3303. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 27 May 1819

3303. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 27 May 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 27 May. 1819

My dear Sir

I am happy to hear that Mrs Peachy derives benefit from a place which will always be interesting to me as the spot where I first acquired that <a> love for the grand scenery of nature, – the place where I first learnt to scramble among rocks, & where when a boy I treasured up stores of imagery, & enriched my mind with sights & sounds & feelings not to be obtained anywhere but in the school of nature. Those rocks & woods were my best teachers, – & never did any creature enjoy them with more delight than I did when I returned from Westminster at the Whitsun, & Bartholomewtide holydays. [1]  – Our house is becoming more chearful, Mrs S. is sufficiently recovered [2]  to move-about again, tho by no means well; – the rest of the family are going on well.

The worst news I have to tell you is that the Lake is at this time in the same condition as the funds, – falling, falling, falling; – & like the funds, not from the natural course of things, but from the interference of persons who when things were well would not be content to leave them as they were. [3]  You will perceive from this that upon the financial question, I agree with Sir Robert Peel – not with his son; with the late Earl Stanhope, – not with Lord Grenville, – & with the London Merchants, not with the Finance Committee. [4]  All will no doubt be well hereafter both with the funds & the lake, – but it is very certain that a great deal of immediate inconvenience is occasioned by the experiments which are going on with both, – & in the affairs of the Lake you are intimately concerned. [5]  At this moment every pier is dry, – & they are not yet contented, but mean to lower the water a foot & half more. The object is to convert what is now unsightly & useless marsh-land, into good pa meadow, & so far the object is good & the appearance of the Lake at its head & its foot will admittedly be greatly improved, – unless (which Calvert apprehends) they should uncover as much marsh as they gain. The shores which are left dry will be some time in acquiring any covering for their nakedness: – there is a vile belt around your island; [6]  however you will do with it whatever can be done, & in the course of a few years, what is now an eye-sore will add some thing to the value as well as the extent of the place. I am afraid your xx usual landing place on the island will be useless, & that a new one must be found made more to the N.W. where the water deepens.

The P Tribe of Pocklington are arrived at Barrow, [7]  fourteen in number, including servants. They came in fine weather, in the very sweetest season of the year, when a week is worth a month of any other season; & they have been in consequence so much delighted with the place, that Major Pocklington, I hear, has written to Ponsonby, saying he is sorry that he ever agreed to let the house, & intimating a wish that Ponsonby would release him from the agreement. [8]  This is placing him in a most unpleasant situation, after he has made all his arrangements with a view to residing there: & I believe he is not disposed to accede to the Majors wishes.

Bowles sent me last week his letter to Campbell, [9]  wherein in the most courteous manner & the best temper he has exposed a very false criticism & vindicated himself from a gross misrepresentation. [10]  I wrote to thank him for it, & to express at the same time my entire coincidence in opinion with him upon the Invariable Principles of Poetry, Principles which (let blockheads say what they will about New Schools, & modern improvements) are the same now as they were in the days of Job, & of Homer, [11]  & will continue the same, in all places & all times, as long as the world endures.

The Awdry’s [12]  are at this time with Mr Hill, at Worting. You would be glad to hear of John Awdrys success at Oriel. [13]  – Can I do any thing for you in London? I shall be setting out in the last week of June, – as far as such events can be foreseen: – an ill time for leaving this country, & plunging into the dust & heat of the metropolis! However it will probably rid me of my annual catarrh which has begun its course as usual with the bright weather, & if it were not to be interrupted by some such total change of life, would continue for full three months. – You will judge from this that I am very near the end of my great labour. [14]  The peninsular war [15]  will go to press immediately on my return.

Mrs S. & her sisters [16]  desires their kindest remembrances to Mrs Peachy. Present mine also &

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs faithfully

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Major-General Peachy/ 4. Princes Buildings/ Clifton/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 28603. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey attended Westminster School 1788–1792. The boys received three weeks’ holiday at Whitsun and one month at ‘Bartholomewtide’ – in effect the summer holiday, named after St Bartholomew’s Day on 24 August. BACK

[2] Charles Cuthbert Southey had been born, by a breech delivery, on 24 February 1819. BACK

[3] The House of Commons was debating legislation to recommence the convertibility of paper currency to gold, which had been suspended since 1797. The legislation passed on 2 July 1819 and convertibility was restored on 1 May 1821, but the period 1819–1821 witnessed a fall in commodity prices and rising unemployment. BACK

[4] Peel had chaired the House of Commons Select Committee that had recommended the restoration of convertibility in 1819; his father, Sir Robert Peel, 1st Baronet (1750–1830; DNB), textile manufacturer and MP for Tamworth 1790–1820, disagreed with him and presented a petition to the House of Commons on 24 May 1819 against the resumption of cash payments. Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753–1816; DNB), the radical peer, had declared in a speech in the House of Lords on 16 July 1811: ‘To believe gold necessary to a circulating medium was an idea only fit for Hottentots’; Lord Grenville had spoken in the House of Lords on 21 May 1819 in favour of restoring convertibility. The petition presented by Sir Robert Peel on 24 May was from a group of ‘London Merchants’, in opposition to the conclusions of the ‘Finance Committee’ chaired by his son. BACK

[5] The Derwentwater Estate was undertaking a large-scale drainage project to improve the quality of its land around Derwentwater. The Estate was managed on behalf of Greenwich Hospital (founded 1694 to support retired sailors). BACK

[6] Derwent Isle, an island in Derwentwater, which Peachy had purchased in 1796. He also rented some land from the Derwentwater Estate on the shore opposite the island. BACK

[7] In 1778 Joseph Pocklington (1736–1817), son of a Nottinghamshire banker, had bought Derwent Isle (then known as Vicar’s Island) and built a house, fort and ‘Druid’ stone circle on the land, before selling it to Peachy in 1796. On the lake-shore he built Barrow House, overlooking a waterfall which he diverted and enlarged – the Pocklingtons retained the ownership of Barrow House. Joseph Pocklington had left this house to his great-nephew, Joseph (1804–1874). As he was a minor, the latter’s affairs were managed by his father, Major Roger Pocklington (1775–1847). BACK

[8] Lieutenant John Ponsonby of the Royal Navy and his wife (name and dates unknown) had signed an agreement to rent Barrow House. BACK

[9] Thomas Campbell (1777–1844; DNB), Scottish poet. BACK

[10] Bowles had produced a ten-volume edition of Alexander Pope’s (1688–1744; DNB) works in 1806. In the prefatory ‘An Essay on English poetry’ to his Specimens of the British Poets, 7 vols (London, 1819), I, 1–272, Campbell had defended Pope against what he saw as his undue depreciation by Bowles, in particular the charge that Pope drew his images ‘from art more than from nature’ (I, p. 262). Bowles responded with The Invariable Principles of Poetry, in a Letter Addressed to Thomas Campbell, Esq. Occasioned by Some Critical Observations in His ‘Specimens of British Poetry,’ Particularly Relating to the Poetical Character of Pope (1819). This disagreement spiralled into a public controversy that drew in other writers, including Byron. BACK

[11] The prophet Job, reputed author of the Book of Job; and the ancient Greek epic poet Homer, to whom the Iliad and the Odyssey were attributed. BACK

[12] John Awdry (1766–1844), solicitor in Reybridge and husband of Jane, née Bigg-Wither (1770–1845), sister of Herbert Hill’s wife, Catherine Bigg-Wither. BACK

[13] The Awdrys’ eldest son, John Wither Awdry, had been elected to a Fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford, on 16 April 1819, at the same time as Hartley Coleridge. BACK

[14] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

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

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)