2989. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 8 May [1817]

2989. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 8 May [1817]⁠* 

Thursday. 8 May.

I depart tomorrow. It was my intention to call on Sir Charles Stuart, [1]  – & I had also obtained Mr Awdreys [2]  direction. I go richly provided with directions, letters &c.

I saw Edward on Sunday, when Mrs Gonne took me over in her coach. There is not the slightest alteration in his countenance since I saw him last.

Directions were given that a copy of my Billet Doux should be franked to you as soon as it was published, & I was much mortified at finding that this had not been done. More than 2000 copies have sold, – & the sale still continues. Never had any man a compleater triumph, – congratulations have poured in upon me from all quarters, nor could I have wished for a better opportunity of trampling upon my enemies than this Slander-Smith has afforded me. [3] 

I have been more weary than ever of London, & more than ever engaged & distracted in it. Literally not a minute has been unemployed. We dined with Frere yesterday, but parl. business prevented Canning from meeting us. [4]  I went to the dinner of the R. Academy [5]  because Wm Smith was to be there, – but he has with proper discretion taken his dose patiently, & given notice to that effect in parliament. [6]  – Today after winding up all my other business I have written half a score letters, – & am now in my travelling dress ready for dinner, the Doctor having a party at home.

I will not fail to visit the picture at Neufchatel. [7]  My Love to my Aunt & all the young ones. I expect to be braced by exercise, change of air, & change of circumstances. And I shall buy books, – Harry will tell you how they are to be less costly than on my last trip. But the pleasantest part of an excursion is the end of it, – the best hour of the day is when we go to bed, – & I verily believe that it is mans own fault if the happiest day of his death is not the happiest of his life.

God bless you


I shall look carefully for the other books of the Ex Jesuits. [8] 


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Worting/ near Basingstoke
Postmark: [partial] xx17
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 159. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779–1845; DNB), Envoy Extraordinary to Portugal and Brazil 1810–1814. BACK

[2] John Awdry (1766–1844), solicitor in Reybridge and husband of Jane, née Bigg-Wither (1770–1845), sister of Herbert Hill’s wife, Catherine. Southey visited him twice in Switzerland on his continental journey of 1817. BACK

[3] 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’s response was his ‘Billet Doux’, A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (1817). BACK

[4] Canning was in attendance at the House of Commons on the evening of 7 May 1817 and spoke on the issue of whether the Revd Thomas Thirlwall (d. 1827) should be required to attend the Commons on a charge of breach of privilege. BACK

[5] The Anniversary Dinner of the Royal Academy on 3 May 1817. BACK

[6] In the House of Commons debate on 7 May 1817 in which Canning spoke, Smith had said: ‘he had always considered it to be a kind of duty in every member to withhold himself from defence out of doors of any expressions he might have used within. On that duty he had acted strictly and bona fide’. This might be interpreted as a declaration by Smith that he would not respond to Southey. BACK

[7] The painting of David de Pury (1709–1786) by Thomas Hickey (1741–1824) in the Hotel de Ville in Neuchatel. De Pury was a merchant from Neuchatel who made a fortune in Portugal and died in Lisbon. He was also an old friend of Herbert Hill. Most of de Pury’s money was left to his native city. Southey attempted to see the portrait on 28 May 1817, but could not, as the town magistrates were using the room in which it was kept. BACK

[8] After the Jesuits were suppressed in South America in 1759–1767, a number of them wrote accounts of their activities. They mainly settled in the Papal States, particularly in Bologna and Ferrara, and many of their books were published there. As Southey was visiting Italy he had a good chance of coming across some of these accounts. BACK

People mentioned

Smith, William (1756–1835) (mentioned 2 times)
Gonne, Mary (1768-1825) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Catherine (1775–1848) (mentioned 1 time)
Canning, George (1770–1827) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Edward (1809–1900) (mentioned 1 time)