1450. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 28 April 1808

1450. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 28 April 1808 ⁠* 

Thursday April 28. 1808.

Dear Senhora

How many letters I have had to write since my return home you must well know, & having heard of our safe arrival you will hardly have expected to hear immediately from me sooner. I am at this moment in the most utter confusion, – the most comfortless might have been added, if it were not an ungrateful word to employ upon a glad occasion. Here are all my books arrived, & in Toms phrase kicking-to-Windward; floor tables & chairs covered with them, some on the landing place, some on the stairs, – just as they were last year. [1]  Henry Pooley [2]  is making shelves to cover the wall of the passage which communicates between the two houses. It will hold about 1200 volumes, & the dark end is to be Duck Corner. [3]  The parchmentarians have all been rubbed & scrubbed, & a good number of them have taken their seats on the brackets. [4]  One set of six folios is lettered in gold upon bister as thus






Fr Luis Granada [5] 

& the volumes connected with chain work, but the gold-leaf is exhausted & two links are yet wanting to the chain. You will be very much pleased with their appearance. I have two things to beg, intreat & desire, – first that you would be pleased to send me in a frank as much gold leaf as a frank will carry, – & secondly that you will be pleased to come after it yourself as soon as may be, to Juniperize [6]  within doors, to maroon without, & to be introduced to Sir Edward’s god-daughter, who is pronounced to be the quietest & at the same time the forwardest child that ever was seen.

I was greatly in hopes that Sir Edward would have been persuaded to take time by the forelock, & not let another summer pass away without seeing the Land of Lakes. (Be pleased to observe that this is the appellation which old Llywarc Hen gives it, who was himself a Cumbrian prince). [7]  He feels time so little that it is not to be wondered at that he does not think about it much. All I can say is that if you can not prevail upon him to come this year, you must come yourself. You will find better company than you did last summer, for I fully expect to have Rickman for my guest as soon as Parliament breaks up.

My stock of marbled papers is tolerably good, but I failed sadly in the gilt ones, – nothing could I find like John Wesley’s suit of sable & gold, [8]  – I got the best I could meet with, – when you are in the way of any think I beseech you of the grandeur.

I am much indebted to Sir Edward about Plott’s Staffordshire. [9]  In any shape the book would have been acceptable to me, – the more so as coming from him. the Sylvester [10]  also is a treasure, for the copy which I formerly possessed is one of the many volumes which have been stolen while my poor library & I were so many years kept asunder. At last, God be praised, we are gathered together, & earnestly is it my wish that neither they nor I may be removed from our present resting place, till I take up my last lodgings in Crosthwaite Church yard. Here are materials enough for me to work upon perhaps [MS obscured] as I live, certainly for many many years of industry. Never before was so poor a man so rich in books, & never did any man who possessed books enjoy them more heartily.

You will not be displeased to hear that Landor’s offer to print all the poems I would write has stung me to the very core; – & that I am learning to go through the whole Thalaban [11]  series, – not with any idea of accepting his offer – far from it, – but for the sake of showing him how much I feel it, & of letting him see the power that is in me. I shall send him what is written of Kehama [12]  & if he likes it, in good earnest I will up at six every morning, & give two fresh hours of morning work to it till it is compleated. Nine tenths of Madoc [13]  in its first state were written in those hours –

God bless you



* Address: To/ Miss Barker
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 272–275.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 58–60. BACK

[1] Having decided to remain at Greta Hall the previous year, Southey had been steadily arranging for his books, which had been stored by friends in London and the West Country, to be collected together. BACK

[2] Henry (or Harry) Pooley was a Keswick carpenter, but no further information about him has been found. BACK

[3] Southey named his more dilapidated books ‘ducks’. BACK

[4] That is, Southey’s valuable manuscripts, stored on shelves bracketed to the wall. BACK

[5] These volumes were included in the sale of Southey’s library after his death: Luis de Granada (1505–1588), Obras, con su Vida por J. de Marieta, 6 vols (Barcelona, 1701). BACK

[6] Juniperize meant to add a gold border and lettering to the bindings of Southey’s books, and alludes to a Bristol carpenter Southey often refers to in his letters, who built bookcases for him and bound his books. It may also be a pun based on Friar Juniper, disciple of St Francis, who cut the silver bells off a gold border of an altar cloth to give to a poor woman begging alms. BACK

[7] The bard Llywarc Hen (496–546), a resident of Cumbria until forced into Powys, Wales, by the wars of other British tribes. Southey’s friend William Owen Pughe published The Heroic Elegies and Other Pieces of Llywarc Hen (London, 1792). BACK

[8] Presumably an edition of Wesley (1703–1791; DNB) bound in black with gold lettering. BACK

[9] Robert Plott (1640–1696; DNB), The Natural History of Staffordshire (1686). BACK

[10] Joshua Sylvester (1562/3–1618; DNB), translator of Bartas his Devine Weekes and Workes (1608). BACK

[11] Meaning the series of poems based on different mythological and religious systems, which Southey had formerly proposed writing. BACK

[12] The Curse of Kehama (1810). Southey did send Landor his first draft of the poem; see Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 2 May 1808, Letter 1455. BACK

[13] Southey’s South American mythological poem Madoc (1805). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)
Crosthwaite Church (mentioned 1 time)