1163. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 5 March 1806

1163. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 5 March 1806 ⁠* 

March 5. 1806.

Dear Tom

You remember my boards between which my notes & other manuscripts were tied up. I have extended this admirable invention to my letters & all those which come from the W Indies go in their order between specimens of yew. Now if there come any sort of wood in your way – as I think there may sometimes, which has any variety of grain or colour sufficiently distinguishable, xx do let your carpenter make some precisely the size of this page whereon I now write – only that this page by measurement with the pattern board exceeds it by just as much as the right hand side is not straight – & get some yourself as the best possible way keeping your letters. You will bring what you get for me home with you, whenever it please God that we shall meet again.

Yours from Martinico [1]  of Xmas day arrived this evening, the box with the book eight days ago. thank you for it, – it will be of much use whenever you & I sit down to put together your letters & my gleanings from the history of the Islands, [2]  – & if the you had got the other volumes the work would have been valuable as well. I read the papers with much interest & due anger. – Heathcote is a malignant scoundrel, & the whole business thoroughly disgraceful to him & to him only. [3]  The newspaper amused me, & I value the song. All are arranged between the Yew Boards. – Your feeling about Nelson is the right one – It was his proper death, the fit & worthy finish of such a life. [4]  Once I felt inclined to write an ode – perhaps you may remember a few lines written three years ago which have made a suitable beginning

O dear dear England! O my mother Isle –
There was a time when, woe the while!
In all thy triumphs I partook xx no part;
And even the tale of thy defeat,
In those unhappy days was doomd to meet
Unnatural welcome in an English heart.
For thou wert leagued in an accursed cause
O dear dear England, & thy holiest laws
Were trampled underfoot by insolent Power.
Dear as my own life-blood wert thou to me,
But even Thou less dear than Liberty

The transition would have been easy to this war, – to the tyranny of Bonaparte, & so the whole would have <made> a xx triumphal funeral hymn for Nelson. But I had other fish to fry at the time, – & besides Tom as I have made up my mind of seeing you as Admiral, & having every bell in England ring to your honour & glory one day or other – my poem shall be kept for your victory, & a right noble poem it shall be if ever that day come, & my right hand has not forgot its cunning, – so help me God. [5] 

What you said about serving against the Negroes brought tears into my eyes. There is no danger now of such an alteration, – but if there were – I would sell my books for you to help you on more joyfully than I ever collected them together. It will grate your gall to think that Pitt should have the same parliamentary honours as Nelson [6]  – but remember that his were parliamentary – & Nelsons national – the one the trick of a party – the other the feeling of the whole people. However God be praised that the fellow is underground. We shall certainly undertake nothing against Hayte [7]  under Fox & Ld Grenville. [8] 

My last letters have been all directed to St Kitts [9]  – some things had therefore better be repeated here in case of delay or accident. I go to Lisbon in September & Harry with me, [10]  but have some reason to think that Edith will remain here of necessity; as perhaps she might otherwise chuse to do, for I shall take a three or four months journey thro the northern provinces. I have also reason to hope that I may stay at Lisbon – that is that I may have an appointment there, whenever the place shall be vacated. – indeed at present there is little reason to doubt this. my interest is so strong just in the right place. In that case Edith will follow me when she is able to travel & when I have made ready to receive her. Do you if you continue in the same station – which I hope you will not – still direct here. she will open your letters & forward them – & send you in return the home news. – The turn which our politics have taken is very fortunate for me – it puts me in the road to fortune, & makes my prospects very bright, far brighter indeed than they ever could have been had I stuck either in divinity or law. Wynn is one the Under Secretaries of State, & will one day if he live be higher. [11]  he is a rising man in the country both by his family connections & still more by his talents & application. – I have written to my Uncle to get at the Admiralty for you thro the Duke of Bedford, whose brother is one of the new Lords [12]  – & I shall look after James Losh to see if he can do any thing with Gray himself. [13]  Only have hope & patience, & be sure that both you & I shall one day hold our heads as high as the highest if we live – & if we do not live why then it is no matter. But I have a sneaking sort of notion that we xx shall have monuments side by side in St Pauls at last, & that the best of my poems will be the Ode upon Admiral Southeys victory. You are but nine <eight> & twenty yet, & have thirty active years to do it in, it is to be hoped.

I am going to London in three weeks to finish the damned Specimens [14]  (Bedford has vexed me about them by his inexcusable delay) – & to put Espriella to press. [15]  after this year I trust my ways & means will require no more exertions of this kind. As I know nothing of the sale of Madoc it follows that it has been slow, which would naturally be the case because it is very expensive & has been thoroughly abused in the Reviews. [16]  This is of no other consequence than as it for a time affects my finances which are never in the most flourishing state. Wm Taylor has reviewed it in the Annual, which must be appearing about this time, his criticism is of course highly favourable, & what is better he is a man who knows good from bad, which is not very often the case with periodical critics. I have given up reviewing finally, having finished this years quota last week [17]  & now my future plans as to publishing are this. After Espriella to set forth the History of the Cid in one little volume – detached from my history as unnecessary there, & this is all I shall do before I go abroad [18]  – if indeed there be time for this after the completion of Espriella, which seems likely to extend to three volumes instead of two. While I am abroad I shall make the history of course my grand employment, & also put [MS torn] travels in order. the first part of the history I may perhaps without imprudence publish while settled in that country – but there will be no necessity for it. I shall finish Kehama [19]  & I shall from time to time as subjects occur write minor poems descriptive of the scenery & manners of the country – sort of Portugueze Eclogues &c. But never more shall I waste my time in writing upon subjects not of my own chusing, & no farther interesting than according to price per sheet. A seven year apprenticeship at reviewing is service enough. [20] 

I regularly pay the kiss which you remit to little Edith – who is the sweetest of little play fellows, but no beauty – tho she herself insists upon it that she is, & that Pappa is a beauty too. – In many of my last letters I have requested you to collect Lord Probys papers if they are to be had, & send to Wynn. [21]  Wynn was to have had the unhappy Turtle had he lived to have his throat cut.  [22]  You must now direct to him Whitehall – for he has left his chambers. I hope you will be able to recover these papers, as Lord Carysfoot (Probys father) will be <is> exceedingly desirous of having them, & if you should be the means of gratifying him it might eventually be to your advantage.

Harry will be bedoctored in July [23]  – but he puts his degree in his pocket, & goes abroad with me to get sunburnt & grow a little older before he begins to practice upon the tripes of his Majestys subjects. No news of Hempstretch, [24]  which as all news of him is bad, is the best thing that can be said. When we move towards Falmouth, I mean to call upon Aunt Molly, & knock at the old Gentlemans door, who by the by has never taken any notice of the book which I sent him. As he does not send it back again it is very well.

We have heard at last of Coleridge who had been obliged to turn back to Naples & was there in December – where he is now Heaven knows, – probably either in Sicily, or on his way home. [25]  – It is not unlikely that you & I shall have our next meeting at Lisbon, – either that you will touch there during the war, or that in case of peace you may cross over as soon as you are paid off next time. You will have as much dancing as your heart desires, & I shall enjoy seeing how much you will enjoy a jack-ass ride. –

My daughter admires the necklace which came with the book very much. Bring her home some shells – but don’t send them at the risk of being lost, or broken by so long a land carriage. we are here at the uttermost end of the North. – I have a world of fatigue to go through in London – of which the business is the least part, tho there is not only my own book to finish, but I have promised as well to give poor Burnett a helping hand in one which he has undertaken, & in which he will want my help. [26]  The main fatigue will be in walking about that endless city, & seeing my thousand & one acquaintances – dining late & talking till midnight. To be sure there is the pleasure of seeing a good many old friends, to set against this, & the pleasure also of hunting the booksellers shops. Do you go on with your book of observations? Have the planters any gardens? is there any thing like ornamented ground about their houses? do they collect water in great stone cisterns which like the Portugueze for watering their plantations? –

God bless you Tom! Ediths love – I cant send my daughters kiss as I have nobody to draw upon for payment of it as you have – once more God bless you.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey./ H. M. S. Amelia/ Barbadoes or elsewhere/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK / 298
Postmarks: SE.C/ 30/ 1806; [partial] 30/ 1806; [partial] 10 o’Cloc; [partial] 1806
Endorsements: Gone to England; Gone to England; Gone away; Thos Southey Esq/ Cottage
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. AL; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 360–365 [with omissions]. BACK

[1] Situated in the Dominican Republic. BACK

[2] Thomas’s materials were eventually published as A Chronological History of the West Indies, in 1828. BACK

[3] Captain (later Admiral) Sir Henry Heathcote (1777–1851), in command of HMS Galatea 1803–1805. In a letter to Charles Danvers, Southey reported that Thomas Southey had been ‘brought to a Court Martial by his Captain, for disobedience of orders, neglect of duty, & contempt of his superior officer’, though the charges were not upheld; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 15 January 1805, Letter 1021. BACK

[4] Horatio, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté (1758–1805; DNB), died at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. BACK

[5] This poem was never published. BACK

[6] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806. Parliament voted that Pitt should receive a state funeral and he was buried in Westminster Abbey on 22 February 1806. However, the opposition voted against these honours. Nelson’s state funeral was on 9 January 1806. BACK

[7] After defeating French forces in St Domingo in November 1803, the black general and former slave, Jean Jacques Dessalines (1758–1806), declared the former colony’s independence from France on 1 January 1804, renaming it Haiti. BACK

[8] After Pitt’s death, a coalition government was formed by Charles James Fox, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Leader of the House of Commons until his death in September 1806, and William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville (1759–1834; DNB), Prime Minister 1806–1807. BACK

[9] One of the Leeward Islands of the West Indies. BACK

[10] Southey’s projected visit to Portugal did not take place. BACK

[11] The new Prime Minister, Lord Grenville, was the uncle of Southey’s friend and patron, Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, who was appointed Under Secretary of State for the Home Office. BACK

[12] William Russell (1767–1840), brother of John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766–1839; DNB), was appointed a Civil Lord of the Admiralty in the new administration. BACK

[13] Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845; DNB), was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty under the new administration. James Losh and Grey were friends based on their common interests as residents of Northumberland, members of the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, and a shared concern to bring about parliamentary reform. BACK

[14] Southey’s and Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s jointly edited publication, Specimens of the Later English Poets, which was eventually published in 1807. BACK

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

[16] Southey’s poem Madoc was published by Longman in 1805, in a luxurious quarto, costing two guineas. It was positively reviewed by William Taylor in the Monthly Magazine, 19 (July 1805), 656–658, and the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 604–613. Other reviews of Madoc were: Francis Jeffrey, Edinburgh Review, 7 (October 1805), 1–29; John Ferriar (1761–1815; DNB), Monthly Review, 48 (October 1805), 113–122; Imperial Review, 5 (October and November 1805), 417–426 and 417–426; Eclectic Review, 1 (December 1805), 899–908; Literary Journal, 5 (1805), 621–636; Sharon Turner, General Review of British and Foreign Literature, 1 (June 1806), 505–526. BACK

[17] 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), 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

[18] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’ was never finished, but his Chronicle of the Cid was published in 1808. BACK

[19] Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. BACK

[20] Southey continued to work for the Annual Review until 1809, when he left to work for the Quarterly Review until 1839. BACK

[21] William Allen Proby, Lord Proby (1779–1804), eldest son of John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort (1751–1828; DNB), who was the previous captain of Thomas Southey’s ship HMS Amelia and had recently died of yellow fever. BACK

[22] Thomas Southey had sent a turtle from the West Indies but it had died on the journey; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 24 November 1805 (Letter 1125) and Southey to Thomas Southey, 1–5 January 1806 (Letter 1140). BACK

[23] Henry Herbert Southey graduated as MD on 24 June 1806. BACK

[24] Southey’s nickname for his brother, Edward, as he was convinced he would come to a bad end and be hung one day. BACK

[25] Coleridge, who was returning across Europe from Malta, did not arrive back in Britain until August 1806. BACK

[26] Southey had encouraged George Burnett to produce an anthology of Specimens of English Prose Writers, from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Seventeenth Century. It was published in three volumes with Longman in 1807. This compilation formed a companion work to George Ellis’s Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790; 2nd edn 1801; 3rd edn 1803) and Southey’s own Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

People mentioned