3107. Robert Southey to Edward Nash, 29 March 1818

3107. Robert Southey to Edward Nash, 29 March 1818⁠* 

Keswick 29 March 1818

My dear Nash

This has been a week of great events. – no less in magnitude, & no fewer in number, than the arrival of Shedaw’s box on one day, that of the frames on the next, & of a parcel of books the third. [1] 

First let me thank you for the Caviare; – the paper with which the jar was covered had an odour truly detestable, as tho it had been dipt in rancid train oil, [2]  or some thing worse, if aught worse there be. But the Wolf you know is a Wolf of approved valour, – & moreover I was perfectly sure that the taste of the Caviare could not possibly resemble this perfume a la diable. And as I expected excellent I found it, – excellente, excellentissime, superbe, magnifique. [3] Mrs Lovell agrees with me, & so does Westall, but as for my Governess & Mrs Coleridge, they belong to the multitude [4] 

The frames fit perfectly, & are in very good taste. They came safe, to the no small merit of the packer. Their Ladyships Racket & Riot [5]  were full of joy at the arrival, & if I were to repeat all the thanks which they wish to send, or half the things which they desire to say, there would be no room for any thing else in this sheet of paper.

The books came in excellent order, & nothing missing except the four volumes of Ebel, [6]  which I conclude were left out at Longmans by mistake, & therefore have written about them. It was a rich cargo & some fellows who were in ragged attire when they came into my service at Milan, having now their new liveries on, were worthy of promotion to the best ranks in the room. Then I had to enter them in a list which I began to keep at the commencement of this year, of all the books which are may be added to my stores. Right glad should I be to hear that the more important collection from Van Beast [7]  were safely on the road to Keswick: – their arrival will be a great event indeed; – for I cannot help having some apprehension that they may have been sent off in the autumn, & have missed their way. Yet I think Van Beast perfectly understood my directions, & would have written, as he was instructed, to advise Mr Rothschild [8]  when they were sent off.

Westall dined here yesterday, – in good health & spirits. He sets out for London in about a month. The retouching his plates has failed in three or four of them. if the fault be not in working them off at Carlisle; – & this makes him fear that they must be published after all as coloured prints, – for which I shall be sorry, because (as far as I am capable of judging) some of them are fine works of art in their kind, better than any thing of that kind which has yet been produced. [9]  This however seems to be the immediate motive for his journey to town – Miss Barker is still in Borrodale, & has been there ever since you left us!

I had a letter from General Peachy the other day, who is now at No 39. George Street. Portman Square. Can you tell me whether Senhouse is at Bath, for if he were there, I would write to him & entrust Miss Wood [10]  with a commission which I think she would like to execute, – that of visiting & giving me an account of an a sort of female College near Bath. [11]  I am about ere long to write a paper upon the great advantage of establishing institutions of this kind, where by which the untold misery to which female women who are left without friends or fortune are now inevitably exposed. [12]  And this will lead me to give as full an account of the Beguines [13]  as I can collect from my books.

Remember us to Mrs Vardon,– to whom I shall write ere long. All here are well (except poor Mrs L.) – & all join in the kindest remembrances.

God bless you my dear Nash –

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Edward Nash Esqre./ 6. George Street/ Hanover Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ [illegible]/ 1818
Watermark: H.E. & S. BATH 1814
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
MS: Newnham College, Cambridge, Harold Young Papers 382b. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Framed pictures that Nash had painted on his visit to Keswick; and a parcel of books that Southey had bought in Milan in June 1817 on his continental tour. BACK

[2] Oil derived from the blubber of whales. BACK

[3] ‘Excellent, most excellent, superb, magnificent’. BACK

[4] ‘Caviare to the multitude’ was a commonplace meaning ‘good things that are unappreciated by the masses’. It derives from a misquotation of Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2, line 437, ‘caviary to the general’. BACK

[5] Two of Southey’s daughters, possibly Kate and Isabel. BACK

[6] Johann Gottfried Ebel (1764–1830), author of the first comprehensive guidebook to Switzerland. The missing books possibly arrived, because a complete edition of Ebel’s Manuel du Voyageur en Suisse (1810) was no. 887 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Volumes Southey bought in Brussels in 1817 from the bookseller Jean-Baptiste Ver Beyst (1770–1849). BACK

[8] The banker Nathan Mayer von Rothschild (1777–1836; DNB), whom Southey had enlisted to help ease the transportation of his books. BACK

[9] A reference to either Westall’s collection of engravings, Views of the Caves near Ingleton in Yorkshire (London, 1818), which combined several engraving techniques to create effects of light and shade; or to Westall’s Views of the Lake and of the Vale of Keswick (1820), a book of coloured aquatints that represented a great step forward in the reproduction of the Lake District landscape. BACK

[10] Mary Anne Wood (1782–1860), Senhouse’s cousin. BACK

[11] The Ladies Association was created by the philanthropist Lady Isabella Lettice King (1772–1845; DNB) with the aim of improving the lot of impoverished gentlewomen by providing them with ‘conventual’ communities. Its first establishment opened at Bailbrook House, near Bath, in June 1816. This moved to Cornwallis House, Clifton, near Bristol, in 1821. The Association was suspended in 1832 and Cornwallis House sold in 1837, with the remaining funds devoted to local charitable causes. Southey was a supporter of King and she wrote to him in the hope that he might influence others to take up her cause. BACK

[12] Southey promoted this idea, specifically praising the Ladies Association, in his article on ‘British Monachism’, Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 59–102 (at 90–102). BACK

[13] Lay Catholic communities of women. Medieval in origin, they could still be found in the Low Countries. Southey’s interest in them dated back to the late 1790s; see Robert Southey to John Rickman, 9 January 1800, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Two, Letter 476. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Rosthwaite, Borrowdale (mentioned 1 time)