158. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 1 June 1796

158. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 1 June 1796 ⁠* 

June 1st 1796. Bristol

My dear Tom

I was with Edith when your letter arrived. we are in lodgings in Kingsdown & I as usual about to be busied with the printers — & exhibit a volume of Letters written during a short residence in Spain & Portugal.  [1]  in September I hope they will be ready & I shall of course forward you a copy to my Mother. when you may get them Heaven knows — for your Joan of Arc has been lying at Bath ever since the beginning of December!

We knew you were off Lisbon & I believe saw the frigate with as much angry impatience as you must have seen the land. your letter never arrived — never trust a Portuguese with any thing — they are the most imposing treacherous sneaking set of rascals that Old Nick ever meddled with & dirted his fingers by touching. it was a merchant-man. that slipped in under your convoy mentioned the name of the frigate.

You will wonder how I got here without coming to Falmouth. but I came in an American bound for Hull which landed me at Portsmouth after a very fine passage. we left Lisbon on Thursday May 5th & that night & the next day & night were becalmed to the South of the rock in sight. a light SW breeze struck up about nine on Saturday morning so gentle however that we had not lost sight of the rock at night. the wind gradually increasd & never varied two points till on the Saturday following they transferrd me & my fellow passenger to the three brothers of Cowes from whence between eleven & twelve at night we landed at Portsmouth. I took my portmanteau on my shoulders & carried it to the Fountain [2]  — my aristocratic companions sent Porters for theirs — before the Porters could get there — the Custom house Officers had carried off the things — they were obliged to wait till the middle of the next day without a clean shirt to put on — & pay half a guinea each for fees.

The election here is just concluded. the blues brought in a Mr Bragge [3]  for their member & united with some of the self-styled low party to return that rascal Sheffield [4]  again. a Lord who has voted with the minister upon every motion except the only one where an honest man ought to have joind him — the abolition of the Slave Trade. T Southey was the Secretary to Sheffield. the unsuccessful candidate was Hobhouse of Hartram near Chippenham. a man of strong abilities & independant principles who united in his favour the thinking part of the people & the mob. [5]  but the low party were divided & nothing could be done. our two representatives (— or rather the two representatives of Bristol — for our is a false word — as I am not represented — & taxation without representation is tyranny.) will vote for the continuance of the war — & in this case — as Divine Wisdom has ordained in most cases — the <Bristolians> will find their punishment in their crime.

So much for Bristol news. — poor Lovell! Mary is better than could be expected — & old Mr L provides for her comfortably with affection that does him high honor. [6] 

Joan of Arc has passed thro three Reviews with the greatest success — & has obtained as much reputation as I could desire.

Of the Somerville estate. I apprehend from an extract of the will which I have — that we have been fooled with hopes totally unfounded. if young Somerville dies without an heir the estates revert to us — but the greater part of these were life-hold & have dropt to the Lord of the Manor. [7]  as you are to be an Admiral & I a great Lawyer this matters not. by the by whatever influence in the navy the daughter of Lord Howe has you may look upon as yours — as my Uncle is very intimate with her & Lord Altamont her husband. [8] 

Ediths love. direct always to Cottles.

yr affectionate brother

Robert Southey.

Edward is to go to St Pauls School [9]  from whence he will get on the foundation at the University. probably Cambridge.


* Address: For/ Thomas Southey/ on board his Majestys Frigate/ Phœbe/ Falmouth/ or elsewhere/ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
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. 107–109. BACK

[1] Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal was published between January and mid-February 1797. BACK

[2] The Fountain, a Portsmouth coaching inn. BACK

[3] ‘The blues’ was a local name for Bristol Tories. Charles Bragge (Bathurst from 1804) (c. 1754–1831; DNB) was an MP for Bristol (1796–1812) who rose to be Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Cabinet (1812–1823). He was a supporter of William Pitt, the Younger (1759–1806; DNB), and brother-in-law of Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844; DNB). BACK

[4] John Baker Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield, was an MP for Bristol (1790–1802) who topped the electoral poll in the city in 1796. He was an ex-member of Lord North’s (1732–1792; Prime Minister 1770–1782; DNB) political group and generally supported the government. He was also a strong supporter of the slave-trade. BACK

[5] Benjamin Hobhouse, 1st Baronet (1757–1831; DNB), a politician who campaigned in the Bristol election of 1796 on a Whig, reformist and pro-peace platform. He was elected to Parliament for Bletchingley in 1797 and gradually moved to a more conservative position. BACK

[6] Robert Lovell had died on 3 May 1796, leaving a widow and infant son (Robert, b. 1795). His family did not provide for either. BACK

[7] James Somerville, 14th Lord Somerville (1727–1796), was Southey’s very distant relation by marriage. Southey hoped to inherit a share of the fortune of John Cannon Southey on the death of Somerville, but his hopes came to nothing. The ‘young Somerville’ referred to here is John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB), who inherited his title on the death of his uncle in 1796. He did not die young. Instead he forged a career as an agriculturalist, becoming the largest breeder and owner of merino sheep in England. In 1811, he was involved in the formation of the Merino Society of Great Britain (its first president, Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820; DNB)). BACK

[8] Louisa Howe (1767–1817), the daughter of Richard Howe, Earl Howe (1726–1799; DNB), was married to John Browne (1756–1809), eldest son of the Earl of Altamont. Browne was later created 1st Marquess of Sligo. BACK

[9] Edward Southey did not go to St Paul’s School or Cambridge University. BACK

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