440. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 3 October 1799

440. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 3 October 1799 ⁠* 

Exeter. Thursday. Oct 3. 1799.

Buonaparte [1]  was remarkably studious, & mathematics his particular study. he associated little or not at all with other officers, & in company was reserved & silent. this is Mrs Keenans [2]  account – to whom I lookd up with more respect because the light of his countenance had shone upon her. Banfill [3]  tells me that the <mathematical> tutor of Buonaparte is in Exeter, an Emigrant, he says that he was an excellent mathematician – in the military branch chiefly – & that he was always the great man – always the first – always Buonaparte. God bless him – but he disturbs my dreams now for I see no redemption possible!

Jackson [4]  has taste to a certain extent. he seems to be an old man of loose morals – I hinted this to Kendal, [5]  & his reply was that tho Jackson was ever friendly to him he had for some time avoided his society on that account. his music I take for granted. his pictures are always well conceived, the creations of a man of genius – but he cannot execute – his trees are like the rustic work on a Porters Lodge – sea-weed landscapes – cavern-drippings chiselled into ramifications, cold – cramp – stiff – stoney. I thank him for his “Four Ages”, a man with a name may publish such a book – but when a book is merely a lounging collection of scraps – the common place book printed one wishes it to hold more than half an hours turning over. a little turtle soup & a little pine apple – but one wants a huge bason of broth & plenty of filberts. his daughter [6]  is the a perfect Succubus – Beelzebubina showing her face without a mask. I soon talkd of Bampfylde, [7]  & Jackson rose in my esteem for he talkd of him till I saw the tears. I have copied one ode in imitation of Grays Alcaic [8]  – & nineteen Sonnets. after I had done Jackson required a promise that I would communicate no copy – as he was going them to publish them – & more, that I had not seen. he read me the Preface. it will tell you what a miraculous Musician Bampfylde was – & that he died insane – but it will not tell you Bampfyldes history.

His wish was to live in solitude & write & play. from his farm-lodging near Chudleigh, often would he come to town in winter, before Jackson was up, & Jackson is an early riser – ungloved – open breasted – with a pocket full of music, or poems, to know how he liked them. his friends plague on the word – his relations I mean, thought this was a sad life for a man of family, so they drove him to London. poor fellow said Jackson – there did not live a purer creature – & if they would have let him alone he might <have> been alive now. in London his feelings took a wrong course & he paid the price of debauchery.

His sixteen sonnets [9]  are dedicated to Miss Palmer, [10]  now Lady Inchiquin, a neice of Sir Joshua Reynolds. her he was madly in love with. whether Sir J. opposed the match on account of Bampfyldes own irregularities in London, or of the hereditary insanity I know not. but this was the commencement of his madness. on being refused admittance at Sir Joshuas, he broke the windows – & was taken to Newgate! Some weeks after Jackson unknowing of what had passed went to London, & enquired for Bampfylde. Lady B. his mother [11]  – said she knew little of him – she had got him out of Newgate – he was in some beggarly place. where? in King Street Holborn she believed but did not know the number. away went Jackson & knockd at every door till he found the right. it was a miserable place. the woman of the house was one of the worst class of women in London. she knew B. had no money & that he had been then three days without food. Jackson found him with the levity of derangement. his shirt collar – black & ragged – his beard a two months growth. he said he was come to breakfast – & turnd to a harpsichord in the room literally he said to let B. gorge himself without being noticed. he took him away – gave his mother a severe lecture & left him in decent lodgings & with a decent allowance, earnestly begging him to write. he never wrote. the next news was his confinement & Jackson he never seen <saw> him seen more. Almost the last time they saw met, he shewed him several poems, among others a ballad on the murder of David Rizzio [12]  – such a ballad! says J. he came to J. to dinner & was asked for copies. I burnt them was the reply. you did not seem to like them – & I wrote them to please you – so I burnt them. After twenty years confinement his senses returned, but he was dying in a consumption. he was urged by his Apothecary to leave the house in Sloane Street, where he was well treated – & go into Devonshire. your Devonshire friends will be very glad to see you. he immediately hid his face – No Sir said he – they who knew me what I was, shall never see me what I am.

Kendall improves on acquaintance. he is the best of translators – I have seen some dozen sonnets from the Italian, & in the regular rhymes. [13]  I compared them line by line with the originals – there was no variation of thought whatever – & yet they read like originals. a passage of Tasso [14]  bore the same test.

Yesterday we dined with Hucks. today we dine with Banfill. of the Keenans I see much. I have now lying on the table a book of her drawing the insects & flowers & trees of the West Indies, with descriptions [15]  – lent me for Madoc. she walks with her husband like Miss Wordsworth. when they visit the North of Devon I shall direct them to you. they are worth knowing – & I leave Exeter with some reluctance on their account. Keenan is a fine painter, a man of genius who wants only to be known to stand high in his profession.

My Mother came last night – we go on Monday. our direction is Burton near Ringwood. Eliza [16]  is well – & I suspect you mistook the disorder. I will write to William Taylor. our loves – & make Moses laugh again. but for Gods sake keep him from the Madman!

yrs affectionately



* Address: To/ S. T. Coleridge/ Stowey/ near/ Bridgewater/ Single
Stamped: EXETER
MS: University of Kentucky Library. ALS; 4p. (c).
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 26–29 [in part]. BACK

[1] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821; First Consul 1799–1804, Emperor of the French 1804–1814). He was educated at the Brienne military academy and the Ecole Militaire in Paris, and a career officer in the artillery before his rise to power. BACK

[2] Mrs Keenan née MacKinnen, wife of John Keenan (fl. c. 1780–1819), Irish portrait painter, then living in Exeter. Keenan painted two portraits of Southey. BACK

[3] Probably Samuel Banfill (fl. 1790s–1830s), partner in a woollen mill at Exwick, near Exeter. BACK

[4] William Jackson (1730–1803; DNB), Exeter-based musician, composer, painter and writer. Suspicions about his ‘loose morals’ were correct. In 1797 he fathered an illegitimate son. Though he had no great opinion of his own paintings, Jackson had exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1771. His Four Ages (1798) was a collection of miscellaneous essays. BACK

[5] William Kendall (dates unknown); author of Poems, published in Exeter in 1793. He was the librettist for William Jackson’s Fairy Fantasies op. 16 (c. 1790). BACK

[6] Mary Jackson (c. 1760–1807). In 1806 she married the painter, John Downman (1750–1824; DNB). BACK

[7] The poet John Codrington Warwick Bampfylde (1754–1796; DNB) spent the last twenty years of his life in an asylum. William Jackson’s projected edition of Bampfylde’s poetry never appeared. Southey published three of Bampfylde’s sonnets and his ode ‘To the River Teign’ in Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), III, pp. 434–437. BACK

[8] Thomas Gray (1716–1771; DNB), whose alcaic ‘Written in the Album of the Grande Chartreuse’ (1741) provided the inspiration for Bampfylde’s ode ‘To the River Teign’. BACK

[9] John Codrington Warwick Bampfylde, Sixteen Sonnets (1778). BACK

[10] Mary Palmer (1750–1820) was the niece and heiress of the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792; DNB). On inheriting Reynolds’s estate, she married Murrough O’Brien, 5th Earl of Inchiquin and 1st Marquess of Thomond (1726–1808), who quickly ran through her fortune. BACK

[11] Lady Jane Bampfylde (1720–1789), wife of Sir Richard Warwick Bampfylde, 4th Baronet (1722–1776). BACK

[12] David Rizzio (1533–1566; DNB), an Italian courtier of Mary Stuart (1542–1587; Queen of Scotland 1542–1567; DNB). He was stabbed to death in the Queen’s presence at Holyroodhouse Palace, Edinburgh. BACK

[13] William Kendall (dates unknown). His Poems (Exeter, 1793), pp. 49–60 contained 12 sonnets using ‘Italian rhythm’ (p. 4). BACK

[14] Torquato Tasso (1544–1595), Italian poet, best known for his epic, Jerusalem Delivered (1580). BACK

[15] Mrs Keenan was a sister of Daniel MacKinnon (1767-1830), whose Tour through the British West Indies was reviewed by Southey in Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 50–56. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Margaret (1752–1802) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker family (mentioned 1 time)
Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 1 time)
Hucks, Joseph (1772–1800) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 1 time)