3034. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 4 November 1817

3034. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 4 November 1817⁠* 

Keswick. 4 Nov. 1817.

My dear Sir

After a long journey, & a succession of company since my return, I am at last quietly settled to my winters work, with the probability of as few interruptions from without, as Bruin has when he rolls himself up in his cave, & trusts to his paws till the spring. You probably heard of my travels. My companions were Mr Senhouse of Netherhall (near Maryport), & Mr Nash the artist who was with me at Waterloo. [1]  Switzerland & the Alps were our object. We staid five days at Paris & then proceeded by way of Dijon & Besançon to Neufchatel, meaning to have crossed Mount S. Gothard [2]  & to have returned into Switzerland by the Simplon; [3]  – but finding that this pass was not practicable for a carriage without taking it to pieces, which involves a heavy expense, & moreover that it was xxx xxxxx by no means advisable to enter upon it so early in the year as the beginning of June, when the season also happened to be remarkably backward, – we changed our route, & visiting the Grande Chartreuse [4]  on the way, entered Italy by way of Mount Cenis. [5]  This deviation from our first purposed course I regard as very fortunate; for we saw nothing finer than the Chartreuse, – indeed in its kind it cannot be surpassed; & the Mount Cenis road, of which it has not been the fashion to say anything, is much more strange & impressive than the Simplon. As you advance up the valley of the Maurienne, the Alps are around are crumbling to pieces; the Arco which rushes down the valley with a force & fury beyond anything which I had ever before witnessed carries with it nearly as much earth, or rather decomposed stone, as water; & the towns & villages on the way are as ragged as the scenery about them. On the summit of M. Cenis, where we breakfasted, I could have fancied myself in Cumberland had not richer flowers been under my feet than our climate will produce. There is a tarn opposite the inn, with all the features of our own mountain scenery. The first part of the descent is more ruinous than any thing on the Savoy side. Indeed the mountains are in so crumbling a state, that it has been found necessary to abandon the new line of road (only a year or two since it was made at enormous expense), & follow the old line, & this line leads you four times over the same waterfall, one turn xxxxxxx as closely under another as it can possibly be made. But when you get beyond this desolation, where you have nothing but masses of loose earth & perishing stone on every side, the descent into Piedmont is beyond description delightful. We went no farther than Milan; – from thence to the Lakes of Como & Lugano, then across the Lago Maggiore, & back by the Simplon into Switzerland, turning aside on the way for three days to visit the vale of Chamounix, & the Mer de Glace.

My Uncles brother-in-law [6]  happened to be residing with his family not far from Lausanne, – this was a very agreeable circumstance, & we halted with him two nights on our way out, & four on our return. Having reached Bern we sent the carriage on to Zurich, & struck into what is called the Oberland, making our way as we could, sometimes by land – sometimes by water, on horseback or on foot. Thus we spent the most adventurous ten days of our journey, & the most delightful. From Zurich our way was to Schaffhausen & Donauschingen, where the Danube rises: thence through the Black Forest to Friburg in the Brisgau. We crost the Rhine to look at Strasburg, & returned the same night into Germany; & so by way of Heidelberg, Manheim & Frankfort to Mentz, – & then down the left bank to Cologne, & so to Brussels, Lisle & Calais. The whole journey was the work of thirteen weeks, about three of which we were stationary at different places. I made a copious journal, which was no slight exertion, & my companions were very diligent in the use of the pencil; – so that few persons could have brought back more.

I returned of a rich sun colour, & according to all my friends, with more flesh upon my bones than I took out, – though I am sure that such a journey performed in such a manner would be an excellent recipe for one who had some to spare. Certain however it is that the continual xxxx exercise, change of air, & excitement agreed admirably with me, to say nothing of the wine which everywhere about the Rhine is the true Amreeta, [7]  & deserves to be called the liquor of life.

Longman was directed to send you the second volume of the Hist. of Brazil as soon as it was published. [8]  I hope he did not neglect this order. The concluding volume is in the press, & I am now fairly employed upon it.

Here is Barrow to be let & I cannot but wish old Pocklington had been translated from his bed to his vault seven years ago. [9]  It is curious enough that I first heard of his death at a Table d’hote in Switzerland. – Calvert also wants to let his house, being bent upon going to the continent. Ponsonby [10]  has removed to Maryport: so we are losing the few neighbours which we had. This property is in a wretched state: the owner is in Carlisle jail; [11]  a mortgage has foreclosed the estate, an injunction has been obtained by the widow of the last possessor to stop the sale, – contending parties have pestered me about my rent, & a Bailiff comes regularly once a year to distrain upon me for annuities charged upon the estate.

Public affairs I trust are looking better, thanks to the suspension of the H. Corpus, [12]  & to this blessed season. You would recognize me in the QR upon Parliamentary Reform & upon the Causes of Discontent. [13]  In the last number I reviewed the Tonga Islands [14]  & in the forthcoming one there will be (or ought to be) an account of Lope de Vega. [15]  – Is there any hope of seeing you in this country next summer? – after the small fry of a midlands river you would delight in landing some of the great fish of the Lakes. Remember us most kindly to Mrs Browne & your daughters; – to Wade [16]  also whom I should to meet & recognize as a man.

Believe me, my dear Sir,

yrs very sincerely,

Robert Southey


* Address: To Wade Browne Esqre/ Ludlow
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 72–74. BACK

[1] Southey’s journey to the Netherlands in 1815 to see the site of the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815). Nash provided the drawings for seven of the eight engravings in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[2] The St Gotthard Pass connects the northern, German-speaking area of Switzerland with the southern, Italian-speaking part, and opens the route to Italy. BACK

[3] The Simplon pass, in the Swiss Alps, between Brig and Domodossola in Italy. BACK

[4] Head monastery of the Carthusian order, founded 1084; located high in an Alpine valley north of Grenoble. BACK

[5] A mountain pass between France and Italy. BACK

[6] John Awdry (1766–1844), solicitor in Reybridge and husband of Jane, née Bigg-Wither (1770–1845), sister of Herbert Hill’s wife, Catherine. Southey’s party visited them at Echichens, Switzerland on 1–3 June 1817 and returned on 29 June–3 July. BACK

[7] The immortality-giving drink prepared by the Hindu gods, that features in Southey’s The Curse of Kehama (1810), Book 24. BACK

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

[9] In 1778 Joseph Pocklington (1736–1817), son of a Nottinghamshire banker, bought Derwent Isle, in Derwentwater near Keswick (then known as Vicar’s Island) and built a house, fort and ‘Druid’ stone circle on the land. On the lake shore he built Barrow House, overlooking a waterfall which he diverted and enlarged. BACK

[10] Lieutenant John Ponsonby of the Royal Navy and his wife (name and dates unknown) had been residing at Ormathwaite, just north of Keswick. BACK

[11] Greta Hall’s owner Samuel Tolson Jnr (dates unknown) was in Carlisle jail, for debt. BACK

[12] Habeas corpus, preventing detention without trial, was suspended in February 1817 and renewed in February 1818. BACK

[13] Southey’s Quarterly Review articles ‘Parliamentary Reform’, 16 (October 1816), 224–278, and ‘Rise and Progress of Popular Disaffection’, 16 (January 1817), 511–552. BACK

[14] In Quarterly Review, 17 (April 1817), 1–39, Southey reviewed James Burney, A Chronological History of the Voyages and Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean; Illustrated with Charts and Plates (1803–1817); John Martin (1789–1869; DNB), An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean, with an Original Grammar and Vocabulary of their Language; and the Transactions of the Missionary Society (1817). BACK

[15] The article, a 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

[16] Wade Browne (1796–1851) and his sisters Lydia (c. 1789–1864), Elizabeth, Sarah and Mary (dates unknown). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Netherhall (mentioned 1 time)
Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)