234. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 16 July [1797]

234. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey [brother], 16 July [1797] ⁠* 

Sunday. July 16th. Burton

My dear Tom

I have a very pleasant piece of intelligence to begin. Boutet [1]  goes by the first cartel — I had moved many enquiries to get him out, & luckily the first succeeded. the same post brought your letter this morning & his in which he thanks me, sends a thousand friendships to you & says his future address in Nantes. God bless him wherever he goes. A friend of Cottles by name Birt or Burt or Bird, [2]  has been the means of serving him & the Commissary communicated it to Boutet himself. he was likewise offered money — so you see every thing has been done, & you will rejoice with me that it has been effectual.

I mean strongly to urge my Mother to let her house for whatever she can, even half price, for it is better to sink 50 than 100 a year; & come live with us. this would make her very happy & us too, & I have enough to live comfortably upon. my Uncle wrote to me a few days back & said he would from time to time do what he could to serve me; thank God I want not his assistance. my literary labours find me what books & luxuries I allow myself (& books make the only ones perhaps). I have the necessary comforts of life besides. would to God you could come to us — do not let an opportunity pass you. thank God I have always a home for you.

Your communications I very much thank you for; they suit the purpose better than I expected, & you shall see them in print. [3]  I earned from the Monthly Magazine last year seven pounds & two pair of breeches in eight months which as I give them only a few leisure mornings in a month & what would not be printed in any collection of my own is not amiss. it is an excellent Magazine. I will mark your copy with the authors names wherever I know them, & this will render it more interesting to you.

Cottle & his brother have been visiting me; they remained only a few days, but they were very happy days, & we shall neither of us soon forget them. to escape from a shop counter is very delightful, indeed change of scene is always agreable, if we do not find yourselves when in a new place wholly among new faces. I am now domesticated here, & have even more acquaintance than suits with my oeconomy of time.

Perhaps you may wish to know what I have on the stocks. Madoc slowly goes on, but altogether to my own satisfaction which is saying much. a second edition of the little volume of poems is in the Press. I am getting ready a tragedy to be called The Martyrdom of Joan of Arc [4]  to go to press when they are finished, & a new edition of the poem [5]  in two pocket volumes much altered, succeeds that — so that my printer Biggs is almost monopolized. all these you will of course receive as soon as they are finished.

Your imprisonment has alarmed all the circle of my acquaintance, & the subsequent history highly interested them. my acquaintance are wonderfully increased. — so much is a man esteemed according to the worlds opinion of him! people call upon me, & if I do not like them I never return the visit; & I have had the satisfaction of refusing some dinner invitations from persons who had never seen me, because I hate impertinent curiosity. what is somewhat strange I never had any friends at Bristol till I was left to myself there.

This is a pleasant place, I have half a cottage here & a maid for the time we stay, we have a spare bed which I do not love to have empty, & my neighbour Mr Biddlecombe, a very agreable man, can always lend me another. here is fine fishing — fine swimming — pleasant walks & excellent prospects. we have but one nuisance — the notorious old Lady Strathmore [6]  of news-paper & Doctors Commons reputation — who persecutes us with invitations. now it is neither agreable or creditable to visit such a wicked old woman, I cannot tell her this, & she will not be satisfied with refusals.

My Uncles addition as Chaplain to the Staff is 10 shilling a day besides perquisites. he has sent me drawings of the views we saw on our journey. I wish you were here to see them. it is my intention to have some engraved for the next edition of my Letters, [7]  which have I believe sold very well. unluckily now my name is established I must have done with it, for to publish whilst studying law would materially injure me. so I assume the name of Walter Tyler, [8]  in honour of my good old Uncle, an ancestor of whom I am very proud & with reason.

Ediths love. she wishes much to see you. the post will pass us in a minute. God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey


* Address: For/ Mr Southey/ Phoebe Frigate/ Falmouth./ Single
Postmark: BJY/ 17/ 97
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.182. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections From the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 37–40. BACK

[1] The French naval captain Boutet (first name and dates unknown), who had previously been kind to Thomas Southey, and whose release Southey had helped to procure. BACK

[2] Isaiah Birt (1758–1837), Minister of the Baptist Church at Plymouth Dock. Joseph Cottle was one of the booksellers responsible for distributing his A Vindication of the Baptists, in Three Letters, Addressed to a Friend in Saltash (1793). BACK

[3] Information about the navy and French prisons sent to Southey by Thomas; see Southey to the Editor of the Monthly Magazine [c. August 1797] (Letter 241). BACK

[4] Southey’s play was not published and, indeed, was probably not completed. BACK

[5] The second edition of Joan of Arc, which appeared in 1798. BACK

[6] Mary Eleanor Bowes (1749–1800; DNB), heiress, botanist and author of a five act play, The Siege of Jerusalem (1769). Her first husband was John Lyon (1737–1776), 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, her second the fortune-hunter Andrew Robinson Stoney (1747–1810). In 1789, her abusive marriage to Stoney ended in an acrimonious and scandalous divorce. The sexual and domestic scandal that tarnished her reputation can be seen in James Gillray’s (1756–1815; DNB) The injured Count, S— (c. 1786), which depicts Lady Strathmore drinking gin with her servants and suckling two cats (a reference to the rumour that she was fonder of her pets than of her son). Her marriage to Stoney is said to have inspired William Makepeace Thackeray’s (1811–1863; DNB) novel Barry Lyndon (1844). BACK

[7] A second edition of Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal was published in 1799. BACK

[8] In the mid to late 1790s, Southey occasionally used variations on the pseudonym ‘Walter Tyler’ to sign his magazine and newspaper publications. He liked to joke that he was a (collateral) descendant of the leader of the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, pointing to the surname of his aunt, Elizabeth Tyler, as proof of this. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 1 time)