652. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 26 January 1802

652. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 26 January 1802 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

You would have heard sooner from me, if my writer of franks had called sooner. I have bought the tickets, & will send them down by Estlin. [1] 

We are on the point – indeed in the very act of removal to No35. Strand. a place not noisier than our present abode, & of more convenience in apartments & situation. we are glad too to leave a house connected with unpleasant recollections. Miss Barker is going to lodge in the same house – a pleasant circumstance at any time – & the more so in the deplorable state of Ediths spirits. she is exceedingly ill, far worse than I have ever known her, & an total depression of spirits is a part of her disease. I know not what to do – the state of her stomach is so bad that it turns at any prescribed diet or medicine – & she can digest nothing without aperients. [2]  We have had a comfortless house. our servant [3]  has been saved from a putrid fever by Carlisle, but she has been confined to her bed or to the house ever since my mothers death, & is but just beginning to recover strength. without Mary I know not what we should have done – & she has had her troubles. Old Lovell has written to me to say he will no longer allow her any thing. an annuity of forty pounds was not much to his sons widow. I have replied – to enquire what he will do for the boy  [4]  – & taken up the duty that he does not chuse will not continue to perform. the worst part of the story is to come – I want to be abroad again from a lamentable conviction that it impossible <for me> to enjoy life in England. By day the healthy state of the mind keeps the body in order, but the brother brute as St Francis [5]  calls him, gets the better by night.

One of my remedies is change of circumstances – & I shall go for a week to Norwich. Of late I have been much out, uncomfortably & unavoidably. I met Estlin at Barbaulds. [6]  it was quite a Presbyterian dinner – a synod. Kentish [7]  – Joyce [8]  Jervis [9]  – Belsham. [10]  this led to a dinner with Belsham at Hackney – a good natured man whom doubtless you know. I have a whole legion of acquaintance. all the old acquaintanceships that had been dead & buried these ten years have risen again, & new introductions unavoidably increase. this makes sad havoc of my time, & if I did not read full gallop, & in those quarters of hours & ten & five minutes that are usually idled away, I should literally do nothing. – my newspaper speculation has ended in smoke. [11]  my play is planned & no more. [12]  my novel exists in idea like an uncreated world in the mind of Platos Deity. [13]  Madoc grows slowly. [14]  Kehamax stands still – wherefore I shrewdly suspect that what is done is not very good. [15]  if I liked the horse I think he would not stand so long in the stable. meantime I read valiantly & gut folio after folio for all imaginable purposes, but with a main reference to my History. [16]  the Red Cross Library [17]  is the mine from whence I dig my ore. Belsham has given me a Catalogue – Barbauld signs the receipt for the books. Elmsley also feeds me. I am working at a Collection of old French History in 68 octavo volumes which he lends me, full of good matter. [18]  my own books accumulate. if we were but well these employments would make me very happy.

All Beddoes’s friends are exceedingly mortified & surprized at his astonishing folly in that sneering dedication, & his mad attack upon Hannah More. [19]  booby! he has given pain to none but his friends. his enemies have just cause to triumph. he has injured himself beyond recovery. & his book upon consumption [20]  – was ever such a pick-pocket type? –

I have something to tell you of Cottle – the Methodist. [21]  you know how he neglected my large paper copies of the first volume of Poems, [22]  & that he printed twelve just at the time of my return from Portugal. [23]  these he has now sent up & with them a bill of £4 – 11 – for the paper & the trouble of striking off. that is 4 – 11 – 0 – for twelve copies of a book for the copy right of which he paid me 30£. Of course I shall not pay him. besides one of the sheets leave all the pages so misplaced as to render the whole good for nothing. the man has taken to faith & renounced good works in earnest.

I see a second volume of Collinss Botany Bay [24]  advertised, & wish myself at Kingsdown to read it. there however I hope in May to see it. no new books ever fall in my way here. I heard Davys introductory lecture. [25]  it was truly admirable. Coleridge is returned & with him Poole. I find a very useful acquaintance in Heber, whom I met in Wales. the greatest of book collectors, & the most liberal, for he lends me bundle after bundle, unsolicited, hunting his library for what he thinks may be useful to me. the private success of Thalaba equals [26]  – or more than equals my own expectation & belief of its merit. I hear characters, & see letters about it of even exaggerated praise. it were well did the sale keep pace with the reputation. It has done as much for the author of Joan of Arc [27]  – as that poem did for a young & unknown writer.

From Belsham I heard an odd rumour. that the real cause of the frequent adjournments of Parliament was, on a wish in the King to retire altogether from public business – which of course his friends will not readily agree to. it explains Addingtons language. [28] 

Corry & I continue in the same easy intercourse. I shall ask his assistance in getting a situation abroad. the Secretaries of Legation receive 300£ a year. a small income – but I can make it do – & shall accept one – like a reprieve.

It is doubted whether Governor Wall will be hung. [29]  but if he is not the justice of English law must be no more mentioned. the people draw the fair inference & say there is no justice for the rich.

your numbers are

15.177.             the quarter


14.008.           8th These I bought of Mr Bish [30] 

In hopes that you might have your wish.

2.772.             the quarter


25.075            eights. These of Mr Maddison [31] 

That his good news might glad ye soon.

The offices are at Charing Cross, next door to each other. the tickets are registered in your name. the whole cost £17 – 6 – 0. the secret hath been duly kept – & so good luck to t’ye.

Our love to Mrs Danvers. her cushion shall come down with us. remember me to King.

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

Tuesday 26. Jany. 1802.


* MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Tickets in the state lottery of 1802. BACK

[2] Edith Southey was pregnant with her first child. BACK

[3] Unidentified. BACK

[4] Southey had a struggle in getting the Lovell family to do anything for Robert Lovell Jnr. BACK

[5] St Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), whose belief that the human body was meant to carry burdens and to be beaten when refractory, led him to refer to his own body as ‘Brother Ass’. BACK

[6] The home of the writer Anna Letitia Barbauld and her husband, the Revd Rochemont Barbauld (1749-1808), in Hampstead. BACK

[7] The Unitarian minister John Kentish (1768-1853; DNB). BACK

[8] The Unitarian minister and writer Jeremiah Joyce (1763-1816; DNB). BACK

[9] The Unitarian minister and author Thomas Jervis (1748-1833; DNB). BACK

[10] The Unitarian minister Thomas Belsham (1750–1829; DNB). BACK

[11] Possibly Southey’s plan to write for the Courier and resume contributing poems to the Morning Post (though only 3 of his poems were published in the latter in late 1801). BACK

[12] Southey’s projected drama set in the reign of Mary I (1516-1558, Queen of England 1553-1558; DNB), ‘The Days of Queen Mary’; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 190-192. BACK

[13] Southey’s proposed novel ‘Oliver Elton’; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 9-10. Plato (428/7-348/7 BC) believed the physical world consisted of imperfect copies of ideas – the only true reality. BACK

[14] Southey was revising the fifteen-book version completed in 1799; Madoc was not published until 1805. BACK

[15] Southey had finished drafting Book 1 of The Curse of Kehama (1810) on 20 November 1801. He did not begin Book 2 until 4 June 1802. BACK

[16] Southey’s uncompleted ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[17] Dr Williams’s Library, London, established by a bequest from the dissenting minister Daniel Williams (c. 1643–1716; DNB). BACK

[18] Possibly Collection Universelle des Mémoires Particuliers Relatifs à l’Histoire de France (1785-1790), published in 67 volumes. BACK

[19] Thomas Beddoes, Hygeia: or Essays Moral and Medical, on the Causes Affecting the Personal State of Our Middling and Affluent Classes, 3 vols (London, 1802-1803), I, ‘Essays on the Means of Avoiding Habitual Sickliness and Premature Mortality’, ‘Essay Second’. The essay began with a ‘Dedication to the Ministers of the Gospel of Every Denomination’, which attacked them for failing to use their influence to minster to the body (health) as well as the mind, and for failing to support Beddoes’s scheme to popularise preventive medicine by distributing cheap tracts of health advice to the poor. Beddoes continued by deriding the influence of ‘holy persons’ such as More: ‘HOLY HANNAH! Cries Horace Walpole. Unless the popes are belied, it is not the first instance of a ——— canonised by an infidel’ (p. 5 and n*). BACK

[20] Beddoes’s Observations on the Medical and Domestic Management of the Consumptive (1801). BACK

[21] Cottle had published a pseudonymous satire, The Methodist (1801). It was reviewed as ‘entirely of the ironical kind, and is intended as a severe and biting satire against those who are not Methodists, particularly of the Established Church, and, above all, the Bishops. The author writes in the character of a zealous opposer of Methodists’, British Critic, 20 (September 1802), 320-321. BACK

[22] Poems (1797). BACK

[23] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 19 August, 1801, Letter 599. BACK

[24] David Collins (1756-1810; DNB), An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales. The first volume appeared in 1798 and the second in 1802. BACK

[25] Davy’s introduction to his ‘Course of Lectures on Chemistry’ had been delivered at the Royal Institution, London, on 21 January 1802. BACK

[26] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). Southey was correct that the poem’s public success – and sales – were not so great. BACK

[27] Southey’s revisionist epic, first published in 1796, had marked him out as an up-and-coming, and very controversial, poet. BACK

[28] Henry Addington (1757-1844; DNB), The Speaker 1789-1801, Prime Minister 1801-1804, Home Secretary 1812-1822. Addington was fully supported by George III, though the King was less visible in 1801 as he had suffered a recurrence of the illness that had incapacitated him in 1788-1789. BACK

[29] The former acting governor of Goree, Joseph Wall (1737-1802; DNB), was tried on 20 January 1802 for the murder, some two decades earlier, of Serjeant Benjamin Armstrong (d. 1782), whom he had sentenced to 800 lashes for alleged mutiny. He was found guilty and executed on 28 January. For Southey’s later analysis of the case see Letters From England, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. 97-108. BACK

[30] Thomas Bish (fl. 1790-1826), a well-known lottery office-keeper at 4 Cornhill, London. BACK

[31] Mr Maddison (first name and dates unknown), lottery office-keeper in London. BACK

People mentioned

Estlin, John Prior (1747–1817) (mentioned 2 times)
Fricker, Mary (1771–1862) (mentioned 1 time)
Beddoes, Thomas (1760–1808) (mentioned 1 time)
Barker, Mary (c. 1780–1853) (mentioned 1 time)
Poole, Thomas (1766–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Lovell family (mentioned 1 time)
More, Hannah (1745–1833) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Heber, Richard (1774–1833) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

35 Strand, London (mentioned 1 time)
Danvers’s, Kingsdown, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)