1297. Robert Southey to Charles Biddlecombe, 25 March 1807 *
Keswick. Cumberland. March 25. 1807.
My dear Biddlecombe
You will think that I have forgotten you, & forgotten also the stray books & chattels which have been so long trespassing upon your hospitality. The truth is that these very things have been the cause of preventing me from dropping you now & then a letter, because I have been always looking on to fixing myself, & hoping soon that I should write to request that they might be dispatched. That time is come at last. My resolution is taken to become a settled resident here at Keswick, – & as I have been here three years & a half on trial, nobody can say the resolution is a hasty one. I will therefore beg you to consign whatever you have of mine in the shape of books, papers, prints & portraits to the care of Rickman: who will forward it forthwith to me by sea, by way of Whitehaven. From this I except a certain portrait of myself (the framed from side face) – which if you think it worthy of retaining a place in your parlour, is very much at your service, & will serve to remind you of one who neither has forgotten, nor wil can forget, many friendly acts of hospitality & good neighbourhood, & many pleasant hours, for which he is indebted to you.
Since we met in London I have had an increase to my family, which now consists of a daughter Edith, nearly three years old, & a son, Herbert, nearly six months, – both strong, hearty, & fine children – who furnish me with abundant amusement. Edith is very much improved in health since she was in Hampshire; – nursing agrees wonderfully with her, & she is grown fat & strong. I myself am th as usual – first cousin to a skeleton, – but my skin – & bones x continue to enjoy the same good health & good spirits. I go on as I begun, & am perhaps a closer student than ever; – my main occupation at present is upon a great work respecting South America, – for which I possess very ample & very important manuscript documents.  – Now in return for this bulletin – tell me how you & yours go on, – if your good mother be still, as I trust, in the land of the living & enjoying life – & if Mr Coleman  also; – When I travel into the West – as perhaps I shall <may> before the end of the year, I will make a bend out of my way for the sake of seeing Burton & my old friends there. – Perhaps you may one day be disposed to travel Northward – whenever that is the case we shall be very glad to make you feel that you are right heartily welcome, – & to show you the country better than guides can do. Your old acquaintance Lloyd (who has not forgotten to enquire after you) is settled near Ambleside, – & we have for our summer neighbour a gentleman of whom you may perhaps know something as he was formerly member for Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight – & is I believe either a Hampshire man, or somehow connected with the county – colonel Peachy.
Your little girl must by this time be grown a great one: – I suppose what you know of Catholicism does not induce you to side with ministry on the present question.  I am decidedly hostile to it, & would x not have the slightest relaxation in the existing laws against Roman a religion, the most monstrous in its pretensions, the most impudent in its assertions, & the most fatal in its tendency that ever human craft imposed upon human credulity. Few persons perhaps understand it better than myself, for I have studied its history, & seen its effects in countries where it flourishes in all its glory. Indeed I have long resolved on writing the History of the Monastic Orders, & have long been collecting knowledge & materials for this purpose: whenever I have leisure this will be the work which I shall pursue, & sure I am that it will give the people of England a very different idea of the Catholic religion from what at present they very generally entertain. 
I see the Christ-Church news in the Monthly Magazine  – that is news of all the fish, birds & flowers in the neighbourhood, with occasional mention of my old friends the forest flies & the Brinston bucks. Mr Bingley is a useful man, – he is sometimes a little credulous about animals, & should have uniformly given references to the authors from upon whom he relies – but his books is a very interesting & very valuable one, – & he must be a great acquisition to your society
Edith desires to be kindly remembered to you – your Mother – & Mr Coleman. – My brother Tom is still a Lieutenant, & now in the Pallas Frigate,  which is off Brest. Should he come to Spithead he would I think be enquiring after you –
yrs very truly
* Address: To/ Charles Biddlecombe Esqr/ Burton/ Ringwood/
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAR28/ 1807
Seal: [illegible] red wax
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p.
 The so-called Ministry of All the Talents, of which Wynn was a member, fell because the King would not accede to its plan to introduce an act emancipating Catholics from the civil penalties and restrictions placed upon them. BACK
 The Rev. William Bingley (1774–1823; DNB), the naturalist, traveller and local historian, was a neighbour of Biddlecombe’s as a curate of Christchurch Priory, Hampshire, from 1802 to 1816. Bingley contributed material on the history of the church and the parish to the Monthly; his Animal Biography; or, Authentic Anecdotes of the Lives, Manners and Economy, of the Animal Creation, Arranged According to the System of Linnæus (1803), reached a third, expanded edition in 1805. Its publisher was Richard Phillips, also publisher of the Monthly. BACK
 Thomas Southey’s ship, launched in 1804, was a 32 gun fifth rate frigate, whose first captain was Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860; DNB), under whom she was involved in the capture of many French and Spanish warships. In 1807, command passed to Captain George Miller (dates unknown). BACK