3553. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 12 November 1820

3553. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 12 November 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 12 Nov. 1820

My dear Harry

Have you received a small parcel from Ludlow, which a trusty carrier was to deliver to you, – containing a watch for Edith May, a present from Mr Browne? [1]  – If you have, unless you happen to know that Senhouse is coming this way & can take charge of it, – you had better send it by coach, & insure it according to its value. What this may be I cannot tell, but you can open the box or parcel, & judge its cost.

Nash has left us, & is I hope by this time safe in town. He takes up some likenesses & sketches which you will be pleased with seeing. – You will admire a dinner scene beside Bowscale Tarn, & wish you had been one of the party.

Miss Wilbraham [2]  is in better humour with the Newlanders than they are with her, – however I think they will & must rub on with her, as long as she will stay. And whenever they lose her, they must look their situation fairly in the face, which they have never yet ventured to do. – We had here for five or six days, – to her great delight

We are all going on well. Cuthbert is a fine creature, as you will see by Nashs portrait of him. He begins to use his tongue now, & produces sounds comical enough to prove his legitimacy. Edith May is with Miss Hutchinson at Rydale. My Aunt Mary has a cold, but is in good spirits, & seems to enjoy herself as one could wish. She is very fond of Cuthbert, & he of her.

Murray has not yet sent me a proof of the War. [3]  I have made some way in the Book of the Church [4] , & in many other things. – My services are not likely to be wanted for a Coronation. [5]  – What a thoroughly disgraceful business this is to the nation, & the legislature! [6] Mrs Gonne however has heard the contents of the bag. [7]  I suppose you will have to illuminate again. [8] 

How are you all going on, – the Queer Beast, & Charles, [9]  – & Louisa & Mrs G – & your Lordship? & how are all at Streatham? –

God bless you


AD. 821. – totam Angliam contereret hoc anno quidam morbus, quasi paralysis, nervis hominum, mulierum ac infantium frigore repentino et excessivo, venis durius orientibus, nullo prævalente pannorum remedio repercussis, ac maxime brachiis ac manibus hominum inutilibus factis et totaliter arefactis; – quem quidem morbum præiens, quasi nuntius ejus certissimus, dolor intolerabilis membrum sic ægrotans præoccupabat. – Ingulfus. Acta SS. April T.2. p. 52. [10] 

The best remedy was – a pilgrimage to the shrine of S Guthlac at Croyland. [11]  (I suspect Goodluck to be a modernization of this name.)


Here is something which looks like a case of Black Pxlxxxxxx, or rather like

In the life of S John of Beverley [12]  a beggar is described, as dumb from his birth & adeo obscænus lurida capitis fœditate, ut præoccupato a tineâ toto circulo capitis, pro pilis horrebat raris et hirsutis quasi porcorum satis.

Do May T.2. p. 169 [13] 



* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ 15. Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 15 NO 15/ 1820
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 4. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Wade Browne had ordered this present for Edith May Southey from Paris; see Southey to Edith May Southey, 25–29 April 1820, Letter 3470. BACK

[2] 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. BACK

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

[4] Southey’s The Book of the Church (1824). BACK

[5] The Coronation of George IV was delayed until 19 July 1821 and Southey escaped writing any verses on the occasion. BACK

[6] Southey here refers to the controversy around Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821; DNB), estranged wife of George IV. He had pressurised his Cabinet into preparing a Bill of Pains and Penalties to dissolve their marriage and deprive her of the title of Queen. She had rejected compromise terms offered by the Cabinet and had arrived in England on 5 June 1820. The House of Lords had begun to debate the Bill on 17 August, and what was effectively a trial of Caroline for adultery continued until 10 November, when the Bill passed by only nine votes and the Cabinet immediately dropped it on the grounds that it could not pass the House of Commons. BACK

[7] The evidence that had been collected of Queen Caroline’s adultery was presented to the House of Lords on 6 June 1820 in two green bags. It was examined by a committee of fifteen peers, who were satisfied that there was a sufficient case to proceed with the Bill of Pains and Penalties. BACK

[8] To celebrate the Queen’s victory on 10 November 1820, many radicals put lighted candles in their windows to signal their support for Caroline. BACK

[9] Henry Herbert Southey’s third son, Charles Gonne Southey (1819–1861), later an army officer in India, was born on 23 October 1819. His older brother, Robert Southey (b. 1817), was probably the ‘Queer Beast’. BACK

[10] ‘AD 821: In this year a sickness wore down all England; it was, as it were, a paralysis, in which the nerves of men, women and infants were struck by a continual and excessive chill, and their veins rose up more hard, with no remedy of cloths being efficacious; and in particular men’s arms and hands became useless and totally withered. Going before this sickness, as if a most sure harbinger of it, an intolerable pain would seize upon a limb that was sick in this way.’ Acta Sanctorum, 53 vols (Antwerp and Brussels, 1643–1794), April II (1675), p. 52, no. 207 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[11] St Guthlac (643–714; DNB), hermit and saint. His shrine was at Crowland Abbey. ‘Goodluck’ as a surname and place name is indeed a modernisation of ‘Guthlac’. BACK

[12] St John of Beverley (d. 721; DNB), Bishop of Hexham 687–705, Archbishop of York 705–717. BACK

[13] The passage translates as: ‘and so repulsive in his head’s ghastly deformity, since, a louse having taken hold in the whole circle of his head, he was shaggy with sparse and rough bristles like those of pigs, instead of having hair’, Acta Sanctorum, 53 vols (Antwerp and Brussels, 1643–1794), May II (1680), p. 169, no. 207 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Rydal Mount (mentioned 1 time)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)