399. Robert Southey to John May, 18 April 1799

399. Robert Southey to John May, 18 April 1799 ⁠* 

My dear friend

I have another letter from Lisbon. my Uncle says he has sent fifty pounds for my mother. be good enough to receive twenty of these towards the payment of the forty which I received of you for my mother at Xmas 1797. x

he likewise says he would endeavour to lodge money with Burn [1]  for the expence of Toms passing. Tom has been little burthensome to him & a Lieutenancy, which I think there can be no doubt of his speedily obtaining, will render him compleatly independant. he passes on May day. will you have the kindness to call for him at the Navy Office where you took out his time ticket & enquire whether a Midshipman whose time is out on the 30th of April, passing day being the next, should lodge his journals & other certificates there before that day, he having all his certificates except that for the last month, for which time he is lent to another ship for the purpose of having an opportunity to pass, whilst his own is at sea.

I look forward with little pleasure to the month of May as I must pass the whole of it from home. as one term is to be kept at the beginning & the other at the end the intermediate fortnight is too short a time to return for & I shall have it to pass how I can. if I can find any friend disengaged enough to stroll somewhere with me during that time it would be infinitely more agreable than remaining in London. I should like to walk to the Peak & see the wonders of Derbyshire, or to ramble round Kent, much of which country I have never seen, & what would not be new it would be pleasant to revisit. I should have gone to Cambridge to visit Lloyd but Lloyd is detained at Birmingham by concerns of more importance than term-keeping. there is a probability of his speedy marriage. [2] 

I continue enfeebled & indisposed & look on very unwillingly to the exertion of a journey. here I have good advice & take all due care of myself. in London I shall talk with Carlisle & see if he can mend me. The Pneumatic & Physiological Institution [3]  is opened at last, I occasionally go down & take much interest in its success. it bids fair to ascertain medical facts of the greatest importance. [4]  Beddoes I know something of, & am more intimate with Davy the immediate director of the Institution, a young man of the most miraculous talents I ever met with. I am chemist enough to understand him upon chemical subjects. in scrofulous & consumptive cases they are meeting with great success. I have put my cousin Margaret under their care, she has but just begun to follow their prescriptions, but her case is a very extraordinary one, & Beddoes is not a man to give any hope where there is the least probability of disappointment. I am busily employed in doing the work which is necessary for the next month, that I may be at my own free disposal. my Uncle sent me a copy of the American advertisement of Joan of Arc. it was edited by one Joseph Nancrede of Boston, & he was by no means parsimonious in praise. [5]  I certainly should not have subscribed to a work so panegyrized.

Biddlecombe, our friendly neighbour at Burton has lost his wife in childbed. for ten years had they looked on to their marriage – & she survived the marriage but ten months. [6] 

Edith is very unwell. her indisposition is regularly every morning – mine very night. this however is better than permanent illness, & change of air will probably benefit us both. she desires to [MS torn]bered.

God bless you.

Yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

April. 18. 99.


* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ 4. Bedford Square/ London/ Single
Postmark: AP/ 18/ 99
Endorsement: 1799 No. 35./ Robert Southey/ No place 18 April/ recd: 19/ ansd: 20} do
MS: Special Collections, The Johns Hopkins University, Raymond Dexter Havens Papers, MS. 24. ALS; 4p. (c).
Previously published: Andy P. Antippas, ‘Four New Southey Letters’, The Wordsworth Circle, 5 (1974), 94–95. BACK

[1] William Burn (dates unknown), a member of the English Factory, Lisbon. BACK

[2] Charles Lloyd married Sophia Pemberton on 24 April 1799. BACK

[3] The Pneumatic Institute, Dowry Square, Bristol, had opened earlier in 1799. BACK

[4] Its early findings were publicised in Thomas Beddoes, Notice of Some Observations Made at the Medical Pneumatic Institution (1799). BACK

[5] An American edition of Southey’s Joan of Arc, An Epic Poem had been published by Joseph Nancrede (1761–1841) in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1798. The text followed that of the 1796 British edition of the poem. BACK

[6] Charles Biddlecombe’s wife, Catherine (née Lacy), had died on 24 March 1799 (see The Oracle, 2 April 1799) from complications in childbirth. The Biddlecombes had married on 4 June 1798. BACK

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 1 time)