3067. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 13 January 1818

3067. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 13 January 1818⁠* 

My dear Tom

Here is a note showing that Phipps’s course for the wreck was no new thought. [1]  In a political squib entitled an honest account of the Receipts & Disbursements expended by the Committee of Safety upon the emergent occasions of the nation. 1660. is the following item. “Paid to a Projector, towards a design which he had to look into the middle of the Western Ocean for a great Spanish galleon that was sunk with the weight of the gold that she carried, some thirty years ago, two thousand five hundred pounds.” Harleian Miscellany. 8vo edition. Vol. 7. p. 154. [2] 


At last I have compleated the Morte Arthur for you: first there was neither introduction nor notes, & when I wrote for these the introduction came without the notes, – these last xxx arrived yesterday. The sheets will now go to be put in such half binding as we can get here, – which is to serve the purpose of boards, being having the advantage of being stronger, & the leaves of course not being cut; – & when Eliza passes by Thomas Tinklers [3]  which she probably will do on Tuesday week next, she will leave them it there. The price of the book is eight guineas, so you may reckon it among your rarities & valuables. [4]  – The story of Elizas correspondence with Sarah Castle [5]  is comical enough. She was to have halted at Brough in her way back, to have taken up a scholar; & in that case she would have got to Warcop, – but a letter has arrived today which alters this arrangement, so that she goes straight forward.

My books from Milan [6]  have reached London, & are now I trust on the road to Cumberland. Ramusio halts at Longmans for a new jacket, his other one having been worn out in the course of two hundred years wear. [7]  The only book which concerns you in this cargo is a volume entitled Soirees Bermudeens, – but relating I believe chiefly, if not wholly to S. Domingo, & written at the Bermudas by a planter who hav escaped there from the horrors of the negro insurrection. [8]  – Jan de Laet [9]  which is the book wherein I suppose there will be most to your purpose is in the Brussels party, & of this I have no intelligence as yet. [10] 

There is among the Milanese volumes a very curious account of the Milicia de las Indias – which I had read in Hebers copy, it was written in the Nuevo Reyno, & much of it cannot be applicable to the Islands, – even the larger ones; – still there must be something. It is one of the most curious books respecting the Indies, & I look upon it as one of my most valuable acquisitions. [11]  – I had forgotten also an Italian Essay concerning the birthplace of Columbus. [12]  The Milan Cargo consists of 114 volumes. Of these 17 remain in London to be hided: – the rest will make a joyful arrival, – & there will be a second joy when the fellows in their new coats come after them. A good many indeed still belong to the ragged regiment, – tho not to be placed in Duck Row. [13] 


Today I attacked your sage cheese which proves laudable & good. The toasters have been of unequal merit, some pretty good, & one very bad. Do you know the old recipe of Thomas Tusser for improving cheese by putting a certain proportion of ewes milk with it? [14]  It must have been the usual practise in his days.

Eliza will now return by way of Kendal & Leeds, as the surest way of hitting the cross stage which is to carry her to York. So your Morte Arthur [15]  must go by the carrier. Daniel Crossthwaite [16]  will probably have done his part the end of this week, – it will be sent in that case to the carrier on Monday, directed to the Wheat Sheaf, – after which time you will know how to enquire for it, – but it is a sadly uncertain road for packages, which is always the case where carriers are to be changed.

In consequence of this news from the North Pole [17]  the North West passage is to be attempted this year, – with more prospect than ever of effecting it. [18]  I am very curious to know the result, especially if the pole itself should be accessible. This dislocation of the ice is by much the most interesting physical fact that has occurred within my recollection.

The Daffs memoirs have been published, & appear by the newspaper extracts to be just what might have been predicted from the character of the man, – a worldly minded man, with just knowledge enough for a respectable college tutor, bloated with self-conceit, & cankered with discontent. [19]  The Times [20]  & the M Chronicle [21]  are trying to make him a Saint & a Patriot, but all this exaggeration is like putting a filthy little hexaped into a solar microscope, – the stronger the light in which it is exhibited, the uglier it looks. (If Sir Kreeper has more legs than six I beg his pardon.) The Courier takes the much easier part of showing what the man was by his own account of his own actions & motives. [22]  It is not a little amusing to me when I find the Opposition thus stoutly extolling him, for I happen to know how heartily he was despised by some of the leaders of that party, & that no conceivable change in administration would have gratified his desire of promotion.

I am very busy with Brazil [23]  – & the Poor Laws. [24]  – The weather is peeling the front of the house, & God know who is to re-case it. – The inspection of windows draws upon me a heavy additional tax – the whole house is to be charged as one. - [25]  I have great hopes about the Poor Rates. [26] Derwent is gone as tutor to some little boys near Ulverston, [27]  where if he stays two years he is to have 35 guineas for the first & 40 for the second – he will then have earned something to help himself with at College, [28]  – which may induce others to help him: – but it is becoming easier now to provide for girls than for boys, – for the expences of a mans education amount to what would be independence in frugality for a woman, – & after his education, a man has his bread to seek with a very great chance of not finding it. Were I young & single I should certainly emigrate.

Love to Sarah. – God bless you.


Jany 13. 1818.


* Address: To/ Capt Southey. RN./ Warcop/ near/ Brough
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Princeton University Library, Robert H. Taylor Collection, Box 17, Folder 27. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The information was for Tom Southey’s on-going work on the West Indies. In 1683 Captain William Phips (1651–1695; DNB) made an unsuccessful attempt to locate the wreck of a Spanish galleon off the Bermuda Banks. Acting on advice provided by an ‘old Spaniard’ he searched ‘a few leagues to the northwards of Puerta de la Plata’. Another attempt in 1687 succeeded in locating the wreck on a ‘shoal called The Boilers’, near Puerta de la Plata. Phips received a knighthood and £11,000 (his share of the £250,000 salvaged cargo). The story was told in Tom Southey, Chronological History of the West Indies, 3 vols (London, 1827), II, pp. 127, 142–143. BACK

[2] The Harleian Miscellany; or, A Collection of Scarce, Curious, and Entertaining Pamphlets and Tracts, As Well in Manuscript as in Print, Found in the Late Earl of Oxford’s Library, Interspersed with Historical, Political, and Critical Notes, 10 vols (London, 1808–1813), VII, p. 154. Southey’s copy was no. 1282 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[3] Thomas Tinkler (c. 1754–1824), of Brough; landlord of the Wheatsheaf Inn, Warcop, where deliveries for Thomas Southey could be left because the mail coach stopped there. BACK

[4] A presentation copy of The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur, published in two volumes by Longman in 1817. BACK

[5] Tom Southey’s wife, Sarah, whose maiden name was Castle. BACK

[6] Books purchased during Southey’s time in Milan in 1817 on his continental tour. BACK

[7] Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485–1557), Navigationi e Viaggi, 3 vols (1556–1588), no. 2382 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] Jean-Félix Carteau (dates unknown), Soirées Bermudiennes, Ou Entretiens Sur Les Évènemens Qui Ont Opéré La Ruine De La Partie Française De l’Île Saint-Domingue, Ouvrage Où L’on Expose les Causes de ces Évènemens, les Moyens Employés pour Renverser cette Colonie (1802). The ‘negro insurrection’ was the slave uprising in Haiti (formerly known as St Domingue), which began in 1791. BACK

[9] Joannes de Laet (1581–1649), Historie ofte Iaerlijck Verhael van de Verrichtingen der Geoctroyeerde West-Indische Compagnie (1644), no. 1671 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] Books bought by Southey in Brussels in 1817; their delayed arrival caused him anxiety and annoyance. BACK

[11] Bernardo de Vargas Machuca (1557–1622), Milicia y Descripción de las Indias (1599); when it arrived, Southey wrote a long note in his copy signalling its importance; see no. 3758 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[12] Gianfrancesco Napione (1748–1830), Delia Patria di Cristoforo Colombo (1808), no. 730 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[13] The part of Greta Hall where Southey kept less valuable books. BACK

[14] Thomas Tusser (c. 1524–1580; DNB), Five Hundred Good Points of Good Husbandry (London, 1812), p. 150, no. 2923 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[15] A presentation copy of The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur ... With an introduction and notes by Robert Southey. (Printed from Caxton’s edition, 1485), published in two volumes by Longman in 1817. BACK

[16] ‘D. Crosthwaite’ was listed as a bookseller in Keswick in various commercial directories. He might have been Daniel Crosthwaite (c. 1776–1847), a portrait painter and proprietor of the museum in Keswick. Whatever his identity, he was providing a cover for Tom Southey’s copy of The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur (1817). BACK

[17] Reports of events in the Arctic were widespread in British newspapers and suggested a dramatic decline in the ice fields around Greenland. BACK

[18] Newspaper accounts (e.g. Morning Chronicle, 22 November 1817) reported that the Royal Society was pressing the government to mount an expedition to search for the North West passage and offering fishermen a bounty to explore the area. Two Royal Navy expeditions were made. In April 1818 one commanded by David Buchan (1780–1838; DNB) and John Franklin (1786–1847; DNB) explored the Arctic sea around Spitsbergen; another commanded by John Ross (1777–1856; DNB) sought a North West passage around Baffin Island. Neither was successful. BACK

[19] Anecdotes of the Life of Richard Watson, Bishop of Llandaff; Written by Himself at Different Intervals, and Revised in 1814 (1817). Watson’s unusual position as a Bishop and a Whig made him especially disliked by the government’s supporters. BACK

[20] The Times published a series of extracts from the Anecdotes, 24 December 1817–5 February 1818. BACK

[21] The Morning Chronicle, 2 January 1818, stoutly defended Watson: ‘the character for virtue and purity of conduct, for incorruptible patriotism, and for extraordinary learning and talents of Bishop WATSON is so well established in this country, that even Courtly sycophancy will not dare openly to insult his memory.’ BACK

[22] The Courier had published extracts from and highly critical comments on Watson’s Memoirs on 3, 5 and 10 January 1818, accusing Watson of, amongst other things, ‘disgusting and ridiculous intellectual arrogance’ (5 January 1818). It resumed its attack on 26 January 1818. The Times (5 February 1818) protested at the ‘ribaldry’ of the Courier’s treatment of Watson. The Courier’s criticisms were, nevertheless, expanded into A Critical Examination of the Bishop of Llandaff’s Posthumous Volume, entitled “Anecdotes of his Life” (1818). BACK

[23] The third and final volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[24] Southey and Rickman’s article (mainly written by the latter) appeared as ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review¸18 (January 1818), 259–308, published 9 June 1818. BACK

[25] Southey was filling out his tax form for assessed taxes and feared an increase in the window tax he would have to pay, as this depended on the number of windows in the house. Possibly, he had only been paying tax on the number of windows in the part of the house he had originally rented in 1803. BACK

[26] Southey, as the householder at Greta Hall, would be assessed by his parish to determine his liability for poor rates, to support the local poor. Presumably he hoped that the economic situation was improving and thus the amount required in poor rates would decline. BACK

[27] Derwent Coleridge lived with the Hopwood family, well-connected Lancashire landowners, at Summerhill, near Ulverston 1817–1819. Robert Gregge Hopwood (1773–1854) had married in 1805 Cecilia Elizabeth Byng (1770–1854), daughter of John Byng, 5th Viscount Torrington (1743–1813). However she was a first cousin, rather than a sister, of Georgiana Byng (1768–1801), first wife of Lord John Russell, later the 6th Duke of Bedford (1766–1839; DNB). Lady Russell had lived in Lisbon for two years for her health and was known to Herbert Hill and, possibly, John May. Derwent Coleridge was tutor to the Hopwoods’ sons: Edward (1807–1891); Frank (1810–1890); and Hervey (1811–1881). BACK

[28] Derwent Coleridge entered St John’s College, Cambridge in 1820. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)


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