1974. Robert Southey to Mary Matilda Betham, 30 October 1811

1974. Robert Southey to Mary Matilda Betham, 30 October 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Oct 30. 1811.

You will think it very odd if I should prove the means of suiting your brother with a farm. [1] 

Landor has land to let upon an improving lease. It is in the vale of Ewias, where Lanthony Abbey stands, & where he is building a house for himself. Abergavenny is the market town, – at a distance of nine miles. Now I should tell you that a brother of Mrs Wordsworths  [2]  has been to look at this land, & declined it because the vale is too narrow, the hills too steep, & Landor will have no trouble in building farm houses, – tho he is ready to find materials, but he admits that the land <soil> is the best possible. Xx

– I have been looking over my letters to find the exact words of Landor himself. “I have several hundred acres to let instantly for a pound an acre, tithe free, extremely small parochial rates, a lease for 21 years, but after the first ten, a rise of four shillings per acre. Many thousands of land to be inclosed at 3/shillings for the first 10 years, six for the remaining, – a rail now forming within a mile along a level to the market-town – lime & marl on the estate, & underwood sufficient for all the new inclosures, which will be given. I hope to get a scientific tenant for about 1600 acres. He shall have every encouragement, but he should have 6 or 7000£.”

There are his words. Should your brother think it worth while to write, his address is Walter Savage Landor. – Lanthony, Abergavenny. Let him use my name as an introduction. Were Lanthony not quite so far from town I should advise him to go there <& see it>. It is a beautiful but very lonely spot. There would be no society there, – except Landor himself, – but then you know there is but one Landor in the world.

I saw Richters [3]  pictures at Liverpool, – & having previously seen his studies for the subject of Christ restoring sight to the Blind, [4]  I have no doubt that he has acted with a proper confidence in his own interests in passing from the comic to the heroic line of art, – & as little do I doubt that he will be as eminently succesful in the one as in the other. Indeed he is a man of first rate genius.

Since our return I have got on xx with Pelayo, [5]  highly to my own satisfaction. I long to show you a scene the whole application of which bears upon the present state of Spain, – & which I think is in a higher strain of passion than any thing in my former poems. Next year I hope we shall see you here. Bertha whom you remember in arms is now a great rosy cheeked girl, so plump, & square faced as to have got the name of Queen Henry the 8th. – The Moon has the same face, with a less healthy appearance, than when you used to make him sit on the floor for his picture. We are all going on well thank God. I have been writing on the business of Bell & the Dragon in the Quarterly, [6]  & am about to enlarge & reprint the article for the purpose of striking a desperate & deadly blow at the Edinburgh, – which I shall hold up to contempt & indignation for the gross folly, & gross falsehood which it has displayed upon this subject.

God bless you. As this is a letter of business I shall not delay it by sending it cruising for a frank. Ediths love.

Yrs very truly

R Southey.


* Address: To/ Miss Betham/ 49. Upper Mary-le-bone Street
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 2 NO 2/ 1811
Endorsement: To me 49 Upr Marylebe St
MS: Beinecke Library, Osborn MSS File ‘S’, Folder 14103. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: E. Betham, A House of Letters (Norwich, 1905), pp. 136–137 [in part]. BACK

[1] Charles Betham (b. 1779), brother of Mary Matilda. Southey had recommended him to Landor; see Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 10 October 1811, Letter 1962. Southey later deeply regretted this introduction; see Southey to [Robert Eyres Landor], 4 July 1814, Letter 2455. BACK

[2] Thomas Hutchinson (1773–1849). Since 1808 he had farmed at Hindwell, Radnorshire. BACK

[3] The painter and philosopher Henry James Richter (1772–1857; DNB). His early works dealt with literary and genre topics, including Falstaff and a brutish husband. In 1809 he began to exhibit watercolours and was one of the few artists to produce works on historical subjects in this medium. He was a pioneer of painting from and in nature. BACK

[4] Christ Giving Sight to the Blind (1812), painted in bright sunlight on the roof of Richter’s home in London. BACK

[5] The early incarnation of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[6] Southey’s defence of Bell appeared in Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304. It was expanded into The Origin, Nature and Object, of the New System of Education (1812). BACK

People mentioned

Wordsworth, Mary (1770–1859) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Bertha (1809–1877) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)
Bell, Andrew (1753–1832) (mentioned 1 time)
Lancaster, Joseph (1778–1838) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Llanthony (mentioned 3 times)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)