1553. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 12 December 1808

1553. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 12 December 1808 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

Here you have Coleridges plan, [1]  – what will come of it God knows. If he carries it into effect it will be a great power in his hands, – but as you may well suppose I have many doubts & fears.

If it be possible to ruin the Spaniards our wretched ministry will do it. Common spirit, – common honour, – common sense should make them send our whole disposable force into Spain, – instead of thinking about nothing but how to save the handful we have there. The only possible chance Bonaparte has of winning & holding the country, is if the people should learn to hate & despise us, – & they will have good reason to do both if we only march in to Spain, & then run out of it. Keep the mountains, – avoid all general actions, & then the French must inevitably be worn out at last & the country rid of them. But there is a curse upon poor England! – with the best & bravest people in the world, we are destined always to be made the bane of our allies, & the jest of the rest of Europe. I suppose the gross & shocking folly with which this whole business has been managed will unship the present ministry, but alas what good will that be! – the set that comes in will not be a whit better than the set that goes out. Tantararara, [2]  – & worse still, – it is fools all as well as rogues all. – But the Day of Judgement is drawing on, & every measure which they take tends to hasten it. Never was there a time when one truly great man could be of such service to this country as now – when the honest & sound part of the public are so compleatly convinced of the emptiness of all parties, – & so ready to support any thing the promises to be better.

There will be no prints to Thalaba, – such things are never thought of for second editions, unless there is great reason to expect a considerable sale. [3]  And unless the xx designs could be made under my own eye, it is almost certain that they would be worse than nothing. The first volume will probably be finished by the time this reaches you. – I have not sent off another book of Kehama to you, having had to transcribe for Landor, – the whole of the new part, – & not being yet thro it by 450 lines. [4] 

I hear from the Doctor as seldom as you do, & have not had a letter <from him> these three months. He has no love of letter writing, & I no time for, so we take it for granted that all goes on well, & save postage.

My table is covered with pamphlets upon the Hindoo mission & the controversy which it has excited, – I am in the midst of a long article about it for the new Review, [5]  – in direct opposition to a very despicable one in the Edinburgh by Sidney Smith. [6]  – Kehama gets on slow & sure – I am within 50 lines of the 3000. –

God bless you – I have nothing to say, & a great deal to do –


Dec. 12. 1808. Keswick.

Let me not forget to tell you that you always mispell the word whether & convert it into a castrated ram. [7] 


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought –/ Plymouth Dock./ Single Sheet
Endorsement: Roberts Letter/ 1808
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Prospectus for Coleridge’s self-published journal The Friend, which he produced in 1809 and 1810. For the text see The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke, 2 vols (London and Princeton, 1969). BACK

[2] Southey’s parlance, derived from popular song, for the the noise and hot air produced by party spirit on the benches of the House of Commons. Tantara-rara, Rogues All was the title of a 1786 play by John O’Keeffe (1747–1833; DNB); see The Dramatic Works of John O’Keeffe Esq., 4 vols (London, 1798), III, pp. 349–90. ‘Tantara-rara, Fools All Fools All’ was also a popular song from Henry Fielding’s (1707–1754; DNB) play The Lottery (1732). BACK

[3] The second edition of Thalaba the Destroyer was published in 1809. BACK

[4] Southey was sending his brother drafts of The Curse of Kehama (1810) in instalments. For the sections sent to Landor, see Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 14 December 1808, Letter 1556. BACK

[5] Southey reviewed Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. BACK

[6] Sydney Smith (1771–1845; DNB), ‘Indian Missions’, Edinburgh Review, 12:23 (April 1808), 151–181. BACK

[7] Spelt ‘wether’. BACK

People mentioned

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)