3646. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 5 March 1821

3646. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 5 March 1821⁠* 

My dear Harry

Mr Thomas Boys [1]  of No 7 Ludgate Hill wants – my head. & as his request comes with a present of the Percy Anecdotes (40 shillings worth) for the next vol. of which he desires it, I have told him he may send to you for poor Nash’s miniature. [2]  It will be very beautifully engraved. – Boys is the publisher of Chauncy Townsends poems [3]  which will appear in about a fortnight.

I heard from my Uncle on Saturday, – & wrote by that nights post desiring King to call upon him & assist him if he can in the business which he will have to get thro. [4]  Had poor Charles Danvers been living, he would have been very serviceable to him at this time.

Mr Shield writes to me that the King intends to command the performance of an Ode on his B Day: – a timely intimation for which I thank him. So I am setting to with St George & the Dragon. [5]  As this custom will not be dropt, I must do the best I can. – & like Warton [6]  I shall xx go to history & romance for my subjects, & produce something scholar-like & respectable, if it be nothing better.

I am very sorry for John Scott, [7]  tho he deserved winging. The seconds seem to have behaved very foolishly, or worse than foolishly. [8]  There was something about Scott that I did not like, – he was howev a very able man, & in the straight way of becoming a very mischievous one. The itch of personality led him into this scrape. He might have said all that he did about Blackwoods Magazine both safely & properly, if he had abstained from using names no man then could have called him to account without avowing himself to be the Editor. [9] 

Love to all – God bless you


5 March. 1821.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ 15. Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ 8 MR/ 1821
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 4. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 225–226. BACK

[1] Thomas Boys (fl. 1819–1850s) was a printer and publisher. BACK

[2] The engraved portrait of Southey appeared in John Clinton Robertson (1788–1852) and Thomas Byerly (d. 1826), The Percy Anecdotes, 21 vols (London, 1821–1823), XVII. It was derived from Nash’s miniature of Southey, painted in 1820, and now in the National Portrait Gallery. BACK

[3] Chauncy Hare Townshend, Poems (1821), no. 2823 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] Elizabeth Tyler, Hill’s half-sister, had died. BACK

[5] Southey’s ‘Ode for St George’s Day’, unpublished until Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 258–262, and written for George IV’s official birthday on 23 April 1821 (it was not performed). BACK

[6] Thomas Warton (1728–1790; DNB), Poet Laureate 1785–1790. BACK

[7] John Scott (1784–1821; DNB), Scottish journalist, was fatally wounded in a duel on 16 February 1821 and died eleven days later. His opponent was Jonathan Henry Christie (1792–1876), the London representative of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1817–1980), with which Scott was engaged in a bitter quarrel. In particular, Scott objected to Blackwood’s personal attacks on authors, and responded by making personal attacks on those associated with Blackwood’s. BACK

[8] The seconds were the journalist Peter George Patmore (1786–1855; DNB) for Scott, and James Traill (1794–1873), a lawyer, for Christie. When Scott and Christie met at Chalk Farm on 16 February 1821, Christie fired wide and Scott missed. However, unaccountably, the seconds prepared another round, in which Scott was mortally wounded. BACK

[9] The editor of Blackwood’s was William Blackwood (1776–1834; DNB), its publisher. Much of the copy, though, was provided by John Wilson and John Gibson Lockhart – the latter’s articles in particular, using the name ‘Z’, had particularly incensed Scott. Scott had mistakenly named Lockhart as the editor of Blackwood’s and personally insulted him in his article, ‘The Mohocks’, London Magazine, 3 (January 1821), 76–77, leading to a challenge to a duel from Lockhart. This duel did not happen, but Scott challenged Christie instead. BACK