849. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 7 November 1803

849. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 7 November 1803 ⁠* 

Dear Danvers

It quite provokes me that Longman should send a second parcel to Bristol forgetting that I am in Cumberland. let it be sent back to him & beg Barry [1]  once he writes to say that it is sent forwarded back to him as the speediest way of reaching me. I am sadly vexed about the books. perhaps Russels [2]  answer may have reached you & given some tidings. I cannot write to poor Mrs Yescombe [3]  not knowing her husbands fate [4]  – but I will advise my Uncle to set on foot a search by some other captain – it is a very serious loss – even in mere money. Speaking of books it reminds me of those Sam Reid sent for for me. if they are arrived pray forward them by waggon, & I shall make their full cost by reviewing them.

Tom wrote to me from Cork where he found my letters waiting for him. poor fellow he writes very affectionately as if I were his only living relation, & in truth as to all vital feelings & actions of relationship so it is. brothers much younger than oneself excite uneasiness & nothing else. – The cold weather has come upon us prematurely – we had an autumn like summer, & now here is frost & nipping of noses in November! the very Devils own weather – such as must console Bonaparte [5]  whenever he thinks of everlasting fire. I continue well, but this bitter weather pinches me & my extremities (including the nose) have an ominous propensity to become chilled. however I take especial care of this poor person of mine & shall warm the inside better when your wine arrives. this cursed rumour of war with Portugal distresses me in every imaginable way. if port wine be to be had no more I believe it will be the death of me. – My life is now more uniform than ever – I am getting into the clock-work regularity of my father. After breakfast in my own room till dinner, unless fine weather tempts me to walk. from dinner to tea again – & so again till supper, & this for the most part alone. in the morning I review – in the afternoon read & doze, in the evening either to Madoc [6]  or History. [7]  the Monk who is more solitary must be so by choice, not by situation.

In this kind of life one idles away time by stirring the fire & dreaming before it. I did more at Bristol – when rising every half hour to that poor child. however I am working too well to have any cause for complaint. for the last week my spell has been history. it has carried me thro the whole voyage of Vasco de Gama, [8]  of which I shall give an account somewhat different from what has hitherto been given, besides discovering some curious corollaries in Rickmans way. Madoc is in the fifth book – I am about a new part – a visit to Bardsey [9]  the old burial place of the Welsh Kings & Saints, to which place I transfer the visit of Llewelyn. [10]  perhaps the poem is so far advanced & I am in such a humour about it that the sooner I look for subscribers the better – but this should be done without any public advertisement till the very last. The price will be a guinea, for if it cannot be printed in quarto for that (as probably it can) it shall in a smaller size, that being the better price than 25 Shillings. so you may mention this where you like it – & the names you get will be so many motives for my good speed. If I can dispose of three hundred copies thus my profits will be of some importance – something more than the from-hand-to-mouth work at which I have so long laboured.

The Bownham [11]  letters came in the parcel. I will make up something for Mrs Smith soon – in truth I feel myself very much obliged to her & her husband. as for the Chatterton [12]  all that is needful is to make their bookseller send it as a subscribers copy – & then Longman & Rees receive the money from him for Mrs Newtons [13]  account. When do they of talk of visiting Cumberland? did they not speak of some such plan for next summer? if they were to be here when you are it would be very pleasant –

I look forward to your coming with much hope. this country will show you more than you have ever seen yet – & yet to see all of which this country is capable must be the work of years. the accidents of the elements are so infinite. a few days ago we had a very grand appearance which is not very uncommon. between five & six before the sun light was gone or the moon was bright, the whole circle of the mountains became of one dead even blue. their distances, their crags & promontories, their dells & hollows were all utterly obliterated – you saw nothing but one smooth surface of blue, so smooth that tho not transparent it seemed transvious – as tho it were a cloudy substance & you could have past thro it.

This rumoured rupture with Portugal vexes me on your account as well as my own. yet if it should so prove, perhaps the additional value of your stock in hand will counter balance the loss of turning your capital to some other employ. but such a war will not last long – it would be too unnatural a coalition to hang together, & the Portugueze could not long subsist xxx if at war with England. – by the by have you received a box of manuscripts from Mr Murdock [14]  of Madeira, who is, or was – lodging in Gloucester Place?

Mr Clarkson, the man who so nobly came forward about the Slave Trade to the ruin of his health – or rather state of mind – & to the deep injury of his fortunes – is about to come to Bristol, & will expect letters from me. his wife is to be placed under Beddoes, & is now, if I do not mistake, at Mr Lovells. [15]  I shall write by him to you & King. he has never recovered the tremendous exertions he made to procure evidence for the House of Commons, & if you do not find him a very pleasant man – I am sure you will be interested with him on this account. It agitates him to talk upon the subject – but when he does – he agitates every one who hears him.

God bless you.

R S.

We are quite out of the way here. Mr Edmundson (our Maurice) [16] . has raised 18 volunteers & that is all. the truth is we are safe by situation, & so want the French to land – that the newspapers may not be quite so intolerably stupid.

Monday. Novr 7. 1803.


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ 4. Orchard Street/ Bristol/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK
Postmark: E/ NOV 10/ 1803
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 333-335. BACK

[1] Possibly Bartholomew Barry (fl. 1811), Bristol bookseller and bookbinder. BACK

[2] Probably Thomas Russell & Co., the largest carriers in the West Country, who ran a service from Falmouth to Exeter and London. At this time, the business was run by Robert Russell (fl. 1792-1816). BACK

[3] Susannah Yescombe (née Peters) (1764-1826). BACK

[4] Edward Bayntun Yescombe (1765-1803), Captain of the packet, King George, which sailed between Falmouth and Lisbon. He died on 11 August 1803, from wounds received when his ship was attacked by a French privateer on 30 July 1803. The King George was taken to the Spanish port of Vigo, and Southey lost his books. BACK

[5] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821, First Consul 1799-1804, Emperor of the French 1804-1814). BACK

[6] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[7] Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[8] Vasco de Gama (1460/1469-1524), commander of the first European ships to sail directly from Europe to India, around the Cape of Good Hope, 1497-1498. BACK

[9] Madoc (1805), Part 1, Book 13. BACK

[10] Llewelyn ‘the Great’ (c. 1173-1240; DNB), Prince of Gwynedd 1194-1240. BACK

[12] Southey and Joseph Cottle, The Works of Thomas Chatterton (1803). BACK

[13] Mary Newton (1749-1804), Chatterton’s sister and beneficiary of the Cottle and Southey edition of her brother’s works. BACK

[14] Probably Thomas Murdoch (dates unknown), senior partner in the wine firm Newton, Gordon & Murdoch, based in Madeira. BACK

[15] Clarkson was very sympathetic to Quakerism though he never joined the denomination. BACK

[16] Joseph Maurice (dates unknown), Bristol apothecary, based at St Michaels Hill, who had treated the Southeys BACK

People mentioned