1332. Robert Southey to Hartley Coleridge, 13 June 1807

1332. Robert Southey to Hartley Coleridge, 13 June 1807 ⁠* 

Keswick. June 13. 1807.

Nephew Job

First I have to thank you for your letter & your poem, & secondly to explain why I have not done this sooner. We were a long time without knowing where you where, & when news came from Miss Barker that you were in London, by the time a letter could have reached you, you were gone, – & lastly Mr Jackson wrote to you to Bristol. I will now compose an epistle which shall follow you farther west, & tell you all the news of Greta Hall.

Bona Marietta hath had kittens, they were remarkably ugly, all taking after their father Thomas, who there is reason to believe was either Uncle or Grandsire to Bona herself, the prohibited degrees of consanguinity which you will find at the end of the Bible, not being regarded by cats. As I have never been able to persuade this family that catlings, fed for the purpose & smothered with onions, would be rabbits to all eatable purposes, Bona Mariettas ugly progeny no sooner came into the world than they were sent out of it; the River Nymph Greta conveyed them to the River God Derwent, & if neither the eels nor the Ladies of the Lake have taken a fancy to them on their way, Derwent hath consigned them to the Nereids: you may imagine them converted into sea cats by favour of Neptune, & write an episode to be inserted in Ovids Metamorphoses. Bona bore the loss patiently & is in good health & spirits. I fear that if you meet with any of the race of Mrs Mary Rowes cat [1]  at Ottery [2]  you will forget poor Marietta. – Do’nt bite your arm Job.

We have been out one evening in the boat Mr Jackson, Mrs Wilson & the children & kindled our fire upon the same place where you drank tea with us last autumn. The boat has been painted, & there is to be a boathouse built for it. – Alterations are going on here upon a great scale. The parlour has been transmogrified – that Hartley was one of my mothers words, your Mother will explain it <to> you, & then you may tell her what it is in Ejectian. The masons are at work in my study, & on the shaving room; – the garden is inclosed with a hedge, some trees planted behind it, a shrubbery few shrubs, & abundance of currant trees. We must however wait till the autumn before all can be done that is intended in the garden. Mr White the Belligerent is settled in the Generals [3]  house – find out why I give him that appellation. [4] 

There has been a misfortune in the family. We had a hen with five chickens, & a gleed [5]  has carried off four. I have declared war against the gleed & borrowed a gun, but since the gun has been in the house he has never made his appearance. Who can have told him of it? Another hen is sitting, & I hope the next brood will be luckier. Mr Jackson has bought a cow: but he has had no calf since you left him. Edith has taken your place in his house, & talks to Mrs Wilson by the hour about her Hartley. She grows like a young Giantess, & has a disposition to bite her arm, which you know is a very foolish trick. Herbert is a fine fellow. I call him the Boy of Basan [6]  because he roars like a young bull when he is pleased. – indeed he promises to inherit his fathers verbal powers.

The weather has been very bad, – nothing but easterly winds which have kept every thing back. We had one day hotter than had been remembered for fourteen years: the glass was at 85 in the shade, in the sun in Mr Calverts Garden at 118. The horses of the mail died at Carlisle. I never remember to have felt such heat in England, except one day fourteen years ago, when I chanced to be in the mail coach, & it was necessary to bleed the horses or they would have died then. In the course of three days the glass fell forty degrees, & the wind was so cold & so violent that persons who attempted to cross the fells beyond Penrith were forced to turn back.

Your friend xx Dapper, [7]  who is I believe your god-dog, is in good health, tho he grows every summer graver than the last. This is the natural effect of time, which as you know has made me the serious man I am. I hope it will have the same effect upon you & your mother, & that when she returns she will have left off that evil habit of quizzing me & calling me names. It is not decorous in a woman of her years. Tell her we often think of her, & of the state she was in this time twelvemonth. Long tongues are deceitful. That name saying is for you, the meaning is for her. I speak darkly, after the manner of the wise men of old.

Remember me to Mr Poole, & tell him I shall be glad when he turns Laker. He will find tolerable lodging at the Hill; [8]  – a boat for fine weather, no good stores of books for a rainy day, & as hearty a shake by the hand on his arrival as he is likely to meet with between Stowey & Keswick. – Some books of mine will soon be ready for your father. Will he have them sent anywhere, or will he pick them up himself when he passes thro London on his way Northward? – Tell him that I am advancing well in South America, [9]  & shall have finished a volume by the end of the year. the Chronicle of the Cid is to go to press as soon as I receive some books from Lisbon which must first be examined. [10]  This is for intelligence is for him also.

I am desired to send you as much love as can be inclosed in a letter. I hope it will not be charged double on that account at the post office, – but there is Mrs Wilsons love Mr Jacksons, your Aunt Southeys, your Aunt Lovells, & Ediths, with a purr from Bona Marietta, an open-mouthed kiss from Herbert, & three wags of the tail from Dapper. I trust they will <all> arrive safe, & remain

dear Nephew Job Job,

your dutiful Uncle

Robert Southey.


* Address: For/ Hartley Coleridge/ with Thomas Poole Esqr/ Stowey/ Bridgewater/ Somersetshire
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ JUN16/ 1807
Endorsement: Entertaining letter from Mr Southey –/ to Hartley Coleridge, Then, 10 years old./ On a visit at/ Mr T. Pooles/ nether Stowey
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 100–103. BACK

[1] Coleridge is recorded as reciting children’s verses of his own composition about ‘Miss Mary Rowe, Tity Mouse Brim, Dr. Daniel Dove, of Doncaster, and his Horse Nobbs’ during a walking tour in Germany in 1799. Southey later developed some of these stories in The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[2] Ottery St Mary, Devon, the birthplace of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the home of his mother and brothers. BACK

[3] John Peche (dates unknown), who had served in the East India Company’s army, gazetted as Colonel in 1796 and Major-General in 1798. BACK

[4] The aggressive and paunchy Mr White (unidentified) had tried to buy Greta Hall in 1804. BACK

[5] A kite. BACK

[6] Basan/Bashan is an area on the east side of the river Jordan renowned in the Bible for its strong bulls. See Isaiah 2.3; Psalms 22.12. BACK

[7] Southey’s dog. BACK

[8] That is, the ‘Aunt Hill’ – one of Southey’s nicknames for Greta Hall. BACK

[9] Southey’s History of Brazil appeared in three volumes from 1810–1819. BACK

[10] Southey’s edition Chronicle of the Cid, from the Spanish was published by Longmans in 1808. It comprised translations from the Crónica Particular del Cid (1593), with additions from the Crónica de España of Alphonso the Wise (1541) and Romancero e Historia del Cid (1632). BACK

People mentioned

Jackson, William (1748–1809) (mentioned 3 times)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 2 times)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 2 times)
Wilson, Molly (?–1820) (mentioned 2 times)
Barker, Mary (c. 1780–1853) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Margaret (1752–1802) (mentioned 1 time)
Poole, Thomas (1766–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Sarah (1770–1845) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Mary (1771–1862) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 2 times)
Stowey (mentioned 1 time)