3227. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 31 December 1818

3227. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 31 December 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 31 Dec. 1818

My dear Sir

Wicked correspondent as Mrs S. is, Mrs Brownes kind letter would not have remained so long unacknowledged, I believe, under ordinary circumstances. Our youngest child is at this time in her seventh year, – after so long an interval all likelihood of any farther increase of family had naturally ceased; – but so it is that in the course of six or seven weeks, the services of the nurse will be needed; [1]  & for many months this has occasioned so much bodily ailment & so much depression of spirits, that she has been in no state for writing. It was my intention to have been in London about this time, the expectation of this event xxxx has induced me to delay my movements, & that delay will bring me so close upon the conclusion of the two works which I have in the press (the last volume of Brazil, & the Life of Wesley [2] ) that I shall not leave home till they are both compleated. This I hope will be by the beginning of April, & should you be at home towards the end of May, I will certainly make Ludlow in my way home.

Our house is at present quieter than it has been for many years. Mrs Coleridge, Sara & Edith set off this morning for a visit to Mr Wordsworths; – & the three younger ones are spending the day at Mrs Calverts, [3]  being I believe the first visit they have ever paid. Sara has just entered upon xxx her seventeenth year, she seems to have done growing, – & has stopt just above her mothers stature. Edith is still a great girl & xxx bids fair to equal or outstrip hers. You would find her very little altered in countenance; thank God she is in excellent health, & in all respects just what I would wish her to be. They have got on well with their music, I scarcely know how, except that the poor piano seems never to be at rest. And they have got on so far with their drawing that they would do very well with it, if they applied to it more. Here they have had great occasional advantage. My good little fellow traveller Mr Nash who has twice been our guest in the last three years, is professionally an artist, & for some months we saw a great deal of the younger Westall while he was lodging in Keswick. He has lately published some views of the Caves in Yorkshire, etched by himself, which are perhaps the most beautiful things that have ever been produced in that style. [4] 

The Ponsonbys have taken Barrow & are to come to it in the autumn. They have it at a very low rent, partly furnished & with some acres of land for 70 £ & the house is to be improved for them. We shall be glad to have them as neighbours, & yet I cannot but wish that old Mr Pocklington had removed from his bed to the churchyard before you were settled at Ludlow. [5]  The Speddings have taken a house at Bury St Edmunds for the sake of the school there which is in good repute. [6] Calvert has placed his eldest boy at Harrow, & is now just as eager about the education of his children as he was formerly about the cultivation of Latrigg. The town of Keswick is much improved by the demolition of the shambles. It stands as much in need of moral & magisterial improvement as ever. We have however two Sunday schools & a Savings Bank; the latter must do good; – the former will do no harm. [7]  But I would rather see children go to Church with their parents, than at the heels of a schoolmaster; & should like to extract from the manufactories a Saturdays half holyday for that schooling which is now given them upon the Sabbath day. – Do you recollect a house which Mr Barcroft [8]  was building in Newlands, between the Buttermere road & one of your fishing streams? My brother the Capt. has taken it, & comes at Lady day to take possession with six children, [9]  & six Devonshire cows. This removal will very much increase my comfort, & draw me out very often to breakfast with him, & to bathe in the beck below the house, where there are some of the finest basons in the country.

I have been closely employed this year as usual. The review of Evelyn’s Memoirs, & the paper on the means of improving the people in the last Q R. are mine. [10]  In the forthcoming number I have two slighter papers – upon the New Churches (which was written chiefly for the purpose of recommending national encouragement for painting as a national object) [11]  & upon the abominable Copy-right laws, [12]  by which the Public Libraries take from us eleven copies of every book, & tell us it is for our advantage! This is a tax of more than 70£ upon my History of Brazil. [13]  But there is a good prospect of getting rid of this grievance, & I have written this paper in aid of the Report of the last Committee which was in our favour. [14]  – The concluding volume of Brazil has cost me exceeding great labour, being drawn for the greater part from manuscript documents; – it will be found, I think, more curious & diversified than either of the former, & when it is off my hands, as it will now very soon be, I shall feel that I have accomplished a great work. The Life of Wesley includes the Rise & Progress of Methodism, – two large octavos, upon a subject of great & growing importance. [15] 

You have probably seen in the papers that Hartley took his degree in the second class, which considering the defects of his school education, & that he had no assistance from his tutor [16]  (Merton being in that respect a miserable College) is as honourable for him, as a first class for one who has xxx been regularly bred. Derwent is acting as tutor in a family near Ulverstone, with whom he is continuing one year more; [17]  – & at the end of that time, there is a prospect of placing him at Cambridge, where he is very ambitious of distinguishing himself in Mathematics.

Wade I suppose will be about taking his degree, [18]  & determining finally upon his way of life, – which happily seldom appears to us at his age so serious a matter as it is. Remember me to him & his sisters. I hope Mary (no longer little Mary I suppose) is better than when Mrs Browne wrote. Our kindest remembrances to Mrs Browne.

Believe me my dear Sir

very truly yours

Robert Southey.


* Address: To Wade Browne Esqre/ Ludlow
Stamped: [partial] KESWICK
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London & New York, 1965), II, pp. 192–194. BACK

[1] Southey’s son Charles Cuthbert Southey was born on 24 February 1819. BACK

[2] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819); and his The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[3] Mary Calvert, née Mitchinson (dates unknown), wife of William Calvert. She was the daughter of John Mitchinson (dates unknown), a Quaker conveyancer in Carlisle. BACK

[4] Westall’s Views of the Caves near Ingleton, Gordale Scar, and Malham Cove, in Yorkshire (1818). BACK

[5] On the shore of Derwentwater, a few miles south of Keswick, Joseph Pocklington (1736–1817), had built Barrow House, overlooking a waterfall that he diverted and enlarged. Its new occupants were Lieutenant John Ponsonby of the Royal Navy and his wife (name and dates unknown), who had been residing at Ormathwaite, just north of Keswick. BACK

[6] The Grammar School at Bury St Edmunds, where the eminent scholar, Benjamin Heath Malkin (1769–1842; DNB) was headmaster 1809–1828. John Spedding’s three younger sons, John (1806–1839), James (1808–1881), later well-known for his editions of the work of Francis Bacon (1561–1626; DNB), and Edward (1811–1832), were educated there. BACK

[7] The Keswick Savings Bank was formed on 29 April 1818 and proved a successful home for the savings of small depositors; it was part of the savings bank movement started in 1810 by Henry Duncan (1774–1846; DNB), Church of Scotland Minister in Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire. Keswick had two Sunday schools educating over 300 children at this time, though Southey was wary of their non-denominational nature. BACK

[8] Joseph Barcroft (c. 1753–1810), a local farmer. BACK

[9] Margaret Hill Southey (b. 1811); Mary Hill Southey (b. 1812); Robert Castle Southey (1813–1828); Herbert Castle Southey (1815–1864), Eleanor Thomasina Southey (1816–1835); and Sarah Louise Southey (1818–1850). Lady Day (25 March) was a traditional day for the start of new tenancies. BACK

[10] Southey’s review of Memoirs, Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn (1818) appeared in the Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 1–54, with his article ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 79–118. BACK

[11] Southey’s review of Haydon, New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818) appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591. BACK

[12] Southey’s article ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 196–213. At this time eleven public and University libraries were entitled to a copy of all books published in the United Kingdom. BACK

[13] As there were three volumes of the History of Brazil (1810–1819), with the first priced at £2 2s. the second at £2 10s. and the third at £3 3s., eleven copies of all these books added up to a cost of over £85. BACK

[14] The Select Committee Report on the Copyright Acts of 5 June 1818, recommending reducing the number of copies of new books required to be deposited in public and University libraries from eleven to five. BACK

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

[16] Hartley Coleridge had attended a school in Ambleside 1808–1815, run by John Dawes, the local clergyman. Southey also felt that John Lightfoot (1784–1863), Principal of the Postmasters and Tutor at Merton College, Oxford had been little help to Hartley Coleridge in his studies. BACK

[17] Derwent Coleridge was living with the Hopwood family, well-connected Lancashire landowners, at Summerhill, near Ulverston 1817–1819. Robert Gregge Hopwood (1773–1854) had married in 1805 Cecilia Elizabeth Byng (1770–1854), daughter of John Byng, 5th Viscount Torrington (1743–1813). Derwent Coleridge was tutor to the Hopwoods’ sons: Edward (1807–1891); Frank (1810–1890); and Hervey (1811–1881). He continued in this post until December 1819, later becoming an undergraduate at St John’s College, Cambridge. BACK

[18] Wade Browne (1796–1851) graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1819 and, after travelling in Europe, settled down to the life of a country gentleman in Wiltshire. His sisters were Lydia (c. 1789–1864); Elizabeth; Sarah and Mary Browne (dates unknown). BACK

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