1504. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 9 September 1808

1504. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 9 September 1808 ⁠* 

Sept. 9. Keswick.

My dear Tom

The Cid has been detained some weeks longer than I expected by Frere. [1]  the proofs take a long circuit to reach him thro official franks, he is slow in returning them, & he sees revises as they are called – i.e. second proofs. However I look daily to see it advertised, & Longman has directions what to pack up with your copy, as soon as the publication takes place.

I spent a week tooth & nail at my old letters, [2]  cutting & slashing at a great rate & inserting more than was omitted, by rummaging my original journals, & hunting out just so much antiquarian & historical matter as was pertinent among my books. The Life of D Luisa [3]  also is inserted at the end of the first volume. It will now be a respectable book, having thus been weeded; the two volumes are in two printers hands & will soon be compleated. Dispatch was one reason for dividing it, & another was the wish to have all my operas the same size. Just at this time it is very likely to have a sale, & by & by my later Letters will help xxx it off by occasionally referring to it. [4] 

By this evenings Courier I perceive that we had a severe earthquake here just a fortnight ago. [5]  All I can say about it is that we never heard of it before. Not that an earthquake would surprize me. Whatever makes our bottom winds & send up these Islands, is unquestionably equal to produce an earthquake, if it only take place upon a larger scale. Good part of the Island has now sunk, & another one has risen nearer the shore with a canal almost thro it. Humphrey Senhouse came over last week to see it, & a thorough wetting I had in rowing him back. He bought with him a Miss French, a very nice girl, whose brother has lately published a volume of poems. [6]  They staid two nights with us. Miss Wood [7]  comes tomorrow by the coach, something has been said about our returning with her, but whether we shall do this or not, I do not know.

Coleridge is arrived at last, about half as big as the house. He came over with Wordsworth on Monday, & returned with him on Wednesday. His present scheme is to put the boys [8]  to school at Ambleside, & reside at Grasmere himself. Some good is likely to result from his coming, for Wordsworth declares that if he does not write an Essay upon the pleasure produced by bad poetry, he will do it himself. [9]  You have heard him talk upon the subject; – whoever does this the effect will be to flea Mrs Barbauld alive, & take full & ample vengeance upon all such offenders.

King Arthur is deposed for misconduct in unnecessarily delaying the review: & it is well for him he is, as otherwise I should have made a desperate home thrust at him, for having had the impudence to omit the reviewal of Wordsworths poem, [10]  which he received from me, & inserting an Aikinish one in its stead. But as he has been already cashiered I shall resent this in no other way, than by dropping all correspondence with the said King Arthur & his whole generation.

I am writing in great haste to secure the post. the Wolseleys [11]  & the Brownes [12]  are coming to tea. Two days ago I dined at Calverts with the Mr George Taylor whom xx we met last year at Speddings. Spedding has just got a new boat, which is named the Spanish Patriot. Now had you been here we would have explored Basthenthwaite thoroughly.

The papers say that some of our large ships are to be paid off forthwith as being no longer wanted. In that case I should think by your account of the Dreadnought [13]  that she stands a fair chance of being laid up. The worst thing would be that you would probably be turned over to some dirty small craft such as it seems we want to meet the Danish Danes with this is what is proposed. On the other hand it hardly seems likely that you would be treated with so little respect.

Kehama gets often interrupted by late hours, or disturbed nights, or much exercise in the preceding day. [14]  Arvalan is now driving the dragons, the car is fastened to their yokes thus [diagram] the circles being the yokes, & the seat fastened on the upper arch so he drives, & long before this reaches you he will be at the N. Pole. [15] 

Emma has acquired the name of Old Scratch, by reason of her sharp nails. My son rides Pocko whenever he can catch me, & will not be persuaded that Pocko can be tired. Both he & Edaw as he calls her are equipped this evening in dark brown stuff gowns trimmed with red – which Mrs Wolseley has made them.

Huzza for Spain. How compleatly have our hopes been justified! It is my firm opinion that Bonaparte has received his death blow. Very probably another year may bring about peace after the extirpation of his royal race.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought/ Plymouth Dock/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Seal: [partial]
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 15–18.
Dating note: In his ‘Text of Robert Southey’s Published Correspondence: Misdated Letters and Missing Names’, Curry gives the date as ‘Sept. 8. 1808’, but this would seem to be a mistake on his part, as he comments that the letter as printed in Warter is ‘correctly dated but placed with letters of 1807’ (142). BACK

[1] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808) contained three of Frere’s translations from the Poema del Cid in an appendix. BACK

[2] Letters Written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797), reissued in a 3rd expanded edition as Letters written during a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal (1808). BACK

[3] In Letters Written during a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal (London, 1808), I, pp. 259–302, Southey included a Life of Dona Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza, taken from Vida y Virtudes de la Venerable Virgen Doña Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza, su Jornada a Inglaterra y Sucessos’ en aquel Reyno. Por el Licenciado Luis Muñoz (1632). BACK

[4] Southey’s plan of publishing a new volume of letters and travels deriving from his second sojourn in Portugal was not fulfilled. BACK

[5] The Courier for 7 September 1808 reported the earthquake ‘in the town of Whitehaven and neighbourhood’, of which the shocks were felt in several other places, including Keswick. BACK

[6] Robert Nicholas French (dates unknown) published Verses in 1808, and this is presumably his sister (first name and dates are unknown). BACK

[7] Isabella Wood (dates unknown), cousin of Humphrey Senhouse. BACK

[9] Neither Coleridge nor Wordsworth wrote such an essay. BACK

[10] Southey had written a review of Wordsworth’s Poems in Two Volumes (1807); that which appeared in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 521–529, was less complimentary. BACK

[11] Reverend Robert Wolseley (d. 1815), son of William Wolseley, 6th Baronet (1740–1817), was a fellow pupil of Southey’s at Westminster School. He and his wife (first name and dates unknown) visited Keswick several times in 1808 and 1809. BACK

[13] HMS Dreadnought was a 98-gun second rate ship of the line launched in 1801. She had fought at Trafalgar (1805) and was now under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas Sotheby (1759–1831), younger brother of the author, William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), Southey’s acquaintance. She was converted to a hospital ship in 1827, and broken up in 1857. BACK

[14] Southey was sending his brother drafts of The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[15] Events in The Curse of Kehama, Book 11. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

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