Clarkson – as she had prest him & he could not refuse her. He is daily & indeed hourly expected – but to say when he will come is as impossible as <to> tell which way our weathercock will cock his tail tomorrow. He is to Lecture at the Royal Institution upon the Principles common to the Fine Arts. [13] 

Burnett if he can but keep up his health & spirits is in a fairer way than he ever was. This book which I invented for him, has driven him into such a course of reading that the Count is become learned in old English literature & likely to flourish as an Editor. [14]  I have now to write him a long letter respecting certain projects of republication which he has written to consult me about, & some of which are very likely to succeed, to get him both money & reputation & be of service to Literature.

I am hard at work – never harder. Palmerin [15]  is a laborious job – tho I undertook it thinking it would be no labour, – & Espriella [16]  is now so far advanced that I sit at it joyfully. The whole is to consist of 300 of my pages, & now that I have turned 200 every page tells in reducing the remainder. If the printer [17]  had hurried me it would have been done. I shall soon be in sight of land, & certainly if my health & eyes fail not (& these eyes are better now) clear compleatly off both this, Palmerin, & the Cid [18]  by the end of the winter, with some reviewing beside – so to be ready in the spring to go wherever fortune may call me –

Edith, little Edith, & Less Herbert all well –

God bless you


Sunday Oct. 18. 1806.


* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol/ Single
Endorsements: [various calculations on address sheet]
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ OCT 22/ 1803
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The house of Uncle Thomas Southey, now rich after inheriting the estate of John Southey. BACK

[2] Southey did not return to Portugal. BACK

[3] No. 712 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was a folio edition of Durante degli Alighieri (1265–1321), La Divina Commedia con l’Espositioni di Christ (Venice, 1596). BACK

[4] Juan Bautista Lavaña (1550–1624), Nobiliario de D. Pedro Conde de Barcelos Hijo del Rey D. Dionis de Portugal (1640), no. 3571 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] It was customary for naval officers to be allotted a share of the value of ‘prizes’, meaning ships and their cargo, captured in armed conflict. BACK

[6] See Southey to Thomas Southey, 28–29 September 1806, Letter 1221. BACK

[7] John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent (1735–1823; DNB) had been First Lord of the Admiralty from 1801–1804 until he fell out of favour with the Tory government. Under the ‘Ministry of All the Talents’ he was one of the commissioners to Lisbon between August and October 1806, when, owing to the threat of a French invasion of Portugal, the British proposed securing the Portuguese fleet and transporting the royal family to Brazil. BACK

[8] Southey’s poems Madoc (1805) and Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). An American edition of Madoc was published by subscription in 1806 by Munroe and Francis of Boston, Massachusetts. BACK

[9] John Rudhall (d. 1803), a Bristol printer who was a proprietor of the newspaper, Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal. BACK

[10] The American edition of Joan of Arc had been published in Boston in 1798 by Manning & Loring, for the bookseller J. Nancrede. BACK

[11] Scott’s The Lay Of The Last Minstrel had been published in 1805. BACK

[12] Coleridge had travelled abroad to Malta for his health in 1804, taking up a temporary post there as Public Secretary to the British Civil Commissioner. He arrived back in England in August 1806 but though returning to Keswick for a short time, did not live there again. BACK

[13] He did not in fact lecture there until 1808, on the subject of the Principles of Poetry, Shakespeare and Milton. BACK

[14] Burnett’s Specimens of English Prose Writers, from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Seventeenth Century was published in three volumes with Longman 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 Grosvenor Charles Bedford, Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[15] Southey was preparing for the press an English translation of Palmerin of England, by Francisco Moraes, published in 4 volumes in 1807. BACK

[16] Letters from England: by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella; Translated from the Spanish published in 1807. BACK

[17] 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

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