634. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 2-3 December 1801
634. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 2-3 December 1801 *
Wednesday. 2nd December. 1801.
My dear Danvers
The travellers reached us on Monday evening. they had delayed their journey till the bad weather & so were obliged to come half the way with four horses. My Mother bore the journey exceedingly well – no good symptom this – & indeed she is far worse than I had expected. Carlisle has been to visit her – she has faith in him – & faith works wonders. he thinks it an even chance that she may get thro the winter. so long ago as when he saw her at Westbury he thought her consumptive, & wonders she has lived till now. it is at least a satisfaction that she has every possible comfort & alleviation – poor Margaret had none! – This cursed disease is I now see a family one – an Uncle  – an infant sister  – my Cousin – & my Mother are proofs enough. I shall be on my guard – & if ever I begin to cough ship myself in time for Lisbon. at present I am well as heart could wish – & the weather has been trying.
God bless your good Mother! – I am writing on the noble desk & the noble carpet – equally delighted with the polish of the one & the colours of the other. the hearse is admirable. I wish that was unnecessary – that in a house I might draw out my papers in battle array – & my boards, & have a table made for my carpet – & write more luxuriously than ever did Poet before me. this vagabond life will not last very long. if at the years end Corry & I should part – & I should be again afloat – I sho will then go to Keswick – to the same house with Mrs Coleridge & economize there – almost indifferent whether any advancement in life should remove me or not. We should be magnificently lodged for 25£ a year – & my annual expences if settled there – would not outrun 150£. an odd scheme for a Secretary you will say – & yet it is my favourite one & seems most probable.
I am of no use whatever to Corry – my place is actually a sinecure – & he will find me too expensive a part of his establishment – if he ever thought of making me a statesman – I never thought of it, & he must easily discover my unfitness. One conversation is enough for that. not for any thing opposite to his own opinions which he hears – an old Jacobine & a new Ministerialist necessarily now talk the same language. both say peace on any terms – the success of Bonaparte  compels the one to acknowledge his talents – the development of the Corsicans character drives the other to execrate his all-sacrificing & all-pliable ambition. But there is a communicativeness & openness in my manners utterly opposite to what statesmen require. every trifling occurrence in life must be mysterious – a visit to the necessary is a secret expedition. if Corry has hired me that he may acquire a character for patronage he will answer that purpose by giving me some easy appointment in Ireland. this his own family believe to be his object – if he has any other, he will & must be disappointed. in that case if I go abroad on my first & favourite scheme – well. – if not I can live upon a little in Cumberland. & devote myself to the History of Portugal  – which from my connections & character must be of considerable emolument. a settled habitation would cut off a fourth of my annual expences. I wish this could have been done sooner – but I have never yet been a free agent.
Davy has paid me two morning visits. one the first day of my entering the lodgings – & before I had got in, so that we did not meet. the silent estrangement which I foresaw is growing between us – his regard for & attachment to me grew up briskly – but the thorns have choaked it. this is in the natural course of things – our habits of life & of thinking & of study grow more & more dissimilar. it is not a thing to wonder at – hardly to regret. Coleridge & he have a knot of union in their metaphysics. a foul weed that poisons whatever it clings to. I have been so accustomed to some glaring folly or fault in almost every one with whom it has been my lot to be connected, that of necessity I am all-tolerant.
Thursday – I should have finished & dispatched this yesterday, but on my return from a walk – a head ache had so increased as to disable me for the day. My Mother had a good night – her fever is removed, & we have contrived to keep her feet warm at night. these are alleviations – & that is something. Edith – God bless her! – is a kind & watchful nurse – I wish she were better herself. certainly she never is so well in London as she is in any other place. today Corry has found out an employment for his Secretary – to attend his son  to Walkers Lectures.  the time that he has purchased could not be past less disagreeably – but you see such a mule-situation cannot be permanent.
Burnett is employed thro Coleridge in the easiest way – yet I doubt his ability. merely to glean the French papers & Peltiers ‘Paris’  after the news has been taken out – for the Courier.  for this when on trial he is to have a guinea & half a week. afterwards two guineas.
Hamilton  has sent in his account – I called yesterday for payment, & found that he was out. £20 – 17 – 0 – this does not include the few books which I reviewed at your house since my return to England – therefore as he has not closed my account I may expect more work. as soon as I get the money I will send it down. – I have heard from Thomas at last – & written again to him. you will soon receive – if indeed you have not already sent it – the thirty pounds from him. I will write again to enquire where my Uncles boxes may be sent. it hurts me that you should be troubled. the boxes that I have examined are those that should be shipped off – in the new ones I believe there are books which will soon be necessary for my work.
Wynn has left town & cut off my supply of franks – a vexatious loss. I have been fortunate in my old-book-hunting, not so much to Ediths joy as to my own. Our Cintra friend Miss Barker has been with us – she is coming to spend the winter with Charlotte Smith  in London – & I expect to be pleasantly intimate at that house. Miss Seton also will come up at Xmas – we shall be truly & heartily glad to see her.
Your politics about Corrys removal are quite unfounded. the Assize of Bread  will be taken off. an excellent measure which I trace to John Rickmans pervading intelligence. I believe Addington  means well – but it is a difficult thing to talk with the old aristocrats & act with the Amenders. yet this is what he is at. Gray is bargaining.  – I had almost forgot to tell you that before the Preliminaries,  when French books were only entered by sufferance orders were given by the Duke of Portland  to admit no work of Voltaire or of Rousseau. this is certainly true notwithstanding its cursed principle & its almost unbelievable absurdity!
God bless you. our love to Mrs D. yrs truly
* Address: To/ Mr Danvers./ Kingsdown./ Bristol
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 259-262. BACK
 Probably Eliza Southey, who died in 1779. BACK
 Probably given by Adam Walker (1730/1-1821; DNB), famed for his lectures, especially on astronomy. BACK
 Jean-Gabriel Peltier (1760-1825; DNB), publisher of Paris pendant l’Annee (1795-1802), an anti-revolutionary periodical. BACK
 Charlotte Turner Smith (1749-1806; DNB), poet and novelist; author, among many other works, of Celestina (1791) and The Old Manor House (1793). BACK
 The Assize of Bread was a medieval statute that allowed local justices of the peace to regulate the price, weight and quality of bread. It was gradually abolished by legislation in 1815, 1822 and 1836. BACK
 Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth (1757-1834; DNB), The Speaker 1789-1801, Prime Minister 1801-1804, Home Secretary 1812-1822. BACK
 Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764-1845; DNB), Foreign Secretary 1806-1807, Prime Minister 1830-1834; leading figure in the Foxite Whigs. He was pursuing a desultory and fruitless set of negotiations with Addington about whether the Whigs would join the government. BACK
 Britain and France had signed ‘Preliminary Articles of Peace’ on 1 October 1801. This was effectively a ceasefire to allow negotiations for a full treaty. BACK
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