3016. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 24 August 1817

3016. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 24 August 1817⁠* 

Keswick 24 Aug. 1817

My dear Tom

Among the letters which were awaiting me on my return was one from Rochford in Essex, signed N. T. P. & requesting that I would compose an acrostic for the writer to express his passion for Rebecca, [1]  a rival having lately got a head of him in consequence of having addressed some verses to the object of their affections. Mr. N. T. P. inclosed a twe pound note ‘to defray the postage’. – – I have written him back word that his twenty shillings will be expended in giving four poor old women a flannel petticoat each, & I added a gentle reprimand xxx xxxx which will probably astonish him as much as the application of his money.

I found myself involved at once in engagements. The Islanders [2]  & an Irish family to whom I should have wished to have shown every possible civility had I been at home during their residen stay in Keswick, xxx passed Tuesday evening here, xx it was the Monck Mason whom Rose the shoemaker [3]  introduced to me some years ago, & who has frequently written to me since, & sent pamphletts & information from Ireland upon subjects in which he supposed me to be interested. [4] They left the xx He is lately married, & came here with his wife, [5]  his brother (a sea captain) [6]  & his sisters, [7]  – chusing the place, I have no doubt, for the sake of my society. I am xxx very sorry that he was disappointed in this, for he left Keswick the next day. Wednesday evening Westall returned from Whitehaven & Carlisle, & came up forthwith to shake hands with me, soon after him a Mr James [8]  arrived xx (brother to James the traveller in Sweden, [9]  & tutor to Lord Derbys grandson) [10]  with a letter from John Coleridge. Thursday we dined at the island, & Friday this Mr James past the evening here, – so that yesterday is the only evening which I have yet had to myself.

On Thursday a huge packet of letters arrived – chiefly from Lord Sheffield – he sent me a good Memoir respecting our operations on the East coast of Spain, & with this were several letters from of his son in law Sir Wm Clinton, [11]  which I abstracted & returned immediately. There came also a packet from Henry Koster: not a word of the insurrection except an intimation that his friend Joam Ribeiro [12]  had, as I anticipated, perished in it, – & this he lets me know without mentioning his name. His letter inclosed resolution of the British settlers to allow 300 a year & a house to a Chaplain & 100 £ to bring him over, & with a letter requesting the Bp of London to appoint one, – these papers were transmitted thro me, instead of sending him thro an official channel, – to the cost of 7–6 postage & the trouble of writing to the Bishop, [13]  at once to discharge my commission, & excuse myself from the suspicion of intruding myself upon him with a matter in no way concerning me. However it is a good thing done, & would not have been done if Koster had not formed his opinions in my school.

As yet I have heard nothing of my books. There is a volume among them which concerns you [14]  – Soirees Bermudiennes the title, – written by a refugee from S Domingo [15]  & relating to the first troubles on that island. [16]  There is Ramusio [17]  also, & a history of the Dutch W. India company by Jan de Laet – a folio in Dutch. [18]  I suspected that there was such a work tho I not never distinctly trace it, till I found it luckily upon Verbiests [19]  shelf. There must needs be something to your purpose here. I made some advance in German upon my journey – enough to read thro an account of Massenas campaign in Portugal by a German physician in his army. [20]  Dutch I can manage sufficiently for my purpose. I even ventured to buy the poems of Jacob Cats [21]  (what a name for a poet, especially if you pronounce his Christian name properly Yācob!) As they have made me a member of their Institute [22]  it is but fit that I should know something more of their literature.

The edition of Koster has sold, & an octavo one is printed. [23]  My history [24]  moves slowly, the second has not yet paid its expences, & I have not made 100£ by the first. I expect the first proof of the third volume every day, & what little (very little it is) I have been able to do since my return, has been upon this work. – For the next Quarterly I review Lord Hollands life of Lope de Vega, [25]  – my ways & means for the quarter.

You will be ready to ask whether these mountains are dwarfed by what I have seen, & whether this country appears to xx much disadvantage. – Not to more than may be attributed to dark weather, & an ungenial climate. Skiddaw is by far the most imposing mountain for its size that I have ever beheld; many which are twice its height, do not appear to so much advantage, – I am however glad that the features of the two countries are so different as to preclude comparison, glaciers, pine forests, & tremendous rivers as wide as the Avon at Rownham, [26]  & rushing like Lodore, form no part of our scenery. If I had time I should like much to draw out my journal fairly, & fill it up, – but this is impossible. As it stands it would fill an octavo volume, – you must see it one of these days as it is.

Love to Sarah & the children

God bless you


Is there any hope of our cheeses from Durham? – My compliments to Mr Romney. [27] 


* Address: To/ Capt Southey R. N./ Warcop Hall/ Brough
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Rebecca Rankin (1795–1871), eldest daughter of William Rankin (c. 1769–1833), a prominent farmer in Bocking, Essex. On 30 October 1817 she married Charles Stock (1781–1835), a ‘gentleman’ who later became a coal merchant. The identity of ‘N.T.P.’ is a mystery. BACK

[3] Unidentified beyond the information given here. BACK

[4] Henry Joseph Monck Mason had met Southey in Keswick in 1812; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 29 October 1812, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Four, Letter 2165. BACK

[5] Henry Monck Mason had married in April 1816 the Hon. Anne Langrishe (1788–1873). BACK

[6] Captain Thomas Monck Mason (1788–1838). BACK

[7] The Monck Mason brothers had four sisters: Jane-Letitia (d. 1858), widow of John James Copinger (1780–1811); Anna-Maria (dates unknown), who married George Brittaine (1788–1848), author and Church of Ireland clergyman in 1816; Sarah-Judith Monck Mason (d. 1839); and Alicia-Catherine Monck Mason (d. 1877). BACK

[8] Edward James (1790–1854), later Canon of Winchester 1828–1854 and Vicar of Alton, Hampshire 1832–1854. He was an old university friend of John Taylor Coleridge. BACK

[9] John Thomas James (1786–1828; DNB), author of Journal of a Tour in Germany, Sweden, Russia, Poland, During the Years 1813 and 1814 (1816), later Bishop of Calcutta 1826–1828. BACK

[10] Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley (1799–1869; DNB), later 14th Earl of Derby and Prime Minister 1852, 1858–1859, 1866–1868; grandson of Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby (1752–1834; DNB). BACK

[11] General Sir William Henry Clinton (1769–1846; DNB), commander of the 1st Division 1812–1813 and of British forces in eastern Spain 1813–1814. Clinton had married in 1797 Louisa Dorothea Baker Holroyd (1776–1854), daughter of the Earl of Sheffield. Southey hoped to use Clinton’s information in his History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[12] Joam Ribeiro Pessoa de Melo Montenegro (1766–1817), a priest who was a member of the provisional government set up by a group of revolutionaries in Pernambuco, 8 March–18 May 1817. He committed suicide in the town of Paulista after the defeat of the revolutionary forces and the fall of Recife, the provincial capital. BACK

[13] Since 1633 the appointment of overseas chaplains had been the preserve of the Bishop of London. BACK

[14] Because Thomas Southey was compiling information towards his A Chronological History of the West Indies (1827). BACK

[15] Today Haiti, this Caribbean French colony became independent in 1804 after a revolution led by former slaves. BACK

[16] Jean-Félix Carteau (dates unknown), Soirées Bermudiennes, Ou Entretiens Sur Les Évènemens Qui Ont Opéré La Ruine De La Partie Française De l’Île Saint-Domingue, Ouvrage Où L’on Expose les Causes de ces Évènemens, les Moyens Employés pour Renverser cette Colonie (1802). BACK

[17] Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485–1557), Navigationi et Viaggi (1550–1559). Southey owned an early edition (1556–1588), no. 2382 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[18] Joannes de Laet (1581–1649), Historie ofte Iaerlijck Verhael van de Verrichtingen der Geoctroyeerde West-Indische Compagnie (1644), no. 1671 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[19] Jean-Baptiste Ver Beyst (1770–1849), famous Brussels bookseller; Southey had visited his shop on his continental tour in 1817. BACK

[20] Der Feldzug von Portugall, in den Jahren 1811 and 1812, in Historischer und Medizinischer-Hinsicht Beschrieben, von einem Arzte der Franzosischen Armee von Portugall (1816). This work does not appear in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, but it is listed among the sources used for History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), III, p. 936. BACK

[21] Jacob Cats (1577–1660), Dutch poet. Southey owned Cats’s Alle de Wercken (1726), no. 687 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[22] According to the Courier, 2 January 1817, Southey had been appointed an Associate of the Second Class of the Royal Institute of Science, Literature and the Fine Arts of the Netherlands (founded 1808). The Institute’s headquarters are the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam. BACK

[23] Koster’s Travels in Brazil (1816). Southey reviewed this book in the Quarterly Review, 16 (January 1817), 344–387. The second, octavo, edition appeared in 1817. BACK

[24] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[25] The review of Lord Holland, Some Account of the Lives and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, and Guillen de Castro (1817) appeared in Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 1–46. BACK

[26] The river Avon is a wide but smooth river when it passes Rownham, an ancient ferry point opposite Hotwells, Bristol. BACK

[27] The family of the painter, George Romney (1734–1802; DNB), originated in Westmorland and several branches still lived in the county. This may be a reference, though, to the clergyman John Romney (1758–1832), of Whitestock Hall, Ulverton, and George Romney’s only son. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 3 times)
Skiddaw (mentioned 1 time)
Lodore (mentioned 1 time)


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