3038. Robert Southey to [John Kenyon], 17 November 1817

3038. Robert Southey to [John Kenyon], 17 November 1817 ⁠* 

Keswick. 17 Nov. 1817

My dear Sir

I am truly obliged to you for the trouble you have taken in procuring for me my old friend Martin Dobrizhoffer, [1]  of whom I have been ten years vainly in search. It will come in excellent time, just when I shall be composing a chapter [2]  upon the equestrian tribes, the chief of which materials for which are taken from this Jesuit, the most entertaining & most interesting of all the missionary writers. The last volume of my history is now in the press, & from this time forward it will form part of every days business till I shall have compleated the laborious work.

Our journey was prosperous in all points, without any accident of any kind, or any unpleasant delay. In the Val de Triens [3]  I found your name written in pencil on the wainscot of the little cabin in which travellers are entertained, – immediately under it I pencilled my own & those of my companions, – & if any person finds as much pleasure in seeing this memorial, as I did in seeing yours, it may be reckoned among my succesful writings. We entered Switzerland by Pontarlier & Neufchatel, from thence to Lausanne, finding it too early to cross S Gothard; [4]  then to Geneva, & turning aside from Chamberry to visit the Chartreuse [5]  (one of the finest objects in our route) proceeded by Mount Cenis [6]  to Turin & Milan. This was our farthest point. We were three days at Como, – but went no higher than the fork of the lake at Bellaggio, which must certainly be the finest of all Lake stations. Yet as a Lake Lugano may perhaps be preferred to Como, – & the Maggiore where wer crost from Laveno is equal to either. We returned into Switzerland by the Simplon, [7] which magnificent as it is <it> impressed me on the whole not so much as the pass of Mount Cenis, which nobody speaks of – Chamounix we took from Martigny, going & returning by the Tete Noir. The Col de Balm was not passable, – & as we returned to Martigny because we were bound to Echichens, near Morges, where I had some friends [8]  to visit. We halted with t[MS torn] three days, – a very pleasant resting place: Then made for Berne, & sen[MS torn] our carriage from that city to Zurich struck into the Oberland, where at Unterseen Hans Roth [9]  was added to our company. On our way home we went a step out of the road to see the Danube at Donauschingen, then thro the Black Forest to Friburg, looked at Strasburg & returned the same day to Kohl, saw went into the dungeons of the Secret Tribunal at Baden-Baden, [10]  & shuddered at seeing the doors of solid stone a foot in thickness; – Rastadt Carlsruhe, Heidelberg, Manheim Frankfurt, Mentz – Cologne – & so by Brussels & Lisle to Calais.

In Hans’s book wherein my doggrel was written, [11]  were some Latin verses which deserved to be copied. M Very probably they came from Bloomfield, [12]  – whose name was among his testimonials, tho not written in the same hand: certainly they are of English growth, – as you will perceive

Hans Loquitur.

Sum Rothius, parvæ dux optimus Untersenæ.
Quaque lacus inter surgunt mapalia binos.
Seu te findentem scopuloso vertice nubes
Gotthardum peragrare placet, seu florea mavis
Regna Rigi, aut fractam pileato culmine montem,
Omnia lustrabis Graii cognominis Alpes
Auspicio ductuque meo: fert sive dolores
Dira διάρροια, aut fessis ύπο ποσσι χιμετλα,
Non ignarus ero; novi quæ rupibus altis,
Quæque in secretis crescunt convallibus herbæ. [13] 

&c. &c. &c.

Present my compliments to your friend Mr. Ritchie, [14]  for the letter which he forwarded to Geneva for me. The ladies below stairs have desired me not to forget their remembrances. Here is Ormathwaite [15]  to be let, and Barrow, [16]  and the house which in your time was called Mr. Marshalls: [17]  I will risk the one which you may like best to remain vacant till you have finished your travels. Let me hear from you sometimes, and fail not to say where a letter may find you upon your road. The General is on the Island, enjoying all the advantages of solitude and retirement, and I daresay just now heartily disposed to join in the complaint of the lover against space and time, in reference to the limits of his island, and the length of the day. God bless you.

Yours most truly,


I am sorry it should be reported, (tho no person who knows either me or my manner of writing x can believe the report,) that I am the reviewer of Lady Morgans book. [19]  Her opinions are bad enough, but I would rather have cut off my right hand than have written any thing so unmanly & disgraceful as that criticism.


* Stamped: [partial] WICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial, illegible]
Endorsement: No 1.
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.231. AL; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 75–78.
Note on MS: The manuscript is a fragment: the final paragraph and closing signature are missing. This missing text is here supplied from Warter. BACK

[1] Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus, Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784), no. 843 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

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

[3] This incident occurred when Southey’s party breakfasted at Trient in the Valais, Switzerland on 25 June 1817. BACK

[4] 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

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

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

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

[8] 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 again for the visit Southey mentions on 30 June–3 July. BACK

[9] Earlier in the year Hans Roth (dates unknown) had acted as a guide to Southey, Senhouse and Nash for about ten days on their walking tour in central Switzerland. BACK

[10] The Vehmgericht, or Secret Tribunal, was a court that met in Westphalia from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries to suppress major crimes, especially heresy and witchcraft. It featured prominently in German and British Gothic novels and plays. BACK

[11] Southey had composed a poem in Hans Roth’s honour in his book of testimonials. It was seen by another traveller, who sent a copy to The Times, where it was published on 31 October 1817. BACK

[12] Edward Valentine Blomfield (1788–1816; DNB), classical scholar and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He contracted a fever on his tour of Switzerland and died in Cambridge on 9 October 1816. BACK

[13] ‘Hans speaks.// I am Roth, the best leader of small Unterseen,/ Where between two lakes chalets rise up./ Whether it is pleasing that you traverse/ Gotthard which cleaves the clouds with its craggy summit,/ Or you prefer the flowery/ Kingdoms of Rigi or the broken mountain with its be-capped top,/ You will survey in every way the Alps of Grecian surname/ By my guidance and conducting: or if dread diarrhoea/ Or chilblains under your tired feet bring pains,/ I shall not be unmindful; I know which herbs grow on high cliffs,/ And which in remote valleys.’ BACK

[14] Joseph Ritchie (c. 1788–1819; DNB), surgeon, explorer and naturalist who died during an expedition to find the course of the Niger. BACK

[15] Ormathwaite Hall, at the foot of Skiddaw; formerly rented by Lieutenant John Ponsonby (dates unknown), of the Royal Navy. BACK

[16] Barrow House on Derwentwater, designed and built by Joseph Pocklington (1736–1817). BACK

[17] Possibly a house rented by John Marshall (1765–1845; DNB), Leeds mill-owner. BACK

[18] Present my compliments … Robert Southey: final paragraph and signature are missing from the manuscript and the text is here taken from the version published in Warter. BACK

[19] The review of Lady Morgan (bap. 1783–1859; DNB), France (1817) in Quarterly Review, 17 (April 1817), 260–286, published 8 September 1817, was by John Wilson Croker and William Gifford. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)