1811. Robert Southey to [Mary Matilda Betham], 3 October 1810

1811. Robert Southey to [Mary Matilda Betham], 3 October 1810 ⁠* 

One reason why you have not for so long time heard from me you will readily have imagined, – knowing how idly I am disposed to pass my time, & how many employments there are for me, whenever I sit down to the desk. Another has been that I have very long been expecting to see the end of your old acquaintance Kehama, [1]  & telling you when you might look for him in New Cavendish Street. The final proof sheet reached me last week, & unless any accident happens to delay it, it must I think be ready for publication the first week in November.

Thank you for remembering my little Neapolitan or Sicilian book, [2]  – & I am obliged also to Miss Holcroft [3]  for remembering it, & recollecting its owner. The length of time & intervening circumstances since poor Holcroft took it from my lodgings had made me long since consider it as lost, but I shall be truly glad to recover it. If you can find means of conveying it to Longmans, it will come down in one of his parcels.

Herbert was delighted at the arrival of his picture, – a single speck only of paper has stuck to it, but Mrs Lovell is seriously injured in this manner, paper having clung to the whole of the hair, luckily the other parts of the picture have escaped, & this can be easily washed out & replaced. Had the face sufferd it would have really grieved me, for it is as fine & perfect a likeness as ever was produced. – Do you know that I have a daughter Katharine – who is now two months old? & little Bertha is grown big enough & beautiful enough for your pencil were you here. I call her my live Doll, she is such a kissable & play-able creature. Last week she had a smart bilious attack which has reduced her a good deal, – during its continuance there were two others persons who sufferd more than she did, – Edith is easily alarmed, & my philosophy stands me in less stead than it ought to do on these occasions.

If you can procure me Dolignons [4]  address I will once more write to him, – for it is a painful feeling to me that years should pass away without our having any communications, play fellows as we once were, & kind as his excellent mother was to me, – even with motherly kindness. I frequent dream of her sometimes even now, – proof enough how deeply the recollections of those days <years> is impressed upon my soul me. Happy will the woman be who marries him, – for if that mans heart had not proved good I could almost have disbelieved the moral order of the world, – so admirable was x his mother in every point of her character & conduct.

We expect every day to see the Montagues. [5]  What tidings of the picture from Lady Bedingfield? [6]  – I hope to see you early in the spring, – my hands will then be rid of thxx any immediate work, – & if possible, – that is if she can prevaild upon, Edith is to accompany me –

God bless you

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey

Oct. 3. 1810.


* Address: To/ Miss Betham/ New Cavendish Street
Endorsement: Southey 1810
Postmark: 2o’Clock/ 9.OC/1810ANn
MS: Pforzheimer Collection, New York Public Library, Misc 3575. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Hindu romance The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. BACK

[2] Unidentified. Southey referred to the book as one ‘I shall not willingly lose’, Southey to Edith Southey, 19 May 1799, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Two, Letter 411. BACK

[3] Probably Fanny Margaretta Holcroft (c. 1785–1844; DNB), author and daughter, by his third marriage, of the writer and radical Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809; DNB). BACK

[4] John Dolignon (1774–1856), son of Elizabeth Dolignon. He was a clergyman, later Rector of Wimbish in Essex 1816–1838 and Hilborough in Norfolk 1838–1856. Southey regularly visited Mrs Dolignon’s house when he was at school at Westminster and was very close to her son, John, who was at Charterhouse and then Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1797, MA 1800). In 1811 John Dolignon married Eliza Yonge (dates unknown), daughter of William Johnson Yonge (1752–1844), Vicar of Swaffham in Norfolk. This match gave Dolignon’s hitherto undistinguished ecclesiastical career a significant boost. BACK

[6] Lady Charlotte Bedingfield (1771–1854), niece of the poet and playwright Edward Jerningham (1737–1812; DNB), wife of a Norfolk landowner, Sir Richard Bedingfield (1757–1829), and long-time friend of Betham’s. The latter’s Lay of Marie, A Poem (1816) was dedicated to her. BACK