3037. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 16 November 1817

3037. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 16 November 1817⁠* 

Keswick. 16 Nov. 1817.

I am indeed truly glad that things have gone on better at Streatham than they did at Clermont. [1]  You do not tell me how the Baron is to be called, & perhaps have not yet determined; – on a former occasion Oliver was thought of for a good reason. [2] 

I am glad also that the Awdrys [3]  are safe across the water; – short as the way is it is no pleasant passage at this season of the year. Pray remember me to them & say how much pleasure it would give me to have an opportunity of returning in kind the kindness I received at Echichens. The General often talks of his acquaintance at Morges, [4]  & regularly misnames them all. If Mrs Peachy would let him I believe he would set out on his travels again in consequence of discovering what he has left undone; – for he neither saw the Fair Elizabeth of Unterseen, [5]  nor the Flying Tree [6]  (which is the tenth & greatest wonder of the world) nor the Eleven Thousand Virgins. [7]  – I was very much taken with your godson Walter, [8]  – as fine a creature as I ever remember to have seen. As you do not mention Alethea [9]  I suppose she is not with you, – but tell Mrs Awdry to remember that whenever they come into this country I have bespoke her in Switzerland as a visitor for Edith, who will show her the way up the mountains, – & we have mountains which are worth ascending, even after the Righi.

For some time past I have been working hard in the mines, & have compleatly gutted the two manuscript volumes upon that subject. [10]  The lost copy has been found, & I have received two proof sheets; – & now I shall not take my hand from the work till it is compleated; – that is, whatever other things I may & must do, some part of every day will be devoted to the completion of this great opus. You will have a portion of copy in a day or two. – If I write any thing upon this dismal event in the royal family, except <more than> what I am compelled to do for the unhappy musician who with equal waste of time & pains is fated to set the verses, it will be a distant imitation of Boethius, – in which the personage introduced instead of his Philosophia would be Sir Thomas More, & the subject matter, such speculations upon the present state & impending changes in society, as must be suggested by comparing the circumstances <signs> of these times with the circumstances of his age. [11]  I have a weeks mind to do this; & when such a thought keeps possession so long of a head so full of many things as mine, it xxx is likely to ripen there.

Your collection of Portugueze Laws wants those Ordenaçoens to which you have the Index, & which seem to be the Code in use. This Code is often referred to in the Villa Rica manuscript, [12]  & I ought to possess it. I cannot tell how to do without the Collecçam dos Breves Pontificios, e Leys Regias, que foram expedidos e publicados desde o anno 1741 sobre a liberdade das pessoes, bens e commercio dos Indios do Brazil. Lisbon. 1759. [13]  This book would surely be discovered by a little enquiry at Lisbon. – Being now so fairly under weigh with the third volume, of the whole distinctly mapped out in my own mind, & so large a mass of materials ready to be arranged, I am looking with great appetite to the history of the mother country with which I can proceed so much more rapidly than with this work, immediately when this is off my hands. [14] 

I have heard nothing of any of my books. Verbiest [15]  is dilatory & honest, so that I am not uneasy at the delay of this detachment, – about the case from Milan I have my fears. – I am likely to obtain Dobrizhoffer [16]  at last, if it be not lost between Vienna & Leipsic, or Leipsic & Paris. The chapter upon the equestrian tribes, which is chiefly collected from this writer, will be one of the most interesting in the whole history. [17] 

All here are well God be thanked. We have had our good friend Dr Bell at Keswick for a fortnight – he took his departure on Wednesday last. Nash is visiting Senhouse xx with whom he has been the last month, we are daily expecting him back, but he will not tarry long at this season, & during the whole winter the only visitor we shall see will be Wm Westall (the artist in Flinders’s [18]  expedition) who has taken up his abode in this place, – a man much to my liking, & of first rate xxxxx powers in his art.

Love to my Aunt & the Orsini. [19] 

God bless you



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: 10 o’Clock/ NO 19/ 1817 FNn; E/ 19 NO 19/ 1817
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 161. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The comparison is between the safe delivery of Catherine Hill’s most recent (and last) child, Robert Southey Hill, born on 10 November 1817; and the death of Princess Charlotte, after delivering a still–born son on 6 November 1817. The Princess died at Claremont House, Surrey, her country home. BACK

[2] In 1812 Herbert Hill had proposed naming his new–born son ‘Oliver Hill’. He thus made a humorous connection between the baby and the most famous ‘Hill’ of the day, the Army commander Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill (1772–1842; DNB): Oliver and Roland were two legendary knights in the 11th century Le Chanson de Roland. In the event Herbert Hill changed his mind, and the child was named Errol Hill. BACK

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

[4] Morges is the nearest village to Echichens, on Lake Leman and close to Lausanne. BACK

[5] On his continental tour Southey had reached Unterseen in Switzerland on 7 July 1817. There he met Elisabetha Grossmann (1795–1858), a shopkeeper’s wife who had gained some fame with visitors from rowing them on the local lake. She was known as ‘La Belle Bateliere’ or the ‘beautiful Elizabeth of Brientz’. Southey compared her to Mary Robinson (1778–1837; DNB), the ‘Maid of Buttermere’, another local beauty. BACK

[6] On his tour of 1817, Southey reached Alpnach in Switzerland on 11 July 1817. There he saw the eight-miles long ‘Slide of Alpnach’, erected to convey logged spruce trees from the mountain-side to the lake below. The trough, a feat of engineering supported on a timber frame over several ravines, was so angled as to transport the tree trunks from forest to shore in no more than six minutes. BACK

[7] The church of St Ursula in Cologne contains an enormous reliquary in which supposedly lie the bones of this fourth-century British saint who, according to legend, was killed, with her eleven thousand virginal handmaids, on a pilgrimage to Cologne, by the Huns besieging the city. The reliquary is extraordinary because, in addition to its size, it displays the bones arranged in patterns and so as to form letters and words. Southey visited Cologne on the return leg of his tour of 1817. BACK

[8] Walter Herbert Awdry (1812–1875), son of John and Jane Awdry, in later life a schoolmaster, clergyman and friend of Anthony Trollope (1815–1882; DNB). BACK

[9] Alethea Sophia Awdry (1806–1882), daughter of John and Jane Awdry. BACK

[10] Probably the two miscellaneous manuscript volumes on ‘Minas’, nos 3845–3846 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. He was reading them for use in Chapter 32, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 40–107. BACK

[11] This project eventually became Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). Southey intended to base his work on Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c. 480–525), De Consolatione Philosophiae, a dialogue between the author and the character of Lady Philosophy, consisting of both prose and verse. One of the characters in the dialogue would be Sir Thomas More (1478–1535; DNB), Lord Chancellor 1529–1532 and opponent of the Reformation. BACK

[12] The manuscript volume entitled ‘Minas’, no. 3845 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Its full title was ‘Coleccaon Sumaria das proprias Leis, Cartas Regias, Avizos e Ordens que se achaõ nos Livros da Secretaria do Governo d’esta Capitania de Minas Geraes, deduzidas por Ordem a titulo Separados Villa Ricca 1774’. Villa Rica was at this time one of the largest settlements in Minas Gerais. BACK

[13] Southey acquired this book – it is no. 3359 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[14] Southey never completed his ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[15] Jean-Baptiste Ver Beyst (1770–1849), famous Brussels bookseller, from whom Southey had bought many books on his continental tour in 1817. BACK

[16] The account of the Jesuit missions in Paraguay by Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus, Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784), no. 843 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[17] Chapter 38, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 374–441. BACK

[18] Matthew Flinders (1774–1814; DNB), commander of an expedition to Australia 1801–1803. BACK

[19] Southey’s nickname for the Hills’ children. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)