3319. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 16 June 1819

3319. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 16 June 1819⁠* 

My dear Harry

About the 10th of August I expect to meet Rickman in Edinburgh, [1]  – what length of time is required for post-chaising thro the sights of Scotland you must know better than I, – for I know a great deal more about Piauhy, Mato-Grosso & Para, than of Banff – Fife or Dumfries – shires. But I suppose a month will suffice, & that I may be returned by the middle of September, – which will be earlier than when you were here last. So make your arrangements to come then if you can, – & if you can be here by 15 Sept. I will look upon it as an engagement to be back by that day, – provided Parliament does not sit later than is expected, in which case my outset would be delayed. [2] 

Tom has been about ten weeks in Newlands, & had all the help that I could muster to bring him there. The outlay of his removal – in spite of that assistance, will keep him for some time in low water, – & he has no spring tide to look for at any time, which you & I, I trust, both have. However he grows fat & so does his wife, & the children are of the thriving sort, x <xxx> converting prodigious quantities of milk & flour into flesh blood & bone with the greatest ease & x expedition. [3] Tom talks of lying awake sometimes with the thought of present difficulties, – but I never hear him hint at any anxiety for what is to become of these children hereafter, – tho I can never think of it myself without much discomfort. – I had a letter from Edward last week: he tells me you had sent him some good clothes, & he came to me for help to remove him from Plymouth to Worcester. These demands come but seldom, & are always moderate.

My Constable has been hard put to it to keep up with me lately. [4]  For six months hard work in Brazil [5]  has been a tremendous outlay of time, – the my only capital. I got however 100 £ out of the review during that time, – for the paper upon copyright, – & one upon the Catacombs which appears in the next number, [6]  & I shall be ready with another paper to the same amount before I start for Scotland, & a third between the time of my return, & my journey at the fall of the leaf for London. Then I shall be fairly afloat with the help of Wesley, [7]  upon which next week I shall be able to set tooth & nail, – for one week will finish this huge history volume, of which the 101st page is now upon my desk.

I suspect the box contains a piece of plate, – send it therefore by the mail from the Bull & Mouth, & insure it for £15 at the office as you did the forks, – or for more as you may guess by the weight.

You & I do not differ about the Bullion question. [8]  There can be no standard of value. Trade is a matter of barter, always, & xxx xx paper <money> the medium by which that barter is carried on, not the standard by which either commodity is measured. It does not appear that the Bank ever abused its power by issuing too much paper. The country Bankers often did, to the great injury of those who took their notes – I pointed out that evil, in the QR. [9]  observing that it was <one of> the <first> duty of a Government to provide a safe circulation. Vansittart attempted something, but xxxx xxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxx but the Goose was frightened as soon as the Country Bankers cried boh to him. [10]  All the mischief that can ever is likely to arise from this absurd attempt to regulate the affairs of commerce by a theoretical notion about a standard of value, – has already taken place, in the stagnation & embarrassment occasioned by alarm & uncertainty during the discussion. Of course the evil is only for a time. What vexed me most was to see Peele give such proof either of a time-serving temper, or a feeble judgement; [11]  – for he must be looked to as the man who is most likely to take the lead in political affairs at some distant time. Thank Heaven there is nothing going on in the political world which is worth a care.

My Scotch tour will supply garnish for Espriella & when I am thus provided I shall not be long in putting together the numerous materials which I have collected. [12] 

At present God be thanked we all are all going on well. Cuthbert grows, & is as strong & lively as could be wished. Compared with the common run of children he is large, – but three <four> of his Newlands-cousins are young Ogres, – absolute Killcrops. [13] 

Love to Mrs G. & Louisa.

God bless you


Keswick. 16 June. 1819


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 19 JU 19/ 1819
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.102. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey visited Scotland, in the company of John Rickman and Thomas Telford, from 17 August until 1 October 1819; see Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (1929). BACK

[2] Parliament ceased sitting for the summer recess on 13 July 1819, thus allowing Rickman to leave his duties as a civil servant. BACK

[3] Tom Southey had six children: Margaret Hill Southey (b. 1811); Mary Hill Southey (b. 1812); Robert Castle Southey (1813–1828); Herbert Castle Southey (1815–1864); Eleanor Thomasina Southey (1816–1835); and Sarah Louise Southey (1818–1850). They were followed by Nelson Castle Southey (1820–1834), Sophia Jane Southey (1822–1859) and Thomas Castle Southey (1824–1896). BACK

[4] To ‘outrun the Constable’ was a term for getting into debt. BACK

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

[6] Southey’s ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 196–213, and ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’, Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 359–398. BACK

[7] The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[8] 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

[9] Southey’s article on ‘The Poor’, Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 187–235 (219): ‘The frequent failures of Provincial Banks, and the misery which they occasion, deserve the serious attention of government; no political circumstances ever in this island produce such extensive distress and ruin.’ BACK

[10] Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley (1766–1851; DNB), Chancellor of the Exchequer 1812–1823. He had proposed in 1818 that country banks should only issue paper money after depositing securities with the Bank of England. They had turned the proposal down and it had come to nothing. BACK

[11] Peel had chaired the House of Commons Select Committee that had recommended the restoration of convertibility in 1819. BACK

[12] Southey did not write a sequel to his Letters from England: By Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella (1807). BACK

[13] Changelings with insatiable appetites, as in Joseph Cottle’s poem, ‘The Killcrop’, Annual Anthology, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799–1800), I, pp. 151–160. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Emerald Bank, Newlands (mentioned 1 time)
Bull and Mouth (mentioned 1 time)