568. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 17 February 1801

568. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 17 February 1801 ⁠* 

Dear Danvers

Your queries admit of no delay in answering them. Book 11 – 439 – prow may be used for heel. – “Treasure-house for treasury –” the pun is worth the alteration. dead eye – because it was the eye of the deceased Solomon. [1]  my promise refers to Book 4 the beginning – where the spirit of Zeinab says thou shalt behold me in the hour of death. [2]  What is there awkward in

Jahia’s, & the blameless Barmecides –  [3] 

it means for whose name defiled by blood x the blood of Jahia & the Barmecides – <Genius hath wrought salvation.>  [4] any alteration will hurt the sense. – the other passages are better as they are.

By this packet a duplicate of the new lines is sent – I sent it to Wynn desiring him, in case the first copy may have been lost to frank it to you. [5] 

You must be content with a hasty & foul scrawl – your letter is just received & the packet sails tomorrow. I only write to answer the queries, & must hurry on. Cottle ought a month ago to have received my judgement of Alfred [6]  – censure as diluted as it well could be – condemnation & water. the poem is worse than I expected – yet I knew the British Critic [7]  to be so beastly stupid that I half believed they would praise it.

About Harry. tho I had a hundred & fifteen good reasons for rejoicing that he was to read the Athanasian creed [8]  – yet in my heart & conscience I am feel a more satisfactory pleasure at his better choice. my information now comes from my Uncle who returned yesterday, & from Wm Taylors letter. [9]  my Uncle makes up my 115£ – 200 guineas, which is the fee. 50£ more must be paid at an after period for the Hospital study. the term 3½ years from Lady day. the situation with a man of eminence [10]  – connected with Harrys friends & in every respect qualified to bring him forward. xxxxx thus is he well settled but meantime there are his personal expences to be supplied – his cloaths, washing, & the money necessary to support a decent equality among his friends – my Uncle will do what he can – but he has deep drains in England, & it is to me that Harry must look.

The Boxes are arrived but not shore. the people thro whose they hands they must pass know not all the eagerness & uneasy impatience we feel for letters – not to mention our new cloaths. there will doubtless be a letter from you & as that will require an answer I the less reluctantly send you this hasty sheet.

If a ship offers I shall pack off my books to Bristol – our alarms are now so general, that tho my fears are little, it is become prudent to secure my worldly treasure. in that case you will get them thro the accursed custom house, & Davy has houseroom enough to lodge the unexpensive guests without inconvenience.

As for Cottles version of the psalms [11]  – he has had precedents enough in an absurd attempt. to paraphrase is to dilate, to dilate is to weaken. What is fine in the Psalms cannot be improved by any new dress. what is bad is not worth the attempt. it is sacrilege to spoil the good, folly to meddle with the worthless. Of authors so very old the most naked version is the most valuable. he has mangled Alfred – for which no Englishman can excuse him – & now he sets upon K. David! [12]  for which none but his Calvinists [13]  will praise him. still there may be honours in storex. Samuel Wesley [14]  may compose new tunes for the new Sternhold [15] Hannah More be the St Cecilia [16]  in private – & the “sweet singers” [17]  of Broad Mead [18]  delight Cottle with the anticipated choruses of Methodist-Elysium. I am sorry to see some talents (for doubtless he possesses them) & great industry – alas for the wicked quarto proof thus eternally misdirected. he ought to translate, for which his abilities are exactly adequate – & any given language might soon be acquired for that specific purpose. his powers of versification fit him for the useful office.

God bless you. commend us to our friends. a short list – but we may particularize your Mother & Davy – & you may extend it by the civility of some recollections to our acquaintance.

I long for the box & the proofs. they shall be kept carefully.

yrs affectionately

R Southey.

Tuesday. Feby. 17. 1801. Lisbon.


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ 9. St James’s Place/ Kingsdown/ Bristol./ Single
Stamped: LISBON
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The following changes were all made in Thalaba the Destroyer (1801): Book 11, line 439, ‘prow’; Book 12, line 484 ‘Treasure-house’. The phrase ‘dead eye’ was retained in Book 4, line 289. BACK

[2] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 4, line 22. BACK

[3] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 5, line 81. BACK

[4] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 5, line 82. BACK

[5] Southey to Wynn, 15 February 1801, Letter 567. BACK

[6] Joseph Cottle, Alfred, an Epic Poem, in Twenty Four Books (1800). BACK

[7] British Critic, 16 (December 1800), 607-614. BACK

[8] Southey believed he would have to use the £115 he received from Longmans for Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) to pay for his brother, Henry Herbert Southey’s, medical training. If Henry accepted his uncle Herbert Hill’s suggestion that he become an Anglican clergyman and subscribe to the Athanasian creed, a 5th-century statement of Christian orthodoxy, Southey would be relieved of this expense. BACK

[9] Taylor had informed Southey of his brother’s decision to study medicine in a letter of 1 February 1801 (J.W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, pp. 364-365). BACK

[10] Philip Meadows Martineau (1752-1829), surgeon at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and a member of the Martineau family, prominent Unitarians in Norwich. BACK

[11] Joseph Cottle, A New Version of the Psalms of David (1801). BACK

[12] David (c. 1040-970 BC, King of Israel c. 1010-970 BC), traditionally regarded as the author of the Psalms. BACK

[13] Jean Calvin (1509-1564), French-born Swiss theologian, whose writings provided the official doctrine of the Baptist church to which Joseph Cottle belonged. BACK

[14] Samuel Wesley (1766-1837; DNB), Methodist hymn-writer. BACK

[15] Thomas Sternhold (1500-1549; DNB), writer of the first metrical version of the Psalms in English. BACK

[16] St Cecilia (2nd century), early Christian martyr and patron saint of music. BACK

[17] The ‘sweet singers’ were a radical religious group in Edinburgh in the 1680s. BACK

[18] Either the Baptist chapel in Broad Mead, Bristol, founded in 1640, or the Methodist New Chapel, founded in 1739 in the same area. BACK

People mentioned

Cottle, Joseph (1770–1853) (mentioned 3 times)
Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 3 times)
Davy, Humphry (1778–1829) (mentioned 2 times)
More, Hannah (1745–1833) (mentioned 1 time)
Danvers, Mrs. (d. 1803) (mentioned 1 time)
Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 1 time)