3103. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 24 March 1818

3103. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 24 March 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 24 March. 1818

My dear Sir

We are glad to hear of you after so long an interval, & should have been more glad if your letter had contained a more favourable account of Mrs Peachy. But better weather, I trust, may soon be expected, & sunshine a course of sunshine assist the effects of Bath & sea bathing. – One day has past so much like another with us since your departure, that months seem scarcely so long as weeks were in the days of our youth, – Mr Westall is the only person whom we have seen <see>, & he talks of shortly visiting London, Miss Barker has been in Borrodale for the last four months; – her brother Frederick (father of the little boy whom she has taken) died of a fever almost immediately upon his arrival at Montreal; – & she has hardly yet recovered from the shock of this unexpected intelligence. [1]  It was her friend Miss Fletcher who took that Lovers leap in the cart; how she the Lady, the horse, or the Cart escaped utter demolition is to me inconceivable, – they made their flying descent just beyond the Bowder Stone, [2]  immediately after going thro the gate, – & yet no injury whatever was sustained.

Senhouse’s coachman [3]  called here some weeks ago, & said that his Master would visit Netherhall in April. I do not know where he is at present; but he was in London about eight & or nine weeks ago, as I learnt from Mr Nash; – & perhaps Nash (who lives at No 6. George Street, Hanover Square) can tell you where he is now.

Sir Henry Bunbury wrote to me immediately after he had seen you, & invited me to his house in Suffolk that I might look over his papers, [4]  & obtain such information as his official opportunities, & personal knowledge enabled him to give me. Of this invitation I probably shall avail myself toward the close of the year, if we both live as <so> long, & no unforeseen impediment should arrive. His papers will not relate to the two first years of the war, & therefore I shall not need them till that time. as It happened oddly enough that the da very day after I had received his letter, there came another inviting me into the same country upon precisely the same grounds, – it was from Major Edward Moore, author of a book upon the mythology of the Hindoos. [5]  He has in his possession a copious corresp collection of letters from some relation in Ld Wellingtons army.

Mr Fleming of Ray rigg (so I think the name of his place sounds, however it may be spelt) is the person who was so nearly murdered by the mob at Kendal. I believe in the history of electioneering (which would not be a very honourable history for England or for human nature) it would be difficult to find a worse instance of the ferocious spirit <of faction> than was exhibited in that little town, – for the rabble knew that they were attacking men who were not only highly respectable private characters, – but who were their neighbours, & benefactors. [6]  But they have been sucking the venom of a rascally newspaper for several years past, [7]  & the effects have now shown themselves. We are out of the sphere of the contest & I know nothing more about it than what I learnt the other day from Calvert. He understands that Brougham can only reckon upon £4000 which Lord Thanet [8]  supplies – & this will not go far in a county election, especially when the contest is begun five or six months before the Dissolution.

Our winter has been unusually mild & the hurricane with which you have been visited in London & in the West did not extend to us. We have had for some weeks past, a succession of windy weather, but no violent storms. – Calvert has been placing his eldest son at Harrow chiefly I believe by Captain Warners [9]  advice: & John, he tells me, is working very eagerly to recover lost time, having much to learn & much to unlearn. – I must not say that we are going on as usual here, for Mrs Lovell is very much worse than she has ever been in any former winter; – she has now scarcely any intervals of apparent amendment & is emaciated & much changed. It seems to be one of those cases in which there is some obscure organic derangement, & no hope.

You were unlucky in not having hit that debate upon the Indemnity Bill in which Canning gave Brougham & Co a tremendous castigation. [10]  I would it were as easy to counteract their mischief out of doors, as it is to expose their folly & their fallacies, & to trample upon them in argument. However the Suspension Bill has done its work for a while, & with a little vigilance the country may now be kept quiet.

For myself I keep close to my desk. You may have traced me in the account of Lope de Vega in the last Q R. [11]  I am getting on rapidly with the last volume of Brazil, [12]  which in point of labour will be my opus majus – I shall soon be in the press with the Peninsular war [13]  (having just received the last book [14]  which was wanted for the introductory chapter) & I am also making good progress with a life of Wesley; [15]  – this is a subject equally curious & comprehensive. These are widely different pursuits, – & therefore it is that the prosecution of one serves as relief to another.

Mrs S & her sisters [16]  join with me in kind remembrances to Mrs Peachy.

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Major-General Peachy/ 39. George Street/ Portman Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] 1818
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
MS: British Library, Add MS 28603. ALS; 4p.

[1] Frederick Barker (b. 1779), had emigrated to Canada after a number of business failures. The name of his son is unknown. BACK

[2] A large boulder at the entrance of Borrowdale, then and now a local landmark and tourist sight. BACK

[3] Unidentified. BACK

[4] Bunbury was Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies 1809–1816 and so had material that might help with Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[5] Edward Moor, The Hindu Pantheon (1810). Moor had married in 1794 Elizabeth Lynn (d. 1835), of Woodbridge. Her sister, Emma Lynn (d. 1856), married in 1809 Sir Augustus Simon Frazer (1776–1835; DNB), a commander of horse artillery in the Peninsular War 1811–1814. Moor offered Southey the use of Frazer’s papers. BACK

[6] Although parliament was yet to be dissolved it was already clear there would be a contest for the first time since 1774 in Westmorland, between Henry Brougham and the candidates supported by the Lowther family. The election canvas produced a good deal of violence, especially in Kendal. Southey is referring to the injuries received on 21 February 1818 by John Fleming (c. 1769–1835) of Rayrigg Hall, Rector of Bootle 1814–1835. BACK

[7] Westmorland Advertiser and Kendal Chronicle (1811–1834), a pro-Whig newspaper. BACK

[8] Sackville Tufton, 9th Earl of Thanet (1769–1825; DNB), hereditary High Sherriff of Westmorland 1786–1825, leading Whig in the county and the financial mainstay of Brougham’s campaign. BACK

[9] Unidentified. BACK

[10] Probably a reference to Canning’s speech on 11 March 1818, defending the Indemnity Bill, preventing prosecution of government officials for their actions under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act (1817), which allowed imprisonment without trial for a year from February 1817. BACK

[11] 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

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

[13] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[14] Jean Baptist Germain Fabry (1770–1821), Le Génie de la Révolution Considéré dans l’Education ou Mémoires pour Servir a l’Histoire de l’Instruction Publique, Depuis 1789 jusqu’à Nos Jours (1817–1818). BACK

[15] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

Places mentioned

Rosthwaite, Borrowdale (mentioned 1 time)
Netherhall (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)