1746. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 11 February 1810

1746. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 11 February 1810 ⁠* 

Feby. 11. 1810.

My dear Tom

Your Balliol story [1]  differs from most lies in this respect, that it has not the slightest foundation in truth. It not only is not true, but could not by possibility be so, – the American plan [2]  not having been formed till after I left Oxford, – so that it was communicated to Robert Allen poor fellow, by letter from Bristol. They must be much at a loss for recollections of me, to invent so clumsy a story tale. As for beating people it has never been my habit on any occasion. The only approximation to a quarrel which I ever had at Oxford is I dare say remembered at Balliol by one of the present fellows, Cooke Rogers, [3]  the only person who witnessed it. There was one Freke [4]  who from not understanding a metaphysical conversation which he heard me carry on with somebody else, reported it about that I <talked blasphemy, &> avowd myself an Atheist. – Rogers who had a great regard for me came to tell me this, his Welsh blood boiling with indignation, & luckily we met Freke almost directly. After a lecture which xxxx my Gentleman most probably will remember as long as he lives upon the fitness of understanding <another persons> opinions, before he ventured to represent them. I concluded by first requiring him to go & contradict what he had said, & then Sir, said I, I have to desire that in future you will not blaspheme opinions me by mentioning my name at all. – You never saw a black looking fellows face bleached more effectually.

Coleridge will doubtless offend the Unitarians. – for it is upon that point that his opinions, or more accurately speaking, his professions are altered. As for his political notions, the main difference is not in the end & aim of them, but in the way of coming to those conclusions. In the conclusions themselves he will be found to differ very little from Wordsworth & myself, – both of us, as you know, tolerably plain-spoken men upon such matters. That C. writes worse than he did ten years ago is certain. he rambles now as much in his writings as in his conversation, – beginning at Dan & wandering on to Beersheba. [5]  Still there are in those numbers of the Friend [6]  some passages of first rate excellence, & the principles of morality are placed in them upon their only firm foundation. There his philosophy is firm as a rock, all other systems of ethics are built upon sand.

You write from Taunton & yet make no mention of Aunt Mary. I wrote to her about two months ago, having learnt where she was by a chance letter from Standert. [7] 

We shall not paint the boat till you come, – a reason why you should come soon. I look already with great satisfaction at the parchmentarians that have lain so long in humble expectation of your glorifying hand.

James & Edward Lloyd [8]  with one of the Boddingtons [9]  have had a most provident deliverance. The ice broke under them, & had <not> a chance passer seen them sink, & given the alarm by her shrieks, they must have been drownd. We talk of going to O. Brathay for a few days next week.

My Uncle I suppose will be making ready for his removal. You will probably see three of the printed sheets of Kehama [10]  at Staunton, there are a good many material alterations in the six first sections. I have yet some insertions to make in the concluding section, & in the twelfth. The first sect. of Pelayo [11]  is nearly finished, – slow & sure, – lighter mornings will give me more time.

Your better route from Hereford will be by Shrewsbury & Chester, for the sake of a new road. From Chester there is a canal navigation to the Mersey, & then a passage of about ten miles to Liverpool. We, that is to say, myself & the two Ediths [12]  go to Durham in April, – your visit had best be at the same time, Sir Domine x can board us at the same time <together>, & bed you in my former quarters there, opposite his own. And one chaise will carry us.

Come speedily – for I have not had a walk these two months, & only one since the beginning of winter.

Remember me to all friends at Bristol. I hope my books are on the road. Tell Danvers that if Larramendi’s Basque Dictionary [13]  in Gutchs Catalogue had been two guineas instead of four I would have had it. Perhaps some time hence, finding he cannot get more, he may be willing to let it go at this price, which I take to be about its value.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ Wt Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 194–197. BACK

[1] Gossip Tom had heard about Southey’s time at Balliol College, Oxford, 1792–1794. BACK

[2] i.e. the Pantisocracy scheme formulated by Southey and Coleridge, among others, in 1794. BACK

[3] Thomas Cooke Rogers (b. c. 1777), the son of Edward Rogers of St Asaph. A contemporary of Southey’s at Balliol, Thomas Cooke Rogers went on to become a Fellow and Bursar of the College. BACK

[4] Thomas Freke (b. c. 1775), son of Freeman Freke of Modbury, Devon. A contemporary of Southey’s at Balliol. BACK

[5] From the furthest north to the southernmost part of the Kingdom of Israel, Judges, 20: 1. BACK

[6] Coleridge’s The Friend, published in 26 weekly instalments, 1 June 1809–15 March 1810. BACK

[7] See Southey to Hugh Chudleigh Standert, 14 December 1809, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Three, Letter 1722. BACK

[8] James Lloyd (d. 1881) and Edward Lloyd (1804-1865). Children of Charles and Priscilla Lloyd, who lived at Old Brathay, near Ambleside. BACK

[9] Presumably a child of another Keswick family. BACK

[10] The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. BACK

[11] The early incarnation of what became Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[13] Antonio de Larramendi (1690–1766) whose Diccionario Trilingüe del Castellano, Bascuence y Latin appeared in 1745. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Balliol (mentioned 2 times)
Staunton on Wye (mentioned 1 time)