231. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 9 July 1797

231. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 9 July 1797 ⁠* 

At Mrs Barnes’s. [1]  Burton, near Ringwood Hampshire.

Sunday. July 9. 1797

My dear Tom

My Mother was a good deal puzzled by receiving a letter in French, dated June 28th, directed to Mr Southey, which neither or any of her acquaintance could understand. Cottle was coming here to be my guest & she sent it by him. it is from the Captain of the Zoe, now a prisoner at Plymouth. I immediately answered it in very bad French, explained to him why it had remained so long unnoticed, & told him that we would employ all the little interest we possessed to get him exchanged or out upon parole as soon as possible. I have put all my friends in requisition to do something for this man; his name I could not make out, it is either Soutet or Boutet. nothing would give me more pleasure than the procuring him his exchange, or even receiving him here if he can get out upon parole. [2] 

Your adventures have furnished me with an excellent story for every company into which I fall. Phillips, [3]  the proprietor of the Monthly Magazine requested me if I could to get him a full account of the prison, treatment, & of the kindness you experienced to insert in his Magazine, [4]  a very good & respectable publication in which I occasionally write. if you approve of this & will send me the necessary documents, I will shall receive enough from him to purchase for you the two volumes which are already published of the world, & will continue it for you & send the volumes as they are compleated by such opportunities as may offer. you may affix your name or not as you think proper x — for my own part I think the behaviour you received there cannot be too generally known. if you think this right (& you only can tell whether there be any possible objection to publishing such a statement), write me the French names very legibly as they puzzle me in your hand writing, describe me the theatre & what you saw there, be as full as possible, I can easily compress but I cannot enlarge.

When ever you visit Kingsbridge again enquire for a clergyman there, usher to a school. his name is Lightfoot. he was a fellow collegian of mine & a very dear friend, whom I have not now seen for three years, but with whom I occasionally correspond. I shall tell him what I have said to you, & am very sure that it will highly gratify him to see a brother of mine. I am sorry this reaches you too late — he might & would have been a friend in need had you known this a few weeks earlier. but I knew nothing of the situation of Kingsbridge, or that it was likely you might ever pass thro it.

I wish you could come to us. we are only two miles from Christ Church, & therefore within reach of you even from Plymouth. I was not much alarmed for your safety, because Captain Barlow, [5]  wrote word that there was no danger, as the vessel was new & sound. an account which by the blessing of God I will remember, & if we should ever meet, thank him for.

My Mother & Mrs Wilson [6]  intend to pass some time with me; my mother has been very unwell, & I cannot yet get her here. I have a spare bed room, & when that is occupied, another at a neighbouring gentlemans, where any friend of mine meets with a very kind reception. so come any time between this & November & here you will find a comfortable home. we then return to London

You tell me you have a chance of visiting Brest. this would not greatly vex me, as you have friends there now & Dr Johnsons [7]  def said that a ship was only a prison with one advantage — a chance of being drowned. [8]  if you should go to your old quarters & can make enquiry for a book for me, it will be of great service to me.

Laverdy has promised to publishx a full account of every thing relative to Joan of Arc,  [9]  whom you must call Jeanne d’Arc, or La Pucelle d’Orleans. if this book be published I should be very glad of it. — I should be easier if you were safe landed there as you may fall in with more leaky vessels, & your la <our> precious laws do not call that kind <way> of drowning a man-murder.

I have no expectation of peace — nor do I desire one of Mr Pitts [10]  making. if he makes peace & keeps his place the freedom of England is sunk below all hope — & my bones shall never rot in a soil that nourishes slaves. I do not understand why your imprisonment should make you less wise than formerly. look at the situation you are in — look at the wickedness of the ranks above you, & the vice & wretchedness of those below you, & then ask if that system can be good which creates such misery! for me — I have little respect for men as they are, nor would I lose one drop of blood for them — but I would drain my heart to make them what they ought to be.

God bless & preserve you. Ediths love. she is eager to see you here.

yrs most affectionately

Robert Southey


* Address: Mr Southey/ Phœbe Frigate/ Falmouth or elsewhere/ Single only
MS: British Library, Add MS 30,927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections From the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 35–37. BACK

[1] Mrs Barnes (first name and dates unknown) was Southey’s landlady at Burton in 1797. BACK

[2] The French naval officer Captain Boutet (first name and dates unknown), who had once been kind to Southey’s brother Thomas. BACK

[3] Sir Richard Phillips (1767–1840; DNB). BACK

[4] See Southey to the Editor of the Monthly Magazine [c. August 1797] (Letter 241). BACK

[5] Sir Robert Barlow (1757–1843; DNB), captain of Thomas Southey’s ship the Aquilon. BACK

[6] Probably a friend of Southey’s mother. BACK

[7] Samuel Johnson (1709–84; DNB). BACK

[8] A paraphrase of James Boswell (1740–1795; DNB), The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Comprehending an Account of his Studies and Numerous Works, 2 vols (London, 1791), I, p. 189. BACK

[9] The French lawyer, Clément de Laverdy (1723–93), whose ‘Sur la Procès de Jeanne d’Arc’ was finally published in 1823. BACK

[10] The Prime Minister, William Pitt, the Younger (1759–1806; DNB). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 1 time)