513. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 19 April 1800

513. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 19 April 1800 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

Thanks to the Zephyrs Captain Yescombe [1]  is still in the harbour, & we are in time to trust ourselves, & live or die with King George. this anxiety is over & I have now only to watch the weathercock & pray for North Easters. – I left you in no enviable spirits. At Bristol, the expectation of seeing you was an object of pleasurable hope – but to take leave of the last friend before a voyage –! Falmouth too does not exhilirate me. I am in the room where I met poor Lovell – the last man with whom I shook hands before I left England – as I was stepping into the boat to embark. Well! Well! you & I tis to be hoped shall meet again – & if not – why we shall all meet in a better world. –

But our journey. it was not quite adventureless after we left Liskard. you witnessed our second battle of the four horses. rascals! the road was good – very good – & we did not walk up one hill, so slight were the ascents. At Lostwithiel after breakfast we embarked & got safely – half a mile out of the town. then the horses stopt. not from fatigue, for they were fresh. it was pure restiveness – a more vicious spirit never filled a four-legged animal than was in the head & the heels of our shaft horse. the Postilion was as obstinate as the beast. & while we below the hill, fought him a full hour. at last Edith returned with Rundell [2]  to the inn – & I remained by the chaise witnessing another half hours battle. the horse conquered – another arrived & we then proceeded fair & smoothly the rest of the way.

I have passed the custom house – been on board & chosen our births, & have now only to make poor Time as easy as he can be upon the rack of expectation. We dine with our Captain tomorrow, if the wind continues. he is very civil, & I should judge of some talents. I wish he was rather less civil – a little of the bear breed pleases me better. the packet carries ten guns, twenty eight men. 180 tons. as you said we make the Cape. the Spanish privateers are too small, the French too large – & I go with little fear of a bullet.

You shall have a copy of Thalaba, tho I hire an amanuensis. [3]  I have a head full of xxxx – overflowing with plans & eager to begin its toil. it has been long lying fallow – & now the crop will be abundant. Joaon de Barros, [4]  the best of the Portugueze historians, while he meditated his history, wrote a romance to improve his powers of language. I am half inclined to follow his example. but I can write poetry as fast, & poetry is a better thing. I will bring home a tragedy – the plan of one on a Portugueze story, [5]  has been long in my pocket book. in a fortnight I hope to be settled – rested – & at work.

Poor old Miss Russel! [6]  I miss the little woman. twould have been pleasant to have seen one face not wholly strange. but I had the comfort of letters here, from Rickman & Coleridge. & from Mrs Keenan at Exeter. by the by when you pass thro that city go to Keenan – he is the painter wh to whom I sate, & request to see my picture. [7]  he is a good man – a very good man th[MS torn] he had the misfortune to be born in Ireland. she is an uncommon woman, & they will I am sure be very civil. they have written to bespeak a visit on our return.

On counting my money I find I must have taken up the guinea you threw down at Plymouth – this vexed me when I discovered it.

God bless you Tom. I will write immediately on our arrival & you shall not find me a lazy correspondent.

Of Scott of Helston [8]  I can learn nothing certain. they say they believe he is a lawyer & unmarried. Rundell dines in that neighbourhood to day, & I have begged him to enquire. but he complains of a bad memory. once more God bless you!

Robert Southey.

Saturday. April 19. 1800.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Thomas Southey./ Bellona./ Plymouth Dock./ or elsewhere/ Single
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Edward Bayntun Yescombe (1765–1803), Captain of the Falmouth Packet, King George. BACK

[2] Rundell (first name and dates unknown) travelled to Portugal with Southey. He was possibly a member of a prominent Bath family of silversmiths, jewellers and surgeons. BACK

[3] This copy is now at Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, LHMS MA 415. It was partly written by Edith Southey. The Islamic romance Thalaba the Destroyer was published in 1801. BACK

[4] Joao de Barros (1496–1570), Portuguese historian and author of Decades of Asia (1552–1615). He also wrote the romance Chronicles of the Emperor Clarimundo (1520). BACK

[5] Possibly Southey’s idea for a tragedy based on Pedro I ‘the Just’ (1320–1367; King of Portugal 1357–1367) (Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 189–190). BACK

[6] Unidentified; she was Southey’s landlady during his stay in Falmouth in 1795. BACK

[7] John Keenan (fl. 1791–1815), Irish-born portrait painter and his wife (first name and dates unknown), née MacKinnon. Southey met them in Exeter in 1799. BACK

[8] Possibly Charles Scott (dates unknown), a lawyer then in practice in Helston, Cornwall. BACK

People mentioned

Lovell, Robert (1771–1796) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 1 time)