3044. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 30 November 1817

3044. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 30 November 1817⁠* 

Keswick 30 Nov. 1817

My dear Tom

It is God knows how long since I have heard from you. Meantime I have been close at my desk, almost without intermission. Brazil is under weigh, I have corrected four proofs, & am proceeding in the manful resolution of transcribing the whole of this volume before breakfast, & not suffering a single xxx day to pass without doing some thing to it, however little. [1]  – There is no news of my books, either the Milan chest, or those from Brussels. [2]  – & I am very apprehensive concerning the former. It gives me a perspiration to think of them.

Perhaps you have heard that we have another cousin at Streatham, who is what would be called in China, a bull-child, [3]  & is named after me. I heard from Harry on Friday last, he inclosed a letter from an Italian at Milan, who having got possession of a vindication of the Prince of Peace written by that worthy himself, offers it to me at the moderate price of – £200, – for my history. [4]  It might possibly supply matter for two pages. He is my Umilissimo, Ubbidientissimo & Devotissimo Servitore; [5]  – & I am his. –– Louisa & Harry are going on well, & they are in a way of having Dishion [6]  to the family.

The death of the Princess [7]  would affect you as it has done every body. Whether I shall write any thing upon the subject or no, I have not determined, tho in case it should seem fit, & I should feel disposed, I have formed a plan, which would be an intermixture of prose & verse, & allow the occasion to serve as the text for an excursive discourse. [8]  In that case the first poem which it would contain would be this,

Tis not the public loss which hath imprest
This general grief upon the multitude
And made its way at once to every breast.
The old, the young, the gentle & the rude:
Tis not that in the hour which might have crownd
The prayers proferrd by every honest tongue,
The very hour which should have sent around
Tidings wherewith all Churches would have rung,
And all our echoing streets have pealed with gladness,
And all our cities blazed with festal fire,
That then we saw the high-raised hope expire
And Englands expectation quenched in sadness.
This surely might have forced a sudden tear,
Yet had we then grieved only for the State:
Tomorrow would the Sun have risen as fair,
And seen upon our brows no cloud of care
It is to think of what thou wert so late
O thou who liest xxxx clay-cold upon thy bier!
So young, & so beloved, so richly blest
Beyond the common lot of royalty;
The object of thy worthy choice possest,–
The many thousand souls that prayd for thee
Hoping in thine a nations happiness,
And in thyx youth & in thy wedded bliss,
And in the genial bed, – the cradle drest,
Hope standing by, & Joy a bidden guest! –
Tis this that from the heart of private life
Makes unsophisticated sorrows flow,
We see thee as a daughter & a wife,
And in our human natures feel the blow. [9] 


Dr Bell heard from G. Taylor of my Flying Tree: & has got the extract from my journal. [10]  Your hams have been excellent (one is in course of eating at this time.) – the cheese also arrived, – but has not yet been cut. – All well here – Love to Sarah & the young ones, [11] 

God bless you.


Did you see in the papers that the Greenland ships this year got as far as 84 & there was no ice in sight? [12]  It is supposed that some earthquake or eruption had broken it up at the pole & sent it all away floating – I said during the whole of May that our cold winds from the S. & S.W. could only be occasioned by ice islands.


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

[1] The third volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[2] The two consignments of books bought during Southey’s May–August 1817 continental tour. BACK

[3] Robert Southey Hill, in later life a doctor and botanist; he was the youngest child of Herbert Hill and was born on 10 November 1817. Southey noted the Chinese term of ‘bull-child’ in his Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 444, and used it again in his Vindiciae Ecclesiae Anglicanae. Letters to Charles Butler, Esq. (London, 1826), p. 377. BACK

[4] See Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 28 November 1817, Letter 3043. The letter was from Gaetano Bartorelli (dates unknown) offering for sale the memoirs of Don Manuel Francisco Domingo de Godoy (1767–1851), Prime Minister of Spain 1792–1798. Godoy, who lived in exile in Rome from 1812 to 1832, published his Memórias del Príncipe de la Paz in 1836 in Paris. BACK

[5] ‘Humblest, most obedient and devoted servant’. BACK

[6] In other words, an addition to the family. Louisa Southey’s second son, Henry Herbert Southey, was born on 20 June 1818. BACK

[7] The Regent’s daughter Princess Charlotte had died in childbirth, after 18 months of marriage, on 6 November 1817. BACK

[8] This plan eventually became Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). BACK

[9] These ‘Lines Written Upon the Death of the Princess Charlotte’ were not published until they appeared in The Amulet, or Christian and Literary Remembrancer (London, 1829), pp. 91–92. BACK

[10] 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

[11] Tom and Sarah Southey’s children: Margaret Hill Southey (b. 1811); Mary Hill Southey (b. 1812); Robert Castle Southey (1813–1828); Herbert Castle Southey (1815–1864); and Eleanor Thomasina Southey (1816–1835). BACK

[12] Reports of events in the Arctic were widespread in British newspapers, e.g. Morning Chronicle, 22 November 1817, which coincides closely with Southey’s information. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)