3684. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 9 May 1821

3684. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 9 May 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 9 May. 1821

My dear Harry

The Parl. Hist. goes beyond my expectations & beyond what I ought to give for it. [1]  As far as five & twenty pounds I should not have scrupled at, but when it approaches forty, even I begin to consider whether I cannot do without the book better than I can afford to purchase it. Some time or other a set will offer itself at half price.

If Mr Boys does not return the miniature, [2]  trouble him with a note for it. He has just published a volume of Ch. Townsends poems, of which the author has sent me a copy very beautifully bound in vellum with blue silk linings. [3]  Some of the pieces have great beauty of feeling & expression, but there are a class of poets who never write better than when they are in their bloom, & I think he is one of them. Their Helicon [4]  is a sort of soda water which effervesces & sparkles. But the right drink of the Muses is your old Hock. [5] 

Send me some lancets which may come viâ Rickman in a frank, & Edith will try them. – Cuthbert too has some cutaneous disease, – it comes in rough patches which widen & spread, slightly discolouring the place. But he is well & thriving.

His Majesty was very gracious: [6]  – & what is better still, after having let Shield know that a performance would be looked for on the birth day he has been so gracious as not to order, whereby my Ode & Shields music will do for the next St Georges day, & so on, till they shall in evil hour be called for, which I hope may never be. [7] 

I have not yet seen Byron versus Bowles, or Bowles versus Byron, [8]  – but I am very x glad to hear what you say of the latter, the more so because I was a little afraid how so sensitive & hasty a man might manage a xxxx most clear case. What has possessed Lord Byron upon this subject I cannot guess: for he must know that the difference between such writers as Pope & Milton, Pope & Shakespere, – Pope & Spenser, is a difference in kind, not in degree. [9] 

Let me know if a copy of the Parl: Hist: xxx falls in your way at a reasonable price, – (that is to say, cast your eye at the windows where books have their prices affixed, when you pass them) & tell me what you disburse for me in hat, cap, picture frames &c – & you shall be reimbursed by Bedford, – upon whom you may call for payment when you please.

Love to Louisa. I wish we were near enough for her to bring all the children here for change of air, or to send any of them – Tom never speaks of Algoa Bay now. [10] 

God bless you



* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ 15. Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 12 MY 12/ 1820
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 4. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] William Cobbett, Parliamentary History of England: From the Norman Conquest, in 1066 to the Year 1803 (1806), no. 2183 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey had asked his brother to purchase a cheap copy in London. BACK

[2] Thomas Boys (fl. 1819–1850s) was a printer and publisher who wished to include an engraved portrait of Southey in John Clinton Robertson (1788–1852) and Thomas Byerly (d. 1826), The Percy Anecdotes, 21 vols (London, 1821–1823), XVII. This was derived from Nash’s miniature of Southey, painted in 1820 and now in the National Portrait Gallery, London. BACK

[3] Chauncy Hare Townshend, Poems (1821), no. 2823 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, ‘elegantly bound in calf, with silk linings’. BACK

[4] Helicon is a mountain in Greece, where there are two springs sacred to the Muses. The Hippocrene spring was supposed to be the source of poetic inspiration. BACK

[5] German white wine, from the Rhineland. Southey had sampled it extensively on the return leg of his continental tour of May–August 1817. BACK

[6] George IV had commended Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821) to Henry Herbert Southey. BACK

[7] Southey’s ‘Ode for St George’s Day’, unpublished until Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 258–262, and written for George IV’s official birthday on 23 April 1821 (but not performed). BACK

[8] Lord Byron, A Letter to John Murray, Esq. on the Rev. W. L. Bowles’s Strictures on the Life and Writings of Pope (1821); William Lisle Bowles, Two Letters to the Right Honourable Lord Byron: in Answer to His Lordship’s Letter (1821). BACK

[9] The poets Alexander Pope (1688–1744; DNB), John Milton (1608–1674; DNB) and Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–1599; DNB). BACK

[10] Now Port Elizabeth, in South Africa. A party of about 4,500 British settlers had arrived in April 1820, with government sponsorship. Tom Southey had expressed an interest in finding a post, or taking some land, in the settlement; see Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 27 February 1821, Letter 3642. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)