654. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [started before and continued on] 6 February [1802]

654. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [started before and continued on] 6 February [1802] ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

I told you of my intended journey to Norwich – it has been prevented by Ediths increasing illness, [1]  & I am in a comfortless state of health myself. partly it is the climate – & something I attribute to the place, & still more to the perpetual uneasiness on Ediths account. There came two letters from Tom this week. one to his mother – poor fellow written a fortnight after her death! – the other to me – to say that he was going immediately to the West-Indies! – & desiring me not to let his Mother make herself unhappy on that account. I have mastered my own mind so much that nothing ever violently agitates or affects me – but <& yet> every unpleasant circumstance produces very mischievous effects. it comes upon me at night – or whenever I am unemployed – exactly like the story of Cortes & the physic. [2]  I wish very much to get from London if only for a week – the change would certainly benefit me – & yet I cannot go with any comfort while Edith continues in so wretched a state. the worst part of her disease is a loathing of all remedies – her stomach rejects the diet which Carlisle recommends & half the medicines. her spirits are beyond any thing you can imagine, bad. her digestion never goes on without strong aperients. – I am now myself so unwell in head & stomach that I do not go out – I fear I shall lose the opportunity of sending the tickets [3]  by Estlin therefore. shall I frank them down?

Saturday 6 Feby.

Yesterday there came two long letters from my Uncle. they say nothing of his removal, which indeed cannot be so soon as we imagined, for he desires me to send him over certain new books. he is very anxious about my history, & much pleased that it continues my object. [4]  Of Toms destination he knew nothing. he had sent him 100 dollars, & written in his behalf to Lord St Vincents. With the letters came a jewel-necklace for Lord Bute, to be by me delivered into his own hands. [5]  I went to day with it – & found that he had sold his town house. unluckily – as for the love of the Library I wanted to renew my acquaintance with the Lord. – My Uncle goes on hunting books for me. Even if I did not love my historical work beyond all other, I should for his sake make it my chief object.

Be so good as to pack up the set of Don Quixote – the little books in red Morocco which were in the sliding shelf under your book case [6]  – & send them by coach to Wynn. 5. Stone Buildings. Lincolns Inn. my Uncle writes me word that he has got another set & that I may dispose of mine. this news came seasonably just as I was about to write to you to give my own away.

Coleridge dines at Wynns to day with me. after all his foolish gossipping [7]  about his wife – he now talks of returning in six weeks to Keswick – & when he can, removing with his family & the Wordsworths [8]  to the South of France. plain it is that this climate suits him as little as it does me. I do not however wish that we should go abroad together. our habits are not enough alike. I wish the similarity – or the dissimilarity were greater.

Did I tell you how Burnetts pupils had both eloped? [9]  & how kindly Lord Stanhope has behaved to him? [10] 

We have letters from Joseph Lovell [11]  – as I expected – very kind & as they ought to be. he will settle all about Robert.

It is long since you have written – [MS obscured]tless because you believed me at Norwich. how is Mrs Danvers? [MS obscured] the Secretary [12]  has so little to do that he hopes he may have leave to see her sooner than he at first expected.

Edith is a little better. for me – I wish my health were as good as my spirits. brother brute is very unmanageable.

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.


* Address: [in another hand] Mr Danvers/ Kingsdown/ Bristol
Postmark: 6/ FEB/ 1802
Endorsements: London Feby. six 1802.; CW Williams Wynn
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. 270-272. BACK

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

[2] Hernan Cortes (1485-1547), conqueror of the Aztec empire. Gomara tells the story of how a fever-stricken Cortes took a purgative to relieve his symptoms. Before the medicine took effect, his camp was attacked and Cortes fought alongside his men to repel the attackers. Cortes’s activity delayed the working of the medicine, which only took effect the following day after he had rested; see Francisco Lopez de Gomara (c. 1511-1566?), Cortes. The Life of the Conqueror by His Secretary, trans. Lesley Byrd Simpson (Berkeley, CA, 1964), pp. 108-109. BACK

[3] Southey had purchased tickets in the state lottery for Danvers; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 26 January 1802, Letter 652. BACK

[4] Southey’s projected ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[5] John Stuart, 1st Marquess of Bute (1744-1814; DNB), Ambassador to Spain 1795-1796. Southey had possibly been introduced to Bute through the latter’s chaplain, George Martin Maber. BACK

[6] The nine-volume edition of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616), Don Quixote de la Mancha, published in Madrid in 1798. This was not disposed of by Southey as it was no. 3191 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] Coleridge’s marital unhappiness had led him to spread stories of his wife’s behaviour, tales Southey (who was, of course, Sarah Coleridge’s brother-in-law) was keen to disavow; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 9 January 1802, Letter 649. BACK

[8] Coleridge’s scheme to move to France with Dorothy and William Wordsworth did not materialise. BACK

[9] Burnett had been employed as tutor to Charles Stanhope (1785-1809) and James Stanhope (1788-1825), the two younger sons of the controversial politician and inventor Charles (‘Citizen’) Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753-1816; DNB). The boys’ flight from their father’s house was described in a letter from Charles Lamb to John Rickman, [?1 February 1802], E.W. Marrs Jr (ed.), The Letters of Charles and Mary Anne Lamb, 1796-1817, 3 vols (Ithaca, NY and London, 1975-1978), II, pp. 49-50. BACK

[10] Stanhope had retained Burnett in his employ, even though the latter now had nothing to do. BACK

[11] Probably the brother of the late Robert Lovell (see Lovell family). BACK

[12] i.e. Southey, whose post as secretary to Isaac Corry was not especially onerous. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)