2397. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 26 March 1814

2397. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 26 March 1814 ⁠* 

Pietro della Valle believed that he was cured of consumption in Persia, & that they gave him womans milk, instead of goats. [1]  – This is an old memorandum which has turned up among my papers.


In the second book of Roderick [2]  I have endeavoured, not very successfully, to express what I recollect in myself & have observed in others, – that men suffer themselves to form a purpose before they acknowledge it to themselves. This seems to be your case, – & I have nothing more to say, except to wish that you may have as little anxiety in the pursuit, & all happiness in the attainment. Except <Were it not> for the double danger of health – (consumption being so certainly in the family) – every thing is as I should wish it. For we were born Sir Harry, you & I, to make our fortunes & not to have them thrown in our way.

The latter books have not been written more rapidly or carelessly than the former, – the sight of the original Mss would convince you of this, – from the commencement the day when every portion was written has been set down, – & the whole is so full of corrections &c – as to be nearly if not wholly illegible to any person except myself. As for changing the name of Whitefoot [3]  I have not the slightest objection so to do, if any body will give me one that they like better. But in the first place I never knew the name of a Spanish dog in my life, & in the next <the> Spanish <language> was not of in existence in Rodericks days. for example, he called himself Ruderic & not Rodrigo. Of the Wise – Gothic of that age I do not know that any specimen is to be found. So that if I would <wished to> translate a canine name I cannot. – I might indeed pick out one from the hunt of Actæon, – & suppose the Romans had left it there.

Just now I am called off from the poem by a piece of Pėėllery. In order, like a good boy, to have my exercise ready in time, I have begun upon the hopeful subject of the Princess’s marriage. [4]  The measure is the six lined stanza as in Gualberto, [5]  only not ending <(always)> with an alexandrine. I have written the first part which is de meipso, [6]  & serves as a Proem: & I have begun the second, which is a vision of the marriage with allegorical personages giving good advice upon the occasion. The third & concluding part will justify the solemn tone assumed, touch upon the Kings present state [7]  & wind up all. Hitherto I have pleased my self.

I am praying just for such a conflagration at Paris as may give the good people of that city a taste of what burning a city is. And I wish it to be that quarter of the city wherein Sir Humphrey Davy & his Lady are lodged, – that Sir Humphrey may make his escape in his nightcap, & Lady Davy without hers, – she without any injury, & he with no other than a small singe occasioned by the tail of his shirt having xxx caught fire in running down stairs.

A letter from Edward to night, to announce a change of station, he is very impatient to be in Spain, & is studying the Sp: grammar & learning the Sp. manual & platoon by heart. – This has rather a better look with it than some of his former epistles. [8] 

My buen amigo [9]  D Manuel promises me rich materials respecting Zaragoza. He was one of the Members of the Cortes appointed to draw up the manifesto to the nation upon the occasion of the mock-treaty concluded by Ferdinand. [10]  I fear the Cortes will be felo-de-se – & that their works will go before them, – or speedily follow, – their measures of reform, & their constitution are so precipitate & crude. Abella writes with far more delight upon books & Mss than upon political affairs, – for he knows his own sphere.

God bless you


Keswick. March 26. 1814.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK / 298
Postmark: E/ 29 MA 29/ 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 3. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Pietro della Valle (1586–1652), De’ Viaggi Di Pietro DellaValle (1658), p. 464, in ‘Letter 5 from Ispahan, 22 April-8 May 1619’. Southey was collecting information for Henry Herbert Southey’s Observations on Pulmonary Consumption (1814). BACK

[2] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). Henry Herbert Southey had decided to propose to his second wife, Louisa Gonne. BACK

[3] The name Southey originally gave to a faithful dog in MS drafts of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). He later changed it to Theron (after one of Actaeon’s hound’s in Ovid’s Metamorphoses) and reduced the dog’s role in the poem; for the significance of this see Diego Saglia, ‘A Siege, a Dog, and Too Many Women: Refiguring the Epic in Roderick, the Last of the Goths’, Romanticism 17.1 (2011), 52–62. BACK

[4] Southey, as Poet Laureate, was expected to write on the forthcoming marriage of the Prince Regent’s only child Charlotte. In December 1813 she had become engaged to the Hereditary Prince of Orange, William (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849), the husband selected for her by her father and his advisers. Southey started the required poem (The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale) but in the event it was not needed as the engagement was broken off in June 1814. The Lay was recycled in 1816 to celebrate Charlotte’s marriage to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (1790–1865; DNB). BACK

[5] The ballad ‘St Juan Gualberto’, Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1800), 1–19. BACK

[6] ‘Of myself’. BACK

[7] George III (1738–1820; reigned 1760–1820; DNB), whose mental and physical incapacity had led to the passing of the Regency Act in February 1811. BACK

[8] Southey was attempting to obtain a commission in a Spanish regiment for Edward Southey; Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 1 February 1814, Letter 2375. BACK

[9] ‘Good friend’. BACK

[10] Ferdinand VII (1784–1833; King of Spain 1808, 1813–1833) had been a captive in France since 1808. On 11 December 1813 he signed the Treaty of Valencay with the French government. Under its terms, the French agreed to release Ferdinand (though this did not happen until 24 March 1814), and both sides agreed to an armistice, which did not occur. The Cortes elected in October 1813 refused to accept the Treaty or to recognise Ferdinand unless he agreed to endorse the liberal Constitution of 1812. BACK

People mentioned

Davy, Humphry (1778–1829) (mentioned 2 times)
Davy, Jane (1780–1855) (mentioned 2 times)
Abella, Manuel (1753–1817) (mentioned 2 times)
Southey, Edward (1788–1847) (mentioned 1 time)
George IV (1762–1830) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)