912. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 12 March 1804

912. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 12 March 1804 ⁠* 

Dear Danvers

Rather than let Clarkson go empty handed I will gallop thro a letter. We are expecting somewhat eagerly the contents of old Lovells will; that if he has not made provision for Robert, Joseph may do it, or see that it is done; on this you may be sure I shall be very explicit with them & very plain-spoken. Mary is very xxxx <ill> – she has fairly fretted herself out, & is in my opinion in decline, induced wholly by xxx perpetual discontent. All else are well – & if I can as much about a month hence you may give me joy as a happy man.

Coleridge is going certainly to Malta, [1]  certainly as far any as any thing that respects him can be said to be certain before it has taken place. this was the account of his letter, & that he expected to be on his voyage in a fortnights time, but I suppose King has heard a more full account from Beddoes than I give you.

I have a box of books to my great joy arrived at Liverpool – & the merchant to whom they are consigned (a Portugueze <Lisbon> friend) designs to do his best to cheat his Majesty, quoting a Portugueze proverb – ‘who robs a thief shall be forgiven a hundred years Purgatory.’ To be sure it is a truly abominable tax, & disgraceful to a civilized nation. – Mrs Smith has written to me – as you may suppose – very civilly. they still hold their intention of visiting the Lakes this coming summer, & I hope you can arrange your journey so as to be there at the same time. I expect to live in one continual round of company during the summer. the Lakers come by swarms – & begin to look upon the Poets among the curiosities of the country, & get letters of introduction – as people do tickets to the grotto at Clifton. [2]  We ought to charge five shillings admittance.

King Alf Alfred is sent [3] 
To me, a presēn̄t
That I may behold his new birth.
But his coming down
Cost me half-a-crown, –
Which is thirty pence more than his worth.

Mr Cottle in his preface observes ‘that interest can only be attained by moving the breast,’ – an apothecary attains it by moving the bowels. Rex should read the second edition & compare it with the first – which I suppose he will rather decline upon the plea of business, however let him look in the Preface & see a passage from the noble Alfred translated by the author into the florid style of poetry, for the sake of comparing contrast. If he be at all hypochondriac at the time, its effect may lead him to introduce a class of remedies called gelasticks. [4] 

I must tell you a good story of Charles Lloyds youngest brother. he had served his apprenticeship at Ipswich to a brewer, & being now in business himself was passing thro that town, when he saw a girl at a window whom he knew well by sight, tho they had never spoken to each other. However now an inclination of the head past between them – as persons who had not seen each other for some time, xxx he asked her to let him in – & never having said a word to her before in his life – he actually made her an offer, – she only asked time to consider – & so they are to be married – or are so by this time. Charles Ll. & his wife both aver this to be literally & strictly true.

This weather makes me quite long to be lazy – to go upon the hillside & lie down in the sun, & without even the trouble of thinking, breathe the warm spring air, & feel the comfort of existence. the birds are all alive, & the very flies have crept out of their winter hiding places & are buzzing about the window. And yet I seldom get out for want of company, & of an object. if I do not live within reach of a booksellers, & of a few stalls my legs will be of little use to me. this morning I have only been down the orchard to fling a few stones in the river & now am I yawning for pure laziness. if I had been born a Prince I should have beat the Stadtholder hollow in sleeping. [5] 

I am getting on with all my occupations – & as soon as Edith is safely in bed [6]  – as I hope she will be early in April shall think of travelling Londonward to deal with the Devils. [7]  Now if you have any business in town this spring let us contrive to meet.

God bless you –

yours in haste

R Southey

Monday. March 12. 1804.


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ Bristol
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Coleridge travelled abroad to Malta for his health, taking up a temporary post as private secretary to Sir Alexander Ball (1757–1809), the naval officer governing Malta. BACK

[2] The grotto at Goldeney Hall, Clifton, Bristol, was made in the early eighteenth century and is still in existence. BACK

[3] Joseph Cottle, Alfred; an Epic Poem, in Twenty-four Books, the second edition (1803) of which Southey had just received from its author. BACK

[4] Southey presumably means to laugh, from the Greek word ‘Gelos’ which means ‘laughter’. A gelastic seizure is a rare fit of crying or laughing that breaks out in a person with no apparent cause. BACK

[5] Possibly a reference to William V (1748–1806), Prince of Orange-Nassau, who was the last Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic. Between 1795 and 1806 he led the Government of the Dutch Republic in Exile in London, and was caricatured asleep by James Gillray (1757–1815; DNB) in his satirical print The Orangerie (1796). BACK

[6] Southey’s daughter, Edith May Southey, was born on 30 April 1804. BACK

[7] The printers. BACK

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