2960. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 31 March 1817

2960. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 31 March 1817⁠* 

31 March. 1817

Dear Harry

As if the Devil did not send me distractions enough in different shapes. I am called upon to make up my mind whether or not I will purchase this estate, which must else be sold under an Extent. [1]  This is a great nuisance, for I should else have this night in all likelihood finished my tender epistle to Wm Smith. [2] 

The sum required will be from two to three thousand pounds – perhaps 2000 with incumbrances in the way of annuities & legacies amounting to about 800 more. – I am inclined to think that I can have all the money which would be wanted advanced by Wordsworth in way of mortgage, but if this should not be the case, my goed & ryk broeder should you be willing to invest part of your property in this form? & let me pay five per cent for it till I can repay the principal, – which if I have life & health I shall certainly be able to do in three years – for I am to have 1000 guineas for my Hist. of the War: [3]  & the Grand Murray has offered me the same sum for a poem in blank verse [4]  <which this would be a valid motive reason for compleating.> In case of my death, here is the xx estate to answer for the purchase money & I shall obtain it now cheaper than it would ever be sold for under other circumstances.

Wordsworth is luckily here, as he & Edmondson are about to discuss the value of the property. Mrs Lloyds brother in law Harding, [5]  is the creditor who has obtained the Extent in aid against the Landlord.

I am treating Wm Smith as he deserves, & in that tone which I am entitled to assume.

Winterbottom is not dead. He has sworn falsely in all things, – but I suppose that in part this is owing to a confusion of memory & that he has mistaken Lovell for me. [6]  This however will not explain many things in his affidavit which are direct falsehoods. He swears however that he did not furnish the MS. & that it must have been surreptitiously obtained from him. This of course is of no consequence – my business is to state my own principles & to chastise the member of Norwich, which I shall do with scorpions.

Love to Louisa & Mrs Gonne

God bless you



* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 3 AP 3/ 1817
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 4. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Greta Hall had suffered from the complicated financial and legal entanglements of its owner, Samuel Tolson Jnr (dates unknown), who was, by April 1817, in Carlisle jail for debt; a creditor had taken out an injunction (an ‘extent in aid’) against him, seeking recompense by forcing a sale of the estate. BACK

[2] Smith had denounced Southey in the House of Commons on 14 March 1817 in the debate on the Seditious Meetings Bill, condemning ‘the settled, determined malignity of a renegado’ and comparing Southey’s arguments against radical views in the Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 227, with those expressed in Wat Tyler (1817), Act 2, lines 103–112. Southey responded with A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (1817), published by Murray at the end of April 1817. BACK

[3] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[4] Southey began, but did not finish, such a poem, entitled ‘Consolation’, occasioned by the death of his son, Herbert Southey, on 17 April 1816. Sections were published after his death as ‘Fragmentary Thoughts Occasioned by his Son’s Death’, Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 93–95, and ‘Additional Fragment, Occasioned by the Death of his Son’, Poetical Works of Robert Southey. Complete in One Volume (London, 1850), p. 815. BACK

[5] The creditor who was forcing the sale of Greta Hall was William Quintus Harding (1778–1870), of Copeley, Warwick, who had married Rebecca Pemberton (c. 1779–1854), sister of Sophia, the wife of Southey’s friend Charles Lloyd. BACK

[6] This refers to Southey’s Jacobin drama Wat Tyler, which he had written in 1794 and sent to James Ridgway (1755–1838) and Henry Symonds (1741–1816), radical booksellers, for publication; see Robert Southey to Edith Fricker, [c. 12 January 1795], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 123. Ridgway and Symonds did not publish it and it remained in manuscript until a pirated publication, designed to embarrass the now anti-Jacobin Southey, appeared in 1817. Having taken advice from Rickman, Wynn and Turner, Southey launched a suit in Chancery in order to gain an injunction suppressing the publication, on the grounds that it breached his copyright. The matter was complicated because Southey’s ownership of the copyright was brought into doubt when William Winterbotham swore an affidavit in which he declared that Southey had, when visiting Newgate prison, where he, Ridgway and Symonds were all confined, given him and Daniel Isaac Eaton (1753–1814; DNB), the radical publisher, the manuscript to do with as they liked. When the case was heard in the Court of Chancery on 18–19 March 1817, Southey lost his application for an injunction. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)