1615. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 18 April 1809

1615. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 18 April 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick. April 18. 1809.

My dear Tom

Yesterday arrived your letter from Plymouth, & the day before that from Madeira, – you will have received two or three or more which have been kicking-to-windward, – the last a brief annunciation of another daughters arrival, [1]  whose name I believe is settled to be Bertha, – that being short & Saxon, & sounding well with Southey. She was born March 27th & is doing well. Edith has been ill, with another attack of dysentery, which like the former seems to have proceeded from the cursed Amsterdammers, [2]  & in like manner yielded to leeching. – both these attacks may be attributed to her situation, & at other time there is no probability of this recurring.

My history [3]  is got on six & thirty sheets (288 pages) – nearly half the volume. Kehama [4]  stands where it was, – one cause or another having prevented me from going on. there remains but three sections to write; & I should have commenced my last heat this morning, if something which is either sore throat or mumps had not kept me awake good part of the night. These vile mumps having taken possession of Keswick have attacked us in the hall Coleridge (who is here at present), Nurse – Mary Nurse, [5]  & Emma have had their spell, & now it is to be feared that <my turn> I’m in the dumps because I’ve got the mumps.

We have done great things & xxx are still progressive in greatness. the garden is completely railed in. On Saturday last I planted 24 goose-berry trees <bushes> & red-currant. To day the masons begin the Grand so called to distinguish it by way of excellence from what Edith & Herbert call the Petty. [6]  It is behind the coal house, – as near the back door as it could well be placed, & in a situation where it will be out of the wind. A bed the same as those curtains is order for the wing-room. The paper for my study is expected by the next carrier, & a noble turn-to there will be to put it up, Capt Cockbains [7]  commander for the day.

Sir Domine goes for his wife in May. I sent him 25£ for his journey, which he else would have been pinched to raise, [8]  – & there I hope his difficulties end. A couple of hundreds which (I believe) her grandfather left her will be paid on her marriage, & as Sealy [9]  has now given his consent there can be little doubt that he will make her some immediate allowance, – enough to enable his Doctorship to go on. His practise has been considerable for a first year; – something more than 100 guineas. Every year it may reasonably be expected to increase, & every year he will also be better able to eke out his income in the way of authorship. Had he been equal to it I would now have got him some employment in the Quarterly, – but he is not yet practised enough in composition.

I am at present very busy for the second number of the said Quarterly, with a view of Portugueze Literature, & an article respecting the United States. [10]  My defence of the Missionaries has attracted great notice, [11]  & Murray the publisher tells me with great satisfaction that the Bishop of Durham [12]  is employed in answering it. Why the Devil the Bishop should think of controverting a writer on his side the question is more than I can guess. I suppose he may xx smell heresy, which it requires no very long nose to do, but whenever I reprint the article as it was originally written he shall will find plenty of it in full odour. This review is succeeding remarkably well. The first edition is gone, & yet they do not print fewer than 5000, – how many more I know not.

The correspondence between Frere & Sir J Moore is very interesting, [13]  – it clearly proves Moore to have <been> utterly unequal to the situation in which he was placed. He was afraid of <dismayed by> the difficulties about him, – having no confidence himself he could inspire none in his army, & being afraid, he was yet more fearful that the people of England should think him so. Freres letters & opinions do him great honour; nor is it any impeachment of his judgement that he expected Madrid to hold out, – for who could suspect Morla [14]  after his conduct at Cadiz & yet had it not been for his treason, Madrid would have emulated Zaragoza. [15]  It gratifies me a good deal to find Frere expressing precisely the same opinion respecting what Moore ought to have done, which I maintained at the time. This country as usual is letting tide & time pass, when one vigorous effort would give Bonaparte his mortal blow – but my confidence in the Spaniards & in their eventual emancipation remains unshaken. Wellesley will have a second battle to fight for Lisbon, & will take care how he lets another victory be wasted.

I was at Curwens at Workington [16]  two days last week – a huge house & not a very pleasant one, – but I had been repeatedly prest to go, & could not repeatedly refuse without incivility. – How vexatious that you do not get ashore at Madeira, – surely I must have told you the Colonel was going there in some of my letters! –

Ten days will compleat my Quarterly work & I shall then be ready to receive Walter Scott on his way from London, & to accompany him to Edinburgh; whither I go purely for the sake of the Advocates Library, tho it is not likely that I may there feel out some advantageous method of publishing Kehama. from thence I shall take the great Northern or rather Southern road to Durham, & stay a week with the Doctor & our sister that is to be. I sent my new Aunt some of my Ballads in my very best writing, [17]  – a piece of attention with which my Uncle tells me she is much pleased. There are two parcels of Kehama afloat for you, & you shall have another soon, Coleridges Friend before the first Saturday in May. [18]  Lloyd writes me a six penny letter about once a month to ask where you are, & why he does not hear from you, – write to him to save me from this tax.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought/ Plymouth Dock
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] For this, see Southey to Thomas Southey, 27 March 1809, Letter 1607. BACK

[2] Amsterdammers was a Southey family name for haemorrhoids; see Southey to John Rickman, 26 June 1807, Letter 1336. BACK

[3] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[4] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[5] Possibly references to Edith Southey and Mary Lovell. BACK

[6] Outhouse toilets, large and small. BACK

[7] John Cockbain (dates unknown), a Keswick tailor. BACK

[8] The letter accompanying this gift does not appear to have survived. BACK

[9] Richard Sealy (c. 1752–1821) a wealthy Lisbon merchant, the father of Mary-Harriet Sealy, who married Henry Herbert Southey in 1809. BACK

[10] Southey reviewed Extractos em Portuguez e em Inglez; com as Palavras Portuguezas Propriamente Accentuadas, para Facilitar o Estudo d’Aquella Lingoa (1808) in the Quarterly Review, 1 (May, 1809), 268–292, and Abiel Holmes (1763–1837), American Annals; or, a Chronological History of America, from its Discovery in 1492 to 1806 in the Quarterly Review, 2 (November 1809), 319–337. BACK

[11] Southey reviewed the Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society (published from 1794); [John Scott-Waring (1747–1819; DNB)], Vindication of the Hindoos from the Aspersions of the Reverend Claudius Buchanan, M.A. With a Refutation of the Arguments Exhibited in his Memoir, on the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India, and the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives, by their Conversion to Christianity… By a Bengal Officer (1808); Thomas Twining (1776–1861; DNB), A Letter to the Chairman of the East India Company, on the Danger of Interfering in the Religious Opinions of the Natives of India; and on the Views of the British and Foreign Bible Society, as Directed to India (1807), in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. BACK

[12] Shute Barrington (1734–1826; DNB), Bishop of Durham from 1791 to 1826. BACK

[13] The diplomatist John Hookham Frere was sent to Spain as minister-plenipotentiary to the Central Junta on 4 October 1808 and when the French marched on Madrid he urged Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), the Commander of the British forces in northern Spain to also advance upon Madrid, despite his inclination to retreat through Portugal. After the disastrous retreat to Corunna, Frere was blamed for this advice and recalled by the British government. After some of Frere’s and Moore’s correspondence was read out in the Commons on 27 April, Moore’s side of matters was presented in James Moore (1763–1860; DNB), A Narrative of the Campaign of the British Army in Spain, Commanded by His Excellency Sir John Moore. Authenticated by Official Papers and Original Letters (1809). Frere’s correspondence with Moore was published in 1810 in a work entitled To the British Nation is Presented by Colonel Venault de Charmilly, Knight of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, the Narrative of his Transactions in Spain with the Rt. Hon. Hookham Frere, His Britannic Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary, and Lt. Gen. Sir John Moore, K.B. Commander of the British Forces: with the Suppressed Correspondence of Sir J. Moore: Being a Refutation of the Calumnies Invented Against Him, and Proving that He was Never Acquainted with General Morla. BACK

[14] General Tomás de Morla y Pacheco (1748–1812), agent of the Junta that governed unoccupied Spain, misled Moore as to the whereabouts of the French and the support to be given the British by Spanish troops. Arriving at Madrid, Morla negotiated its surrender to Napoleon, and was subsequently branded a traitor. BACK

[15] Two sieges of Zaragoza took place, in 1808–1809, in which the Spanish, rather than surrender their town, endured starvation, disease and, when the French breached the walls, fought in the streets, until over 50000 of them were dead. For Southey’s accounts, see the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 306–321 and the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 508–527. BACK

[16] John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), politician and agriculturist, who owned Workington Hall in Cumbria where he embarked on an improvement programme that had a profound impact on local agriculture in the first half of the nineteenth century. BACK

[17] See Southey to the Herbert Hill, 8 March 1809, Letter 1596. The poems were ‘Garci Ferrandez’, published in the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1809 (1811), in Minor Poems (1815 and 1823) and Poetical Works (1837–1838); ‘A True Ballad of St. Antidius, the Pope and the Devil’, published in the Morning Post, 4 February 1803, in Minor Poems (1815 and 1823) and Poetical Works (1837–1838): these poems derived from Florian de Ocampo (1499?–1555?), Coronica General de Espana (1541). The third ‘metrical tale’ referred to is ‘King Ramiro’, published in September 1803 in the Morning Post and on 12 May 1804 in the Iris (edited by Taylor) and then, revised, in the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1808, Minor Poems (1815 and 1823) and with revisions in Poetical Works (1837–1838): this poem derived from Nobiliario de D. Pedro Conde de Bracelos Hijo del Rey D. Dionis de Portugal (1640) by Afonso Pedro, Count of Barcelos (1287–1354) and Juan Bautista Labaña (1555–1624), no. 3571 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), V, pp. xxiv and 517; 406–413. BACK

[18] Coleridge’s new periodical The Friend, the first number of which was published on 1 June 1809. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)