1491. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 14 August 1808

1491. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 14 August 1808 ⁠* 

Dear Senhora

Your good natured Uncle [1]  has travelled post-haste thro the Lakes; – there was no persuading him to halt. What a happy man that is! he is as full of good humour – as spruce beer is of fixed air in the dog-days, & if he did not discharge some of it by laughing at every word I don’t know what would become of him. He left a brace of pines [2]  behind with a very civil note, – I eat them with the more glee in consideration of the respectful mention made of me by his worthy wife; thinking it was fit that ‘that poet-man’ should be fed with pines from her madamship’s hot-house.

I hold myself in readiness to show your next laker all imaginable attention. It is now showery weather, – by no means unpleasant, – rather that is best for this sort of scenery. But till within this week we have had from the first day of May the finest season ever remembered in this county – day after day of uninterrupted sunshine & beauty. How often did we regret that you were not here, & that this should be the only summer in which our house was without a guest. If Sir E. comes I should say come soon, – the chance of weather is pretty much the same, & it is best to come before the days shorten too much. Six weeks ago had been better than now, now is better than six weeks hence.

Your dreams of my golden fortunes to come make me smile. The world I believe will always keep me lean & hungry, like a grey hound, – as if abundance would spoil me, & I should wax fat like Jeshurun [3]  & kick if I were not kept down by hard usage. This will be no matter a hundred years hence, & it is not much matter now.

Landor is gone to Spain to fight as a common soldier in the Spanish army. [4]  – I thought he would go. A noble hearted man brimfull of ardour & genius & the love of liberty.

This must go to acknowledge the receipt of your last, which ought to have been done sooner – to bid you remember a counter-account on your own creditor-side for sundry articles of grandeur, – & to caution you against paring off the signature upon banks bills, lest that piece of kickwomanjiggery should some day or other utterly spoil one.

The Cid [5]  will be out in a fortnight, – & in a few days I shall set to & write the letters which go before presentation copies. Sir E. is in the list. Meantime make my remembrance to him & thank him especially for the Mohawk Prayer Book [6]  – a very curious book which I shall be very glad to possess

God bless you


Aug. 14. 1808.


* 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. 290–292. BACK

[1] ‘Sir Jeremiah Homfray MB’ written above in ink in Mary Barker’s hand. Sir Jeremiah Homfray (1759–1833), was Mary Barker’s maternal uncle; he was knighted in 1809 when he was made high sheriff of Glamorgan. BACK

[2] There are several references to gifts of pineapples from Mary Barker or her family. These apparently came from the Homfrays’ hothouse. BACK

[3] ‘But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked’ (Deuteronomy 32.15). BACK

[4] ‘S. Landor’ written in pencil in Mary Barker’s hand at the top of the page. BACK

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

[6] The Book of Common Prayer … Translated into the Mohawk Language under the Direction of the Missionaries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, to the Mohawk Indians (1787). BACK

People mentioned