1171. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 24 March 1806

1171. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 24 March 1806 ⁠* 

Dear Harry

There are three reasons why I should send you a hasty letter, – quite enough for me as a true Bard, & more than enough as an Anti-Athanasian. [1] 

first: John May in a letter this instant received says he waits for you to apply for your money due on Ladyday. [2]  Why he should wait I cannot tell unless it be for the pleasure of receiving one of your elegant specimens of pen-Sir-Dominiship [3]  – to call it penmanship would be degrading the graphic art. So if you have not written, write, & at the same time state yourself what you require for graduation, & when you require it. [4]  If you have applied for your quarterly payment, there is no occasion to write about this, for I shall mention it in time; but if you are about to write it is better that you shall x state it yourself also.

secondly here is a passage about the Bubas which involves a new theory concerning them, as if they were supposed, like scurvy to be produced by unwholesome food. [5]  It occurs in a Book entitled Sanctæ Inquisitionis Hispanicæ Artes aliquot detectæ ac palam traductæ &c. Reginaldo Gonsalvio authore. Heidelbergæ. 1567. [6]  The author is speaking of the sufferings of the prisoners –

Ea est demum erga vinctos totius victus ratio, ut qui ex illa miserias (a false print I suppose for miseria) non egrediuntur ad rogum, ut plurimum, aut in illo carcerum pedore animas exhalare soleant, aut sævo illo morbo quem Gallicum vocant vulgo bubas, ex victus & humorum corruptione contracto egressi contabescant, aut ex atræ bilis redundantiâ in insaniam incidant, aut denique pessimo corporis habitu sint utique dispositi ad has easdem ægritudines, aliasve graviores, sibi postmodium conciliandas, in quibus perpetuo contabescentes vitam trahant miserabilem plane, ac ipsa morte duriorem. [7] 

I do not know that this can be of any use to you as your Thesis is finished, & it is not desirable to lengthen, what you will find quite long enough in your printers bill; – but the passage is curious, & is likely to have escaped those who have investigated the subject; & it shows that the disease was supposed to be sometimes self-produced. The Author was a Spanish Protestant, & I guess born at Seville; it is certain that he lived there.

Thirdly – I start on Sunday – meet Wordsworth at Penrith, & travel with him till I reach the fit place for turning Eastward toward Norwich: unless Wm Taylor should wish me to delay my visit for a few weeks – which is not likely. I shall be with him about Thursday evening, & stay just a week: then move for London, halting perhaps one day at Thetford on the way up with Wilkinson (of Ormathwaite who was) [8]  & another at Bury with Clarkson, if he be at home.

I forwarded you a second letter directed here, last week & acknowledged on its cover <outside> the the receipt of the draft.

Wynns marriage takes place in the Easter week, [9]  & Elmsley goes down to fishiate as Bedford once saw the word spelt.

I do not think of replying to W. Scotts letter, your receipt to the money is sufficient [10]  – but it occurs to me <now> that he may expect some congratulation on his good fortune [11]  – & so I will write –

God bless you


Monday. March 24. 1806.


* Address: To/ H. H. Southey Esqr/ Mr Guthrie’s – Bookseller/ Nicholson Street/ Edinburgh./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial, illegible] 1806
Endorsement: 06
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d.3. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] One who is opposed to the Athanasian creed, a Christian statement of belief, required of subscribers to the established Church of England, focusing on Trinitarian doctrine, attributed to St Athanasius (c. 293–373). BACK

[2] Christian festival (25 March) of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. BACK

[3] Southey’s nickname for Henry Southey was ‘Sir Domine’. Southey often complained about his brother’s poor handwriting. BACK

[4] He graduated as MD on 24 June 1806. BACK

[5] Harry was soliciting information from his brother for his university dissertation to graduate as MD. This was on the origins and course of syphilis, in which he suggested an American origin for the disease. BACK

[6] In the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, no. 1979, is an eight-volume edition, one volume of which contains Reginaldus Gonsalvius Montanus (the pseudonym of Antonio del Corro (1527–1591), a Spanish monk who became a Protestant convert), Sanctæ Inquisitionis Hispanicæ Artes Aliquot Detectæ, ac Palam Traductæ (1567). BACK

[7] The Latin translates as ‘Such in the end is the system of all-in diet for the prisoners that those who do not emerge from its misery to go to the stake (the usual course) either breathe their last in the filth of the cells, or waste away from the corrupting effect of diet and damps, having caught the savage disease popularly called French Bubas, or go mad from too much black bile, or in their very poor physical state have simply become prone to those same sicknesses or to others that are worse in which they steadily waste away, leading an obviously pitiable life, tougher than death itself’. BACK

[8] Joseph Wilkinson (1764–1831), clergyman, and amateur landscape painter and illustrator. After serving as canon in Carlisle he became Rector of Wretham, Norfolk in 1803. He published Select Views in Cumberland (1810) and The Architectural Remains of Thetford (1822). Wilkinson had resided at Ormathwaite, near Keswick, before moving to Norfolk. BACK

[9] Wynn married Mary Cunliffe (d. 1838), daughter of Foster Cunliffe, 3rd Baronet (1755–1834) on 9 April 1806. BACK

[10] Scott had contributed to Henry’s expenses at medical school. BACK

[11] In a letter to William Taylor, Southey reported that ‘Walter Scott has sold 4500 copies of his Lay, & netted of course above a thousand pounds’; see Southey to William Taylor, [c. 23–25 April 1806], Letter 1177. BACK

People mentioned

Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 1 time)
Clarkson, Thomas (1760–1846) (mentioned 1 time)
Guthrie, John (d. 1824) (mentioned 1 time)
May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 1 time)
Elmsley, Peter (1774–1825) (mentioned 1 time)
Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 1 time)