2301. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 16 September 1813

2301. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 16 September 1813 ⁠* 

Streatham. Thursday morning. Sept. 16. 1813

My dear Edith

This is the first moment in which it has been possible for me to write, & I scarcely know with what to begin. Coleridge will certainly set out for Keswick in two or three weeks, as soon as he has settled Morgans affairs as he hopes to recover for the women [1]  about 200£ a year out of the wreck. [2]  They would not hear of going into Cumberland at first, but he says that they have since listened to the proposal with less unwillingness, & talked of boarding with Porters mother [3]  in Wasdale; so that it is likely enough they may go down with him. He is thinking of another dramatic piece, & you may tell your sister that I have very little doubt of his making a fair income in this way. – Of the Laureateship nothing more has been heard, and probably the next intelligence about it may be in the Gazette. There can be no doubt that it will be mine, tho of course I shall not reckon upon it till the appointment has been signed. Now my dear Edith, whenever this does take place, I have made up my mind to consider it as a God-send the use of which I may very well forego & therefore the best manner in which it can be applied will be to insure my life as far as the salary will go; it will cover an insurance for 2500£, or perhaps 3000£. The paltry income xxxxxxxx which is attached to the laurel becomes of real importance by enabling me to make this provision in addition to my former insurance. John May tells me that there can be no better way of investing money; for if at any time I should find it either unnecessary or inconvenient to continue xx the insurance (either from being too rich to need it, or too poor to afford it) the office will always purchase my life out, – that is they will repay all that has paid in with a current interest upon it. And the advantage is always increasing, so much so that the one thousand for which I stand insured would in case of my death at this time produce 1100, – a yearly interest of 2½ per cent accruing upon the sum insured. – As soon as my appointment is gazetted I will give John May a power of attorney to receive the salary, & apply it in this manner.

My time has been dissipated as you may suppose. I went to Courtenays [4]  on Wednesday in the last week – came here the next day & worked hard that evening & the whole of Friday. Saturday dined with Bedford, being his birth day, where Herries & Wm Nicol dined with us, & Turner & Rosenhagen [5]  (Percevals late, & Vansittarts [6]  present secretary) came in the evening. Sunday morning I xx saw Coleridge & Allstone, & went to look at the latters great picture, [7]  which proves him to be as great a painter as C. used to represent him. Harry & I then walked to Richmond. We found Mrs Walpole [8]  staying at John Mays, & Laurence the painter [9]  dined there. Monday to see Miss Dee at Mortlake [10]  from whence we returned by water. Tuesday an hours walk to see Mrs Bannister, who by great good hap is visiting her cousins Miss Berrys. [11]  I need not tell you of the thousand inquiries she made & the thousand remembrances she sent. She is thin & looks much other than she did eleven years ago when we saw her last. Returned to Richmond to breakfast by appointment at between one & two with Madam Stael. [12]  Let me caution you here against that green eyed monster whose influence over you I have on other occasions had occasion to remark & regret. M. Stael is called ugly, – I did not find her so, for tho her complexion is exceedingly <dark> & the cast of her countenance more resembles that of a negro than of an European the whole expression of the face is good as well as animated & she has fine eyes & eye brows. I expected a very clever woman, & found what I had not expected a very sensible & very pleasing one. You will probably see her next year on her way to Edinburgh.

At Richmond I called on Lord Bute [13]  without seeing him. past an evening por meos peccados  [14]  at the Dowager Countess of Kingstons, [15]  & saw the Hairs, Tonkins & Mrs Burn. [16]  Yesterday morning Harry & I went from Richmond by the passage boat to Westminster Bridge, – after which I walked here – & my letter to you would have been written last night if Mr Davis had not dropt in with his nephew a Mr Jones [17] . who on a travelling fellowship is just going to Spain. – Proof sheets & letters will occupy the whole of this morning, & Elmsley come here to dine & to sleep. I expect a note from Mackintosh [18]  about meeting M. Stael again tomorrow, – but it is very likely that he may fail in discovering where to address it. However I shall see her again for she is the reigning Lioness & her praise would be more profitable than that of any other person at this time. puffez vous me you know is what we ought to say to our friends, – but moreover I like well what I saw of her. – With all this locomotion & round of visits you will conclude that I have not made much progress in the business which brought me to Streatham. [19]  I have however got fairly into it, much to the satisfaction of Mr B [20]  & shall get fairly thro it by the end of the month, that is to say in a fortnight from this time. When it is done I shall let him take me to visit his brother Sir Robert [21]  at Chatham for two, or at the utmost, three days, then move into town for about ten or twelve days, – for I need not tell you how weary I am of this life & how I long to be at home once more. Except this feeling – I am as well & as comfortable in all respects as you could desire.

As for the thousand guineas, [22]  you need not talk of economizing while I am getting it, for my means are increasing every year, & I am beginning to reap the fruits of a well earned reputation. We shall print 750 copies of Roderick [23]  in quarto instead of 500 & there is no doubt of their sale. Espriella is going to press again, & I shall follow the new edition with the additional volumes. [24]  There will be plenty of money as there always has been, God be thanked, – & when this additional insurance makes my family worth 4000£ in this way alone, I am sure you will cease to have any anxieties upon that score. The Quarterly will most likely be out next week – there will be about 30£ from it to send you. – xx The business of Miss Malones maid [25]  was to be finished yesterday by John May, tell me in your next if I shall send the paper from the Bank to Keswick, or to Ireland, &– if they are gone from Keswick, you must look in my desk for Miss Malones note with their Irish direction, – which I forgot to take with me.

I have letters from Abella, who is putting all his means in motion (& they are great ones) to procure documents for my great work, about this things are so far settled that the appearance of the book is to be as splendid as the subject. –

Tell Edith that I am much pleased with her letter; it is very well the writing is very good, & I am not disposed to find fault with the spelling, tho there ought to be two r r s in Aballiboozobanganorribo. [26]  I shall write letters both to her & the Moon before I return. [27]  My seal & yours will probably be finished when next I go to town. I like the laureateship so well since I have determined in what matter to appropriate the salary, that I have more than half a mind to order you a seal with a lyre & a laurel wreath & the motto jam revirescat – “it will now grow green again.”

There is no appearance of another cousin. I am a huge favourite with two of these young ones [28]  & have raised all three to the peerage in honour of the parts they bear in the story of <by similitude> their favourite story [29]  by the name of Duke Bruin, Marquis Bruin, & Earl Bruin, – so you may give Bertha a kiss & tell her that her Welsh Uncles are all Bruins as well as herself. I have bought some Arabian Tales [30]  for Edith & the Persian & Turkish [31]  for Lunus. – The last letter which you forwarded was from Dr Bell, he is on his way to Cumberland, but how long it may be before he gets there I know not. – Wynn has another daughter: [32]  – he is out of luck. – I have not had time to see Robert & no doubt many other persons are now accusing me of incivility for not having called upon them.

Elmsley is just arrived—so I will only add love to all. Tell the Senhora that I will not forget to see Miss Linwoods [33]  pictures – & tell her without loss of time to make a paper book, & begin immediately to put therein things for the Book of Books.

God bless you



* Address: To Mrs Southey,/ Keswick,/ Cumberland./ Single
Postmark: SE/ 16/ 1813
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 69–72. BACK

[1] Mary Morgan and her sister Charlotte Brent (dates unknown). BACK

[2] See Southey to Edith Southey, 5–7 September 1813, Letter 2299. BACK

[3] Probably the mother of Joseph Porter (d. 1834), an Anglican clergyman in Bristol and later Rector of St Johns, Bristol. Porter was involved in plans to help both the Morgans and Coleridge. BACK

[4] Thomas Peregrine Courtenay had previously been a civil servant at the Exchequer, where he probably encountered Grosvenor Bedford. BACK

[5] Anthony Rosenhagen (1778–1854), financial expert and friend of Landor. He started life as a junior civil servant, but rose swiftly to be Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1811–1815. BACK

[6] Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley (1766–1851; DNB), Chancellor of the Exchequer 1812–1823. BACK

[7] Probably a reference to Allston’s Dead Man Revived by Touching the Bones of the Prophet Elisha (1811–1814). BACK

[8] Sophia (d. 1829), widow of Robert Walpole (1736–1810), envoy to Portugal, 1771–1800. BACK

[9] Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830; DNB). He specialised in portraits and painted Southey in 1829. BACK

[10] Miss Dee may have been another old friend from Portugal, possibly one of the daughters of James Dee (d. 1767), the Vice-Consul in Lisbon. BACK

[11] The author Mary Berry (1763–1852; DNB) and her sister Agnes (1764–1852; DNB), confidantes of Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (1717–1797; DNB). BACK

[12] Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (1766–1817), the writer and salonnière, who was much feted during her 1813 visit to England. BACK

[13] John Stuart, 1st Marquess of Bute (1744–1814; DNB). He was Ambassador to Spain 1795–1796 and had a collection of Spanish books. BACK

[14] ‘for my sins’. BACK

[15] Caroline King (c. 1754–1823), widow of Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston (1754–1799). BACK

[16] All acquaintances from Portugal. At one time, John May had been in love with Charlotte Hair. Southey had been close to Anne Tonkin (b. 1773) on his first visit to Lisbon in 1796. By this time the Tonkins seem to have re-located to Richmond. Mrs Burn was the wife of the merchant William Burn (fl. 1770s-1810s) of the British Factory. BACK

[17] Reynold Davies (1752–1822), Curate of Streatham and a neighbour of Herbert Hill’s. He ran a school for small boys. His nephew is unidentified, but had presumably received one of a number of Travelling Fellowships offered at Oxford and Cambridge Universities BACK

[18] The politician and writer Sir James Mackintosh (1765–1832; DNB). BACK

[19] Southey was writing a pamphlet entitled An Exposure of the Misrepresentations and Calumnies in Mr Marsh’s Review of Sir George Barlow’s Administration at Madras. By the Relatives of Sir George Barlow (1813). This was a defence of Sir George Barlow’s (1763–1846; DNB) conduct as Governor of Madras in 1807–1813, especially during the army mutiny of 1809. It was a direct reply to Charles Marsh (c. 1774–1835; DNB), Review of Some Important Passages in the Late Administration of Sir G. H. Barlow, Bart., at Madras (1813). BACK

[20] William Barlow (1759–1839) a merchant and neighbour of Herbert Hill’s in Streatham. Brother of Sir George Barlow. BACK

[21] The naval officer Sir Robert Barlow (1757–1843; DNB). BACK

[22] The sum Murray had offered Southey for his History of the Peninsula War (1823–1832). BACK

[23] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[24] A third edition of Letters from England appeared in 1814; no additional volumes were published. BACK

[25] Southey had been investing some money on behalf of Sarah Ansell (dates unknown), who was a servant in the household of one of the two sisters of Southey’s friend Richard Malone, Lord Sunderlin, Henrietta Malone (c. 1745–1824) or Catherine Malone. BACK

[26] A nonsense word much favoured by Southey; used as a ‘mystic word’ in ‘Interchapter II’ of The Doctor, 7 vols (London, 1834–1847), I, pp. 91–94. BACK

[27] See Robert Southey to Edith May Southey, 20 September 1813, Letter 2304; no letter to Herbert Southey appears to have survived. BACK

[28] Southey’s first cousins, Edward, Herbert and Errol, the sons of Herbert and Catherine Hill. BACK

[29] i.e. Southey’s rendition of ‘The Three Bears’, which was first published in The Doctor, 7 vols (London, 1834–1847), IV, pp. 318–321. BACK

[30] Arabian Tales, translated into English in 1792 by Robert Heron (1764–1807; DNB). BACK

[31] Probably a volume of the Persian and Turkish Tales. From the French of M. Petis de la Croix (1809), translated by William King (1663–1712; DNB). There was, however, a problem with the book Southey had purchased; see Southey to Thomas De Quincey, 19 January 1814, Letter 2366. BACK

[32] The name of Wynn’s daughter is not recorded, so presumably she died young. Wynn had three living daughters, but his only son, Watkin, had died young in 1811. BACK

[33] Mary Linwood (1755–1845; DNB), artist in needlework. Her exhibition of copies of Old Master paintings was on display at Leicester Square. BACK

People mentioned

May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 4 times)
Southey, Edith May (1804–1871) (mentioned 2 times)
Elmsley, Peter (1774–1825) (mentioned 2 times)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 2 times)
Hill, Edward (1809–1900) (mentioned 1 time)
Morgan, Mary (b. 1782) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 2 times)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)