1531. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 10 November 1808

1531. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 10 November 1808 ⁠* 

Few circumstances have ever given me so much pleasure, as the tidings contained in your letter. [1]  The only thing which made me feel not perfectly happy in my present abode, was the thought that you were living alone in a country parsonage, & that thought frequently came across me. I had heard some six or eight weeks ago a rumour to this effect, from Colonel Peachy, <but there are so many Hills in the world that I rather wished than believed it likely to be you when he spoke> – whether he was right in the name I cannot recollect, for & the last fragment of his epistle served for shaving paper this morning, – if he was, he had seen my new relation, who must be some how connected with the family of a Major Audrey, [2]  once the Colonels Guest in his Island here. [3]  The blood of old George Wither [4]  is good blood, – & none of his own family can think of him with more love & respect than I do.

I thought I had told you that my latter peregrinations in Portugal, & the knowledge which my books have supplied me with concerning that country would form matter for a seperate work, – which will be sent you before it goes to the press, for additions & corrections, & which bids fair to be a curious work. [5]  Your letters of the Catholick Priests are here, but I do not remember that they contained any thing which could be brought to bear in D Luisas life. [6] 

You will never be convinced that Cumberland is a more civilized country than Herefordshire, till you have seen it. I have now better hopes of persuading you to visit us in the summer, for if Mrs Hill has seen the Lakes she cannot but wish to see them again, & if she has not, xx she must know that every body is expected to see them in these times. All summer & autumn long they come to us in thicker flocks than the wild-fowl who migrate here in winter, & we have more high ton xx in one week at Keswick than Staunton sees in seven years. [7]  Here is a great deal which you would delight in seeing, & I am one of the best guides in the country.

It is not likely that I shall visit the South before 1810, & it is likely that then Edith, perhaps both Ediths  [8]  will accompany me. Mrs Gonne wishes to see her, & she wishes to see Mrs Gonne, who is young Ediths godmother. We have also halting places at Liverpool, Lichfield & Birmingham. So that I think of travelling like Queen Elizabeth in her progresses, & being feasted all the way. – Curwen [9]  has been pressing me to visit him at Workington Hall, where I shall probably go with Wordsworth sometime before Xmas, & sometime after it I think of making a pilgrimage to St Cuthberts shrine at Durham, [10]  & passing a week with the Doctor.

We expect Walter Scott to be our Guest, either on his way to London or on his return. He has seceded from the Edinburgh Review, alledging their cowardly politicks as the reason of his secession. This was probably first occasioned by the manner in which I refused to bear a part in it, for that among other xxxx causes, & perhaps a little by the critique on Marmion. [11]  I have learnt this evening that another Review [12]  of the same form & character (saving its rascality) is projected, with the view of counteracting these base politicks which could make us betray Spain & Portugal, & lay us at the feet of Bonaparte. My information is confidential & official, xx xxx xxxx some of the men in power are setting this on foot – Gifford is to be the Editor, & he applies to me to bear a part in it. My reply [13]  states the principles upon which I am ready to consider do this, which upon the two main points of no peace, & no Catholick emancipation sufficiently coincide with theirs for minor differences to pass unnoticed. I offer to begin with an article upon the Hindoo question, concerning the Missionaries. [14]  The pay is to be the Edinburgh price, not less than ten guineas per sheet.

By a provoking blunder Longman omitted to send the MS. in his last parcel. Will you let me have the account of the falls of the Parana to insert before it goes to the printer. [15] 

I am truly glad at this change in your way of life, – it has relieved me from the only thought that ever lay heavy upon my heart. The morning & the noon may well be past in solitariness, but, for the latter part of the day it is an evil & a sore evil to be alone. And in your case the single objection, which is sometimes a valid one, does not hold good, for having been torn up by the roots from the xxxxx in society in which all your habits had grown, you had necessarily new ones to acquire. God grant you health & long life, – this is wishing Mrs Hill happiness. I am too old to be thought of <hereafter> as cousin Robert, – but not too young for her to consider me <as something in the light of> xxx xx your brother

God bless you both.

Robert Southey.

Nov. 10. 1808. Keswick.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Staunton upon Wye./ Hereford/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Keswick Museum. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 488–490. BACK

[1] Southey’s uncle had recently married Catherine, daughter of Loveless Bigg-Wither (1741–1813), a Hampshire landowner. BACK

[2] John Awdry (1766–1844) married, in 1795, Catherine’s sister, Jane Bigg (1770–1846). BACK

[3] Peachy and his family spent their summers on Derwent Isle, near the Keswick shore of Derwentwater. BACK

[4] George Wither (1588–1667; DNB), the poet, a favourite of Southey’s. BACK

[5] Southey did not publish a new book of this description but a new edition of Letters Written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal did appear in 1808. BACK

[6] In Letters Written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal, I, pp. 259–302, Southey included a Life of Dona Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza, taken from Vida y Virtudes de la Venerable Virgen Doña Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza, su Jornada a Inglaterra y Sucessos’ en aquel Reyno. Por el Licenciado Luis Muñoz (1632). BACK

[7] Staunton is a small village over ten miles from the nearest rural town, Hereford. BACK

[8] Edith, Southey’s wife, and Edith May, his daughter. BACK

[9] John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), Whig MP for Carlisle, Workington landowner. BACK

[10] The shrine of St Cuthbert (c. 634–687) in Durham Cathedral. BACK

[11] Scott’s poem Marmion (1808) was negatively reviewed by Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review, 12 (April 1808), 1–13. BACK

[12] The Quarterly. BACK

[13] For this, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 November 1808 (Letter 1530) and 11 November 1808 (Letter 1532). BACK

[14] Southey reviewed Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. BACK

[15] Material wanted for the first volume of his History of Brazil (1810). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)