860. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 2 December 1803

860. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 2 December 1803 ⁠* 

Friday Dec. 2. 1803

There Tom is a true story for you – or else Dom Pedro who was the Bastard son of King Diniz tells lies. [1]  you shall have another as fast as it can be copied.

Yesterday I received a most provoking letter from Edward. his Aunt he says has persuaded him to quit the Suffisante, [2]  where he had been very kindly treated. he keeps her letters to justify himself. since then she has abused & beat him, & he knows not what he should have done if he had not found a friend in Mr Barham [3]  of Exeter who has invited him to pass his Xmas there. he now writes to me (mark you the first letter since he went aboard!) to tell me this pretty story – to say he will do what I chuse – & to ask for money. Of course I have said he must go to sea again – to which he says he has no objection, tho he should prefer the army – & I have written to Rickman & John May to set him afloat once more – if you have any friends at Plymouth who can do it the more applicants the better – his address is with John Forster Barham Esqr Exeter. Is not this cruelly vexatious! it is enough to fret ones very guts to fiddlestrings to be so pestered.

I wish I had seen your storms & your northern lights. streamers we call them here & the name is a good one. I saw some two nights ago very vivid & exquisitely beautiful. they spread like a fan from a dark cloud, now brightening & now fading, the colour a pale glow-worm green but these are nothing to what you must have seen – Iceland is a very interesting place – I would actually go there if the voyage were not so terrible.

I must hasten to finish this that there may be no post lost – for your letter arrived this evening. we go on as usual – & I am still reviewing – historifying [4]  & proceeding with Madoc. [5]  I will send you off as much as we can contrive to copy beginning after Madocs arrival at his resting place – as you saw all that precedes at Bristol – the former books may be sent when there is nothing newer. you shall hear again in a few days. Ediths love –

God bless you –


Our house is pretty near in as much danger in this high wind as ever the Galatea can have been in the Northern Seas.

My Uncle says he wishes you were at Lisbon to take your charts of Spanish America.

In my review of Capt Burneys Book [6]  I have inserted this vile epigram upon Francis Drake, [7]  wondering that it should have escaped his notice – tho it would have been xxx xxxx wonderful indeed if it had not – for I made it upon the occasion –

O Nature to Old England still
Continue these mistakes!
Give us for Kings such Queens [8] 
And for our Dux such Drakes.

Dux is Latin for a Commander. – I have a History of the Methodists [9]  to review. a matter-of-fact book by one of the breed. I shall sketch out from it the Rise & Progress of the “United Methodists,” point out the mischievous tendency of their institutions & blow the trumpet of alarm [10]  as loud as I can blow it.


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Galatea./ Cove of Cork./ Single.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [illegible]
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 338-340. BACK

[1] The poem enclosed with this letter has not survived, but it was probably ‘King Ramiro’, Morning Post, 9 September 1803, as Southey derived this from the source he names here, Juan Bautista Lavana (c. 1550-1624), Nobiliario de D. Pedro, Conde de Bracelos (1640), no. 3571 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Pedro, Count of Barcelos (1287-1357), was the illegitimate son of Diniz (1261-1325, King of Portugal 1279-1325). BACK

[2] The brig-sloop HMS Suffisante, on which Edward Southey had been found a place. BACK

[3] John Foster-Barham (1763-1822), a wealthy merchant in the West India trade and partner in Plummer, Barham & Co. How Edward Southey had made his acquaintance is unclear. BACK

[4] Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[5] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[6] James Burney, A Chronological History of the Voyages and Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean (1803). Southey reviewed this in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 3-12. BACK

[7] Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596; DNB), explorer and sailor. BACK

[8] Elizabeth I (1533-1603; reigned 1558-1603; DNB). BACK

[9] William Myles (1756-1828), A Chronological History of the People Called Methodists (1803), Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 201-213. BACK

[10] Zephaniah 1: 16, ‘A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against high towers’. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Edward (1788–1847) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 1 time)
Tyler, Elizabeth (1739–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Burney, James (1750–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 1 time)
May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)