1724. Robert Southey to [Mary Matilda Betham], 27 December 1809

1724. Robert Southey to [Mary Matilda Betham], 27 December 1809 ⁠* 

The Pictures [1]  arrived this day <having come> by the Mail Coach – xx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxx xxx, – & as was to be expected the large glass broken into fifty pieces. All the others by good fortune have escaped. It is well for the frame-maker that I am not Buonaparte, – as I should think cutting his ears off not too severe a punishment for the absurdity of sending such things by such a conveyance, when the waggon would have brought them with perfect safety, at one fourth of the cost. Unquestionably the loss ought to fall upon him, & if Bedford has not paid him, I shall remonstrate upon the subject, – tho I am a bad hand at such disputes myself, & in conscience one cannot expect a friend to dispute for one. The worst of the business is the great inconvenience it occasions, – for how is another glass to be sent, when the frame is here? – however I must make enquiry as to the possibility of getting one of that xxx size here, <upon the spot> & endeavour to do the enamelling myself. But it is as vexatious as I ever permit a thing of no greater moment to be, because it has been occasioned by a piece of folly not to have been calculated upon.

Dyers picture is a most happy likeness. He does me wrong if he supposes that I do not set great value upon it, for I have a great regard for him, & so much respect for his better part, that I never lose sight of it even when his oddities & weaknesses provoke a smile. It is melancholy to think see so many of the ingredients both of genius & happiness existing in that mans mind, & spoilt in the mixing, – to think how trifling an alteration in his character would have made him as useful as he is good, & as happy as useful. – The frames look well, but by no means so well as they would have done if the gilding had been broader. It was a bitter disappointment not to find Moons picture among them, – because we remembered it as the happiest likeness, – the better way of sending it will be in a frank, sufficiently enveloped. Dyer will convey it to Rickmans, & then no matter what may be the weight. It is hardly possible that he should lose a second charge of the same kind.

Kehama has been finished this month, [2]  is half transcribed, gone to the printers, & I expect the first proof in the course of the week. Early in the spring I hope to send it to you.

This is written hastily, – hereby to announce the arrival of the box – alas that it should not be the safe arrival! – I must not forget thanks from below stairs for the feathers. The children often talk of you, – when will she come again – is the constant question. – I shall be likely to see you in the course of next year. My Uncle has the living of Streatham given him, & will reside there. He gives up for it some Herefordshire preferment, & I do not think the exchange in any other degree advantageous, than that his <new> residence will be more conveniently situated for my visits than his old one.

I sent nobody to give you any other trouble than that of exhibiting the family groups. Nor have I heard who has taken the pains of xxxx going to see them – except Bedford & Neville White (Henrys brother) – He thought the last years picture of myself a mor a better likeness than this. [3] 

God bless you

very truly yours

R Southey.

Dec. 27. 1809.

I am afraid my letter did not reach John Dolignon, [4]  – for it has received no answer; – & it was such a letter concerning old times, & remembered intimacy & friends who are gone, – that I am sure he must have replied to it had it reached him.


* Address: [MS torn]hirty [MS illegible]/ [MS torn]m Cavendish Stt/ London [in another hand]
Stamped: WREXHAM
Postmark: [illegible]
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 3p. In 74 A. L. S. to various correspondents.
Previously published: M. Betham-Edwards, ‘Letters of Coleridge, Southey and Lamb to Matilda Betham’, Fraser’s Magazine, ns 18 (July 1878), 73–84. BACK

[1] Betham visited Keswick in September and October 1809 and painted portraits of Southey, Edith, Edith May, Herbert, Sarah Coleridge and Sara Coleridge, Mary Lovell and George Dyer; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 14 October 1809, Letter 1694. The frames for these had been bought for Southey by Bedford, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 August 1809 (Letter 1669) and 4 September 1809 (Letter 1675). BACK

[2] Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. BACK

[3] When visiting London in March 1808, Southey had sat to Betham for a portrait; see Southey to Mary Matilda Betham, [late March 1808], Letter 1435. BACK

[4] John Dolignon (1774–1856), son of Elizabeth Dolignon. He was a clergyman, later Rector of Wimbish in Essex 1816–1838 and Hilborough in Norfolk 1838–1856. Southey regularly visited Mrs Dolignon’s house when he was at school at Westminster and was very close to her son, John, who was at Charterhouse and then Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1797, MA 1800). BACK

People mentioned

Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Mary (1771–1862) (mentioned 1 time)