3498. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 25 June 1820

3498. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 25 June 1820⁠* 

If we travel in chaises we shall hardly arrive before evening. I should very much prefer the mail, but the fatigue would perhaps be too much for my Aunt. & moreover we could not be sure of places, or likely to get them. This being the case you may look for us on Sunday evening. Perhaps I may write a few lines from Birmingham. [1] 

Streatham. Sunday 25 June. 1820

My dear Edith

Your account of the children [2]  is xxx rather what might be expected than wished. I dare say summer, bathing & ripe fruit will soon set them to rights. The main thing with Cuthbert must be to attend to his bowels, – teething will account for his increased irritability (which must also be looked for at his age) & for the redness in his face, which I believe is no bad symptom at that time. I suppose you have introduced him to the strawberry bed, which will prove a useful as well as agreable acquaintance.

If it had not been for one expression in your letter, I should have thought it was written in an uncomfortable tone of feeling. With regard to Tom & his family I need no vexation beyond what the certain prospect before them must needs give me whenever that distressing subject is presented. [3]  I do not see any chance of fortune which can prevent them from being a heavy burthen, & a sore grief to me as long as I live, unless he were to make up his mind to leave the kingdom, & remove with them to the Cape, [4]  or some place where the larger the family, the better the settler fares; & this is a thought which probably has never entered his mind. Harry & I have often talked the matter over. This boarder, if we can succeed in the negociation, will give him a good lift, but only for a time. [5]  It is not likely that she will remain more than half a year; that however is something, & in as far as it is gain to him, must be a saving to me; for you must well know that when my brother is in want, however much I may blame him for marrying with such wilful & premeditated imprudence, I cannot but assist him to the extent of my power. In such a case I must do as my Mother would have wished me to do, had she been living. – It may put me occasionally to some inconvenience & may deprive me of some luxuries which would otherwise be within my reach: – hardly this. But how little should I deserve the abundant blessings with which it has pleased God to favour me if I dealt <otherwise> towards him xxxxxxxxxxx & withheld assistance which it might be in my power to bestow? He however will be guilty of the most unpardonable imprudence if he goes on relying upon what he can draw from me, from Harry & from my Uncle (to whom I find he is in the habit of applying.) All these resources must be casual. We have none of us too much for ourselves & with our lives all our assistance must fail. My family will be provided for in the event of my death, but I can make no provision for any other persons.

Whenever that event may take place, my Will will be found in my desk (the upper part of it) in a sealed paper. It leaves every thing to you for your life, & afterwards divides it equally among the children. My brother Henry, John May & Neville White are, with their xxxx consent, appointed executors & trustees. John May assures me that my insurance of 4000£ is at this time worth six. [6]  I undervalue my property therefore in stating it at ten thousand pounds, were I to die this day: – twelve would be nearer the mark. And if I live & do well I shall from this time forward begin to accumulate property rapidly, having, I may say, engaged for work which will xx xxxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxxx xxxxx <enable me to lay by at least 500> a year. [7] 

Let us then my dear Edith, be thankful. You have a kind heart & have never wanted the will to do good according to your means. The means hereafter will be more correspondent to the will. I will not fill this paper with telling you what my plans are, farther than saying that I have my choice of three works for each of which I xxx <may> have at the rate of a thousand guineas for a quarto volume; [8]  & that I have refused 1500£ for Oliver Newman, with two contingent payments afterwards of 50£ each. [9]  Wesley [10]  has raised my reputation to the highest pitch. About all these things we will talk in another weeks time. Places for Nash & myself will be taken in the Birmingham Mail for Wednesday next. & if we proceed by chaises from thence, as I suppose we shall, in order to make the journey easier for my Aunt, we shall reach home on Sunday. I should far rather have run down by myself directly in the mail. But it will suit themx xx much better to travel in my company, & you know I am not in the habit of considering myself alone. You will easily manage about beds, when once you set about it. John Cockbaine [11]  with some blue paper, or Glover [12]  with some water colours, could make the lumber room fit for Edith & Bertha, & my Aunt might occupy their chamber. This would be better than doing any thing with the damp wing room. Your wish to have me for a few days at least to yourself, I take kindly, as it is meant. Nash you know is not like a visitor. He will open his portfolio, & fall to work, like one of the family, in All Saints Chamber, [13]  while I work in my own room & in my own way. And my Aunt will make herself happy by endeavouring to make herself useful. She is an excellent woman. & it is really a great gratification to me that she is coming to visit us at last.

I have a great deal to tell you when we meet. In my last I hinted at Hartleys misconduct. [14]  Whether he will break the matter to his mother before he comes down I know not, – but I own it surprizes me that he should think of coming down under such circumstances. – Poole is in town, & dined with us yesterday at Rickmans. – Louisa & Mrs G. return to London tomorrow. the latter & the children much the better for Tunbridge air. Louisa is grown stout & seems in excellent health. I breakfast tomorrow with Sir T Ackland, at Mitcham, & on Tuesday get to town as early as I can having still much to buy & to do. I hope you will like your scarf. Mrs Hill sends Edith what I suppose to be a gown-piece of worked muslin. I am afraid it would be useless to open the parcel in Q Anne Street to look for her shoes & gloves, because I should not know them from yours, or any others. It is odd that I have not received the watch for her. [15]  – What a relief it will be to feel myself once more quietly at home, among my books & papers! As for poor Cuddys being disimproved, I suppose it is wholly owing to the effect of the measles, & to the eruption which frequently attends teething. Tell him that I am going tomorrow to buy pretty things. In a very few hours he will learn to remember me, I warrant, especially when I speak the rhinoceros-language. – The weather is excessively hot. – Perhaps I may find time this morning to write a letter to the children, which I would have done oftener if I could. [16]  My love to them. God bless you – yr affectionate RS.


* Address: To/ Mrs Southey/ Keswick/ Cumberland
Postmark: [partial] o’clock/ 26/ NT
Stamped: [illegible]
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 214–215. BACK

[1] If we travel … Birmingham: the postscript is written upside down at the top of fol. 1r. BACK

[3] Tom Southey had seven 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); Sarah Louise Southey (1818–1850); and Nelson Castle Southey (1820–1834), born on 8 May 1820. They were followed by Sophia Jane Southey (1822–1859) and Thomas Castle Southey (1824–1896). BACK

[4] There were no fewer than six different state-aided emigration schemes in 1815–1826 to Canada and the Cape of Good Hope, including a grant of £50,000 in July 1819 to send 4,000 settlers to South Africa. BACK

[5] Tom Southey’s lodger, Mary Laetitia Wilbraham (b. 1799), daughter of Randle Wilbraham (1773–1861) of Rode Hall in Cheshire. She later married Joseph-Harrison Tryer (b. 1797) of Whitley House, Northumberland. Although Southey found her harmless, even comical, Tom and his wife disliked her intensely, causing a great deal of tension in their household; see Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 15 October 1821, Letter 3735. BACK

[6] Southey had taken out a policy with the Equitable Life Assurance Society (founded 1762), of which John May was a Director. BACK

[7] Southey had agreed to write for John Murray a History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832), The Book of the Church (1824), Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829), and a series of (unrealised) biographical studies. BACK

[8] Probably a reference to the History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832), and two unrealised projects that Southey had discussed with Murray. The notes for the first survived and were posthumously published as ‘Collections for the History of Manners and Literature in England’, Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 439–578; see Southey to John Rickman, 7 July 1820, Letter 3508. The second project was a biography of Warren Hastings (1732–1818; DNB), Governor-General of Bengal 1773–1785, which Southey eventually declined to undertake. BACK

[9] Southey’s unfinished epic, set in New England. The completed sections were published after Southey’s death in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 1–90. BACK

[10] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). It was also proving profitable for Southey, selling out quickly and going into a second edition in 1820. BACK

[11] John Cockbaine (1786–1873), Keswick draper and tailor. BACK

[12] John Glover (1767–1849; DNB), the watercolour painter who owned Blowick Farm in Patterdale, on Ullswater. BACK

[13] The room at Greta Hall that contained Southey’s copy of the Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), a massive 53-volume compendium of hagiographies, which he had bought in Brussels in 1817, no. 207 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[14] John Taylor Coleridge had been told by the clergyman and poet John Keble (1792–1866; DNB) that his cousin Hartley Coleridge had lost his Fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford, on 30 May 1820, the end of his probationary year, on the grounds of intemperance. John Taylor Coleridge had then forwarded Keble’s letter to Southey, who had to break the news to Hartley’s mother and friends in the Lakes. BACK

[15] Wade Browne had ordered a watch for Edith May Southey from Paris. BACK

[16] See Southey to Bertha, Kate and Isabel Southey, 26 June 1820, Letter 3499. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 1 time)