240. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 28 July [1797]

240. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 28 July [1797] ⁠* 

Friday 28 July.

My dear Cottle

Herbert Croft [1]  is in Exeter jail! I am very sorry for it — because one cannot so well attack him in that situation.

there is a French poem upon the voyage of Columbus in ten books written by Madame Boccage: [2]  her works cannot be very scarce as she has not been dead above twenty years. should you see them in a catalogue at any time I should be glad of this poem of hers; there may be something worth transplanting in it.

The day you left us my drawings arrived from Lisbon: this was a judgement for your hurry to depart. you would have been very much pleased with them. there are above twenty, & among them a finished view of Madrid.

I have a letter from the French Captain. [3]  he tells me Mr Birt [4]  called upon him & offered him money. that the next day the Commissary sent for him & told him he was to go by the first cartel. he thanks me very much & gives me his address at Nantes.

I wrote to Danvers yesterday & gave him a message for you. you will I hope be able to send me the book by him: it is indispensably necessary for my fourth book. a very great progress has been made in the third since you left us. I am sadly in want of a good library. I shall perpetually be in want of Giraldus Cambrensis [5]  in my Welch proceedings, he is a scarce author, & it may be very long before I meet with him. this will give me much trouble by leaving so much to insert hereafter.

Thomas desires to be remembered to you. he is about to pay us a visit, & I shall much rejoice to see him. I shall have some very fine Portugueze views from Thomas May. [6] 

Since you left me I have been reading the Saint Louis of Le Moyne: [7]  an epic poem in 18 books. Le Moyne had genius — but he has introduced the most incredibly ridiculous thing in his poem. Louis is wounded with a poisoned arrow, for which there is no earthly cure, but he is healed by the waters of a fountain in which the Virgin Mary had, on the way to Egypt, washed her little boys clouts!

They tell me I am civilly wiped in that stupid poem the Pursuits of Literature. [8] 

Do you know [MS torn] Rogers [9]  (the Memory man) published two volumes of poems about 15 years ago? the Review says of him, when he attempts to be serious he is dull, & when he aims at wit, obscene. I think it is the Monthly for 1782. [10]  he is a stupid fellow.

I must not forget to desire you to give a large copy of the Poems when finished in my name to Danvers & to Estlin. I wrote to Danvers about your copying Madoc. how is your eye? if not well enough to permit your own answering make your brother your amanuensis.

Did you go to Corfe? King John who was almost as great a scoundrel xxxx xxxxxx xxxx for his amusement* [11]  starved above twenty Breton Knights to death in the dungeon there.  [12]  the old villains bones were examined lately at Worcester you hear he had something to answer for tooth-drawing [13]  in the next world.

God bless you.

Robert Southey


* Address: For/ Mr Cottle/ High Street/ Bristol
Endorsements: (89) 33; 1797
MS: Houghton Library, bMS Eng 265.1 (18). ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 138–140. BACK

[1] Croft had been imprisoned for debt. BACK

[2] Marie-Anne Fiquet, Madame du Boccage (1710–1802), La Columbiade, ou La Foi Portée au Nouveau Monde (1756). BACK

[3] Captain Boutet (first name and dates unknown), whose release Southey had helped to procure. BACK

[4] A friend of Joseph Cottle’s, Isaiah Birt (1758–1837) was the 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

[5] The prolific chronicler Giraldus Cambrensis (c. 1146–1220), whose Itinerarium Cambriae seu Laboriosae Baldvini Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi per Walliam Legationis Accurata Descripto Auctore Silv. Giraldo Cambrensis Southey made use of in Madoc (1805). BACK

[6] Either the grandfather or brother of Southey’s friend, the Lisbon merchant John May. BACK

[7] Pierre Le Moyne (1602–1672), Saint Louis (1651–1658), used by Southey in the second edition of Joan of Arc (1798). BACK

[8] Thomas James Mathias (1753/4–1835; DNB), The Pursuits of Literature, or What You Will. A Satirical Poem in Dialogue. With Notes. Part the Second, 6th edn (London, 1798), pp. 297–298 (and note). BACK

[9] Samuel Rogers, author of The Pleasures of Memory (1792). His first published volume was An Ode to Superstition, With Some Other Poems (1786). Southey is conflating him with the clergyman-poet Samuel Rogers (c. 1731–1790), author of Poems on Various Occasions (1782). BACK

[10] A summary of the review of Samuel Rogers, Poems on Various Occasions (1782), in the Monthly Review, 67 (August 1782), 151. BACK

[11] *: Southey adds footnote: ‘not quite’. BACK

[12] John (1167–1216; reigned 1199–1216; DNB). This story was versified in Southey’s ‘March 18th. King Edward the Martyr murdered at Corfe. Inscription for a monument at Corfe castle’, published anonymously in the Morning Post, 17 March 1798. BACK

[13] Raphael Holinshed (1525–1580; DNB), Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1577) claimed that King John extorted 10,000 marks from a Jew of Bristol by drawing one of his teeth each day until he agreed to supply the money. BACK

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