1930. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 4 June 1811

1930. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 4 June 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick June 4. 1811.

Dear Senhora

Your letter has just reached me, having first travelled to Dublin by some post office blunder. – It has put my plans most cruelly out of joint, for I had calculated upon seeing you at Bath & now I am perplexed how to shape my route so as to see you at all. Going it cannot be, – for I have promised to stay a day or two with the mother & sisters [1]  of poor H. Kirke White at Nottingham, – as an engagement which I should not have made, had I known that you would be at Teddesley. Then for coming back, I have promised to see Landor either at Bath, or at Llanthony, – from the latter place my road would be to Ludlow to visit the Brownes (some Keswick friends of later date than your laking year) – & from thence we were engaged to halt with Wynn at Llangedwin. Now just look at the map Senhora & see how provokingly Abergavenny, Ludlow, Oswestry & Penkridge lie for any person who wants to go to all four places. Ludlow however may be struck out. [Three lines crossed out].

Out of this scrape we must trust time to bring us – see you we will if you are at Teddesley on our return – but if I had known your motions only a fortnight sooner, we would have gone straight to Staffordshire & not have included Nottingham in our journey.

We set out on Monday next, – & I shall be closely employed till the very day in finishing this almost endless work. Being only two we shall for the sake of expence travel by stage as far as we can, & we expect to be at Leeds on Tuesday night, – then I am afraid we must either lose a day or proceed in chaises, – which will be the least evil of the two.

Your verses have not been in the Courier. [2]  – the expression is not neat enough for the thought, except in the first stanza, – but the thought is appropriate as can be. The piece of criticism in question is matchless for self-contradiction & rank rascality of envious malice. [3]  You know Senhora how I take these things – something as a Rhinoceros does a flea bite. When I go to Edinburgh however I shall no longer observe any of the courtesies of life towards a Gog , but pass him in the street without looking down to receive his salutations, & speak of him just as a coxcomb deserves to be spoken of.

Did I send you an epitaph written for General Peche’s mother? [4]  – it is so good that I am sure he will never make use of it in the way which he designed.

Make my respects to Sir Edward , & say I hope I shall find him still farther recovered. – Your account is not a favourable one, – & I am sorry to see his hand is not so steady as it was.

Scott’s Reviewal of Kehama in the Quarterly [5]  is very friendly & the analysis of the story is given in the language of a poet. but he has in one or two instances missed the connecting points of the story, & fancies an incongruity when there is none. The skill with which the fable is constructed is what I most pride myself upon. Longman thinks the edition will be gone as soon as another can be printed. – Madoc also is in the press again, – & so is Joan of Arc. [6]  – this might have furnished you with an additional note to the candid remarks of Gog upon their sale. [7] 

God bless you


George Wither will supply the latin which you want – it is the “motto” which gives name & text to one of his poems Nec habeo, nec carao, nec curo. [8] 


* Address: To/ Miss Barker
MS: text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 361–363
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Mary White, née Neville (1755–1833). She had three daughters; Hannah White (c. 1779–1813); Frances Moriah White (1791–1854); Catherine Bailey White (1795–1889). BACK

[2] Barker’s verses attacking Jeffrey were not published. BACK

[3] Jeffrey’s review of the Curse of Kehama (1810) in Edinburgh Review, 34 (February 1811), 429–465. BACK

[4] Major-General John Peché (d. 1823), of the East India Company’s army. He had been a neighbour of Southey’s at Keswick. The epitaph was first published in Minor Poems, 3 vols (London, 1815), II, pp. 129–130, as ‘Inscription XVII. Epitaph’. BACK

[5] Scott’s review of the Curse of Kehama (1810) appeared in Quarterly Review, 5 (February 1811), pp. 40–61. BACK

[6] The third edition of Madoc (1812) and fourth edition of Joan of Arc (1812). BACK

[7] In his review of Curse of Kehama (1810) in Edinburgh Review, 34 (February 1811), 431, Jeffrey declared that the sale of Southey’s poems had progressively decreased. BACK

[8] ‘I have not, I want not, I care not’: George Wither (1588–1667; DNB), Wither’s Motto. Nec habeo, nec Careo, nec Curo (1621). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Llanthony (mentioned 1 time)
Teddesley (mentioned 1 time)