1059. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 13 April [1805]

1059. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 13 April [1805] ⁠* 

Dear H. H. H. H. H.

My commissions amount only to a supply of magnesia, & of pens, the latter better than those you sent which were very indifferent. Also if you will bring with you a journal of the route you take from Edinburgh here – the more minute the better, such as may do for my Spaniard who must go into Scotland. [1]  But concerning that said Spaniard say nothing to any body, for sundry & solid reasons.

No news from Lisbon. Letters from Tom at the same time with the evil news of the Rochefort Squadron – of which he knew nothing when he wrote. I shall be <am> very uneasy about him. he is in the thick of the danger – & even if he escapes will almost certainly lose all the prize money which he has made. [2]  The first Lord of the Admiralty [3]  merits hanging for mismanagement as much as the Treasurer of the Navy does for peculation. This Trotter & Co business is the luckiest thing that could have happened. [4] 

Can you ascertain whether or no Dr Brown wrote the review of Thalaba? his poems are so beyond all comparison the very worst that ever were written, that if the thing were proved, I would by some means or other give him the retort courteous. [5]  Brunnonian sy ‘the Brunnonian system [6]  of poetry’ would be a good phrase, & would stick to him.

The circulation of the blood is mentioned most clearly by a Spanish Farrier 1564. I learn this from Feyjoo. [7]  the art of tea instructing the deaf & dumb was carried to greater perfection by a Spanish Benedictine about the same time than it has ever been done since. I learn this from a contemporary writer of the highest authority. And I have found the needle mentioned in a Code of Laws written in Spain fifty years before its reputed discovery at Amalfi or Naples by Gioia. [8] 

Tomorrow I walk to Grasmere. Madoc is not yet arrived here – nor have I heard any thing of him except from Wm Taylor, [9]  – I have a world of work before me, & do not look on with much complacency to the interruption of the summer.

We are well. Mrs C. still at Liverpool & now visiting the Kosters – she returns in about ten days –

God bless you


Saturday April 13.


* Address: To/ Henry Herbert Southey Esqr/ to be left at Mr Guthrie’s. Bookseller/ Nicholson Street/ Edinburgh./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: 16/ APR 1805
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d.3. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The eponymous hero of Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807) did not visit Scotland. BACK

[2] The French naval Rochefort squadron, commanded by Contre-Admiral Zacharie Allemand (1762–1828), was harassing British ships in the Atlantic and West Indies. It was customary for naval officers to be allotted a share of the value of ships and cargo captured in armed conflict, and Southey was particularly concerned that the presence of the French squadron would mean the loss of the Spanish ships (and resultant prize money for his brother) taken by HMS Amelia in December 1804. BACK

[3] Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742–1811; DNB), Secretary of State for War 1794–1801 and First Lord of the Admiralty from 1804–1805. BACK

[4] Alexander Trotter (dates unknown) was the Navy Paymaster under Henry Dundas, when the latter was Treasurer of the Admiralty (1782–1800). From 1802–1805 Dundas’s use of public funds while in this post was investigated by a Royal Commission, which found that he had allowed Trotter to divert government funds to his personal accounts. On 9 April 1805, Dundas was censured in the House of Commons, after which he resigned, and impeachment proceeding were commenced against him. BACK

[5] Thomas Brown (1778–1820), a Scottish philosopher, poet, and contributor to the Edinburgh Review, his Poems were published in 1804. The Edinburgh’s review of Thalaba was not written by Brown, but by Francis Jeffrey. It attacked Southey’s and Wordsworth’s poetry, and led to the coining of the dismissive term ‘Lake school’. See Edinburgh Review, 1 (October 1802), 63–83. BACK

[6] The Brunonian system of medecine, was named after its founder, the Scottish medic John Brown (1735–1788; DNB), who argued that all diseases were explicable as results of over, or under, stimulation of the nerves. Brown’s system attracted many followers – notably Thomas Beddoes, who treated Southey’s nervous collapse in 1799–1800 – but it became discredited because Brown prescribed opium and alcohol to achieve a healthy degree of stimulation, at the cost of his own addiction. BACK

[7] No. 3297 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library shows that he owned the works, or Obras (1769) of Benito Jerónimo Feyjóo y Montenegro (1676–1764). BACK

[8] See Southey to John Rickman, 22 March 1805, Letter 1049. He found the reference in the Siete Partidas (Seven-Part Code) or Libro de las Leyes, a comprehensive legal code compiled during the reign of Alfonso X (1221–1284), King of Castile, León and Galicia from 1252 until his death. No. 3610 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Las Siete Partidas del Sabio Rey Don Alonso el Nono (1789). Flavio Gioja or Gioia (c. 1300), of Italy, was credited with inventing the mariner’s compass by suspending the needle over a design on which the cardinal points were indicated. Modern scholarship doubts Flavio’s existence. BACK

[9] Southey’s poem had been published at the end of March and a presentation copy had reached Taylor. BACK

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