1501. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 4 September 1808

1501. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 4 September 1808 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

I was very anxious to hear from you, after we had heard of poor Mrs Jardine’s death. [1]  What the shock must be to you I will know, & I was fearful least she might have neglected to make a will & so the guardianship of the children might have devolved upon persons whom she would not perhaps have chosen. Your charge will now give you new anxieties in life, but it will give new interest as well, & I heartily rejoice that they are in such hands: – for my own sake too I must rejoice in any arrangement which will bring you once more, & more than once more to Keswick. – The Legacy is indeed unhealthy. it can however only be suspended, – not lost, – for of course, David will fulfill his mothers will as soon as it is in his power.

You ask me about my Laudanum recipe for a cold – It retains its effect, but I am afraid to use it, because the slightest dose immediately acts upon my liver: – eight drops will act as an aperient; [2]  & the fæces are quite white, & the discharge attended with the same heat as if, on the contrary, it were a bilious diarrhœa. Tell Rex this, as an anomaly which may be worth speculating upon. It has recurred so often that I am xxx perfectly certain of the connection between cause & effect.

An odd circumstance has occurred this evening, greatly to the honour & glory of your Aunt. [3]  Mr and Mrs Robert Wolseley (Sir Williams son) are lodging in Keswick; – they brought letters to me from Miss Seward, & we see a good deal of them. [4]  This evening we drank tea with them, & Mrs W. mentioned that Sir Wm was famous for his fine strawberries: – it directly occurred to me that there was a very remarkable strawberry mentioned in ‘my aunts’ journal – & that it was at Wolseley. I could not be satisfied till this point was ascertained, – home I came & Mr W. with me, & there we found not only the strawberry (the breed of which now seems to be lost) but such a minute description of the house & grounds as has delighted him; – & he is now transcribing it for old Sir Wm – as the most interesting piece of family history they have ever yet met with. The then Lady Wolseley was your Aunts Aunt, & the house was her head quarters for six weeks.

This book of your Aunts is certainly a very curious one. D Manuel [5]  has been indebted to it more than once, & the translator of that valuable work is of the opinion that this M.S. ought to be printed, as a great store house for county historians & family history; Every person whose family is mentioned would derive great pleasure from seeing what is there said – & if a subscription could be obtained just to clear the whole cost of the impression, I should think it a very desirable thing to print it, – not as a book for public sale, – but just the number for the subscribers. It is very probable that this could be effected. Shall I try it? that is ascertain the expence, & put out my feelers to see what subscribers are to be found; – as for profit that is out of the question; – it may possibly occur, & if it should – God knows you have heavy call for it. But in case the thing can be done, I could see it transcribed here, & correct the press & manage the whole business, only for the pleasure of the thing – as the man said to Shepherd of Liverpool [6]  when he was going to shoot a favourite goat for him. A preface of a dozen lines might state the fitness of xxx printing it, & fully justify it. Your Aunt could neither write English nor spell it, but she was a woman of great observation, & her journal contains more information concerning the state of England at the end of the 17th century than is to be found in any other work of the time, or even to be gleaned from all.

The Cid [7]  will speedily reach you, & Rexs copy in the same parcel. You will have seen my Letters advertised for a new edition. [8]  By copious omissions & some valuable additions I have converted them into a respectable work – so much indeed altered & amended that it shall be sent to displace the former one from your shelf as soon as it is ready.

You know perhaps that Landor is gone to Spain. I thought he would go – he wrote to me from Falmouth, – a letter truly characteristic of the man.

I learn to day by a note from Pople accompanying a proof that Burnett is with his brother at Huntspill, [9]  employed in making a selection from Miltons Prose Works, [10]  – which is an employment so much like idleness that I should think it would suit just suit him. Some time ago he broke a blood-vessel, but is recovering from that accident. Not a line has he written me since his departure from this place.

The things from Mrs Rings [11]  should come by water, – Martha will probably have something to send with them, – & we are in want of a coffee-pot, concerning which I had better say what little is to be said, & then give you full powers to chuse one. As silver is out of the question, & plated-metal an abomination, bronze – like what urns are made of is the best substitute, & I think I have seen coffee pot of it, in a sort of jug shape. Edith does not <like> the little urns which look children of the great ones.

Kehama [12]  is in rapid progress. My new Travels [13]  are begun, & probab[ly] I shall soon go to press with my History [14]  let the price of paper be what it will. – To my great joy AAikin is deposed from his Annual throne. He mangled my articles so cruelly, & let his Aunt & his sister [15]  indulge themselves in so many innuendos & inventions of detraction at my expence, that it is a real advantage to me to have the Review rid of them. I am so glad of the change that I shall review several articles for the next volume, which otherwise I should not have done. The new Editor Thomas Rees is very civil to me, – & better fitted for the office than K Arthur in the main requisites of method & dispatch.

God bless you. I shall look after the cork jacket that it may be at hand next summer for its ingenious inventor.

yours affectionately

R Southey

Sept 4. 1808.


* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 84–85 [in part]. BACK

[1] Widow of David Jardine (1766–1797), Minister of the Trim Street Unitarian Chapel, Bath. She was the daughter of George Webster of Hampstead. The Jardines owned a small estate at Pickwick, near Bath. Danvers was now to become the guardian of the orphaned children. BACK

[2] A laxative. BACK

[3] Danvers’s aunt was the traveller Celia Fiennes (1662–1741; DNB). Danvers gave Southey a manuscript of her diary, which Southey drew on for Letters from England. Extracts from it were also included in his and Coleridge’s Omniana (1812). BACK

[4] Reverend Robert Wolseley (d. 1815), son of William Wolseley, 6th Baronet (1740–1817). Wolseley married a Miss Hand; her first name and dates are not known. The family seat was at Wolseley Park, Rugeley, Staffordshire, near Seward’s home at Lichfield. BACK

[5] The putative author of Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[6] The Rev. Dr William Shepherd (1768–1847; DNB), pastor at the English Presbyterian Chapel, Gateacre, Liverpool. Shepherd lived at The Nook, Gateacre, whence he and his wife ran a boarding school. Southey had met the couple in Liverpool when he visited Roscoe in February 1808. BACK

[7] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

[8] Southey’s Letters written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797) were being reprinted in an expanded form as Letters written during a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal. BACK

[9] A small town near Bridgwater in Somerset. BACK

[10] Extracts from the Prose Works of Milton (1809). BACK

[11] This could be the wife of Joseph Ring (1772–1813), Sarah (née Wallis; dates unknown) whom he married in 1795. Joseph Ring was a member of a family of Bristol potters and had taken over the family business selling earthenware, china and glass in May 1807. However his mother, Elizabeth Ring (dates unknown), also ran an independent concern at Bridge Street, Bristol. BACK

[12] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[13] This project was not completed. BACK

[14] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[15] Lucy Aikin (1781–1864; DNB). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)