1477. Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 11 July 1808

1477. Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 11 July 1808 ⁠* 

Keswick. July 11. 1808.

Dear Duppa,

The thought of writing to you, – or, rather, the thought that I had not written, – has very often risen in my conscience heavily. Joanna Southcote has been the cause. Her books, with Sharp’s dirty treasure, [1]  are now on their way to London. It is so much better to say I have done a thing than I will do it, that I really have deferred writing for the sake of saying these books were actually gone.

For the last three weeks I have suffered from a blinding and excoriating catarrh; always with me a very obstinate disease, and more violent than I have ever seen it in any person except one of my own family. Diseases are the worst things a man can inherit, and I am never likely to inherit anything else. That father’s brother of mine in Somersetshire – whom I would so gladly sell at half price received me as cordially as was in his nature last April, and gave me 251., – an act of great generosity in a man of 1200l. a year, and remarkable as being all I ever have had, or ever shall have, from him, for he has now turned his sister out of doors, and desired never to see any of the family again. Duppa, my breeches’ pockets will never be so full as to make me stick in Heaven’s gate. Three lines of that fellows pen will cut me off from more than all the pens I shall ever wear to the stump will gain for me, and yet I hope many is the goose egg yet unlaid which is to produce quills for my service.

The Lakers are coming in shoals, and some of them find their way here. Among others, I have had the satisfaction of seeing Joanna Baillie: [2]  she drank tea with us, and very much pleased we were with her, – as good-natured, unaffected, and sensible a woman as I have ever seen.

A month ago you might, perhaps, have been gratified by knowing what were my thoughts of the state of Spain; now, I suppose, everybody thinks alike. But I have always said that, if the deliverance of Europe were to take place in our days, there was no country in which it was so likely to begin as Spain; and this opinion, whenever I expressed it, was received with wonder, if not with incredulity. But there is a spirit of patriotism, a glowing and proud remembrance of the past, a generous shame for the present, and a living hope for the future, both in the Spaniards and Portuguese, which convinced me that the heart of the country was sound, and that those nations are likely to rise in the scale, perhaps, Duppa, when we are sunk. Not that England will sink yet, but there is more public virtue in Spain than in any other country under Heaven. I have no fears nor doubts concerning that country; the spirit of liberty is not to be extinguished: nothing but that spirit could possibly check the progress of Bonaparte; this will check, and, it is my firm conviction, eventually destroy him. William Bryan [3]  prophesied a happy termination in Spain when I saw him in London, and I dare say, if ever we meet again, he will not fail to remind me of it. I expect his corrected copy of Espriella with some curiosity.

God bless you!


Robert Southey


* MS: MS untraced; 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), III, pp. 156–158. BACK

[1] William Sharp (1749–1824; DNB), the engraver who became a disciple of Southcott, engraved her portrait and wrote An Answer to the World (1806) in her defence – his ‘dirty treasure’. Southey was sending Duppa materials on Southcott which he had used in writing Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807); see Southey to William Peachy, 15 May 1808, Letter 1458. BACK

[2] (1762–1851; DNB), the Scottish dramatist, friend of the Aikins and of Scott. BACK

[3] Southey had clearly met his old acquaintance the copperplate engraver and religious visionary William Bryan (dates unknown) at Rickman’s home in St Stephen’s Court, Westminster, perhaps when visiting in March 1808; Bryan was to send him an annotated copy of Letters from England, which included sections on Bryan’s visit to the Société des Illuminés d’Avignon, and on his subsequent relationship with the self-proclaimed prophet Richard Brothers (1757–1824; DNB). On Bryan and Southey see Robert Southey and Millenarianism: Documents Concerning the Prophetic Movements of the Romantic Era, ed. Tim Fulford. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Mary (1750–1838) (mentioned 1 time)
Aikin, Arthur (1773–1854) (mentioned 1 time)
Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 1 time)
Southcott, Joanna (1750–1814) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)