3679. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 30 April 1821

3679. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 30 April 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 30th. April. 1821

I have a letter by this days post from Knox, [1]  concerning Edward, for whose interest he seems to feel as warmly as I could wish him. He is of opinion that it will be better not for him to stand out for College, [2]  next year, – because it will require cramming, (an operation which whether it be always beneficial, he doubts; – I, for my part, not doubting that it is always injurious –) – & because of his youth & gentleness of disposition. His utmost efforts next year could not be expected to bring him in except among the four last, & then – to use Knoxs words “a gentle delicate boy would be subjected to the severest part of a severe discipline.” The year after he would probably come in very high. – Knox must be the best judge of all this. – With regard to the discipline of which he speaks, it is one of those evils which cry aloud for extirpation, – & against which I should have cried aloud ere this, if it were not for the temper of the times, when so many persons would join in the cry for the purpose of mischief. But the oeconomy of our public schools stands grievously in need of reform. Goodenough had an opportunity last year of breaking the tyranny which is exercised in College, when a flagrant instance came before him in the case of James Moore’s son. [3]  But I believe that, like most men who are connected with old establishments, he wishes to maintain things as they are, & the worse they are, the more does he feel it a point of honour to maintain them.

One of the errors in our old school education is exemplified in Edwards own case, –for he is about <nearly> two years more forward than he would have been in the regular course of the school, boys usually entering the 4th form from the age of 13 to 14. – If my dear Herbert had lived to reach that age, he would have been advanced enough for the sixth form, & have learnt acquired as many modern languages as I could have taught him, or learnt in teaching him. xxxx xxx Yet his lessons never employed more than three hours in the day, – & when he was with me they were as much sport as study. – So easily are these things acquired by a willing & apt mind, when it is led in the right way.

– I should have been very anxious to hear of the children, if the Doctor had not written. – Love to my Aunt

God bless you



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surrey.
Stamped: KESWICK/298
Postmark: [partial] 10 o’Cloc/ MY. 3/ 1821 F.Nn; [partial] E/ MY/ 1821
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 207. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 247–249. BACK

[1] John William Knox (1784–1862), clergyman, scholar, and usher at Westminster School 1806–1821. BACK

[2] At Westminster School there are 40 King’s (or Queen’s) Scholars, based in their own boarding house, called ‘College’. Entrance to this elite is by means of an examination known as ‘The Challenge’. Successful Scholars have the right to special privileges; at this time these included Scholarships reserved for them at Christ Church, Oxford, and Trinity College, Cambridge. BACK

[3] James Carrick Moore (1762–1860; DNB), doctor and brother and biographer of the military hero, Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB). This incident could refer to either of James Moore’s sons, as both attended Westminster School: John Carrick Moore (1805–1898), later a geologist; or Graham Francis Moore, later Esmeade (1806–1883). BACK

People mentioned

Hill, Edward (1809–1900) (mentioned 2 times)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Catherine (1775–1848) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)