1952. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 8 September 1811

1952. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 8 September 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Sunday. Sept 8. 1811.

My dear Tom

I have something to say which your friends & neighbours may find it useful to know. Landor whose estate at Lanthony is very extensive has several hundred acres to let at this time, for 20/ an acre, tythe free, the parochial rates extremely small, & he will grant leases of 21 years, stipulating an advance of 4/ per acre after the first ten. He has also many thousand acres to let for inclosing for the same term, at 3/ for the first ten years, 6/ for the remainder. a rail road is now forming within a mile of the estate, along a level to the market town (Abergavenny) lime & marl are on the estate, & underwood <sufficient> for all the new inclosures will be given. He hopes to get a scientific tenant for about 1600 acres, to whom he would give every encouragement, but who ought to have about 6, or 7000 £ at command. The Taylors [1]  must so frequently know persons who are in want of farms, that I know no person where a man who wants to have his estate improved can so properly make up his wants known. They probably know the nature of that part of the country, that land is very low, because the roads are bad, the farming slovenly, & there is a want of large towns to take off the produce. Lanthony however has fewer of these disadvantages than most other parts of the adjoining country. It is nine miles from Abergavenny, which is the best market in that neighbourhood, – there is at present a good road of Landor’s making, & the rail road will be as good as a canal. As for the soil it is the finest possible, a rich, deep, red mould.

We spent three nights & two days with Landor, sleeping in one of the towers of the ruin, where he has three habitable rooms while his house is building. The house will be a good one, very much resembling the front of that at St Helens, from the form of its roof. When we left them, they took us as far as Hereford, & from thence we reached the Brownes at Ludlow to supper. There we past four days very pleasantly, in the course of which I saw Ludlow itself & the Castle, which is of its kind the finest <thing> I ever saw, – Croft Castle with its beautiful grounds, – the present proprietor a Mr Davis [2]  showed them to us himself with the greatest politeness. I saw this place with the more interest, because our mother’s grandmother, [3]  or her father, (I am not certain which) was born there. Another day I walked to the Boney Well, which is enumerated in Guthries Grammar among the wonders of England. [4]  The account there given is much exaggerated & very fallacious. Instead of a well, it which you suppose it literally to be because he speaks of cleaning it, it is a beautiful shallow spring. the bones are found only in the early spring, as the old woman who acted as Naiad upon the occasion told me, & it would not surprize if me if xxx a person who went at that season should be told that the right time was autumn. Another day we gave to the grounds at Downton, Knights place. [5]  I heard a great deal of Lucien Buonaparte, [6]  who had unluckily removed to the neighbourhood of Worcester. every thing was in his favour, except that his poem is in French. Sir Charles Knowles [7]  resides there, a very gentlemanly man, tho somewhat wearying in his discourse. He gave me some xxx books of his own writing about naval affairs, which you must shall overhaul when next you visit Keswick.

Three days we feasted upon the venison & pineapples at Teddesley, where the Wolseleys [8]  met. Mr Wolseley is become methodistical, & Miss Browne, [9]  much to the regret of her father, is very far gone in the same diseased state of religion. From Teddesley we struck again into Wales, & halted with Wynn at Llangedwin, – dined on our way, after we left him, with the Ladies of Llangollen, [10]  stopt two days & a half at Liverpool with Koster, then took the mail to Kendal, & found all well at home.

Mrs Rathbone [11]  & Mr Holbrooke [12]  desired particularly to be remembered to you. So did the Martins [13]  also, Roscoe I did not see. he asked me to breakfast to meet a Marquis from Mexico, [14]  to whom Wm R. [15]  introduced me at the Exhibition, [16]  – but I was previously engaged.

James White comes to us on Tuesday. Humphrey Senhouse comes at the same time to the Colonel. I have left myself <room> for nothing more than our love to Sarah & a kiss to Margaret.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Captain Southey. R.N./ St Helens/ Bishops Auckland/ Durham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 229–230 [in part]. BACK

[1] George Taylor, from whom Tom Southey was renting a house. William Taylor (dates unknown), George Taylor’s brother, was also a farmer with literary interests. BACK

[2] Somerset Davies (c. 1755–1817). BACK

[3] Margaret Croft (dates unknown), Southey’s great-grandmother. BACK

[4] William Guthrie (1708?–1770; DNB), A New Geographical, Historical and Commercial Grammar, 2 vols (London, 1771), I, p. 281, described the ‘remarkable fountain near Richard’s castle in Herefordshire, commonly called Bone-well, which is generally full of small bones, like those of frogs or fish, though often cleared out’. Southey at some point acquired an 1808 edition of Guthrie, no. 1256 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[5] The art collector and writer Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824; DNB), who had inherited and improved an estate at Downton, Herefordshire. An advocate for the picturesque he had, by 1811, acquired a reputation as an arbiter of taste. His publications included The Landscape: A Didactic Poem (1794) and An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste (1805). BACK

[6] Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), brother of Napoleon. He had been captured by the British in 1810 and was living at Thorngrove in Worcestershire. He later published a poem, Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Délivrée (1814). Southey was asked to translate it, but refused; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 23 April 1811, Letter 1910. BACK

[7] Sir Charles Henry Knowles, 2nd baronet (1754–1831; DNB), naval officer who had been promoted to the rank of full admiral on 31 July 1810. He is credited with having made the earliest suggestion for naval aircraft, when in 1803 he proposed that balloons be flown from shipboard in order to observe the French fleet at Brest. His published writings included A Set of Signals for the Fleet, On a Plan Entirely New (1778). BACK

[8] Probably Reverend Robert Wolseley (c. 1768–1815) and his wife. Wolseley had been head of school at Westminster at the time Southey went there; see Southey to Thomas Southey, 3 August 1808, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Three, Letter 1483. BACK

[9] Probably one of Wade Browne’s daughters from his first marriage: Lydia (c. 1789–1864); Elizabeth; or Sarah. BACK

[11] Probably Hannah Mary Rathbone (d. 1839), the widow of the Liverpool merchant, philanthropist and Quaker William Rathbone (1757–1809; DNB). She lived at Greenbank, Liverpool. BACK

[12] Unidentified. BACK

[13] Thomas Martin (1769–1850), formerly a Unitarian minister at Great Yarmouth, where Southey had met him in 1798, but by this time a merchant in Liverpool. He was later Secretary of the Liverpool Royal Institution. His wife was Frances Julia Martin (1776–1854). BACK

[14] Unidentified. BACK

[15] The Liverpool merchant and philanthropist William Rathbone (1787–1868), son of Hannah Mary and William Rathbone. BACK

[16] An exhibition at the Liverpool Academy of Arts, founded in 1810. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Llanthony (mentioned 2 times)
Teddesley (mentioned 2 times)