614. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 15 October 1801

614. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 15 October 1801 ⁠* 

Thursday 15 October. 1801. Dublin

My dear Danvers

I was not altogether wrong in supposing that no inconvenience would have arisen to any other person if I had been spared the fatigue of a voyage to Dublin. the unexpected conclusion of peace [1]  will take the Irish members to London sooner than they would otherwise have removed. Mr [2]  is at present in the country – so that we have not met, – but Rickman tells me that in all probability I shall not remain here a fortnight. so much the better. it is not good for man to be alone. – I have taken lodgings here – two good rooms – at a guinea a week. dear – but for so short a stay it was not worth while to trouble myself in a long search. my living will be little expensive – I expect enough invitations.

You know it was my intention to embark from Whitehaven – or Workington in a collier. the way of the wind, & the uncertainty of the passage made me change my intention & I got to Parkgate. [3]  – whence after a wearisome delay because the Captain waited for more passengers – I sailed on Sunday last at noon. the wind was favourable – it failed before we were out of the river – we fell down only with the tide, & so dead a calm prevailed all night, that the ship was perfectly still as a house. there was not one heaving on the waters – I never saw the sea so smooth – not a curl – a ripple – a wrinkle. the shores in view, Flint – & Caernarvonshire, & the mountains among which I had so lately been journeying. I quite enjoyed the sunset. All day Monday we tacked & retacked with light & unkind winds to weather Holyhead, but in vain. at evening we stood for Beaumarais Bay, & there lay to, waiting the midnight tide. the wind rose about one in the morning. we were then in the Race of Holyhead, a rough sea, of infamous character. it blew a heavy gale – the vessel shipped much water – it came pouring into the cabin, & our pumps were both at work, thump – thump – a melancholy sound at all times! & with the working of the ship, & the cries of young children, & the roar of the wind & the waves – faith it was an ugly concert. at dawn the wind abated, & we had arrived beyond the race into smoother water. the Sun rose hazily, we were near land, yet could see nothing, & the steersman could only go by guess. in consequence when we were near enough to see the shore, it was found that we were too far North of Dublin bay, & could not possibly reach it that night. the Captain a civil careful man, willingly consented to land at Balbriggen. I never sailed with a better man. he never left the deck during night, & his only drink – on shore or at sea, was buttermilk – or milk. At Balbriggen then we landed – a little fishing & bathing town, fifteen & a half miles from Dublin – Irish miles – for all things all topsy turvy here, of which eleven here equal to fourteen in England. no means of conveyance to the capital – we sent two miles & a half to a single Inn – for five chaises, while we dined. the messenger returned with one coach. in that we shipped the women & children, loaded a car with the luggage, & proceeded with it on foot to the Inn – so after leaving the packet, we slept in the Man of War, so the Inn is called – because its sign is a Saracens head, with a pipe in his mouth. – In my company I was more than usually fortunate. the Wife of the L Lieutenants Aid du camp [4]  – with her infant – a genteel woman. a Mr Ottley [5]  of University, who nosing out my name upon the trunk civilly requested my acquaintance. his wife is very young, has been in Portugal, & is a very favourable specimen of Irish women. An old Irish gentleman of kindly manners, Mr Knox, [6]  who fell to my share in a post chaise, whom also I am bound to call upon. & tho last not least – to my infinite amusement Dr Solomon [7]  himself. & his nephew, [8]  a young & stupid cub, in training to become Prime Quack of the World whenever his Uncle shall resign. Oh I set off Solomon in all his glory! I got him upon physic – upon The Cordial Balm of Gilead, & the Anti-Impetigīnes [9]  as in defiance of all prosody he called it – & upon Dr Brodum. [10]  yes – I touched upon the tender subject – & he said there were Quacks in the world. I asked him what was the cause of the Bilious Flux at Liverpool. Sir said he – I can attribute it to nothing but the prodigious quantity of flies this summer. never were so many flies! all the meat was fly-blown. & what was the best remedy? – nothing had been found so effectual as – the Balm of Gilead. I asked him what he thought of the Acids in syphilitic cases [11]  – he replied that Pneumatic medicine had not succeeded. literally this was his answer. When he I had left the room he asked if I was not a medical gentleman. –

Wednesday morning I reached Dublin & found Rickman, who is no little personage in Ireland. he was engaged to dine with a Dr Lindsay, [12]  brother to the Lady Lieutenant [13]  as she is called, & private Secretary to her husband. he invited me also, & I found out he was a Balliol man – & thus now got a hook & eye of acquaintance with him. to day after breakfasting with Rickman I am returned to write my letters – to Edith I had of course dispatched a bulletin of my arrival before. – I know nothing of my own situation farther, but that my labour will be easy work, be it much or little, & that I suppose myself to be, according to the language of the world, in a good way. my time will be spent from Xmas till June in London, the rest of the year, in Dublin. Of the government I am led to believe every thing that is good – at least they have every temptation to do good.

The country that I passed is destitute of trees as if there existed an instinctive dread of the gallows in the people. indeed most of the <young> trees in the kingdom had been cut down to make pikes. I am disgusted by seeing barefooted women, in their caps, trolloping thro the streets. cars drawn by one horse are the only carriages of burden, & over this the posteriors of the horse so project as if they were designed to catch all chance manure by the way. one little town I past, of ancient importance, Swords, its castle & church which had a bell round tower by its square one, formed an uncommon picture. it was famous of late years as a potwalloping borough, [14]  & for rearing early ducks for the Dublin mark[MS obscured] the Union has prevented its corruption from breeding vermin any longer – but the duck-manufactory is in a flourishing state. – the post chaises are clumsy & bad. they charge more for three passengers than for two, & always expensively. – Dublin is rapidly improving & will be a most magnificent city. it is already a very fine one. as yet I have only seen the outline of the Wicklow mountains thro a haze. their shape is beautiful. the people very filthy – beastlily filthy. I cannot like them – & yet they are a people of genius. a fellow builds a turf hovel – plants his patch of potatoes & will do nothing else. he will be idle & live upon potatoes & butter milk. they have an innate love of combination. if you have three workmen about your house – they combine against you for more wages. this is Rickmans account. They are always saying odd things. Pat! said a fellow in the streets when the dry season was at an end – this rain will breed a Riot – for the little potatoes will be pushing out the big ones! – I have room for a Bull which Rickman heard – they were late in company, when one of the party looked at his watch – faith – said he – it is tomorrow morning! – I must wish you good night!

I am anxious to hear of Peggy. How is Mrs Danvers? – & my Mother? she shall have my next letter to Bristol. this contains all my present stock of information.

write to me under cover thus

Right Honble

Isaac                               this is the form.

&c &c &c

Dublin  [15] 


* MS: British Library, Add MS 30928. AL; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 250-253. BACK

[1] Britain and France had signed ‘Preliminary Articles of Peace’ on 1 October 1801. This was effectively a ceasefire to allow negotiations for a full treaty. BACK

[2] Southey leaves a gap, but he means Isaac Corry. BACK

[3] Port on the River Dee. BACK

[4] Unidentified. BACK

[5] George Brook Taylor Ottley (b. 1774) of Delaford, County Dublin. Commissioner of military accounts and public works in Ireland. In 1799 he married Isabella Maria Brown, daughter of John Brown of Belfast. BACK

[6] Unidentified. BACK

[7] Samuel Solomon (1768/9-1819; DNB), manufacturer and promoter of the best-selling quack medicine ‘Cordial Balm of Gilead’. His MD, from Marischal College, Aberdeen, was probably obtained fraudulently. BACK

[8] Unidentified. BACK

[9] Anti-impetigines or ‘Solomon’s Drops’, another of Samuel Solomon’s remedies. BACK

[10] William Brodum (fl. 1795-1814), quack medicine seller. He had been the mentor of Samuel Solomon. BACK

[11] Thomas Beddoes, A Collection of Testimonies Respecting the Treatment of the Venereal Disease by Nitrous Acid (1799). BACK

[12] Charles Lindsay (1760-1846), private secretary to the Lord Lieutenant and later Bishop of Kildare 1804-1846. BACK

[13] Lady Elizabeth Lindsay (1763-1858), wife of Philip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke (1757-1834; DNB), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1801-1805. BACK

[14] Swords returned two MPs to the Irish House of Commons until its abolition in 1800. It was one of only ten Irish boroughs that had a potwalloper franchise, i.e. any householder with a hearth big enough to boil a pot could vote. Despite (or because of) this relatively wide franchise, the borough had a reputation for corruption. BACK

[15] write to me ... Dublin: added on the left hand margin of the final paragraph. BACK

Places mentioned

Dublin (mentioned 8 times)
Balliol (mentioned 1 time)