3484. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, [19 May 1820]

3484. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, [19 May 1820]⁠* 

My dear Edith

I breakfasted at Rickmans this morning, & your letter arrived just as I was going away. So I obtained a frank tho it is not possible for me to write more than a few hasty lines. You will course let me hear frequently concerning the children, – meantime I shall make myself as easy as I can, & thank God that one of them has past safely thro the disease. [1] 

The half years annuity to poor Wilsey is returned in my hands, – & five pounds towards the liquidation of Hartleys claims. [2]  For the latter I have Tolsons authority, [3]  – for the former Turners, – it is a clear point of law. – About my own law affairs Wynn & Turner & myself are to confer when we can meet with convenience to all three. [4]  I am not sanguine on this score, – but in other things I am going on very prosperously. I have promised to write the Book of the Church [5]  forthwith tempted by Murrays offer of 500£ for it. & I am engaging for a series of biography in six such volumes as Wesley for which I shall have 3000. [6]  Besides this Longman offers 1500£ for Oliver Newman, [7]  – but I require more. So you will roll.

The Bp of London told me I had rendered an important service to our ecclesiastical history by writing the Life of W & that between the two dangers of seducing people to Methodism by setting its good points in too alluring a light, & of wounding religion by treating its extravagancies & follies with too much levity, I had steered clear with great discretion.

The Bp of Durham [8]  also complimented me upon it in high terms. How the Methodists take it I do not know. But the book is much liked where I could wish it to be liked, & has made the booksellers plainly feel the weight of my reputation.

Tomorrow I go to Streatham & do not return to town till Wednesday.

If King had not been called away he was to have given me a prescription for Edith. Here is one upon the joint advice of her Uncle & Gooch who are in the room.

two grains of corrosive sublimate [9]  to half a pint of milk of almonds. with this wash the pimples with a spunge three times a day. – Syringe Bells ear with tepid milk & water.

God bless you


I have bought another book – to be sent when I come back to town


* MS: British Library, Add MS 47888. ALS; 2p.
Dating note: Dating from content; this letter was written on 19 May 1820 and Southey left for Streatham the following day. BACK

[1] The measles, a disease that worried Southey greatly, as his sister Eliza had died from it. BACK

[2] Under the terms of William Jackson’s will a number of annuities were charged on the Greta Hall estate. The annuity to Mrs Wilson had lapsed with her death. BACK

[3] Samuel Tolson, Jnr (dates unknown), a commission agent in Liverpool and the owner of Greta Hall since 1815. BACK

[4] The death of John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB), agricultural reformer and Southey’s third cousin, on 5 October 1819 had produced a further round of legal tangles over the Fitzhead estate in Somerset, which Somerville had inherited and on which Southey felt he had some claim. However, a legal opinion that Southey had received on the matter was not very hopeful; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 28 March 1820, Letter 3459. BACK

[5] The Book of the Church (1824). BACK

[6] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). The proposed series of lives did not materialise. BACK

[7] Southey’s unfinished epic, set in New England. The completed sections were published after Southey’s death in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 1–90. BACK

[8] Shute Barrington (1734–1826; DNB), Bishop of Durham 1791–1826. BACK

[9] An antiseptic made up of mercury and chloride. BACK

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 1 time)