406. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 12 May 1799

406. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 12 May 1799 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

Blessed be God that whether the day be pleasant or unpleasant it passeth on – in London & at Brixton the day consisteth of twenty four hours & the hours of sixty minutes & the minute of sixty seconds exactly as at Martin hall, but upon my soul there is a strange difference sensible in the duration of the seconds minutes hours & days. it is almost not yet a fortnight since you & I embarked from home, & yet the thirteen days have seemd longer than the thirteen weeks that preceded them.

Your letters have reached me. bad as a seaport is you say it is better than London. I believe you & congratulate you on your release. on the 28th – perhaps on the night of the 27th I hope to reach home. in this accursed town (for even at Brixton I consider myself within its atmosphere) I will not remain an hour longer than is necessary. since you left town I have been there thrice, & hunted the book-stalls with some success as to French poetry. Of my Dutch grammar I know much but I beklaage myzelf [1]  for not having a dictionary to read Jacob Cats, it is not worth while to purchase the dictionary unless I could take Cats home with me. William Taylor has sent me the Noah [2]  & half tempted me to think of making a poem on that subject which might rank with Milton & Klopstock. [3] 

I must not forget to give you a Dutch sentence in the grammar – “Ik beminde minne goeden en rikken broeder” – that is – I love you my good & rich brother. & in a following sentence there is the same love of a sister. Tom you & I have no Dutch affection – for God knows we are not quite so rikken  [4]  as we would wish.

Carlisle has prescribed for me bark & steel, which I have not yet begun to take. It is only at home that I can be regular in any thing, elsewhere there are a thousand little restraints which dog me & fritter away the hours. I have only written some thing in Madoc [5]  to finish the canoe fight; – the Elegy Love Elegy upon the wig [6]  – & this morning I have written a poem upon a pig, [7]  at least enough of it for Stuart, which will I think when some thirty lines are added to it be the best of all my quaint pieces. this has been my weeks work & considering I have dined out once, drank tea twice, & walked three times to London, it is as much as well might be expected.

I am attacked about Lloyd’s cursed Anti-Jacobine letter. [8]  how tho I abuse that jackass Letter & his nasty lines upon the fast [9]  to you & to himself, yet I do not like to hear others abuse him, it gives me pain & while I blame the books I justify his motives.

Tomorrow I may perhaps hear from him as I purpose calling on Charles Lamb. plague on it it is Whit Monday I recollect – & I do not know where to find him.

Your Exeter bookseller [10]  blundered a little. certainly he is right in saying the Joan [11]  made my reputation, but about the smaller pieces he is wrong. you know my own opinion of Mary [12]  – & you also know that I am not apt to think worse of my own poems than they deserve. if I should write about Noah, & it is not improbable, my fingers itch to be counting hexameters. [13] 

George Dyer whose dirty dressing gown disgusted you, but [MS torn] knows every body, & who is esteemed by every body, is catering for my Almanac. [14]  there is a double advantage in this, contributions not only save me, but interest the vanity of the contributors in the sale of the book.

About politics I can only give you a pun that escaped me last night. Grosvenor said we had the essence of Liberty in England, & I replied then it was the volatile essence – for it had all fled away.

God bless you. when shall we meet again? I shall have to go house hunting on my return.

your affectionate broeder

Robert Southey.

Sunday 12 May. Still de Koele May! [15] 



* Address: To/ Mr Thomas Southey./ to be left at the Kings Arms/ Plymouth./ Single
Stamped: [partial] BRIDGE St / NOON
Postmark: BMA/ 13/ 99
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 70–72 [in part]. BACK

[1] The Dutch translates as ‘I pity myself’. BACK

[2] Johann Bodmer (1698–1783), Noachide (1752). Southey thought it was a ‘bad poem’; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 2. BACK

[3] Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803), author of the epic Der Messias (1748–1773). BACK

[4] The Dutch translates as ‘rich’. BACK

[5] Madoc (1797-1799), Book 13. BACK

[6] ‘Love Elegy. The Poet Relates How He Stole a Lock of Delia’s Hair, And Her Anger’, published anonymously in the Morning Post, 10 May 1799. BACK

[7] ‘The Pig. A Colloquial Poem’, published anonymously in the Morning Post, 24 May 1799. BACK

[8] Charles Lloyd, A Letter to the Anti-Jacobin Reviewers (1799). BACK

[9] Charles Lloyd, Lines Suggested by the Fast, Appointed on Wednesday, February 27, 1799 (1799). BACK

[10] Probably either Gilbert Dyer (1743–1820; DNB) or Shirley Woolmer (fl. 1781–1831); see Southey to Joseph Cottle, 22 September 1799, Letter 437. BACK

[11] Joan of Arc, an Epic Poem (1796). BACK

[12] First published in Southey’s Poems (1797) and much-reprinted as ‘Mary the Maid of the Inn’. BACK

[13] Southey was modelling himself on Johann Bodmer (1698–1783), whose epic Noachide (1752) was written in hexameters. For Southey’s plan see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 2–3. BACK

[14] Southey’s Annual Anthology, published in 1799 and 1800. BACK

[15] ‘May is still cool’. BACK

People mentioned

Stuart, Daniel (1766–1846) (mentioned 1 time)
Lloyd, Charles (1775–1839) (mentioned 1 time)
Lamb, Charles (1775–1834) (mentioned 1 time)
Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 1 time)
Dyer, George (1755–1841) (mentioned 1 time)
Carlisle, Anthony (1768–1840) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Martin Hall (mentioned 1 time)