365. Robert Southey to John May, 2 January 1799

365. Robert Southey to John May, 2 January 1799 ⁠* 

Wednesday. Jany. 2. 1799

My dear friend

I heard yesterday from Norfolk concerning Harry, my friends there have found out a situation for him far better than I could reasonably hope to have met with. it is with a Mr Maurice near Lowestoff, a dissenting minister whom I once met at Yarmouth. Harry has frequently visited for some days at his house, & Maurice was pleased with him. he has ten pupils at sixty guineas a year, & will take Harry for thirty. requesting however that this may not be mentioned to any other persons than those concerned. thirty guineas are the terms of the Kingsbridge school where Lightfoot is usher, & there <are> fifty boys there. of course there must be a material difference in the attention paid to each of them. Maurice has been anxious to have him under his care, & William Taylor who has written to me upon the subject, promises to take care of him in the holydays. you see Harry is very fortunate.

Of Maurice I hear a very good character. he is attentive to the morals of his pupils & anxious to inculcate Christian morality principles. his wife [1]  is a woman of great talents, & their pupils enjoy the comforts of domestication & its advantages. I am much gratified by all these circumstances, Harry could not have made such friends without deserving them.

I wrote to you on Friday last transmitting an account of a young man [2]  in sad distress from Lamb, whom he hoped you could serve. it was directed to Bedford Square. I take it for granted you are now in the country.

We had an adventure this morning which has much amused us. As we were beginning breakfast, a well dressed woman entered the room, & said she was come to take a little breakfast with us. we thought she was deranged. this however was evidently not the case, & it was not without great difficulty I refrained from laughing at the oddity of the visit during the whole of the meal time. When she had done she rose up & askd what was to pay, & as you may suppose was somewhat confused when she found that we did not keep a public house. the poor woman breakfasted I believe in a state of very uncomfortable doubt, for the sight of my books which fronted her might have shown her that she had made some blunder. She was walking from Bristol some little way farther into the country, & found herself so cold & hungry that she determined to breakfast on the road.

My complaint is relieved, & when it returns affects me less because I am accustomed to it & acquainted with its cause. when the weather will permit it bathing is prescribed for me. I take exercise daily, & ether every night.

An odd circumstance occurred to me on Monday; a man who had been at school with me, [3]  but who had not for fourteen years ever noticed me, tho we often met in the streets, requested an hours conversation with me – & this was to say that he thought a Glossary of the English language would be a very useful & very lucrative work, that he had written some sheets, but wanted the talents & the learning requisite (– which God knows he did!) – that he could command the money necessary for publication & an extensive subscription. in short he wanted my assistance & my name. What he meant by a Glossary it was not very easy to comprehend; he had an idea that to understand the English xxxxx language it was necessary to read the dictionary thro, & that two or three times, & as far as I could unravel his meaning it was to make a dictionary of elegant words which gentlemen would be very glad to use if they understood them, & which would save them the trouble of studying Johnsons two folios. [4] 

I have been reviewing a melancholy book; Memoires Historique de Stephanie-Louise de Bourbon Conti written by herself. [5]  a natural daughter of the late Prince of Conti, [6]  legitimated by Louis 15. [7]  kidnapped before she was twelve years of age by her mother, [8]  least on her presentation at court, curiosity should discover her birth & hurt her reputation, forcibly married to an old & wicked man in the country, & only then about to recover her rank & the means of subsistence when the throne was overturnd, & she was involved in the miseries of the Bourbon family. the present Prince of Conti [9]  appears to have been one cause of her misery, & has acted most wickedly towards her. Rousseau was her tutor & she now subsists by teaching mathematics which he taught her. the narrative is authenticated by papers legally certified.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

<Edith desires to be remembered.>


* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] To/ John May Esqr/ Bedford Square/London/ Hale/ near Downton/ Wiltshire/ Single
Postmark: BJA/ 4/ 99
Endorsement: 1799 No 30/ Robert Southey/ No place 2 Jany:/ recd: 4 do/ ansd: 5 do
MS: Beinecke Library, GEN MSS 298, Series I, Box 1, folder 14. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Priscilla Maurice (d. 1854), née Hurry, the daughter of a Yarmouth merchant. BACK

[2] See Southey to May, [28 December 1798], Letter 363. For Lamb’s letter about the unnamed ‘young man’ see Edwin W. Marrs Jr (ed.), The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb, 1796–1817, 3 vols (Ithaca and London, 1975–1978), I, pp. 154–155. BACK

[3] Unidentified; however, the scheme is similar to that executed by Jonathan Boucher (1738–1804; DNB) in A Supplement to Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language; Or, A Glossary of Obsolete and Provincial Words (1807). BACK

[4] Samuel Johnson (1709–1784; DNB), whose two-volume Dictionary had been published in 1755. BACK

[5] Stephanie-Louise de Bourbon Conti (1756–1825), Mémoires Historiques (1798). Southey’s account was in an Appendix to the Critical Review, 25 (April 1799), 490–499. BACK

[6] Louis François I de Bourbon, Prince of Conti (1717–1776), member of a cadet branch of the French royal house. BACK

[7] Louis XV (1710–1774; reigned 1715–1774). BACK

[8] Louise Jeanne de Durfort, Duchesse de Mazarin (1735–1781). BACK

[9] Her legitimate half-brother, Louis François Joseph de Bourbon (1734–1814). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Yarmouth (mentioned 1 time)