997. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [started before 7 December–]16 December 1804 *
I began in my turn to wonder at your silence, & when your letter came it alarmed me both for your thumb & my books. the conclusion removed my apprehensions for you, but not for myself. your thumb will grow, but woe th to the poor books if the rats have actually begun upon them. Shall I beg you to give a look at Horts  & see if they be safe there from damp & vermins – I never think of my books without vexation.
By good fortune the purchase of our house is broken off.  Come you therefore in the summer, & send me off some wine with as little delay as may be convenient. four dozen port, three of bucellas or vidonia. 
I am in trouble about Madoc. a packet of notes sent off a fortnight ago has not reached Edinburgh, & should it be lost no alternative remains but to publish the book without them, for it is impossible at this distance from my books to replace them, nor would it be easy were they all at hand. the loss is not certain as yet & so I will yet hope the best. provoking! for the press stands still the while. the whole poem is printed off: a matter as you may suppose of no small satisfaction to me, after so many years. Much of it will be new to you, enough to give it an interest of novelty. Of the old story you will miss little, & that little you will have no reason to regret.
Since this letter was begun I have been in fear & trouble about Tom, nor am I yet thoroughly easy. George had learnt at Lloyds Coffee House that the boats of the Galatea had severely suffered in an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the Lilly; but he could learn no particulars. I wrote to Bedford  whose youngest brother is in the Admiralty; he in consequence enquired there & saw a private letter from a man who had been in the action, in which Toms name was not mentioned, so that as the account was very particular we considered all was well. No sooner was this over than the news of the hurricane arrived, & in the first account it was said that a frigate was lost at Dominica,  which – if true – must have been Toms ship. Well – this was soon contradicted – but next appears a paragraph in the Whitehaven paper  stating the death of Michael Bircbeck of that town, master of Galatea, killed in attempting to cut out the Lydia, in which unfortunate attempt the First Lieutenant fell, the Surgeon, & the Lieutenant of Marines. – You know I always look if a thing be probable before I admit it to be true – no doubt would have existed in my mind as to the truth of this had not the Surgeon been mentioned, who I was sure could not have gone on such an attempt. I wrote off to Bedford again,  by this time Commodore Hoods  official letter was arrived, & it turned out there was a Lieutenant killed, whose name happily for me was not Southey, – & not one of the persons mentioned in the Whitehaven paper. Upon this I wrote off to the Editor requesting to know on what information he had inserted the paragraph, stating to him what I knew, & inferring a reasonable xxxx <belief> that Michael Bircbeck was safe as well as Tom, which I wished him to communicate to the father.  The Editors answer has just reached me: a private letter from Antigua  brought the tidings which so far as they concern me are evidently erroneous, but I fear not so decidedly so about Bircbeck for it should rather seem that he is the Masters Mate than Master. I am exceedingly interested about him for the poor father was thrown almost into agonies by my letter – it made him feel he said like one raised from the dead – & it would be shocking if after all his son should have been killed – & xxx that he should have the shock to endure a second time – alas what a dreadful aggregate of human wretchedness does human folly occasion! 
The parcel of notes has at last found its way to Edinburgh, & it is to be hoped no farther delay in the printing will take place. Of the four vignettes I have seen two which are both very beautiful, the ship of Madoc in full sail from a design of Pocockes, & a groupe of Aztecan arms with a Welsh xxx harp &c & the shield of Madoc for the title page. the two others will be a cross on a rock with a palm tree above & a spring at its foot  – as an emblem to be upon the leaf with the exordial lines, which run thus – Come listen to a tale of times of old,
The remaining vignette is for the second part. A huge snake to whom you are to have the pleasure of being introduced, sunning himself at the entrance of a cavern. These four are all. If the books sell well I will have more to another edition, & it may be best to let King finish the waterspout for this, as under that belief he may perhaps get it ready in time. If I had it some months ago it should have been engraved now. – You will find Madoc more Catholic than you will like, but not more so than he must have been. the propriety of preventing any bloody ceremonies by force & christening one generation who know nothing of christianity for the sake of making the next really christians, is my a thing of which I am well convinced – as you may have seen in the Annual Review,  & will see more fully in one of the portions of my history  whenever that shall appear. There is no danger that you should suspect me of believing in the Virgin Mary tho Madoc does, tho very likely some foolish people may.
Call occasionally at Codys  for me & see what travels he has, – I hope to God it will not be very long before I shall be enabled to chuse a settled dwelling place & get my books together. This dreadful pestilence will most likely keep me from Lisbon  – I have some thoughts as soon as my recovery is done of turning to & writing our letters  to raise an immediate sum for the purpose of furnishing a house, which I could get done in the course of the summer or autumn, – & what will please you better seriously think of Bath as a fit place. – We shall see how Madoc turns out, & these Specimens  which are sadly delayed by Bedford & but now just going to press, whereas had I been on the spot they would have been three parts printed.
The Edithling was inoculated yesterday with the cow pock, the small pox being in Keswick.  She does well & is a very sweet child, but so prematurely quick that I much fear we shall not rear her. she has cut two teeth quite easily – this however is no proof that the next will come so too – At first you would not think her pretty, but very soon she would win upon you & you would call her exceedingly interesting. I continue well & Edith grows fat. Take care of yourself this winter. How is Joe & how is Cupid.  I have got an Ass by name John; & he is quite a pet.
God bless you
Sunday 16 Dec. 1804.
* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ DEC 19
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. ALS; 4p.
Dating note: The reference to the lost ‘packet of notes’ intended for Madoc, indicates that this letter must have been started before Southey’s letter to Henry Herbert Southey, 7 December , Letter 998. BACK
 Thomas Southey’s ship, HMS Galatea, a fifth-rate 32-gun frigate, had, on 14 August 1804, made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British sloop of war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe. Of the 90 men sent on the mission 65 were killed or wounded. Southey had suspected that his brother was among them because the first lieutenant had been reported as dead, but he was absent from the raid because he had been placed under arrest. Charles Hayman (d. 1804) was made first lieutenant in his stead and died in the attack. Michael Birbeck (dates unknown) was indeed the Master and was killed in the action, according to William James (d. 1827), The Naval History of Great Britain, 5 vols (London, 1822–1824), III, pp. 274–276. BACK
 Madoc (1805), has only three illustrations: the engraved titlepage with Wynn’s shield upon a trophée; the palm and cross upon the rock (after the Table of Contents); and the snake before the cave, engraved on the titlepage for the second part, ‘Madoc in Aztlan’ (bound incorrectly after 320 instead of after 184). It is probable that the image of the ship by Nicholas Pocock (1740–1821; DNB) was omitted because Southey was displeased with the vessel’s anachronistic modernity;see Southey to Joseph Cottle, 25 August 1805, Letter 1097). BACK