1299. Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 27 March 1807

1299. Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 27 March 1807 ⁠* 

March 27. 1807.

Dear Duppa,

The Ministry – by this time, perhaps, no longer a Ministry – have made a very pretty kettle of fish of it; which phrase, by the by, would look well in literal translation into any other language. Perhaps you will be surprised to hear that on the Catholic Question I am as stiffly against them as his Majesty himself. [1]  Of all my friends Coleridge is perhaps the only one who thinks with me upon this subject; but I am clear in my own mind. I am, however, sorry for the business, – more to think what a rabble must come in, than for any respect for those who are going out – though the Limited Service and the Abolishment of the Slave Trade are great things. [2]  As for any effect upon my own possible fortunes, you need not be told how little any such possibilities ever enter into my feelings: they have entered into my calculations just enough to keep me unsettled, and nothing more. And here I am now planting garden-enclosures, rose-bushes, currants, gooseberries, and resolute to become a mountaineer – perhaps for ever – unless I should remove for final settlement at Lisbon. My study is to be finished – my books gathered together; and if you do not come down again, the very first summer you are not otherwise engaged, why – you may stay and be smoke-dried in London for your good-for-nothingness. I have a man called Willy, who is my Juniper in this business. [3]  We are going to have laburnums and lilacs, seringas, barberry bushes, and a pear-tree to grow up by your window against the wall, and white curtains in my library, and to dye the old ones in the parlour blue, and to put fringe to them, Mr. Duppa, and to paper the room, Mr. Duppa, and I am to have a carpet in my study, Mr. Duppa, and the chairs are to be new bottomed, and we are to buy some fenders at the sale of the General’s things, and we have bought a new hearth-rug. And then the outside of the house is to be rough-cast, as soon as the season will permit, and there is a border made under the windows, and there is to be a gravel walk there, and turf under the trees beyond that, and beyond that such peas and beans! Oh! Mr. Duppa, how you will like them when you come down, and how fine we shall be, if all this does not ruin me!

The reason of all this is, that some arrangements of Coleridge’s made it necessary that I should either resolve upon removing speedily, or remaining in the house. The one I could not do, and was, not unwillingly, forced to the other. Indeed, the sense of being unsettled was the only uneasiness I had; and these little arrangements for future comfort give me, I am sure, more solid satisfaction and true enjoyment than his great Howickship [4]  can possibly have felt upon getting into that Downing Street, from whence he will so reluctantly get out, – like a dog on a wet day out of the kitchen, growling as he goes, with his tail between his legs, and showing the teeth with which he dares not bite. Jackson – God bless him – is as well pleased about it as I am; and that excellent good woman, Mrs. Wilson, is rejoiced at heart to think that we are likely to remain here for the remainder of her days.

Sir, it would surprise you to see how I dig in the garden. I am going to buy the ‘Complete Gardener;’ [5]  and we do hope to attain one day to the luxuries of currant wine, and such like things, which I hope will meet your approbation, after you and I have been up Causey Pike [6]  again, and over the Fells to Blea Tarn, [7]  – expeditions to the repetition of which I know you look on with great pleasure.

I shall miss Harry this summer, – an excellent boatman, and a companion whose good spirits and good humour never failed. If T. Grenville [8]  would make Tom a Captain, and send him down to grass for the summer, he would do a better thing than he has done yet since he went to the Admiralty. Wynn did mention my brother to him; but we had no borough interest to back us, and fourteen years’ hard service go for nothing, with wounds, blowing up, honourable mention, and excellent good conduct. Still I have a sort of faith (God willing) that he will be an Admiral yet.

I am hurrying my printer with Espriella, [9]  for fear another translation should appear before mine, which, you know, would be very unlucky. Ten sheets of the second volume are done. I much wish it were out, having better hopes of its sale than the fate of better books will perhaps warrant. But this is a good book in its way, and its way ought to be, in book-selling phrase, a taking one.

God bless you!



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 68–71. BACK

[1] The so-called Ministry of All the Talents, of which Wynn was a member, fell in March 1807 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

[2] By the first of these measures the government of which Wynn was a member limited the term for which soldiers could enlist; the second was passed into law in March 1807. BACK

[3] Juniper (dates unknown), a Bristol carpenter who built book cases for Southey. Willy is unidentified. BACK

[4] Charles, Viscount Howick, later the second Earl Grey (1764–1845; DNB), was First Lord of the Admiralty from 1806 and, from September 1807, Foreign Secretary. BACK

[5] Samuel Cooke, The Compleat English Gardener: or, Gardening Made Perfectly Easy: Containing, Full and Plain Directions for the Proper Management of the Flower, Fruit and Kitchen Gardens (many editions from 1780). BACK

[6] A fell in the Newlands valley visible from Greta Hall. BACK

[7] A mountain lake near the Langdale Pikes. BACK

[8] Thomas Grenville (1755–1846), First Lord of the Admiralty, after Howick’s resignation, from 1806 to 1807. BACK

[9] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). It was being printed by Richard Taylor (1781–1858; DNB). BACK

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)