359. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 4 December 1798

359. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 4 December 1798 ⁠* 

Bristol. Dec 4. 98

My dear Lightfoot

So long is it since I have written to you that I write almost at random. a thousand changes may have happened – perhaps I may misdirect. day after day & week after week have I thought of writing, & always something to do or think of has prevented me. in the summer I was some days at Abberley. Mr Severne [1]  & the two Miss Sewards both particularly requested to be remembered to you when I wrote, & added how happy they should be to see you in Worcestershire. the Miss Sewards are sadly altered. the eldest was ill, & Elizabeth, tho actively employed, in a sad state of health – she looks sixty years of age. in other respects they are the same women as ever, but I saw them & remember them with pain. never was a family so destroyed.

I am at Westbury, a village two miles from Bristol, with no children of my own, but a ready made family of relations. sedentary habits, always my choice & of late rendered necessary, have injured my health something. this I am endeavouring to remedy by a little medicine & much exercise. the world & I however agree well together. I have as much enjoyment as a man ought to expect or desire, & as for labouring for it, there is something pleasant in not being one of the drones of society.

I have a brother Lightfoot nearly fifteen years of age. I design to made a surgeon of him. he has been somewhat neglected. but during the last year has I hope made some progress. anothers years Latin & Greek is necessary for him & in looking round for a school at which to place him, you recurred to my recollection. are you still at Kingsbridge? & what are the terms of the school in which you are engaged? he is a boy of great talents, from whom if he turns out well, much may be hoped. for the last year he has been with Burnett, but a change in Burnetts situation renders it necessary to remove him now.

By the papers I learn the death of John Davy, & the election of Parsons to the Mastership of Balliol, an event by which I think the College must be benefitted. I was glad to see they had made so good a choice. Griffiths [2]  recognized me at Hereford this summer, I had forgotten him. Of the Xt Church men with whom you may remember me to have been intimate, Wynn is still my most particular friend. Combe I often see when in town. Martin Butt is settled as a Curate at Witley the parish adjoining Abberley, & the Chancellor who examined him for ordination [3]  said he passed an examination fit for a Bishop. a good Theologian & a good man he bids fair to be an honour to the Church. I had much serious conversation with him & was exceedingly at seeing my old schoolfellow in so very respectable a light. Charles Collins is in high life. he forced me once to dine with him but so disgusted me by his intolerable vanity & pride of purse, that I have followed the example of all his school & college friends & totally dropt his acquaintance. his whole conversation was what he could afford to give for pictures, carriages, horses, pipes of wine &c. &c.

You would perhaps smile were I to give you a list of all the works I have in my head or even in hand. in the press I have a second edition of my Letters, & a second volume of Poems. [4] 

God bless you. let me hear from you & believe me

yrs very affectionately

Robert Southey.

<direct to Mr Cottles. Bristol>


* Address: To/ The Reverend N. Lightfoot/ Kingsbridge/ Devon/ Single
Endorsement: 1798
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 110. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Francis Severn (1751–1828), Rector of Kyre and Abberley, Worcestershire, was married to a sister of Edmund Seward. BACK

[2] Unidentified. BACK

[3] Herbert Hill was Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral; hence Southey’s inside knowledge about Butt’s examination. BACK

[4] A second, revised edition of Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal was published in 1799. Southey’s two volume collection Poems appeared in 1799: volume one was a third edition of the collection first published in 1797; volume two consisted of poems published previously (though not under Southey’s own name) in the Morning Post and the Monthly Magazine or published for the first time. BACK

People mentioned