3602. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 8 January 1821

3602. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 8 January 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 8 Jany. 1821

The death of poor Nash has given me, & indeed my whole household a severe shock, for he had been with us so much that he seemed almost like one of the family. It is little more than five years since I became acquainted with him, & we had spent more than twelve months of that time together, at home & abroad. And the more we knew of him the better we loved him, – he was so sensible of any kindness, so thoroughly amiable, & bore his cross so meekly. [1]  With regard to himself his removal to a better state is not to be regretted: but notwithstanding this consideration, I fear it will be some time before my spirits recover from the shock they have sustained. At my time of life new friendships are rarely formed, & the man of middle age who is richest in friends, can ill afford to lose one of them.

Had it not been for this event I should have given you a chearful account of our goings on. The weather has been much less severe here than in the south. I went on Tuesday to bring Edith May home from Wordsworth’s, & returned on Thursday, & nothing could be pleasanter than the weather, – it quite reconciled one to an English January.

Bedford takes his rides on Sunday because his shop is shut on that day, & he comes at an unlawful hour to suit his own dinner time. If you had seen him he would have told you that the hexameters [2]  are finished & have past thro his hands on their way to the press. I am now busy upon the Preface, in which I have taken occasion immediately to repay some of my obligations to Lord Byron by a few comments on D Juan. [3]  The Odes which I wrote ex officio in Dec. 1819 & Dec. 1820 [4]  will be added partly for the sake of adding twenty pages to a thin book, & still more because they will be well-timed, & are in their way, me judice [5]  the one very respectable, the other of a higher order. I entitle them the Warning Voice.

I received the four first proofs of the Peninsular War [6]  on Christmas day, & the printer has in his hands copy enough for a dozen more.

There is nothing of mine in the Q.R. [7] Gifford having prorogued my account of the Sinner Saved till the next number. [8]  The No. has not reached me yet.

Landor received from me the information of Sir C Wolseleys reference to him, & sent me his answer that I might transmit it to the Courier. [9]  This I did not think proper to do, because if I could have seen L. or written to him in time, he would have altered the temper of his letter. Parr no doubt sent it to the Times. [10]  But it is worth knowing because it is a specimen of radical veracity, that in his conversation concerning their neighbour the Princess at Como, Wolseley never attempted to deny the notorious fact of her whoredom, but used to justify xxxx xx it! – I knew Robert Wolseley [11]  his brother, who at different times spent about 18 months here, – he was a very good man, of melancholy temperament, who having been bred to the law, & afterward in the militia, at the age of three or four & forty had a fancy for studying Hebrew, took orders, & preached himself into a consumption. The family principles were Oliverian, [12]  modified in Robert into Whiggery.

Aunt Mary bears the winter well. Old age nev[MS obscured] wore a xxx happier appearance in woman than it does in her, & every b[MS obscured] this. It is delightful to see the enjoyment she has in amusing Cuthbert, & letting him do with her whatever he pleases. That xx drawing which you have seen, is as excellent a likeness as ever was taken. [13]  Thank God he continues to thrive, & is as happy & as good-humoured as he can be.

The difference of grammars at Westminster is not so great a disadvantage as you seem to apprehend. [14]  – My love to the boys, not forgetting Alfred & the two younger ones. – Dr Bell was here last month, wearing wonderfully well.

God bless you


Longman would send the reprint of the Carmina to the Doctors for you. the postscript to the Notes is an excerpt from my half finished letter to Brougham. [15] 


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surrey.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: 10 o’Clock/ JA.11/ 1821 F.Nn; E/ 11 JA 11/ 1821
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 202. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 224–227. BACK

[1] Nash was a hunchback. BACK

[2] Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[3] A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), ‘Preface’, pp. xvii–xxii, where Southey denounced ‘the Satanic school’ of poetry without naming any one poet. This was a response to the first two Cantos of Byron’s Don Juan (1819), which had been published by Murray. The coruscating and hilarious ‘Dedication’, which attacked Southey and others, had been suppressed (and was not published until 1833), but Southey knew of its existence. BACK

[4] ‘The Warning Voice. Ode I’ and ‘The Warning Voice. Ode II’, the New Year’s Odes for 1820 and 1821, were not published until they appeared in The Englishman’s Library: Comprising a Series of Historical, Biographical and National Information (London, 1824), pp. 381–389. They were not published with A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[5] ‘in my judgement’. BACK

[6] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). The printer was Thomas Davison (1766–1831). BACK

[7] Quarterly Review, 24 (October 1820), published 19 December 1820. BACK

[8] Southey’s review of The Works of the Reverend William Huntington, S. S. Minister of the Gospel, at Providence Chapel, Gray’s Inn Lane, Completed to the Close of the Year 1806 (1811) appeared in Quarterly Review, 24 (January 1821), 462–510, published 6 April 1821. BACK

[9] Sir Charles Wolseley, 7th Baronet (1769–1846; DNB), radical politician. A public meeting in Birmingham on 12 July 1819 elected him ‘legislatorial attorney and representative’ for the town, and in April 1820 he was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment for sedition and conspiracy for a speech he had given at Stockport on 28 June 1819. He had written from prison to the government, offering to go to Italy and collect information concerning Queen Caroline (1768–1821; DNB), who was facing a Bill of Pains and Penalties that would have dissolved her marriage to George IV on the grounds of her adultery. Not receiving a reply, Wolseley had published the letter in The Times, 11 October 1820, noting his acquaintance with Caroline when she lived at Como in 1817 and stating he could obtain information ‘that no Englishman but myself and a Mr. Walter Landon, who is now in Italy, can have the opportunity of knowing’. Southey saw the letter and transcribed it for Landor; see Southey to Landor, 29 October 1820, Letter 3547. Landor responded by sending a letter to The Times. He also asked Southey to get the same letter into the Courier; John Forster, Walter Savage Landor. A Biography, 2 vols (London, 1869), I, pp. 466–467. The Times published Landor’s letter on 4 December 1820; in it he insisted, ‘whatever I may have heard relating to the Queen, I know nothing positive, and never made a single inquiry that either could inculpate or acquit her in the cause now pending’. BACK

[10] Landor had sent a copy of his letter to The Times to his friend and mentor Samuel Parr (1747–1825; DNB), clergyman, schoolmaster, writer, Whig and supporter of Queen Caroline. BACK

[11] Robert Wolseley (1770–1815), former lawyer and army officer, who became a clergyman in 1813. He had overlapped at Westminster School with Southey and spent some time in the Lake District in 1808–1809. BACK

[12] Sir Charles Wolseley’s ancestor, Sir Charles Wolseley, 2nd Baronet (c. 1630–1714; DNB), had been a prominent supporter of Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; Lord Protector 1653–1658; DNB), serving on his Council of State. BACK

[13] Probably a drawing by Edward Nash. BACK

[14] Latin grammar was the central course of instruction at Westminster School, which used its own textbooks; for example, The Construction of the Latin Verse-Grammar. For the Use of the Lower Forms in Westminster School (1774). Herbert Hill was concerned, as his son, Edward Hill, was about to enter Westminster School. BACK

[15] A combined second edition of Carmen Triumphale (1814) and Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (1814), published as Carmen Triumphale, for the Commencement of the Year 1814: Carmen Aulica. Written in 1814, on the Arrival of the Allied Sovereigns in England (1821); ‘Postscript’, pp. 45–53, is part of a letter Southey drafted to Brougham following reports of the latter’s attack on him at the hustings for the Westmorland election on 30 June 1818. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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