937. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, [9 May 1804]

937. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, [9 May 1804] ⁠* 

Kendal Wednesday

Dear Edith

Thus far well – & and dry tho’ it rained during the last hour of my walk a little – & is now set in for a wet afternoon. The coach arrives about four, & will allow me to stay four & twenty hours at Liverpool – very conveniently – so that I shall be there for five one evening till five the next. I have learnt nothing as yet of its farther motions.

Mrs Wordsworth looked as sadly lean as if she was my twin sister. Johnny is one of the sons of the Anakim [1]  – he would certainly make two Sarahs. His head is as big as Derwents and his face less infantine. It seems quite unnatural that such a huge head and such a reasonable face should belong to a baby, but he is a grand fellow certainly. I rested till half past six at Grasmere, and W. then walked with me half way to Lowood where I supt on fresh char and potted char and slept.

Wordsworth tells me what I am sorely sorry to hear that John Tobin is gone to Falmouth, hopelessly far gone in consumption. Poor blind James ! What will become of him when he has lost his home-companion. It will be a second calamity as severe as his loss of sight.

Make my excuses to Mr. Johnson [2]  for not shaking hands with him before I set off & inquire again if I can do anything for him in London. – Would that I were in my own home again. I am like a lock without a key or a bell without a clapper – Andandona [3]  or the rhyme will tell you why, he is a good dog. [4] 

I am cansaded – & shall not get a decent descance [5]  till I find out Mrs Kosters tea table. For the inns of Lancaster & Liverpool are shameful. – tell me in your letter whether Mr Johnson has got the Historia Naturalis Brasiliæ [6]  for me at the sale [7]  – I care little or nothing for the other books but am anxious about that for my Uncles sake. – At Lowood of xxx any sale xxx xxxxx xxxxx they told me a world of people were gone to the sale, I fared there very well & very reasonably.

this is a very bad & very suje [8]  pen as my knife is neither able to mend or clean it

So God bless you, take care of yourself, eat and drink! And make Nurse sit down, and drink – a for she does not do either the one or the other as she ought – and keep the Edithling quiet and in the dark. Let nobody talk to her or attempt to make her spracken up [9]  – for to her it would be deadly poison. Once more God bless you Edith!


* Address: To/ Mrs Southey/ Keswick/ Single
Stamped: KENDAL/ 261
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888. AL; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 358–359.
Dating note: ‘? 9 May 1804’ added in pencil. Dating of ‘Kendal Wednesday’ is the same as Southey’s letter to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [9 May 1804], Letter 938, which has a postmark of 12 May 1804 (Saturday). BACK

[1] The race of long-necked people ‘of great height’ in Numbers 13: 32–33: ‘And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them’. BACK

[2] Unidentified. BACK

[3] The devilish sister of a giant, who resented the hero’s attempt to deprive her of her brother by converting him to Christianity, in Amadis of Gaul, Southey’s translation of which was published in 1803. BACK

[4] Southey is rhyming ‘clapper’ with ‘Dapper’, the name of his dog, pining in his absence. BACK

[5] Southey’s words ‘cansaded’ and ‘descance’ are nonce ones derived by him from the Portuguese for ‘to tire’ and ‘rest/refreshment’. BACK

[6] Southey did acquire Willem Piso (1611–1678), Historia Naturalis Brasiliæ (1648), no. 2158 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] The sale at Ormathwaite Hall, near Keswick, of the books, pictures and scientific instruments of William Brownrigg, (1711–1800; DNB). A doctor and natural philosopher, his experiments on the gases found in the Whitehaven coal mines led to his being awarded the Copley medal of the Royal Society, and with Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) he demonstrated on Lake Derwent that oil could be used to calm the motion of lakes and seas. BACK

[8] A Portuguese word meaning ‘dirty’. BACK

[9] ‘Sprack’ is a dialect word meaning to be ‘active’ or ‘alert.’ BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Grasmere (Dove Cottage) (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)