597. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge [fragment], 3 August 1801

597. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge [fragment], 3 August 1801 ⁠* 

Bristol, August 3. 1801.

Following the advice of the Traumatic Poet, I have been endeavouring to get money – and to get it honestly. I wrote to ———, [1]  and propounded to him Madoc, to be ready for the press in six months, at a price equivalent to that of Thalaba, in proportion to its length; and I asked for fifty pounds now, the rest on publication.

——— [2]  writes to beat down the price.             .             .             .             .             .             And I have answered, that the difference about terms sets me at liberty from my proposal.

And so, how to raise the wind for my long land voyage? Why, I expect Hamilton’s [3]  account daily (for whom, by the by, I am again at work!), and he owes me I know not what; it may be fifteen pounds, it may be five-and-twenty: if the latter, off we go, as soon as we can get an agreeable companion in a post-chaise: if it be not enough, why I must beg, borrow, or steal. I have once been tempted to sell my soul to Stuart for three months, for thirteen guineas in advance; but my soul mutinied at the bargain .             .             .             .             .             Madoc has had a miraculous escape! it went against my stomach and my conscience – but malesuada fames. [4] 

Your West India plan [5]  is a vile one. Italy, Italy. I shall have enough leisure for a month’s journey. Moses and the young one with the heathenish name, will learn Italian as they are learning English, – an advantage not to be overlooked; society, too, is something; and Italy has never been without some great mind or other, worthy of its better ages. When we are well tired of Italy, why, I will get removed to Portugal, to which I look with longing eyes as the land of promise. But, in all sober seriousness, the plan I propose is very practicable, very pleasant, and eke also very prudent. My business will not be an hour in a week, and it will enable me to afford to be idle – a power which I shall never wish to exert, but which I do long to possess.             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             Davy’s removal to London extends his sphere of utility, and places him in affluence; [6]  yet he will be the worse for it. Chameleon like, we are all coloured by the near objects; and he is among metaphysical sensualists: he should have remained a few years longer here, till the wax cooled, which is now passive to any impression. I wish it was not true, but it unfortunately is, that experimental philosophy always deadens the feelings; and these men who ‘botanise upon their mothers’ graves,’ [7]  may retort and say, that cherished feelings deaden our usefulness; and so we are all well in our way.

.             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             Do not hurry from the baths for the sake of meeting me; for when I set out is unpleasantly uncertain; and as I suppose we must be Lloyd’s guests a few days, it may as well or better be before your return. My mother is very unwell, perhaps more seriously so than I allow myself to fully believe. If Peggy were – what shall I say? – released is a varnishing phrase; and death is desirable, when recovery is impossible. I would bring my mother with me for the sake of total change, if Peggy could be left, but that is impossible; recover she cannot, yet may, and I believe will, suffer on till winter. Almost I pre-feel that my mother’s illness will, at the same time, recall me.             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             .             The summer is going off, and I am longing for hot weather, to bathe in your lake; and yet am I tied by the leg. Howbeit, Hamilton’s few days cannot be stretched much longer; and when his account comes I shall draw the money, and away. God bless you!

R. Southey.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.) Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850), II, pp. 154-157. BACK

[1] Longman. Southey had proposed to publish either Madoc or the Curse of Kehama with Longman & Rees. BACK

[3] Samuel Hamilton (fl. 1790s-1810s), owner of the Critical Review 1799-1804. Southey had reviewed for the Critical in 1797-1799. BACK

[4] Virgil (70-19 BC), Aeneid, Book 6, line 276. The Latin translates as ‘crime-provoking hunger’. BACK

[5] Coleridge had proposed that he, Southey and Wordsworth should emigrate to the West Indian island of Nevis (Coleridge to Robert Southey, 25 July 1801, E. L. Griggs (ed.), Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 6 vols (1956-1971), II, pp. 747-748). BACK

[6] Humphry Davy had been appointed an assistant lecturer in chemistry at the Royal Institution in London. BACK

[7] William Wordsworth, ‘A Poet’s Epitaph’, lines 19-20, Lyrical Ballads, 2 vols (London, 1800), II, p. 165. BACK