1116. Robert Southey to John May, 1 November 1805

1116. Robert Southey to John May, 1 November 1805 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov. 1. 1805.

My dear friend

It is so long since we have written to each other, that I knowx not to whose charge the silence is to be laid, tho rather suspecting it to be on your side than mine. I have been absent from home fifteen days, – for me an extraordinary event; three days of that time were spent at Walter Scotts  in xxx on the banks of the Tweed, a week in Edinburgh, & the rest upon the road. I went to accompany my friend Elmsley & am heartily glad to find myself again by my own fire side.

Harry, I find, being from home when his remittance arrived, has not acknowledged its receipt, which I therefore now do for him. It is not fitting that there should be any secrets respecting him on my part towards you. He has entangled himself, or been entangled by the daughter of Colonel Noel, member of Rutlandshire. [1]  the affair took place while he was visiting Lloyd at Ambleside & it seems has proceeded pretty far in a short time. The father viewing the matter with very natural feelings, such as any other father in similar circumstances would needs have, & assuredly such as I cannot blame or wonder at, has acted very foolishly & very blameably. He has treated his daughter with great severity, & of course provoked her into a settled & steady perseverance. What her mother [2]  may do will decide the matter, – as she uniformly has said that she will do nothing which would afflict her & endanger her weak health. But the mother is of an affectionate & therefore yielding disposition, methodistically inclined & therefore not much regarding inequalities of birth, & being herself unhappily married may probably set a higher value upon the chances of happiness, than people in high rank are apt to admit into their calculations. So that Harry & the young Lady herself think they have more to hope than to fear. The father bluntly & honestly says he never will give her anything, but that that is of little consequence – for he never should have done more – xxx then than just to <have> rendered things pleasanter at first. When of age she has fifteen hundred pounds of her own, & as much more at his death; of her & may have whatever more Lord Barham her grandfather [3]  may leave her. These are her prospects & this the state of the business.

I have never seen the young Lady. they who have tell me it is no wonder that Harry has been thus attached, – & I who know him think it as little extraordinary on her part. I wish it had not happened, but having happened would, as far as can be, render my own plans subservient to their well-doing; & if they should marry, when Harry sets up to practise, I shall not be unwilling to reside for some years wherever he may fix, to assist him with a home. You will of course perceive how uncertain all this is, nor should I have communicated any speculations upon, or account of, an affair which may very likely end in nothing, but for a sense of something like duty, – at least of impropriety in concealment.

Now for myself. my Uncle advises me to visit Portugal the sooner the better, – advice which I have every inclination to follow. In the spring I shall be ready, – it is my hope that Edith will consent to accompany me, in which case I would not hurry back; if she will not I shall make the best use of my time, & work the harder for the sake of speedily returning. I have much to do before my departure. At least as large a proportion of the Review to supply as in any former year [4]  – which is only this day begun, – & another work, which is about a third part done, to compleat. Upon this I must for a time enjoin secrecy, – observing none to you. It will appear as Letters from England, translated from the Spanish. [5]  being a faithful picture of society in England, to the best of my talents, coloured only by the feelings of a Spaniard & a Catholic. You will I hope like the book, & I am sure heartily approve the whole feeling which will pervade it. I wish for secrecy merely because it will serve the sale. [6]  it is quite certain that such a book must excite attention, & the suspicion which may very probably arise, will stimulate curiosity. You need not be told that the only motive which could induce me to suspend my history [7]  for the time this has employed & will employ, is a very urgent one. – I have not heard from Evans how my Uncles affairs are going on. [8]  He writes to me from Lisbon that if they are going on as they should do there would be enough for Henry & for me. I am not idle, – but the system of refusing to sell copy-right subjects me to present inconvenience – may I ask you to remit me forty pounds? – to be repaid when the next Annual Review [9]  is published – for I would rather ask it of you than of my bookseller, to whom it is never advisable for an author to be under pecuniary obligation however trifling. My reviewing will discharge this debt & set me fairly even with the world – by spring too Madoc & the Metrical Tales may have produced something, & then Letters & the Specimens [10]  (which Bedfords delay has there most unreasonably xxx retarded, & therefore thereby amerced me of the profits of a whole years sale –) will in the course of the next two years, in all human probability set me fairly beforehand with the world, & make me perfectly at ease in my circumstances.

My Uncle sent books by the last convoy both to you & to Koster, & I am uneasy at receiving no tidings of either consignment. – Little Edith is cutting her eye teeth, which makes her restless at night & irritable by day: of course I feel some anxiety, tho every thing promises well. I could tell you how sweet a child she is, how forward in speech & in intellect & how winning in all her ways – but these are things not to be talked of beyond ones own fireside – I am only afraid of loving any thing too well whose existence – or rather continuance here is so precarious.

You have seen the Edinburgh review of Madoc [11] & I have seen the reviewer since it was printed – met him in Scotland – travelled with him, & entertained him here at supper. In all matters of taste he is so mere a child that the absolute contempt I felt when we measured each others strength in conversation – effectually prevents any feeling of resentment for the language of contemptuous superiority affected over me by an homunculus [12]  of five feet two & a half. So we are very good friends!

God bless you



* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ Richmond/ Surry/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ NOV 4/ 1805; 10o’Clock/ NO.4/ 1805F.N.n
Endorsement: No. 113 1805 / Robert Southey / Keswick 1st Nov / recd. 4th do/ ansd. 18th do
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos (ed.), The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 101–103. BACK

[1] Emma Noel (d. 1873), daughter of Gerard Noel Edwardes of Exton Park, Rutland (1759–1838; DNB), who adopted the surname Noel in 1798, and inherited a baronetcy in 1813 to become the 2nd Baronet Barham. BACK

[2] Diana Noel (née Middleton) Baroness Barham (1762–1823; DNB). BACK

[3] Charles Middleton, 1st Baron Barham (1726–1813; DNB), naval officer and administrator. BACK

[4] Southey reviewed in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806): James Bruce (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768–73 (2nd edn, 1804–1805), 2–16; Thomas Lindley (dates unknown), Narrative of a Voyage to Brazil; ... with General Sketches of the Country ..., and a Description of the City and Provinces of St. Salvadore and Porto Seguro (1805), 27–32; Joseph Skinner (dates unknown), The Present State of Peru, Comprising its Geography, Topography, Natural History, Mineralogy, Commerce, the Customs and Manners of its Inhabitants; Embellished by ... Engravings of Costumes (1805), 49–60; John Griffiths (dates unknown), Travels in Europe, Asia Minor and Arabia (1805), 67–77; James Stanier Clarke (1765?-1834; DNB), Naufragia, or, Historical Memoirs of Shipwrecks (Vol. 1; 1805), 99–100; Charles François Dominique de Villers (1765–1815), An Essay on the Spirit and Influence of the Reformation of Luther (1805), trans. B Lambert (dates unknown), 177–187; William Roscoe, The Life of Pope Leo X, Son of Lorenzo de Medici (1805), 449–467; Arthur Cayley (1776–1848), The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh (1805), 477–483; Dieudonné Thiébault (1733–1807), Original Anecdotes of Frederic the Second, King of Prussia, and of his Family, his Court, his Ministers, his Academies, and his Literary Friends: Collected During a Familiar Intercourse of Twenty Years with that Prince (1805), 488–495; William Parr Greswell (bap. 1765–1854; DNB), Memoirs of Angelus Politianus, Joannes Picus of Mirandula, Actius Sincerus Sannazarius, Petrus Bembus, Hieronymus Fracastorius, Marcus Antonius Flaminius, and the Amalthei: Translations from their Poetical Works: and Notes and Observations Concerning Other Literary Characters of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (1805), 509–515; George Ellis, Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances (1805), 536–544; Henry John Todd (bap. 1763–1845; DNB), The Works of Edmund Spenser (1805), 544–555; William Lisle Bowles, The Spirit of Discovery (1804), 568–573; William Hayley (1745–1820; DNB), Ballads; Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals, with Prints, Designed and Engraved by William Blake (1805), 575–576; John Hoppner (1758–1810), Oriental Tales: Translated into English Verse (1805), 576–578; Francis Burroughs (dates unknown), A Poetical Epistle to James Barry Esq. (1805), 578–579; Vincenzo Monti (1754–1828), Penance of Hugo: A Vision (1805), trans. Henry Boyd (1748/9–1832; DNB), 581–588; James Grahame (1765–1811; DNB), The Sabbath (1805), 588–591; Sir Martin Archer Shee (1769–1850; DNB), Rhymes on Art, or, The Remonstrance of a Painter (1805), 592–596; Samuel Whitchurch, (dates unknown), Hispaniola, a Poem (1804), 596–597; Matthew Rolleston (dates unknown), The Anti-Corsican, A Poem (1805), 597–598; Charles Grant, Baron Glenelg (1778–1866; DNB), Poem on the Restoration of Learning in the East (1805), 598; Edward Coxe (dates unknown), Miscellaneous Poetry (1805), 598–600; Malcolm Laing (1762–1818; DNB), The Poems of Ossian, Containing the Poetical Works of James Macpherson in Prose and Verse, with Notes and Illustrations (1805), 615–620; Archibald Macdonald (1739–1814; DNB), Some of Ossian’s Lesser Poems Rendered into Verse [from Macpherson]; with a Preliminary Discourse, in Answer to Mr. Laing’s Critical and Historical Dissertation on the Antiquity of Ossian’s Poems (1805), 620; Philip Massinger (1583–1640; DNB), Plays (1805), ed. William Gifford, 625–634; Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), Nathan the Wise; a Dramatic Poem in Five Acts (1805), trans. William Taylor, 634–639; John Collett (dates unknown), Sacred Dramas: Intended Chiefly for Young Persons (1805), 639; Henry Mackenzie (1745–1831; DNB), Report of the Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland, Appointed to Inquire into the Nature and Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian (1805), 679–699; Hannah More, Hints Towards Forming the Character of a Young Princess (1805), 708–713; Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838; DNB), Improvements in Education as it Respects the Industrious Classes of the Community (3rd edn, 1805), 732–736; Samuel Jackson Pratt [pseud. Courtney Melmoth] (1749–1814; DNB), Harvest-home: Consisting of Supplementary Gleanings, Original Dramas and Poems, Contributions of Literary Friends and Select Re-publications (1805), 736–738; William Henry Ireland (1775–1835; DNB), The Confessions of William Henry Ireland Containing the Particulars of his Fabrication of the Shakespeare Manuscripts (1805), 743–745. BACK

[5] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella: Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[6] Southey wanted to preserve his anonymity as the author of Letters from England, because he believed negative reviews by his enemies affected sales of his work. BACK

[7] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’, which was never completed. BACK

[8] The lawyer hired by Hill, on Duppa’s recommendation, to untangle the payment of revenues that he derived from the clerical livings he held in Herefordshire. BACK

[9] The Annual usually appeared in March or April of the year. BACK

[10] Southey’s Madoc and Metrical Tales and Other Poems were both published in 1805. Letters from England and Specimens of the Later English Poets were in preparation and were both published in 1807. BACK

[11] Francis Jeffrey’s review appeared in the Edinburgh Review, 7 (October 1805), 1–29. BACK

[12] Meaning a little or diminutive man; a mannikin. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Ashestiel (mentioned 1 time)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)