278. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 14 December 1797

278. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 14 December 1797 ⁠* 

Thursday. 14 Dec. 97

My dear Cottle

Your parcel & its contents arrived safe. I found it on my return from a library belonging to the dissenters [1]  — in Redcross Street; from which, by permission of Dr Towers [2]  one of the Trustees, I brought back books of great importance for my Maid of Orleans. a hackney coach horse turned into a field of grass falls not more eagerly to a breakfast which lasts the whole day, than I attacked the fol old folios so respectably covered with dust. I begin to like dirty rotten binding, & whenever I get among books pass by the gilt coxcombs & yet disturb the spiders. — But you shall hear what I have got. a Latin poem in four long books upon Joan of Arc. very bad — but it gives me a quaint note or two — & Valerandus Valerius [3]  is a fine name for a quotation. a small quarto of the Life of the Maid, chiefly extracts from forgotten authors, printed at Paris. 1612. with a print of her on horseback, & another on foot in the same dress & attitude as the one I have. [4]  A sketch of her life, by Jacobus Philippus Bergomensis [5]  — bless the length of his erudite name! — this is short but the most valuable of all, inasmuch as I have his authority for her prediction of her <own> death — & that he has given me matter for a noble speech in Book 3. (I write in the spirit of prophecy for its nobleness.) by saying that her first vision was in a ruined church, where the weather drove her to pass the night with her flock. there are more treasures in this library — & I go there again on Monday next.

If you think what I am about to say to Biggs will spur him — read & send it. he behaves very unhandsomely. the book is wanted — & delay is a real loss.

John May & Carlisle were here last night, & we struck out a plan which if we can effect it will be of great use. it is to be called the Convalescent Asylum, & intended to receive persons who are sent from the hospitals — as the immediate return to unwholesome air — bad diet — & all the loathsomeness of poverty, destroys a very great number. the plan is to employ them in a large garden — & it is supposed that the institution in about three years will support itself. on a small scale — for 40 persons — but the success of one will give birth to many others. Wynn enters heartily into it — wex meet on Saturday again — & as soon as the plan is at all digested — Carlisle means to send it to Beddoes for his inspection.

We were led to this by the circumstance of finding a poor woman, almost dying for want, who is now rapidly recovering in the hospital under Carlisle.

God bless you — I am ashamed to see the fragment upon Malvern [6]  in my desk — but if you saw how my visitors come drop in — you would excuse the appearance of neglect.

Ediths love.

yrs affectionately

R Southey

Rossers charge is so palpably unjust that I am sorry you have employed him in Lloyds book. you well know that the fault was wholly his own.

How is William Reids [7]  arm?

I shall write soon to Danvers.

Have you found the conclusion of the first book?


* Address: [in another hand] London December fourteen 1797/ Mr Cottle/ High Street/ Bristol/ Williams Wynn
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: [illegible]
Endorsements: R. Southey/ Decr 14. 1797; (95)/ 44
MS: Columbia University Library. ALS; 4p. (c).
Previously published: Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847), pp. 215–216. BACK

[1] Dr Williams’s library, London, which was established by a bequest from the dissenting minister, Daniel Williams (c.1643–1716; DNB). BACK

[2] Joseph Lomas Towers (c. 1770–1831; DNB), Unitarian minister and librarian of Dr Williams’s library. BACK

[3] Johannes Ravisius Textor (c. 1480–1524), De Memorabilibus et Claris Mulieribus: Aliquot Diversorum Scriptorum Opera (1521) was a source for Joan of Arc (1798). It contained a life of Joan of Arc by Valerandus Varanius (fl. early sixteenth century). BACK

[4] Jean Masson (dates unknown), Histoire Memorable de la Vie de Jeanne d’Arc, Appelée la Pucelle d’Orleans (1612). BACK

[5] Giacomo Filippo Foresti da Bergamo’s [also known as Jacobus Philippus Bergomensis] (1434–1520) De Claris Mulieribus (1497) was one of Southey’s sources for the second edition of Joan of Arc (1798). Southey probably read it in Johannes Ravisius Textor, De Memorabilibus et Claris Mulieribus: Aliquot Diversorum Scriptorum Opera (1521). BACK

[6] Probably Southey’s ‘To Joseph Cottle’, which was published as the dedicatory poem to Joseph Cottle, Malvern Hills: A Poem (London, 1798), pp. xiii–xv. BACK

[7] William Reid (dates unknown), a Bristol insurance broker and acquaintance. BACK

People mentioned

Carlisle, Anthony (1768–1840) (mentioned 3 times)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 1 time)
Rosser, Robert (d. 1802) (mentioned 1 time)
Lloyd, Charles (1775–1839) (mentioned 1 time)
Beddoes, Thomas (1760–1808) (mentioned 1 time)