940. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, [14] May 1804

940. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, [14] May 1804 ⁠* 

Palace Yard, May 10. 1804

My dear Edith,

Safe, sound, and rested sufficiently – this is the best information; and if you can send me as complete an ‘all’s well’ in return, heartily glad shall I be to receive it.

On Friday I dined with                    .                    .                    .                    .                    .                    .                    .                    .                    .                     At six that evening got into the coach; slept at Warrington; breakfasted at Stone; dined at Birmingham; slept at Stratford-upon-Avon; in the dark we reached that place, so that I could not see Shakspeare’s grave, but I will return that road on purpose. At five, on Sunday morning, we arrived in Oxford, and I walked through it at that quiet and delightful hour, and thought of the past and the present. We did not reach London till after five last evening, so that I was forty-eight hours in the coach. I landed at the White Horse Cellar; no coach was to be procured, and I stood in all the glory of my filth beside my trunk, at the Cellar door, in my spencer [1]  of the cut of 1798 (for so long is it since it was made), and my dirty trowsers, while an old fellow hunted out a porter for me; for about five minutes I waited; the whole mob of Park loungers and Kensington Garden buckery, male and female, were passing by in all their finery, and all looked askance on me. [2]  Well, off I set at last, and soon found my spencer was the wonderful part of my appearance. I stopped at the top of St. James’s Street, just before a group, who all turned round to admire me, pulled it off, and gave it to my dirty porter, and exhibited as genteel a black coat as ever Joe Aikin made                   .                    .                    .                    .                    .                     They have inserted my account of Malthus instead of William Taylor’s, for which, as you know, I am sorry, and also preferred my account of poor Ritson’s romance to one which Walter Scott volunteered. [3]  Scott, it seems, has shown his civility by reviewing Amadis here and in the Edinburgh, [4]  which I had rather he had left alone; for, though very civil, and in the right style of civility, he yet denies my conclusion respecting the author, without alleging one argument, or shadow of argument, against the positive evidence adduced [5]                     .                    .                    .                    .                    .                     Bard Williams [5]  is in town, so I shall shake one honest man by the hand, whom I did not expect to see.

God bless you!

Yours affectionately,

R. Southey.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 283–284 [in part].
Dating note: This letter is misdated either by Southey or C. C. Southey, as Southey’s letter to Edith dated 11 May 1804 (Letter 939), states that he has just arrived in Liverpool and is catching the coach to London at 6pm on that day. That letter is also postmarked 11 May 1804, which verifies its date. Southey states in this letter that he arrived in London yesterday evening, Sunday 13 May 1804, so the letter was probably written on Monday 14 May 1804. BACK

[1] A short double-breasted overcoat. BACK

[2] The fashionable set walked, rode and drove in carriages in Hyde Park and the adjoining Kensington Gardens, to see and be seen. BACK

[3] The editor Arthur Aikin published Southey’s rather than Taylor’s review of Thomas Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the future improvement of Society; with Remarks on the Speculations of W. Godwin, M. Condorcet and Other Writers (1803), in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 292–301. In the same issue, Southey reviewed Joseph Ritson (1752–1803; DNB), Ancient Engleish Metrical Romanceës (1802), 515–533. BACK

[4] Scott reviewed Southey’s translation Amadis of Gaul (1803) in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 600–603, and in the Edinburgh Review for October 1803, 109–136. BACK

[5] In his reviews Scott disputed Southey’s claim that the Portuguese writer, Vasco de Lobeira (d. 1403) was the original author of Amadis of Gaul. BACK

[5] Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) (1747–1826; DNB): Welsh poet, editor, antiquarian and reviver of the Bardic movement, who probably first met Southey in the late 1790s through their mutual friend William Owen Pughe (1759–1835; DNB). Southey drew on Williams’s work in his poem Madoc (1805). BACK

People mentioned

Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 2 times)
Aikin, Arthur (1773–1854) (mentioned 2 times)
Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 1 time)