126. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 9 May 1795

126. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 9 May 1795 ⁠* 

Dear Tom

As for the Boyne [1]  — I am sorry for the poor fellows lost. the sight must have been tremendously sublime. I saw a merchant man burnt some weeks ago & can form some idea by comparison. my Lectures [2]  are finished & that very quietly. I gave thirteen [3]  — & said bolder truths than any other Man in this country has yet ventured. speaking of my friend Tom — I cried — O Paine! [4]  hireless Priest of Liberty! unbought teacher of the poor! chearing to me is the reflection that my heart hath ever acknowledged — that my tongue hath proudly proclaimed — the Truth & Divinity of thy Doctrines!

I came here on Thursday on foot over Lansdown. to night I am engaged to tea at Kingswood on my return. my Joan of Arc goes to the Press next week — it will take three months in printing — the moment it comes out I will forward you one. twill want no luxury of type & paper. the types are new on purpose — & the paper which I have seen is most excellent. would the poetry were as faultless. my Lectures have occupied so much time that I have written little else. I wait with much anxiety the coming out of the Citizen [5]  — as with 80 pound a year I can live in the wilds of Wales very comfortably.

Your prize is better than nothing. — but if it were the best except one yet taken your share would be very considerably greater.

as for news we have none — but the enormous price of provisions & insurrections every where in consequence. the Colliers are expected in Bath to day to sell the meat at their own price. tis said this has been done at Bradford. I was there last night & enquired No (said the woman) they have not rised yet — but tis almost time they should. You must have heard that the King has applied to parliament to pay the Princes debts — 700,000 pounds !!!!!!!! 180,000 are the annual expences of the United States of America.

what think you of these titles

his most sacred Jolter-head & his August Jobbernowl?

there is a Proclamation offering a reward to whoever will inform where a Sailor lies hid that so he may be prest! I take this to be the most damnable piece of villainy ever practised. Well Tom — when I have a house in Wales — quit you the navy & come to us — & see if the Devil or xx his August Jobbernowl shall press [6]  you there.

Richard Brothers [7]  makes a strange outcry — Whitchurch & Crease here have written in defence of him.  [8]  some Mr Charles Cotter [9]  has had a vision & he declares that London will be destroyed by an earthquake next week. many very many have left town on the [MS scuffed]ngth of this wise acres xxxxxxx revelation.

fare thee well. can you not get leave of absence for a few weeks during this summer. I wish very much to see you.

yrs fraternally.


Bath. Saturday. May 9. 1795.


* Address: Thomas Southey/ Aquilon Frigate/ Spithead
Stamped: BATH
Seal: [partial] red wax; design illegible
Endorsement: post paid
MS: British Library, Add MS 30,927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 93–95. BACK

[1] The Boyne, the flagship of John Jervis, 1st Earl St Vincent (1735–1823; DNB), caught fire and exploded while berthed at Spithead on 1 May 1795. BACK

[2] Southey had delivered a series of ‘Historical Lectures’ ‘Unconnected with the Politics of the Day’ in Bristol. BACK

[3] The prospectus for the lectures, Bodleian Library, Autogr. b. 7 (9), only advertised twelve. BACK

[4] Thomas Paine (1737–1809; DNB), author and revolutionary. BACK

[5] Southey had been promised a position on a new periodical by John Scott (dates unknown), editor of the London newspaper the Morning Advertiser. Nothing came of it. BACK

[6] In wartime, experienced sailors could be conscripted into service in the Royal Navy by press-gangs, the popular name for the Impress Service. BACK

[7] Richard Brothers (1757–1824; DNB), prophet and author of A Revealed Knowledge and Prophecies of the Times (1794), claimed to be the ‘Prince of the Hebrews’ and to have predicted the deaths of Gustavus III of Sweden (1746–1792; reigned 1771–1792) and Louis XVI (1754–1793; reigned 1774–1792). Popular interest in his prophecies was at its height in the mid 1790s. In March 1795 he was arrested, declared insane and confined as a criminal lunatic. BACK

[8] S. Whitchurch (dates unknown), Another Witness! Or Further Testimony in Favor of Richard Brothers: With a Few Modest Hints to Modern Pharisees, and Reverend Unbelievers. Also Some of the Scriptural Marks of the Present Times, or Prophetical Latter Day (1795); J. Crease (dates unknown), Prophecies Fulfilling: or, the Dawn of the Perfect Day; with Increasing Light Breaking Forth into all Directions. Addressed to all Scoffing Sectarians and Others, who, in the Plenitude of Their Folly, Despise and Reject Richard Brothers, as the Jews also Despised and Rejected Jesus Christ (1795). BACK

[9] Christopher Cotter (dates unknown), A Solemn Warning to the Inhabitants of Great Britain: or London to Be Destroyed by an Earthquake, in Less Than Twenty-Nine Days! As Revealed to Mr. Christopher Cotter on Monday Night, April 13, 1795 (1795). Cotter seems to have been a supporter of Richard Brothers, who had predicted an earthquake in London on 4 June 1795. Brothers’s prophecy was caricatured by James Gillray (1756–1815; DNB) in The Prophet of the Hebrews — The Prince of Peace Conducting the Jews to the Promised Land (1795). BACK