1013. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 8 January 1805

1013. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 8 January 1805 ⁠* 

Dear Harry

William Taylor tells me you have had your name entered at Cambridge & design to keep terms there. I am inclined to think he has mistaken the will for the deed, & misinterpreted the kakography [1]  of your letter, [2]  – for I do not think that you would take this step without first consulting both him & me, & I cannot conceive that you can need any advice at all upon the subject, it being so utterly impossible with your means, & so little desirable if <xxx> possible. I do not know any one thing which would be so certainly prejudicial to you as this which you are wishing for. In the first place you are too old – it being more usual to go under eighteen than above it. in the next place you would find yourself behind hand in University attainments – for the sake of obtaining immediate gratification you would devote yourself to these – which would lead to nothing, & you would find when too late that you had abandoned one pursuit – without getting any other. Be content as you are: repeated change of profession is folly in those who can afford it, – in you it would be something worse. what only makes them ridiculous would ruin you. An English degree is of no other use to a physician than as it enables him to be a Fellow of the College of Physicians. he may practice in London as a Licentiate without it.

You ask me concerning the origin of the Venereal Disease. [3]  Since the question arrived I have found the passage on which I suppose the common opinion is founded, & which is certainly irrefragable. It is in a work by Oviedo whose whole title you may <see> in one of the Madoc notes [4]  – so I need not hunt for it again. He says that the first Spaniards who went to the West Indies (N B where he was xxx settled) caught it there, where it was a very common but very mild disease – & he goes on with the history of the war at Naples &c to account for its names in France & in Italy. Possibly some analogous disease may have existed in Europe before, which was & this may have been a worse sort – as if the Small Pox had turned out the vaccine. Certain it is that till the discovery of America it was never known as a general & dreadful malady. If you want more particulars tell me, & I will translate the passage from Oviedo at length & send you chapter & verse.

As no proofs have reached me of late I conclude you are doing my office & that the work is nearly at an end. [5]  indeed every days delay is now injurious to the sale.

I lose money by Hamiltons failure [6]  – I know not what – from 10 to 30£. Philips has bought the Critical, [7]  & will most likely lift it with a better sale.

A Aikin has sent me another & last parcel which will take up a fortnights time. [8]  there is in it a Scotch Ode in folio or foolio addressed to Percy. [9]  We go this evening to the Generals. [10]  – No news of Tom – nor of Coleridge – nor of any thing public for the Iris is dead & gone. [11]  Your friend John [12]  is well. Our winter has been truly delightful. frost & sunshine all December. thaw & sunshine with passing showers now, & no snow yet in the valley, nor any remaining on the hills.



Tuesday Jany 8. 1805.


* Address: For/ H H Southey Esqr/ to the care of Mr Guthrie Bookseller/ Edinburgh –/ Single –
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: JAN/ 1805/ 10
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d.3. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey uses this word to mean ‘bad writing’. BACK

[2] Taylor had misunderstood; see Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 24 January 1805, Letter 1025. BACK

[3] Harry’s university dissertation, to graduate as MD, was on the origins and course of syphilis, in which he suggested an American origin for the disease. BACK

[4] Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478–1557), De la Natural Hystoria de las Indias (1526) is cited in Madoc (1805), in a note to Part 2, Book 8, lines 60–62. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), II, p. 327. BACK

[5] For Madoc (1805) which was being printed by James Ballantyne in Edinburgh. BACK

[6] Samuel Hamilton (dates unknown), owner of the Critical Review 1799–1804. His departure from the Critical left Southey unpaid for reviews he had written. BACK

[7] The Critical Review was in fact bought by Joseph Mawman (1763–1827). BACK

[8] Southey’s reviewing work for the Annual Review. BACK

[9] Jessie Stewart (dates unknown), Ode to Dr. Thomas Percy (1804). Southey reviewed this work in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 597. BACK

[10] John Peche (dates unknown), who had served in the East India Company’s army, gazetted as Colonel in 1796 and Major-General in 1798. BACK

[11] The Iris; or, Norwich and Norfolk Weekly Advertiser was the Norwich newspaper edited from 1803 by William Taylor. It had ceased publication by the end of 1804. BACK

[12] Southey’s ass. BACK

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