675. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 10 May 1802

675. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 10 May 1802 ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

I have been procrastinating my letter day after day in the hope of knowing when we may escape from London, a place which fine spring weather is rendering intolerable. There are some particulars which should be ascertained before my departure – & these are not in my own reach. I wish to know whether I am to continue doing nothing for Corry another year – probably not. – in that case – is it necessary that I should dangle after him to Ireland for a couple of months. these things Rickman will find out for me. my hope is to leave town on Tuesday in the next week. Of what is to be done thereafter it would be foolish to say anything – as we know nothing. only – if as I believe my unsecretaryfying takes place I shall wish to fix somewhere.

Days & weeks slip away one like another – & from the eternal round of visiting in which I am unavoidably involved, so little is done that I wonder so much time can have past so idly. Since my last we have had Harry in town & by this time he is in Paris: he is wonderfully improved. you will rarely see so fine a young man. & we have had a procession – a beggarly one God knows to proclaim Peace. [1]  We were all marshalled in battle array on the leads before our parlour windows to see it – & at night we all went with all the rest of the foolish people in London to see the Illumination [2]  & actually did see M. Ottos [3]  house – which every body tried to do but every body did not succeed. I thought Edith wrong in attempting it – but she chose to go – & having been in Portugal I knew it was difficult to make a Mule change her mind.

Now that my journey to Bristol is so near you will not wonder that I think of half a hundred walks, long & short. the bare recollection of a green field & an open horizon makes me gasp for fresh air. the sound of a brook & the smell of some hedge bank flowers will be a half heaven to me. I am weary of this unsettled vagabond life & seriously disposed to fix somewhere in the country – devote myself to my history [4]  & look for nothing else. the steady labour of three years would compleat as much as could be finished in England & from my present materials. I expect – I have a right to expect & to calculate upon 500 £ for each quarto volume. 2500 £ at the end of that labour would be to me a fortune. meantime there will be Kehama, there will be Madoc, [5]  & the more certain profits of obscure journey work – the Jack Ketch [6]  work of the Review – the putting living authors to death – & the raising old Amadis [7]  from the dead. I know & feel that I escape transportation to Ireland & can remain the summer & autumn at Bristol – that I shall work willingly & well, & gallop thro cantos of Kehama before breakfast. Bristol is still the place to which I most cling – very often do I remember Westbury – & wish that the years which are past could return & that the grave could give up its dead. –


The Welsh Bard is here – Edward Williams [8]  – old & infirm & poor. poor fellow – but brimfull of genius & jacobinism. have I written to you since my visit to my “cousin Southeys.” [9]  two young men both with large families. & apparently very opulent. the family blood it may be – but by the Lord it is not the family brains. I saw but one Mrs Southey & she was Mrs Thomas S. a proud & ill-looking woman who probably passes for handsome. we did not make out the actual angle of cousinship. there was some old Southey who had nine sons – & when nine lines flew off at a tangent they puzzled my <our> poor heads. I knew nothing more than that, reasoning from analogy, I must had a grandfather. The Welshmen [10]  were there, & their company with my Cousins dinner made a pleasant day. – Thank you for what you say about money. Burnett has not said any thing to me about his debt to you. nor shall I need it. my existing quarter has not been paid in advance. I wish it were not spending in advance – but on the whole I shall manage with little difficulty & arrive at Bristol with about forty pounds in my pocket. in the middle of July I shall receive forty more. at Michaelmas my year will be up. from the sale at Burton there will come some little – from 20 to thirty pounds. & the sixty for Amadis will be paid when the book is done – some time probably in August. the Bristol bills my Uncle will pay xxxxxxxx. things will go on smoothly if I can but stay in one place. That old scoundrel Lovell! – if I can but shame him into any thing it will be well.

Coleridge is getting well Mrs C. writes word. we hear nothing of seperation. As he has wisely made it the gossip of all his acquaintance here. Burnett is very happy, with a happy insensibility to the future – dreaming what great things he will do, but he has not yet made up his mind which thing to do first. poor fellow he was certainly cut out for a gentleman – one of lifes butterflies, – I see him very often. he provokes me by sawneying ever so purportless an existence – but for all that George is a good fellow – & there is something in him that makes me love him better than nine tenths of my acquaintance. We are going to Richmond on Thursday to pass the day & night with John May. Edith has never yet been there. then I trust our visiting ends – I will come on the Tuesday if possible – not only because I wish to come – but because I am afraid to stay – being in bodily fear of [Southey inserts profile sketch of a man with a very large aquiline nose] [11]  I have terrified Davy with the news of his coming. he actually perspires at the thought.

Kings is an excellent drawing. [12]  I shall speedily write to thank him. you see my Member is returned to town.

A statue to Pitt!!! [13]  will there be no evil disposed persons in this part of the world? xxxx of xxx I thought directly how Thomas was cut down. Addington [14]  is a miserable creature – but any thing is better than the last ministry. I wanted a transparency for the illumination. Peace beckoning to Justice – with a distant view of the gallows.

God bless you. our love to Mrs Danvers.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

Monday May 10. 1802.


* 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. 275-277. BACK

[1] The governments of England and France had signed the Peace of Amiens on 25 March 1802. There was a procession through the City of London to celebrate the peace on 29 April 1802. BACK

[2] In celebration of the treaty, areas of central London and other towns and cities across Britain were illuminated. BACK

[3] Louis-Guillaume Otto, Comte de Mosloy (1753-1817), the French diplomat responsible for negotiating the peace treaty. His residence in London was illuminated as part of the celebrations of 1802; see Robert Southey, Letters from England, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. 89, 93-95. BACK

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

[5] The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. Southey had only drafted Book 1 by this date; Madoc, which he had written in 1797-1799 and was revising for publication, did not appear until 1805. BACK

[6] Jack (John) Ketch (d. 1686; DNB), public executioner whose name and reputation for brutality entered into popular mythology. BACK

[7] Southey’s translation of the romance Amadis of Gaul was published in 1803. BACK

[8] The poet and forger Edward Williams (1746-1826; DNB), who published in English and Welsh and used the pseudonym Iolo Morganwg. BACK

[9] As Southey’s paternal uncles had no children, the cousins were fairly distant ones. Southey’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Southey (c. 1550-1601?) had nine sons and may have been their common ancestor. BACK

[10] Edward Williams and (probably) William Owen Pughe; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 5 April 1802, Letter 668. BACK

[11] Kenneth Curry, New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, p. 277, suggests this may be a caricature of William Godwin. BACK

[12] A sketch of the muniment room in St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, where Thomas Chatterton had supposedly discovered manuscripts by the monk Thomas Rowley (c. 1400-1470). John King’s drawing was used for the engraving opposite the title page of The Works of Thomas Chatterton, 3 vols (London, 1803), II, unpaginated. It was entitled ‘Interior of the Room in Redcliff Church where Rowleys Manuscripts were Said to have been Deposited’. BACK

[13] A subscription to erect a statue to the former Prime Minister William Pitt (1759-1806; DNB) had been started at Lloyd Coffee House, London, on 8 May 1802. Local and national newspapers continued to publish updated lists of subscribers, for example, the Derby Mercury, 24 June 1802. BACK

[14] Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth (1757-1844; DNB), The Speaker 1789-1801, Prime Minister 1801-1804, Home Secretary 1812-1822. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Westbury (mentioned 1 time)
Burton (mentioned 1 time)