1471. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 22 June 1808

1471. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 22 June 1808 ⁠* 

Keswick. Wednesday June 22. 1808.

My dear Senhora,

If I had leisure to enter into a new correspondence I would thank Mr Walhouse for his curious paper by letter, [1]  – but you know how very much I am employed, & that it is not possible for me to write with tolerable regularity to the friends already on my list. Almost every letter that reaches me brings with it a complaint, & every one which goes from me has occasion to begin with an apology. Do you say this for me, & excuse me in the handsomest manner you can. Part of the paper I had seen in a Birmingham Newspaper, & easily guessed who was its author. It is very odd & ingenious, – tho it is not to be supposed that I am who am both Whig & Dissenter can assent to its philosophy. Mr Walhouse speaks in parables; – seeing things vividly & combining them rapidly, he expresses himself as if the type & the thing typified were the same: thus because those principles which would be beneficial to our body politic may be likened to the constituent parts of Lemington Water, [2]  he says Lemington water will save the King; – not that he can possibly mean that the King & the body politic are one, – or that good political principles are the same things as carbonate of iron &c – or even that Lemington water, drastic as it may be, can purge away political corruption, or natural stupidity. There are some persons whose ideas are so vivid as to produce all the effect of actual impressions, & to be mistaken for such. You have heard me relate a remarkable instance in my own case, before I went last to Lisbon. The phantoms produced by laudanum are of this description. When the body is weak, & the patient makes the mistake he is what is called light-headed, & it is beyond a doubt in this state of mind that so many ghosts have been seen, – which did really exist in the sight of the beholder, – & had no other existence. These peoples perception differs from that of others in its excessive vividness, – so if I am not mistaken, do the reasoning powers of Mr Walhouse. He passes so rapidly from his premises to his conclusions, that you know not by what process he has got there. If I am in the top of one tree, & want to get to another, I must descend the first & then climb the second, – but he jumps from one to the other like a squirrel, & they who are not like squirrels in their understanding cannot follow him. – It is plain that he is a very ingenious man, & I have no doubt a very interesting one. If his inclination should ever lead him to the lakes, I shall be glad to show him all the attention in my power, & to talk with him upon matters on which I have no time to write. As he is an amateur of waters, you may tell him that there is some of the finest & purest in the world at poor old Peter Crosthwaites [3]  pump. & that in Borrowdale there is a well which I dare be sworn will out-stink Lemington Water, let Lemington water stink as it will.

We have lost Tom. He was unexpectedly summoned by an appointment to the Dreadnought, – Admiral Sotheby’s [4]  ship, & set off on Sunday to join her. In all probability he past thro Penkridge yesterday, & certes cast a wistful eye towards Teddesley, cursing his evil fortune that would not let him halt there. But that Admiral-Ty is an Admiral whose orders must be immediately obeyed. I suppose Senhora that absolute peremptoriness is because of the Ty-ship – for Time & Tide & that Admiral-Ty will wait for no man – Honour & praise be to the first wise man that ventured to talk nonsense.

More books. Neville White has sent me Sir Wm Jones’s works [5]  in some of the best binding I have ever seen. They are the handsomest volumes in my whole library, & thirteen of them. I have told him that if he were rich enough to give me books by the cart load I should gladly accept them, – but that it gives some little pain, as well as pleasure, – to receive so costly a present from one who can have so little to spare. [6]  So it is that there always seems the greatest disposition to be generous when there are the least means: it is an old observation that street beggars receive more alms from servant-maids than from any other class. You will admire these books very much, – they are in excellent taste; – & it is not Neville’s fault that the inside is not as perfect as the out. He followed public opinion in supposing Sir Wm Jones a very great man: – I look upon him as one of the show[MS obscured] [7]  of fashion. However, there is something there which I wanted & the magnifico bookcase is greatly increased in ricosity. [8]  Great is the grandeur Senhora which you have to behold.

H. Senhouse & his wife [9]  called here this morning on their return at last to Cumberland – I was heartily glad to see them. – farewell – I have plenty of love & remembrances to send you, – things that travel without paying postage, – even without a frank.

God bless you


I wish you would write me the particulars of your story about the mad-dogs & the geese. I shall not write now to Sir E. L. because a second letter of thanks would be too formal, & somewhat obtrusive, when I have the opportunity of thanking him through you. My Cid [10]  I suppose will be published in six or seven weeks, – & than I shall order a copy to be sent him, & will take the occasion of returning him thanks myself, when I wrote to apprise him of it.


* 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. 283–287.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 73–76. BACK

[1] Edward John Walhouse (1791–1862), Sir Edward Littleton’s nephew and heir. He assumed the name of Littleton on Sir Edward’s death in 1812, and became MP for Stafford. The ‘paper’ has not been traced. BACK

[2] Mineral water from Leamington Spa. BACK

[3] Southey adds an asterisk by the name and then a note at the bottom of the page: ‘he was buried last week’. Peter Crosthwaite (1735–1808), a Keswick inventor, mapmaker and showman, who established a museum there in 1780. BACK

[4] HMS Dreadnought was a 98-gun second rate ship of the line launched in 1801. She had fought at Trafalgar (1805) and was now under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas Sotheby (1759–1831), younger brother of the author, William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), Southey’s acquaintance. BACK

[5] Listed in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library thus: Sir William Jones (1746–1794; DNB), Works, with his Life by Lord Teignmouth, portrait, 13 vol. Presentation Copy, calf extra, marbled leaves, from J. Neville White, with an extract from Landor in the autograph of the Poet Laureate (1799–1806). BACK

[6] For this letter, see Southey to Neville White, 20 June 1808, Letter 1470. BACK

[7] Word partially covered by seal. Warter supplies ‘books’. BACK

[8] From the Portuguese, meaning ‘costly’, ‘well-off in appearance’. BACK

[9] Senhouse had married Elizabeth Frances Greaves (b. 1779) in 1803. BACK

[10] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Teddesley (mentioned 2 times)