3257. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 5 March 1819

3257. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 5 March 1819 ⁠* 

Keswick, 5th March 1819.

My dear Sir George, –

I am indeed gratified by your offer of becoming one of the sponsors to this infant, and truly proud should I have been to have received so kind a mark of friendship, if it could have been so. But Grosvenor Bedford requested some months ago that if the child should prove a boy, he might hold the same relation to it which he had done to his dear brother, and that same feeling induced me, as soon as he was born, to desire that Charles W. Wynn would do the same. I mean to call him Cuthbert; you who know Wordsworth’s poems so well will understand why. [1]  From most people I keep such feelings out of sight, as if I were ashamed of them, and for them it is reason enough that it is a good Saxon name, still in use in Northumberland and Durham, and neither so general as to be common, nor so strange as to have any appearance of affectation.

He was born in the study, and when he opened his eyes, I would say, if wishes could influence the course of his life, what he was born to was before him. You will wonder how this should have happened. The high winds about Christmas gave an ugly shake to a high chimney which, if it were to receive such another airquake, might probably make its way through the roof into our bedroom. The masons cannot pull it down and rebuild it while there is any chance of frost; they patched it as well as they could, but lest we should both be killed, or one of us frightened to death, it was necessary that we should shift our quarters, and as no other apartment in the house would afford the needful accommodation, my study was converted into my lady’s chamber, and I have taken up my abode in what was formerly Coleridge’s, but now goes by the name of All Saints’ Room, in honour of my delectable folios. [2] 

The places which I am very desirous you should see in Switzerland are luckily of the easiest access, partly by water, partly by the carriages of the country. Protestant Switzerland has probably suffered less in the general dislocation of principles and morals than any other part of Europe; still, it has suffered much. This I learnt from some ministers in the Pays de Vaud. [3]  But the German cantons are likely to have escaped better than the French.

I have heard of the Peasant of Auburn. [4]  Lady Byron wrote to my brother expressing a wish that I would introduce it to public notice. But as to all such purposes I am completely out of the world, and could as soon get a place in Parliament as in the Quarterly Review for any one whom I wished to serve. I believe the book is now at Murray’s, waiting till he sends me a parcel.

My visit to London will take place at the end of April. By that time the last volume of Brazil will be published, [5]  and I will leave Wesley [6]  unfinished rather than delay my journey to a less convenient season.

Mother and daughters [7]  desire their kindest remembrances to Lady Beaumont. Present mine also, and believe me, my dear Sir George, with the sincerest regard, your obliged friend,



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from William Knight (ed.), Memorials of Coleorton, 2 vols (London, 1887)
Previously published: William Knight (ed.), Memorials of Coleorton: Being Letters from Coleridge, Wordsworth and his Sister, Southey, and Sir Walter Scott to Sir George and Lady Beaumont of Coleorton, Leicestershire, 1803 to 1834, 2 vols (London, 1887), II, pp. 188–190. BACK

[1] Wordsworth’s ‘Inscription: For the Spot where the Hermitage Stood on St. Herbert’s Island, Derwent-Water’ (1800). The poem recounts how St Herbert (d. 687; DNB) lived in seclusion, but prayed that he and his friend, St Cuthbert (c. 634–687; DNB), should die at the same time – a prayer that was granted. The name ‘Cuthbert’ indissolubly linked the new child to his dead older brother, Herbert, as did his other name, ‘Charles’, the name of both his godparents, Bedford and Wynn, who had also been Herbert’s godparents. BACK

[2] The room had been renamed in honour of Southey’s prized – and long wished-for – copy of the Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), a huge, 53-volume compendium of hagiographies that he had bought in 1817; no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[3] The Pays de Vaud was roughly equivalent to the modern Swiss Canton of Vaud, north of Lake Geneva. The region is French-speaking and has been mainly Protestant since the sixteenth century. Southey visited the area on 1–3 June 1817 and met a Minister of the local Protestant Church, whose name he thought was Conobé, on 1–2 June; this encounter seems to be the source of Southey’s information. BACK

[4] Anne Isabella Byron (1792–1860; DNB), née Milbanke, wished Southey to draw public attention to the work of the American loyalist and Anglican clergyman Thomas Coombe (1747–1822; DNB). His The Peasant of Auburn; or, The Emigrant: A Poem (1783) was an imitation of Oliver Goldsmith’s (1728?–1774; DNB) Deserted Village (1770), and told a cautionary tale about the perils of leaving an English village for a new life in America. The poem was reissued by Longmans in 1819. BACK

[5] The third and final volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[6] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[7] Southey’s daughters, Edith May, Bertha, Kate and Isabel. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)