1297. Robert Southey to Charles Biddlecombe, 25 March 1807

1297. Robert Southey to Charles Biddlecombe, 25 March 1807 ⁠* 

Keswick. Cumberland. March 25. 1807.

My dear Biddlecombe

You will think that I have forgotten you, & forgotten also the stray books & chattels which have been so long trespassing upon your hospitality. The truth is that these very things have been the cause of preventing me from dropping you now & then a letter, because I have been always looking on to fixing myself, & hoping soon that I should write to request that they might be dispatched. That time is come at last. My resolution is taken to become a settled resident here at Keswick, – & as I have been here three years & a half on trial, nobody can say the resolution is a hasty one. I will therefore beg you to consign whatever you have of mine in the shape of books, papers, prints & portraits to the care of Rickman: who will forward it forthwith to me by sea, by way of Whitehaven. From this I except a certain portrait of myself (the framed from side face) – which if you think it worthy of retaining a place in your parlour, is very much at your service, & will serve to remind you of one who neither has forgotten, nor wil can forget, many friendly acts of hospitality & good neighbourhood, & many pleasant hours, for which he is indebted to you.

Since we met in London I have had an increase to my family, which now consists of a daughter Edith, nearly three years old, & a son, Herbert, nearly six months, – both strong, hearty, & fine children – who furnish me with abundant amusement. Edith is very much improved in health since she was in Hampshire; – nursing agrees wonderfully with her, & she is grown fat & strong. I myself am th as usual – first cousin to a skeleton, – but my skin – & bones x continue to enjoy the same good health & good spirits. I go on as I begun, & am perhaps a closer student than ever; – my main occupation at present is upon a great work respecting South America, – for which I possess very ample & very important manuscript documents. [1]  – Now in return for this bulletin – tell me how you & yours go on, – if your good mother be still, as I trust, in the land of the living & enjoying life – & if Mr Coleman [2]  also; – When I travel into the West – as perhaps I shall <may> before the end of the year, I will make a bend out of my way for the sake of seeing Burton & my old friends there. – Perhaps you may one day be disposed to travel Northward – whenever that is the case we shall be very glad to make you feel that you are right heartily welcome, – & to show you the country better than guides can do. Your old acquaintance Lloyd (who has not forgotten to enquire after you) is settled near Ambleside, – & we have for our summer neighbour a gentleman of whom you may perhaps know something as he was formerly member for Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight – & is I believe either a Hampshire man, or somehow connected with the county – colonel Peachy.

Your little girl must by this time be grown a great one: – I suppose what you know of Catholicism does not induce you to side with ministry on the present question. [3]  I am decidedly hostile to it, & would x not have the slightest relaxation in the existing laws against Roman a religion, the most monstrous in its pretensions, the most impudent in its assertions, & the most fatal in its tendency that ever human craft imposed upon human credulity. Few persons perhaps understand it better than myself, for I have studied its history, & seen its effects in countries where it flourishes in all its glory. Indeed I have long resolved on writing the History of the Monastic Orders, & have long been collecting knowledge & materials for this purpose: whenever I have leisure this will be the work which I shall pursue, & sure I am that it will give the people of England a very different idea of the Catholic religion from what at present they very generally entertain. [4] 

I see the Christ-Church news in the Monthly Magazine [5]  – that is news of all the fish, birds & flowers in the neighbourhood, with occasional mention of my old friends the forest flies & the Brinston bucks. Mr Bingley is a useful man, – he is sometimes a little credulous about animals, & should have uniformly given references to the authors from upon whom he relies – but his books is a very interesting & very valuable one, – & he must be a great acquisition to your society

Edith desires to be kindly remembered to you – your Mother – & Mr Coleman. – My brother Tom is still a Lieutenant, & now in the Pallas Frigate, [6]  which is off Brest. Should he come to Spithead he would I think be enquiring after you –

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Charles Biddlecombe Esqr/ Burton/ Ringwood/ Hampshire
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAR28/ 1807
Seal: [illegible] red wax
Watermark: 1801
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s History of Brazil which appeared in three volumes from 1810 to 1819. BACK

[2] An acquaintance of Southey’s from his residence at Burton in 1797 and 1799. BACK

[3] The so-called Ministry of All the Talents, of which Wynn was a member, fell because the King would not accede to its plan to introduce an act emancipating Catholics from the civil penalties and restrictions placed upon them. BACK

[4] This project was never completed. BACK

[5] The Rev. William Bingley (1774–1823; DNB), the naturalist, traveller and local historian, was a neighbour of Biddlecombe’s as a curate of Christchurch Priory, Hampshire, from 1802 to 1816. Bingley contributed material on the history of the church and the parish to the Monthly; his Animal Biography; or, Authentic Anecdotes of the Lives, Manners and Economy, of the Animal Creation, Arranged According to the System of Linnæus (1803), reached a third, expanded edition in 1805. Its publisher was Richard Phillips, also publisher of the Monthly. BACK

[6] Thomas Southey’s ship, launched in 1804, was a 32 gun fifth rate frigate, whose first captain was Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860; DNB), under whom she was involved in the capture of many French and Spanish warships. In 1807, command passed to Captain George Miller (dates unknown). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Burton (mentioned 2 times)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)