1697. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 20 October 1809

1697. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 20 October 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick, Oct. 20, 1809

My dear Sir,

When my last letter to you was past recall, I felt for the first time in my life dissatisfied for having done what I had persuaded myself it was my duty to do. [1]  A sense of humiliation hung upon me, as if I had taken advantage of one favour to press for another, and as if the motives which justified me to myself might not be sufficient to justify me to you. Notwithstanding the kindness with which you have replied, something of this feeling still remains, and I confess it, not merely as the only apology which it is in my power to offer, but as a proof also how earnestly I must have desired to succeed in the application before I could resolve to make it.

I had understood that with good interest it was not more difficult to obtain two steps than one; and in this error Wynn confirmed me by mentioning the highest rank when he urged me to apply to Mr. Canning. It would however be a great thing to obtain one step, and if that could be gained it would give me a deeper feeling of joy than any other circumstance of my life. My very slight knowledge of Lord Lonsdale could not authorise me in applying to him. I also know that he has many applications of a like nature upon the score of county and borough connections, which must necessarily be paramount to him. If Lord Melville were at the Admiralty, Walter Scott would use his influence for me. From Mr. Grenville I had a distant promise, and an assurance when he went out of office that if he had made any further promotions than that of merely filling up vacancies at that time my brother should have been included. It was some compliment to say so, but otherwise there was very little satisfaction in that preter-perfect-sense potential. At present this is the only channel through which I can apply. Had you been with me when you were at Keswick fewer excuses on my part would have been necessary than I feel now the wish, rather than the power, to offer. You would have seen a man with all the best parts of a sailor’s character, and equally qualified to do honour to his profession at sea or on shore.

Poor Jackson is at rest. His property he has bequeathed to a brother, [2]  who has a living near Thrapston, in Northamptonshire, and is much patronised by Lord Sackville, [3]  who at this time pays his expenses as a fellow-commoner at Cambridge, that he may qualify himself by taking a degree to hold another benefice. He is here at present, and I have never seen a more thoroughly respectable man, nor one whose appearance spoke more strongly in his favour.

The real reason why the last Friend was delayed is a curious one. [4]  The manuscript was in due time in the printers’ hands, and the rats ate up the motto the night before it should have been set up. It was a whole page of Hooker, [5]  and as those vermin are to be classed among the Independents, they must certainly have found it hard of digestion.

We beg to be remembered to Lady Beaumont. – Believe me, my dear Sir, very thankfully and respectfully yours,


I go to press shortly with a poem which may be considered as an experiment in meter. [6]  It is in rhyme as irregular as that of Scott, but pitched in a higher key. The rhythm and freedom of blank verse are preserved, and the rhyme thrown in in every part of the line. The matter is as original as the manner, and both too much so to please any person except the score or two whose opinions in fine literature should be regarded like those of the twelve judges in law.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from William Knight (ed.), Memorials of Coleorton, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1887)
Previously published: William Knight (ed.), Memorials of Coleorton: Being letters from Coleridge, Wordsworth and his sister, Southey, and Sir Walter Scott to Sir George and Lady Beaumont of Coleorton, Leicestershire, 1803 to 1834, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1887), II, pp. 82–85. BACK

[1] In July 1809, Southey was informed by Richard Sharp that the stewardship of the Derwentwater Estates (which were owned by Greenwich Hospital) would soon become vacant on the death of the incumbent. Southey asked several friends to intercede on his behalf, including George Beaumont, but in the end the position was considered unsuitable for him. In his most recent letter to Beaumont he had asked him to assist in getting his brother, Thomas promoted. For this, see Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 12 October 1809, Letter 1692. BACK

[2] Reverend Joseph Jackson (dates unknown). BACK

[3] Charles Sackville-Germain, 5th Duke of Dorset, 2nd Viscount Sackville (1767–1843). BACK

[4] Coleridge’s periodical, The Friend, was published in 26 instalments from 1 June 1809–15 March 1810. BACK

[5] Richard Hooker (1554–1600; DNB), theologian and philosopher. The motto, from Richard Hooker (1554–1600; DNB), Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie (1593–1662), appeared at the start of the ninth number dated 12 October 1809. See Coleridge, The Friend; A Literary, Moral, and Political Weekly Paper (London, 1809), p. 129. The text is given in S. T. Coleridge, The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke, 2 vols (London and Princeton NJ, 1969), II, p. 122. BACK

[6] Southey’s poem, The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)