669. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 12 April 1802

669. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 12 April 1802 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

I was yesterday much shocked by the news of poor Thomas’s death. his silence had made me surprized me, for I had been long in daily expectation of money from him to have paid off the Bristol debts. poor fellow he left London in an ill state of health, & brought on a fever by attending a cause at Hereford. his poor wife [1]  has lost both husband & father within ten days.

This unhappy circumstance will much derange my Uncles affairs, of which Thomas was sole manager. I know not when it will be possible to get the money which he had in his hands, of which fifty pounds were to have gone directly for Harrys Hospital fee at Norwich – & fifty I had written for to remit to you, designing to have borrowed a part till my own salary became due. I can manage for my self – but am sorry that my mothers bills must longer remain unpaid.

We were at Cheshunt four days in the last week – & were both greatly benefitted by fresh air, & the sight of something green. I have resolved to leave London early in May, heartily glad to escape from it – but you may pity me when I shall take an affectionate farewell of my books. my consolation is the joy that there will be in welcoming the new cargo. Still a removal disjoints my plans & disorders the whole march of associated ideas. I am hard at work, surrounded by documents – folios & quartos, one open upon another collating, comparing, picking hemp out of all & xxx twisting it into one cord.

Biggs & Cottle are at work upon Chatterton. [2]  they appear to have little or nothing to do as yet. Cottle would have done better to have remained in Bristol with the whole business if Biggs had been disposed to move – that is if he had had any rational inclination for employment. his life cannot be very comfortable here – in a court in Fleet Street – too lame to walk abroad. – a cupboard in his room holds his books & bread & cheese – I should pity his way of life were it not that he has always lived in a slovenly swine way. [3] 

I have received of Maddison [4]  £2 – 3s –6 d – the eighth part of an eighteen pounds prize. & I am sorry to say that when Bish [5]  pays me the like sum, your Lottery receipts for this year will be over – the new quarter being drawn a blank. next year I wish you better luck, & a more fortunate agent. you have had eight shares, & among them four prizes – & yet the balance is an ugly one.

Johnson [6]  has hardly sold any of the sermons. [7]  there are nine copies in his warehouse – & only eleven – or 13 (I forget which) were sent. Longman & Rees have sold all. they desire Mrs Jardine will send up twenty five copies; & they will do what they can with them. the fact is Longman & Rees have advertised them generally at the end of other books – whereas Johnson (himself an excellent man) publishes few books & cares for none.

This morning I have received a letter from Lisbon. I like my Uncles letters there is so much about books in them, but about every thing else he is a most unsatisfactory correspondent. not a word about his own plans, whether he stays or returns to England. the death of poor Thomas will perhaps be one reason for his coming here – it will else be very troublesome to arrange matters by letter with a new agent.

It was not quite friendly in Burnett to pass thro London to Bristol without shaking me by the hand. I should willingly, now the Montgomeryshire Member is from town, have written by him, & it would have been convenient to me if he could have convoyed down some half a dozen volumes, which might have gone carriage free with him. What are his plans now? does he purpose returning to Edinburgh – to graduate in a profession, wherein he has no probability of ever obtaining practise? [8]  poor fellow – I have seldom known a man whom it was so impossible to serve.

Mrs Tyler has replied to Harry in an impertinent letter which he has enclosed to me. I know not whether her wickedness or folly predominates. the Devil take her! –

Let me soon hear from you. you are my only regular correspondent, & your letters we look for as things customary & necessary. I wish we could hear of any situation for your brother. how is Mrs Danvers. this is the worst time of the years for those who are not in robust health. I myself feel the frequent alterations of [MS obscured]ther summer & winter, & hail & sunshine in the same day.

Rickman has a delightful house here. [9]  my books from Burton are to be sent to him & there I trust they may rest – till I myself get an abiding place. I am truly & sorely weary of wandering – of a vagabond life that allows no local attachments – no cat & dog society – & deprives me of half the comforts of domestic life. Corry pays me 400 a year to run about after him – I would let him take half to stay in one place.

Ediths love. remember me to King.

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey

Monday 12. April. 1802.

35. Strand.


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ Kingsdown/ Bristol./ Single
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: BAP/ 12/ 1802
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] William Bowyer Thomas had married a cousin in 1800. Her name and dates, and those of her father, are unknown. BACK

[2] Southey and Joseph Cottle’s planned subscription edition of The Works of Thomas Chatterton, eventually published in 1803. BACK

[3] Nathaniel Biggs had moved his business to Crane Court, London, in 1800-1801. Joseph Cottle, who remained his business partner, seems to have been staying with Biggs in London in order to complete the Chatterton edition. Cottle was lame, so the description of a ‘slovenly swine way’ of life applies to him, not Biggs. BACK

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

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

[6] Joseph Johnson (1738-1808; DNB), bookseller and publisher. BACK

[7] Sermons, By the Late Rev. David Jardine, of Bath. Published from the Original Manuscripts, by the Rev. John Prior Estlin (1798). BACK

[8] Burnett was studying medicine in Edinburgh. BACK

[9] As Secretary to The Speaker, Rickman had an official residence in the corner of Palace Yard, Westminster, and adjoining The Speaker’s own house. BACK

People mentioned

Thomas, William Bowyer (d. 1802) (mentioned 3 times)
Biggs, Nathaniel (dates unknown) (mentioned 2 times)
Cottle, Joseph (1770–1853) (mentioned 2 times)
Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 2 times)
Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Margaret (1752–1802) (mentioned 1 time)
Corry, Isaac (1753–1813) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 1 time)
35 Strand, London (mentioned 1 time)