1112. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 14 October 1805

1112. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 14 October 1805 ⁠* 

October 14. 1805.

I need not tell you, my own dear Edith, not to read my letters aloud till you have first of all seen what is written only for yourself. What I have now to say to you is, that having been eight days from home, with as little discomfort, and as little reason for discomfort, as a man can reasonably expect, I have yet felt so little comfortable, so great sense of solitariness, and so many homeward yearnings, that certainly I will not go to Lisbon without you; a resolution which, if your feelings be at all like mine, will not displease you. If, on mature consideration, you think the inconvenience of a voyage more than you ought to submit to, I must be content to stay in England, as on my part it certainly is not worth while to sacrifice a year’s happiness; for, though not unhappy (my mind is too active and too well disciplined to yield to any such criminal weakness), still without you I am not happy. But for your sake as well as my own, and for little Edith’s sake, I will not consent to any separation; the growth of a year’s love between her and me, if it please God that she should live, is a thing too delightful in itself, and too valuable in its consequences, both to her and me, to be given up for any light inconveniences either on your part or mine. An absence of a year would make her effectually forget me.               .               .               .               .               .               .               .                But of these things we will talk at leisure; only, dear dear Edith, we must not part.               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .                Last night we saw the young Roscius in Douglas; [1]  this was lucky and unexpected. He disappointed me. I could tell you precisely how, and how he pleased me on the other hand, but that this would take time, and the same sort of thought as in reviewing; and in letter-writing I love to do nothing more than just say what is uppermost. This evening I meet Jeffrey and Brougham at Thomson’s [2]  rooms. I know not if Harry knows him; he is the person who reviewed Miss Seward, and is skilful in manuscripts. Among the books I have bought is a little work of Boccaccio, [3]  for which my uncle has been looking many years in vain, so extremely rare is it. Its value here was not known, and it cost me only three shillings; being, I conceive, worth as many guineas. I have likewise found the old translation of Camoens. [4] 

              .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               The third sitting will finish the letter. Thomson brought with him the review of Madoc (which will be published in about ten days), sent to me by Jeffrey, who did not like to meet me till I had seen it. [5]  There was some sort of gentlemanlike decency in this, as the review is very unfair and very uncivil, though mixed up with plenty of compliments, and calculated to serve the book in the best way, by calling attention to it and making it of consequence. Of course I shall meet him with perfect courtesy, just giving him to understand that I have as little respect for his opinions as he has for mine; thank him for sending me the sheets, and then turn to other subjects.               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               Since breakfast we have been walking to Calton Hill [6]  and to the Castle, from which heights I have seen the city and the neighbouring country to advantage. I am far more struck by Edinburgh itself than I expected, far less by the scenery around it.              .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .               .

God bless you, my own dear Edith.

R. S.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, 348–350. BACK

[1] ‘Roscius’ is a generic term for an actor, after the Roman actor, Quintus Roscius Gallus (c. 126–62 BC), but here Southey is referring specifically to William Henry West Betty (1791–1824; DNB). He was a child prodigy who made his London debut at Covent Garden in December 1804 and then proceeded on an extremely successful tour of Scotland and England in the summer of 1805. The excitement about him, which led to him being hailed as the ‘Young Roscius’, peaked during the 1804–1805 season, and then quickly faded. Southey saw him in the role of Young Norval, in the play Douglas (first performed in 1756) by John Home (1722–1808; DNB). BACK

[2] Scott’s friend Thomas Thomson (1768–1852; DNB), an Edinburgh advocate, record keeper and editor of medieval manuscripts. BACK

[3] There are two works by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375), the Renaissance humanist and author of the Decameron (c. 1350–1353) in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. He could have been referring to either Ameto Comedia delle Ninfe e Amorosa Visione (1549–1558), no. 309 in the sale catalogue, or L’Amorosa Fiammetta (1562) and Avventure d’Ero e di Leandro di Museo (1801), together in one volume, no. 310 in the catalogue. BACK

[4] Luis Vaz de Camoëns (c. 1524–1580), author of The Lusiad (1572). The first translation into English was Sir Richard Fanshawe’s (1608–1666; DNB) The Lusiad, or Portugals Historicall Poem (1655). BACK

[5] Jeffrey reviewed Southey’s poem Madoc (1805) in the Edinburgh Review, 7 (October 1805), 1–29. BACK

[6] A hill in the centre of Edinburgh. BACK

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