3244. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 9 February 1819

3244. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 9 February 1819 ⁠* 

Keswick. 9 Feby. 1819

My dear Sir

I was truly glad to hear from you, & should have been still more so if your letter had given a more favourable account of Mrs Peachy. But I hope that if the air of Bath disagrees with her, – or its gayeties are too much for her strength, that xx Clifton will set her up again. I have an old affectionate for Durdham Down, [1]  – & – if it were possible to forget lost friends in the scenes of youth & boyhood, – I could almost fancy that I ne could never breeze its atmosphere without feeling something of the exhilaration which it always used to impart.

I think I shall not see you at Clifton, – & indeed because of such recollections, I should rather see you any where else. Bristol is the last place I ever wish to revisit, – there is something singularly painful in revisiting ones birth place, – the sc place too in which some of the busiest years of life have been past, & seeing none but strange faces in the streets. But you will probably have left Clifton before I can begin my travels, – for I have work which must be done before I take my furlough, & that work seems to grow under my hand. It will not be possible for me to move before the very end of April. But wherever you are I shall find you, – & perhaps hit you some where on your way to the North, when I also shall have set my face in that direction.

It is somewhat remarkable that I intended to have applied to you for information upon the very subject which the Bishop of Meath [2]  has mentioned. Some time ago I obtained some account of Lady Isabella Kings establishment, thro Mr Warner; [3]  & I meant to have requested that Mrs Peachy would visit it, & inform me of its present state & its prospects. Nothing is more wanted in England than establishments of this kind for single women, – I have among my papers schemes for such which were occupied much of my thoughts two & <some> twenty years ago, & which would have been brought before the public at that time, if I could have hoped to draw attention towards them; [4]  – or if I had not left England in consequence of ill health, [5]  – & the friend who planned them with me, had not about the same time entered into active life. – I have however always <for some years> intended to bring the subject forward, when I could find leisure, – & it is not many months since that intention was notified to Gifford. [6] 

There is nothing of mine in the last Quarterly. The xxx reviewal of Henry Milmans poem is I think the best piece of poetical criticism which has appeared in the Journal. [7]  I believe it is written by John Coleridge. The article upon Brougham would be sufficiently severe for any ordinary person: – but the wit is too fine, & the severity too polished for him to feel it. [8]  He has no sense of shame; nor does the certainty of exposure ever deter him from sending abroad the most groundless & the most impudent calumnious accusations, – because he knows very well that the lie will do its work among persons whom the refutation will never reach.

Our excellent friend Dr Bell has been here, – taking us in his way from Hereford to Durham. I never saw so active & joyous an old age as his. – The Beaumonts [9]  are going to Switzerland, & will not visit the Lakes this year. – Calvert who is more anxious than ever about his children, has been talking with Dr Bell about them, & seems to think of the Charter House (where the Madras system is in full practise) [10]  – for Raisley & William. [11]  – Mrs Calvert [12]  is still unchristened; – if I should have a christening on the ere long, as there is good cause to hope, [13]  – if we could persuade her to go to the font at the same time, we would delay the ceremony, till you could be here to assist.

The winter here has been rather better in point of weather than an ordinary summer. The mountain summits were entirely clear of snow till the last week in January, none that had fallen before that time ever remaining twelve hours. The valley has been covered but once, & then scarcely inch deep, & only for half a day. But we have had heavy gales; which have broken down a tree in front of the house, – & given a most perilous shake to the kitchen chimney, a very lofty one, which if it falls, comes upon our bed room. According to the laws of projectiles I have satisfied myself <– si fractus illabatur, [14]  –> that it will just miss the foot of the bed. [15]  But tho I could be content to sleep there with perfect tranquillity upon the faith of this proposition, I cannot expect, under the existing circumstances that Mrs S. should be equally satisfied. So we have turned out: & the chimney is patched as well as it can, till the season will admit of its being thoroughly repaired.

Present my remembrances to the Bishop of Meath & his family, – & to our old acquaintance Colonel Barry, [16]  whom I should be very glad to meet again, – & to any other of my friends whom you may chance to see. Remember me also to Senhouse, if he be still with you, – & tell him, that I go on with the Saints [17]  regularly every night after supper, with great pleasure & great profit. – I learnt from them last night that waxen tablets, like those of the antients were used in this country as late as the 12th century. [18] 

Old & young here desire to be most kindly remembered to Mrs Peachy. & now my Dear Sir, good night, & believe me

Yrs very sincerely

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Major-General Peachy/ 35. Pulteney Street/ Bath.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 28603. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey was familiar with Bath, Clifton and Durdham Down from his youth, which had been largely spent in the area. BACK

[2] Thomas Lewis O’Beirne (1747–1823; DNB), Bishop of Meath 1798–1823. The son of a County Longford farmer, he had been educated for the Catholic priesthood, but converted to Protestantism and became a Church of Ireland clergyman. Southey had met him in the Lake District in 1811. BACK

[3] Richard Warner (1763–1857; DNB), Curate of St James’s, Bath, 1795–1817, and antiquarian. Southey had met him in 1797; see Southey to [Charles Biddlecombe], 16 October 1797, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 263. Southey had asked him for information about Lady Isabella Lettice King (1772–1845; DNB) and her foundation, the Ladies’ Association of Bath (1816), which was based at Bailbrook House, near Bath; see Southey to John Rickman, 12 October 1817, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Five, Letter 3029. BACK

[4] In the early 1800s Southey and Rickman had worked on the idea of establishing a ‘female College’, in which poor single women would live and work together. Modelled on the beguinages, lay communities of Catholic women found in the Low Countries, it was first proposed by Rickman in a letter to Southey of 4 January 1800, Orlo Williams, Lamb’s Friend the Census-Taker. Life and Letters of John Rickman (Boston and New York, 1912), pp. 23–24. See also, for example, Southey to John Rickman, 24 August [1802], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Two, Letter 709. BACK

[5] Southey’s second visit to Portugal, 1800–1801, was prompted by health problems. At the same time, in 1800, Rickman became private secretary to The Speaker and commenced his career as a civil servant. BACK

[6] i.e. Southey wished to write about this in the Quarterly Review. He did so in a review of Thomas Fosbrooke (1770–1842; DNB), British Monachism; or, Manners and Customs of the Monks and Nuns of England (1817), Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 59–102. It dealt extensively with the need for communities to provide support for single women (90–102; esp. 96–101, which dwelt on Isabella King’s work). BACK

[7] The review of Henry Hart Milman, Samor, Lord of the Bright City (1818), Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 328–347. BACK

[8] The review of, among other items, A Letter to Sir Samuel Romilly, M.P. from Henry Brougham, Esq. M.P., F.R.S. upon the Abuse of Charities (1818) and the Reports of the House of Commons Select Committee on the Education of the Lower Orders 1816–1818 (chaired by Brougham), which severely criticised the lack of educational provision and highlighted abuses in educational charities, Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 492–569, published 2 February 1819. The article had multiple authors, including Gifford and John Wilson Croker. BACK

[10] Charterhouse, a well-known public school, founded in London in 1611, had introduced the system of monitorial instruction designed by Andrew Bell, in 1813. BACK

[11] Raisley Calvert (1803–1838), later a clergyman, and William Calvert (1810–1841), later a surgeon in Bombay. They were William Calvert’s two youngest sons. They did not attend Charterhouse. BACK

[12] Mary Calvert, née Mitchinson (dates unknown); she had been brought up as a Quaker and had thus not been baptised into the Church of England. BACK

[13] Charles Cuthbert Southey was born on 24 February 1819. BACK

[14] An adaptation of Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65–8 BC), Odes 3:3, line 7: ‘si fractus illabatur orbis’, ‘if the world should break in pieces around him’. BACK

[15] Southey claimed to have calculated the chimney’s trajectory using the Laws of Motion first outlined in Isaac Newton (1642–1727; DNB), Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687). BACK

[16] Henry Barry (1749/50–1822; DNB), a career soldier who had served in North America and India and risen to the rank of Colonel. Since his retirement in 1793, he had lived mainly in Bath. His wide circle of friends included Hester Lynch Piozzi (1741–1821; DNB). BACK

[17] Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), a huge, 53-volume, compendium of hagiographies that Southey had bought in 1817, and that he was now working through; no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[18] St Anselm (c. 1033–1109; DNB), Archbishop of Canterbury 1093–1109 under William II (c. 1056–1100; King of England 1087–1100; DNB) wrote his Proslogion (1077–1078) on wax tablets after a divine vision, only to find the tablets broken the next day, according to Eadmer (c. 1060–1126; DNB), Vita Anselm (c. 1124). Southey read of this incident in Acta Sanctorum, 53 vols (Antwerp and Brussels, 1643–1794), April II (1678), p. 870. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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