905. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 1 March 1804

905. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 1 March 1804 ⁠* 

Dear Danvers

When you see Clarkson on his return ask him to tell you how a Gentleman from Bristol came with his wife & family to his house upon the strength of having dined with him at the Anchor Society’s dinner, [1]  & how the said Gentleman had travelled one & twenty miles in that most difficult country throughout, not baiting his horse or his family at the usual halting place, & how he eat up a large plum-cake before Mr <or Mrs> Clarkson a came in, which the servant produced because the children were crying for hunger, & how the Gentleman asked questions & was very penurious, & the wife was little & crooked & ugly, & still more penurious than the husband, & how she quarrelled about half a pound of cherries in the streets of Penrith, – the Gentlemans name being Coates. [2]  Ought we not to make a book of Billiana for the benefit of posterity. [3] 

I have been some days from home – as thus – Tuesday to Grasmere where I found Clarkson & proceeded with him to Lloyds. Wednesday perambulating that neighbourhood – Thursday over the mountains to C’s. at Ulswater – Friday seeing that place, & to day home – in all 71 miles, which my legs have very dutifully performed, with no other sufferance than natural stiffness. this has been a highly pleasurable expedition – & I have learnt more of the arts of the Negroes from C.s. collection of their ornaments &c than all my books had taught me. Poor man, he has now heart to look at them once more, & to talk of their sufferings & emancipation.

My letters with its inclosures went to Mrs Smith punctually to my promise, – & will probably induce a reply, as I offered my services when they come into the North, in looking out lodgings for them, if they will stay as long as they ought to stay to see the country well, & in directing their route, & in showing them such things as might else escape their notice.

The wine is very good  [4]  – but I am sorry to say four bottles of the Bucellas [5]  were broken. they were at the top & were not well packed, – & as you may suppose alarmed me for the rest of the cargo. the concrete acid is certainly not the acid of lemons. I know not if a mineral acid can be exhibited in that form, but if it can this is mineral by the testimony of my teeth. The box is arrived [6]  & to my great grief & wonder contains the wrong pocket book – for as you say you have no other I cannot conceive where the one wanting can be, which is a black leather one, rusty enough in appearance but brimfull of matter, ‘of no use except to the owner’. If you should find it on a second survey I must have it sent down, for it contains half my notes, & also my memorandums for Madoc, [7]  – & if you cannot find it in your own possession I will beg you to open the smallest of the boxes at Horts, [8]  if not put in there with the stray things that were last packed, it must be lost. this is a serious evil to me – for I am now not only advancing with the second part of the poem, but have also begun to transcribe the first for the press, in the hope of taking that with me to London where I must travel in the course of the spring to finish another book concerning which I cannot remember whether or not I have written to you heretofore – the Specimens of Modern English Poetry, as a companion book to Ellis’s, [9]  of which two editions have sold. this will cost me some bodily toil in hunting for forgotten books – all else is play-work – it is to be printed on the same terms as Madoc! – & will, in my opinion beyond a doubt be far more profitable both to me & the publishers – so much for the reward of intellectual labour! It must however be remembered that both in literature as well as in trade a mans xxxx name is good for nothing unless it be known that he has some capital. – I must draw nearer London that is certain, for I can always there have as much silent money-getting work as my necessities require, without those inconvenient delays, & heavy expence of carriage which make weighty objections to this situation, even if this suited me better. As far as I can see before me my wisest plan will be to gallop on with history as fast as possible & then cross the seas. by the time of my return the profits of these running works will surely be enough to furnish a house, & then I will settle within a mornings ride of town. My regular work is first & foremost before all others to write these pages of history – such pages as when printed will extend honestly to five in quarto. a year at this rate will well nigh finish my materials. [10] 

Cottle writes me word of Mrs Newtons [11]  death, who it seems would have wanted bread but for what we have done for her. she had received £184–15– & more than as much again remains yet to be received when the remainder of the subscribers shall have paid for their copies, & the copies unclaimed shall have been sold. I was more successful for her than I ever have been for myself.

I have begun a letter to King to beg a drawing from him for one of the vignettes [12]  – you will see by it that it is my design to make them useful – as for mere pictures from the story of the poem they usually do more harm than good.

Moses is quite happy with his map. He grows up as unlike all other boys as he was unlike all other children. It is very diverting to hear him talk of his children whenever any thing displeases him. when he is called to his book ‘well I am determined that my children shall never read when they have not a mind to,’ &c &c – his children are never to learn to spell – never to be washd – never to be denied any thing they want. When Derwent offends him he shakes him by the arm saying ‘you little ridiculous fellow.’

– I continue well – but still at times vexed with these weak eyes. somebody to walk with in the morning & somebody to talk to in the evening would relieve them.

God bless you.


Wednesday. March 1. 1804.


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ Bristol./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAR 3/ 1804
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] On 14 July 1791 Thomas Clarkson and hundreds of others attended a dinner at the Crown and Anchor tavern in London to celebrate the second anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. BACK

[2] William Coates (dates unknown), was a Clifton resident. He was known to Davy and Coleridge and was a subscriber to a number of Bristol literary works. His brother was Matthew Mills Coates (dates unknown) of the law firm Morgan and Coates in Bristol. Both brothers were radicals and may have been related to Mary Coates (1753–1783), the first wife of the Bristol Unitarian minister John Prior Estlin (1747–1817; DNB). BACK

[3] A pun on the name William (Coates) when shortened to ‘Bill’. BACK

[4] See Southey to Charles Danvers [c. 15 January 1804] (Letter 885) and 1 February 1804 (Letter 892), on the despatch of this wine. BACK

[5] A white wine produced in Portugal. BACK

[6] See Southey to Charles Danvers [c. 15 January 1804], Letter 885, in which he asked Danvers to send the pocket book or books. BACK

[7] The poem Madoc, which Southey had written in 1797–1799 and was revising for publication. It was published in 1805. BACK

[8] William Jillard Hort (1764–1849), Unitarian minister and writer, who taught in the school run by John Prior Estlin (1747–1817; DNB). He was one of many acquaintances who stored books for Southey. BACK

[9] Southey’s Specimens of the Later English Poets, edited with Grosvenor Charles Bedford, was published in 1807 as a companion work to the Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790; 2nd edn 1801; 3rd edn 1803) compiled by George Ellis. BACK

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

[11] Mary Newton (1749–1804), the sister of Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB), was the principal beneficiary of the sales of The Works of Thomas Chatterton (1803), which Southey and Joseph Cottle edited to relieve Chatterton’s family from financial distress. BACK

[12] Southey refers to his plan for engravings for Madoc (1805); see Southey to John King, [1]–5 March 1804, Letter 904. BACK

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