3735. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 15 October 1821

3735. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 15 October 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 15 Oct. 1821.

Dr Neale speaking of Constantinople says ‘Consumptions are not infrequent; & generally they are as fatal as elsewhere; altho the Turks have a popular remedy, which in some instances I have observed to be beneficial, namely a few grains of pitch, made into pills, & administered several times a day. A similar mode of cure has I understand, been long employed by the Scottish peasantry. The decoction of the sprouts of the young pine has been strongly recommended by the late Dr Porterfield [1]  of Eden, who is said to have been very succesful in the exhibition of this simple medicine. Oriental nations have at all times put great faith in the juices of terebinthate & balsamic shrubs. The balsam of Mecca or Gilead [2]  is still considered by the Turks as a sort of panacea in stomachic & chronic visceral affections: the difficulty of obtaining it pure & unadulterated – & its high price – are perhaps the real reasons why, like other vaunted remedies, it still maintains so high a reputation.’

Neales Travels. p. 248. [3] 

Pitch pills [4]  must have the same virtues as Tar Water [5]  – whatever that may be; – & it may be worth your while to look at Berkeleys marvellous essay upon that subject. [6]  – I remember (in connection with this subject) that some person advertised a secret & sure remedy either for consumption or scrofula (I am not certain which) & wanted a subscription as the price of making it public. After awhile another paragraph appeared saying so many pressing letters had been addressed to him, that tho a sum of money would have been most highly useful to him, he could not with conscienciously delay the publication of a remedy for want of which so many of his fellow creatures were suffering: – & he stated it to be pitch pills – I think of considerable size. – The advertisements I am pretty sure are in one of my Scrap volumes, & I will hunt them out, if you wish for more accuracy than my recollection xxx can furnish. [7] 

Thank Dr Asburner [8]  for the use of his book. I am about to send some books to my Uncle, & will take that opportunity of returning it, – as also of sending a packet for Henry Robinson, which you will be good enough to convey to his chambers.

My working season is now going on. The last of our Laking acquaintance took their departures to day. Tomorrow I go to dine in Toms dirty & uncomfortable house; – this is por meus peccados. [9]  Wednesday a poor Dane Andersen Feldberg by name comes to dine with me, & then in all likelihood I shall settle without farther interruption to the quiet regularity of winter work. – I marvel that Miss Wilbraham [10]  has stayed where she is so long, paying a sum which ought to command a <much> better manner of living in all respects; – & yet they grumble at having her, & would, I am surely gladly be rid of her, – tho even with her, they cannot live within their income, & there is another child coming! [11]  Poor thing, without liking her, I pity her very much, & wish I could like her better. She has many good feelings, – tho both Tom & his wife have an absolute dislike to her, & take so little pains to conceal it, that it would long ago have been discovered by any one but herself.

I was at Lowther lately with Senhouse & Wordsworth. The house is as pleasant as a house of that kind can be, & the visit will be useful inasmuch as Lord Fred. Bentinck will get me papers, or at least answers to any questions which I may wish to ask, from his brother Lord Wm & from Lord Hill. [12]  The printer [13]  does not hurry me with this history. He has however got to 392 pages; & I see the end of the volume. The reprint of Brazil is nearly finished [14] 

For the first time Gifford has printed a paper of mine without mutilation. [15]  He has only made one alteration, – it is a very stupid one, p. 293, where I said that Hampden might have left a name scarcely inferior to Washington, [16]  he has expunged those words & said a memorable name; thereby making nonsense, for God knows his name is memorable, – there is no question about that. – I wrote that life with great pleasure, & with little trouble, after the materials were collected. But I have large collections concerning those times, & much to say upon them, which will appear partly in the B of the Church, [17]  & in the life of G. Fox. [18] 

I heard a good thing concerning John Bull. Some persons called to horse whip the Editor. [19]  Visits of this kind were expected, – & accordingly there was an Editor from – the Five’s Court [20]  to receive them, an ugly customer whose appearance at once settled the matter peaceably.

How are you all going on? – Senhouse & I talk of a run to Holland next year. [21]  In that case you will see me in the spring. We think that May & June might be well spent in visiting the land of the Hogen Mogen, & returning up the Rhine to Worms & Spire & so by Nancy & Rheims. I have seen nothing of your Ventriloquist. [22] 

Love to Louisa, the children & Mrs Gonne. We are all tolerably well.

God bless you


Bedford has a letter to show you concerning Mrs Coleridges language, – which I have denominated the lingo-grande. [23] 


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ 15. Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 18 OC 18/ 1821
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.118. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] William Porterfield (c. 1696–1771), Scottish physician. BACK

[2] A resin extracted from the tree Commiphora gileadensis and used as a perfume and a drug. BACK

[3] Adam Neale (d. 1832; DNB), Travels through Some Parts of Germany, Poland, Moldavia, and Turkey (London, 1818), p. 248, no. 2098 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] Pills made from the resin from trees. BACK

[5] A medieval medicine of pine tar and water, revived in the nineteenth century as a tonic. BACK

[6] George Berkeley (1685–1753; DNB), Anglo-Irish philosopher and author of Siris, a Chain of Philosophical Reflections and Inquiries, Concerning the Virtues of Tar-Water (1744). BACK

[7] These advertisements are untraced. BACK

[8] John Archibald Ashburner (1793–1878), Physician to the London Smallpox Hospital 1818–1824, later a prominent midwife and advocate of mesmerism. He had lent Southey a book on Quakerism for his unrealised biography of the movement’s founder, George Fox (1624–1691; DNB). BACK

[9] ‘for my sins’. BACK

[10] 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

[11] 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). They were followed by Sophia Jane Southey (1822–1859), who was born on 30 March 1822, and Thomas Castle Southey (1824–1896). BACK

[12] Lord William Frederick Cavendish Bentinck (1781–1828), MP for Weobley 1816–1824, MP for Queenborough 1824–1826; on 16 September 1820 he married Lady Mary Lowther (d. 1863), daughter of the 1st Earl of Lonsdale. His brother who could help Southey with his History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832) was Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck (1774–1839; DNB), who served in Spain before commanding British troops in Sicily 1811–1815. Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill (1772–1840; DNB), was one of the most brilliant British commanders in the Peninsular War 1808–1813. BACK

[13] Thomas Davison (1766–1831). BACK

[14] The second edition of the first volume only of the History of Brazil (1822). BACK

[15] Southey’s ‘Life of Cromwell’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 279–347, published 17 October 1821. BACK

[16] ‘Life of Cromwell’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 293, where Southey had intended to compare the Parliamentarian, John Hampden (c. 1595–1643; DNB), to George Washington (1732–1799; President of the United States 1789–1797). BACK

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

[18] Southey did not write his planned life of George Fox (1624–1691; DNB), founder of the Society of Friends. BACK

[19] John Bull (1820–1892), a conservative Sunday newspaper that strongly supported George IV and vituperatively attacked radicals. Its founding editor was Theodore Hook (1788–1841; DNB), practical joker and miscellaneous writer. BACK

[20] The London Fives Court, St Martin’s Street, was the premier centre of British boxing. BACK

[21] This trip was delayed until 1825 and Senhouse was unable to accompany Southey. BACK

[22] Nicolas Marie Alexandre Vattemare (1796–1864), famous French ventriloquist under the stage name ‘M. Alexandre’, and promoter of international exchanges between museums and libraries. BACK

[23] Southey to Stumparumper [Grosvenor Charles Bedford], 14 September 1821, Letter 3730. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Lowther estate (mentioned 1 time)