1077. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, [June 1805]

1077. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, [June 1805] ⁠* 

Dear Lightfoot

Of all the persons with whom I have heretofore lived in habits of near intimacy; you are the only one whom I have not at some time or other met again, tho there is not one whom it would rejoice me more to meet. Two years ago I heard of you from Mr Rowe [1]  of Bristol, but just at that time when I should have written under the first impression I had the heavy affliction to lose my only child. It is now eleven years since we parted at Oxford: eleven since you & I who used to breakfast together every morning, & meet each other generally every evening, have seen each others face! – I have had my share during that time of good & of evil, & am full eleven years older in mind & in body – but in my conscience I do not think there lives a happier man this day upon God’s earth, nor one who has more reason to be so. My worldly wealth Heaven knows is little enough, but it is enough, for my habits are the most inexpensive possible, & literary employments have always been so habitual & so delightful to me, that I should continue them just as assiduously from choice were my fortunes affluent, as I now do from necessity. I have one little girl, now thirteen months old, a great favourite. My health which was such in 1800 as to drive me to Portugal, is so well established as to give me no cause for complaint. Of three brothers, all younger than myself, two are doing excellently well – the one in the navy, the other will graduate next summer at Edinburgh, where he has distinguished himself by his talents. the third does not promise well – but I have done my duty by him, & will not distress myself at what I cannot prevent.

The newspapers & reviews will have told you what I have from time to time been doing. I have as much reputation as my best friends could wish me, & enjoy as the best effects of such reputation the friendship of some of the ablest men of the age, & the acquaintance of almost every person who is considered, xxx is considered, or who considers himself, as among the number. For the last four years, my main employment has been the History of Portugal & its Conquests, [2]  a work for which I have some peculiar advantages, & which in all human probability will procure me much money, as with my moderate wishes I should desire to leave behind me.


* MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d.113. AL; 2p.
Dating note: Unfinished and undated letter, which is presumed to have been written in June 1805 because it refers to Edith May Southey (born 30 April 1804) as ‘13 months old’. In Southey’s letter to Nicholas Lightfoot, 8 February 1806 (Letter 1153), he encloses this letter which he says was written ‘last June’. BACK

[1] Possibly the Unitarian John Rowe (1764–1832), one of the ministers of Lewin’s Mead Chapel, Bristol. BACK

[2] Though Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’ was never completed, many of the materials he gathered on ‘its Conquests’ were used in his published History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK