318. Robert Southey to John May, 27 May 1798

318. Robert Southey to John May, 27 May 1798 ⁠* 

Sunday. May 27. 98.

My dear friend

I cannot plead the multiplicity of employments, or the time occupied in surveying new scenery & mingling with new acquaintance as a reason for not earlier announcing my arrival at Yarmouth. I found Burnett confined to his great armed chair by the sciatica; which had proceeded from the lumbago & was, & indeed is, expected to go off in an acute rheumatism. this therefore has precluded all visiting, & in a country so flat as this I have found few inducements to ramble without the society of the friend who would have guided me to every interesting spot.

On Friday & Saturday William Taylor was with us – a young man of fortune, much diffidence, much genius & very uncommon acquirements. he it was who translated the Lenora of Burger in the M Magazine. [1]  I have been exceedingly pleased with him, & that as much from what I have heard of his domestic virtues as from the personal proofs I received of his taste & talents. he lives with a blind Mother, & such are <is> his attentions to all her wants & wishes that she says she is very happy. they live at Norwich whither we go on Wednesday to visit them. tomorrow we leave Yarmouth on a previous visit to a gentlemans [2]  who about six miles hence upon the coast.

My Uncle, I hear from Edith, has written to me since I left Bath, & his account of his own health is an alarming one. the oppression on his chest continues. my mother is, as you may imagine, very anxious that he should try the effect of English air. I am uneasy respecting him, & earnestly wish he were here.

The accounts I receive of my brother Tom are of a more promising nature. I believe I told you that there was reason to hope he was getting into the good graces of my fathers eldest brother. he is now with him, & the old gentleman (if I may so call a man of 55) has clothed him, & said that he shall no longer trouble his mother for money whilst he wants more than his pay.

There are as many peculiarities almost in this part of England as tho I were in a foreign country. the town consists of three or four long streets that run parallel with each other, these are intersected by numberless narrow Rows, as they are called. <to the number of 150,> & the carts here are constructed to go thro these Rows, so that the wheels are placed under the body. they only half bake their bread, because they say it would not be heavy enough if they baked it more. puddings are eat with every thing almost to the exclusion of vegetables. the butter is all very bad, & sold by the pint. the coast is hideously flat – & the effect of a sea view totally destroyed by the multit number of vessels perpetually anchoring in the roads: these deprive you of the idea of immensity, & the shore is so flat as to exhibit make the sea (when I have seen it) quiet almost like a lake – there are no waves – no repetition of that eternal roar which elsewhere makes it so delightful to lie down upon the beach & listen to the sound.

On the other hand the vast flat gives to the land view, a kind of ocean immensity; the same circular distance, the same bending down of the horizon. When we are at Mr Mannings I shall have opportunities of catching the minuter characteristics of the scenery, which it is my intention to delineate in blank verse. [3]  you know I love descriptive poetry, tis a species that blends with the domestic feelings, – that I connect with all those associations that soften & amend & elevate the heart.

I shall return from Norwich. it will be a shorter road to go from thence, & should Amos Cottle be at Cambridge I purpose passing one day at Magdalen College. Nothing however must detain me an hour longer than is inevitable from Bath. I hear from Edith – she tells me every thing except the state of her health, & as her spirits sink somewhat lower than they should do when I am away, a long absence is not calculated to improve th <assist her> reestablishment.

I go to Norwich Wednesday. Will you direct to me at Mr Taylors. Surrey Street. Norwich. I remain there till the Tuesday following.

God bless you.

yrs very affectionately

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ 4. Bedford Square/ London/ Single
Postmark: MY/ 28/ 98
Watermark: B/ 1795
Endorsement: 1798 No 18/ Robert Southey/ 27 May/ recd: 28 do/ ansd: 2 June
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Ramos, The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 31–32. BACK

[1] Monthly Magazine, 1 (March 1796), 135–137. BACK

[2] Probably William Manning (dates unknown), who lived in Ormesby, a village to the north of Yarmouth. See The Poll for a Member to Serve in Parliament, for the Borough of Great Yarmouth, in the County of Norfolk; Taken on Friday the 29th of May, 1795 (Yarmouth, 1795), p. 19. BACK

[3] For an example, see the blank verse ‘Descriptive Fragment’ in Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart [c. 8 June 1798], Letter 324. BACK

People mentioned

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Yarmouth (mentioned 2 times)