349. Robert Southey to John May, 26 September 1798
349. Robert Southey to John May, 26 September 1798 *
My dear friend
I send you the following ballad, which is just finished, because it contains the simple relation of a very extraordinary circumstance. A dissenting minister here,  a man of unquestioned veracity, discovered the sailor as you will find related: only last week, & Cottles mother took down the account from his mouth. I have versified it as the best means of circulating a story which ought to be widely known. you will not I think object to the frequent ejaculations when you recollect the effect which the whole is intended to produce.
I have made some progress in your book of poems,  & expect to bring it with me to London with all those pieces in it that will not be contained in my new volume. this story struck me as so very remarkable that I thought half an hour well employed in sending it to you. the poor fellow went to the Methodist meeting that evening. I do not love Methodism, but in his wretched state of mind he could hardly have gone to a better place. I have conscientiously preserved the story without adding a single circumstance.
The packet from my Uncle consisted wholly of corrections for my letters. many of them merely of such erratas as had not escaped my own notice. there is one curious paper of respecting Sebastian.  on the whole I am very glad at having received them, tho some of the circumstances are arrived too late.
I am going from home tomorrow for a week or ten days. the object of my journey is to see Maber respecting Edward. it is now more than two years since he mentioned his name to Dr Roberts,  & it is likely to have been forgotten during that interval. he lives about fifty miles from hence, I walk – a friend walks with me, we sling our net bags over our shoulders, we shall see a little of South Wales, come home along the banks of the Wye, & not be absent above ten days. for my ale house evenings I have employment enough, & for more idle minutes I take Claudian  with me, an author of whom I know but little, & whom as I should not sit down to read him at home is therefore a good companion on a journey.
Coleridge & Wordsworth have publishd an anonymous volume of poems under the title of Lyrical Ballads.  they are of very unequal merit. I do not think there has <been> a single copy of my Letters  left for these last six or ten months. if there be one here I will bring it up for you. my other edition  will be out before Xmas, & you will find it in every respect better.
I hardly think you could have been more useful in my other line of life than in your present one. this is not exactly the case with me, still however I shall have it in my power to be of some use. a good deal may be done by looking into the abuses of charitable foundations, & I should like very much to frighten trustees, churchwardens & overseers.
God bless you. I will write to you from some alehouse on my way. should you not like to spend a day with me in wandering among the Black Mountains?
Ediths love. she is tolerably well, but still not so well as I could wish her. I am afraid of London air & London confinement for her.
Wednesday. Sept. 26. 98.
* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ Hale/ near Downton/ Wiltshire/
Endorsement: 1798 No 24/ Robert Southey/ September 26 no place/ recd: 30 do/ ansd: 2 Novr:
MS: Houghton Library, bMS Eng 265.1 (24). ALS; 4p.
 Possibly William Pine (d. 1803), leading Bristol Methodist and printer of the Bristol Gazette, or his son William Pine (1769–1837). BACK
 ‘The Sailor who had Served in the Slave Trade’, Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. –114. BACK
 Unidentified; possibly a manuscript book of poems and/or other writings Southey was compiling for John May. BACK
 Sebastian I (1554–1578; King of Portugal 1557–1578). Killed in battle in Morocco, rumours of his survival persisted; see Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal, 2nd edn (Bristol, 1799), pp. 183–184. BACK
 Claudian (d. AD 404?), late Roman poet, whose works included the unfinished epic De Raptu Proserpinae (AD 395–397). BACK