1366. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 2 October 1807

1366. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 2 October 1807 ⁠* 

Thursday. October 2. 1807

Senhora whether I finish it or not I will begin a letter to you this evening, for in plain truth the cock of my conscience crows loudly upon that subject, & in order to get thro it as fast as possible that it may go by this post I will scribble away in the news-mongering shepistolary style.

In the first place you will be glad to hear that ever since you left us Mrs Peachy has continued to amend – here she still is, keeping at home always in the evening, & indeed never venturing out but in the very tempting weather, – & wonderfully recovered. We were there last night – they have carried off Miss Wood from Netherhall, [1]  you would have liked to see her good-natured face, to have heard her burr, I to have seen her walk short, & walk tall as she calls it, – which kept me in a roar of laughter. I like her well.

We have had some pleasant Lakers here. Mr & Mrs Smith, whom you may remember we expected, – & Dr & Mrs Reeve of Norwich [2]  a new-married couple, the Lady an old flame of another Doctors, which said Doctor has a way of falling in love wherever he goes. I knew her before, & should for every possible reason have liked her for a sister-in-law. Her husband is an able & very pleasant man, who has caught a good deal of Wm Taylors manner, & resembles him in dialect & in the tone of his voice, sufficiently to insure him a good portion of liking from me; – for if a dog came here from Wm Taylor with a direction tied to his tail he should be had in, made a parlour guest at dinner, & admitted to lie before the study fire in the evening.

This morning Sir John Jackass [3]  made his appearance. I believe he is little short of seven feet high. He was in haste, passing from Colgarth to Workington; – asked some good statistic questions, looked out at the window, lent me another book about Ossian, which is to be sent to Edinburgh by coach & will cost him half a crown for carriage, – & then off he stalked again. Certainly from his conversation & appearance I should not have expected any thing so foolish as his letters to me.

I am under a good deal of anxiety about Grosvenor Bedford. he left Wynnstay about ten days ago meaning to come here. What is become of him God knows, – but meantime letters have reached me inclosing accounts of death. his brother Horace’s  [4]  As poor Horace  [5]  was deranged, & miserabley ill, this is a happy event, – he will not however immediately consider it so: & I am expecting him hourly under these very unpleasant circumstances, – having this intelligence to meet him with instead of the welcome which he expects. And worst of all I fear he is detained by illness upon the road. He has a liver complaint, & I very very much fear will soon follow his brother. [6]  I have so many old & rooted feelings of kindliness towards Grosvenor Bedford who is almost my oldest acquaintance in this world – that this is a very painful thought.

The Doctor as usual is got into a scrape in Portugal. He & Mary Sealy have been thrown together at Cintra, – she has been under his care & as she got well of the disease – got sick of the Doctor. Things have gone so far that he asked her father for her & has been refused. Mr Sealy [7]  was to blame in this. it is in his power by setting Harry forward in the world to make it quite as good a match as he has any reason to expect for his daughter. I suppose it will hurt her health, already too tender, – & that then he will consent.

We have mist you much – & I never think of you (which if I were disposed not to do my books would make me fifty times a day,) [8]  without wishing we could make Penkridge & Penrith [9]  just change that half of their names which makes the difference, – & their inhabitants at the same time. It is very abominable that we are not near neighbours. – We go on well – I have had three sheets of the Cid, [10]  & wished you had been here to have partaken my joy at the first. – The Imperial goes on talking about D. Manuel, [11]  A Laker whom Koster sent here began about it & asked me if I thought it a translation. Why Sir – said I, that is not an easy question to answer. I should think not from the quantity of information which the book contains, – yet the notes seem to imply that it is. Would you not like to be present when the discovery is made to the Colonel – There will be some difficulty in making him understand the truth. – He played the cymbals last night to admiration.

You have done with [MS torn] just as I expected – I well knew that whatever resolutions you made – your good sense & good temper would necessarily get the better at last. There are not many things in this life which are worth being seriously angry about – Perhaps I should say nothing but moral guilt & political folly.

As soon as Palmerin [12]  is published I shall desire Longman to send you it, together with Amadis [13]  & Espriella, – making I believe all my books which you have not got. – Can you send me some gold-leaf in a frank? – The Count is just the same, yawning & sawneying, talking about human beings, & wanting the horse whip as usual. Edith’s love – a kiss from your goddaughter & Toms love into the bargain.

God bless you.



* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Congreve/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire
Postmark: KESWICK/ 298
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 240–243. BACK

[1] Isabella Wood (dates unknown), cousin of Humphrey Senhouse. BACK

[2] Henry Reeve (1780–1814; DNB), physician and traveller, who after a European tour on which he met many leading men of science, settled in Norwich, marrying in 1807 Susan Taylor (1788–1853; DNB). BACK

[3] ‘Jackass’ crossed out in pencil, ‘Sinclair’ written above in Mary Barker’s hand [Kirkpatrick’s note]. Sir John Sinclair (1754–1835; DNB), first president of the Board of Agriculture and advocate of parliamentary reform, said to have introduced the word ‘statistics’ into the language (DNB). His Dissertation on the Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian appeared in 1807. BACK

[4] Barker’s deletion. BACK

[5] Barker’s deletion. BACK

[6] Barker’s deletion. BACK

[7] Richard Sealy (c. 1752–1821), an old Lisbon acquaintance of Southey’s. BACK

[8] Barker made cloth coverings for many of Southey’s books, known as his ‘Cottonian library’, a pun originating in the name for the collection of books made by Robert Bruce Cotton (1571–1631; DNB) which formed the basis of the British Library. BACK

[9] Penrith, a town twenty miles east of Keswick. BACK

[10] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

[11] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[12] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[13] Southey’s translation of the Spanish romance Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

Places mentioned

Teddesley (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)