1683. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [started before and continued on] 19 September [1809]

1683. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [started before and continued on] 19 September [1809] ⁠* 

My dear Tom

I have hunted two books of Heraldry, the French Dictionaries & the Cyclopœdia without finding any such term as Humette or any thing like it. I cannot guess at its meaning. [1] 

Your opinion respecting Ld Gambiers trial accords entirely with my own. [2]  Wardle [3]  I believe to be a worthless sort of fellow, – he is the same man who ran his poney against the Exeter Mail, [4]  – for which any man ought to have been hung. As for the trial about the furniture there was no harm in his bargaining for the evidence, but a good deal of meanness in his refusing to fulfill the bargain. [5]  I would believe Mrs Clarkes word implicitly; there is a good deal of good in that woman, & as Rickman says I have a great respect for her, saving her vocation. ___

More Inquiries – Ld Chatham must take his turn next. [6] 


Sept 19.

Poor Jackson is gone at last after a cruel illness. I followed him to the grave to day. – a good man to whom the town of Keswick & many of its inhabitants are greatly beholden. He has left Hartley 50 £ to be paid when he comes of age; – had he thought of bequeathing him his books it would have been a more suitable xxx remembrance. By Mrs Wilson he has not dealt as became him, – her legacy is a poor 10 £ per year, in which he has considered the humbleness of her wishes rather than the greatness of his obligation. His affected reason for this is that he could not properly leave her more than he has left to two of his sisters; a reason by no means valid, for she was more to him than all his family. Never had man a more faithful, anxious & indefatiguable nurse: – always watchful – always willing, never uttering a complaint, never sparing herself; with the most disinterested affection, acting so entirely from the feelings of a good heart, that I do not believe even the thought of xxx duty ever entered into it. The night after his death we made her take a little spirit & water, – it was not a tea cup full, – but upon her it acted as medicine, – she told me the next day that for the first time during two years she had slept thro the night. He never turned in his bed during that whole time that she did not hear, – nor did he make the slightest unusual sound or motion that she was not up to know what could be done for him. – As you will readily suppose I have long since told her never to think of quitting this place, but to remain here as long as she lives with people to whom she is attached (for she doats upon Edith & Herbert) & who can understand her worth.


Busy as it is usually my fortune to be I was never so busy as now. My first chapter for Ballantyne is written [7]  – I expect something from you about America to inweave in the second. Longman has not sent me all my materials & what he did send were delayed a fortnight upon the road by the mismanagement of the Post Office. – but I am getting on. You will delight in the spirit of the work, – in the plain straight forward kind of things which I relate, disdaining all petty & all party considerations & looking xxx only to the public weal, & those principles by which alone it can be upholden.

Three mornings more will finish my transcribing task for the first volume, including a long chapter which I fear can hardly be got into the volume, tho I much wish to insert it. [8]  Then come the notes-supplementary, – which might with great pleasure to myself & profit to my reader be extended to another volume as large, but I shall not allow them much more than 50 pages. The book as a whole is more amusing than was to be expected. About a fortnights morning work will compleat my work for it. 440 pages are printed, – the whole will not be less than 600.

You will be glad to hear that I am at Kehama again, [9]  & I trust in a fair way of soon reaching the end. There are not more than 4000 lines done, & I guess about 4500 will be its extent. I was gravelled at some of those rubs which must be met with sometimes, – but have got afloat again (it was like being aground) & am making way. I wish I could go on transcribing for you, but in very truth I work at other transcriptions till my fingers ache, & then have such a mass of reading to go thro, that a single set of eyes & hands is hardly sufficient for me. Nevertheless you shall have your copy finished before the book goes to press. I began the printers copy in one spare half hour before supper, & made improvements of great effect in the way of finishing.

Lloyd was here the other day for half an hour with Miss Hawker & her sister, & some other Lady. [10]  I had not seen him before for a long while. Duppa will be there <here> for three days at the end of the month. Rickmans coming is I believe at an end owing to his fathers death.

Last night we had a prodigious flood, higher in some places than can be remembered, – I say in some places, because the Lake was previously low, the force of the waters was [11]  before they found their way to it. Do you know the little bridge over what is usually a dry ditch at the beginning of the Church Lane? The water was over it, & three feet deep in the lane. Half Slacks Bridge is gone. a chaise driver & horses lost between this place & Wigton, [12]  – & the corn washed away to a heavy amount. It was a tremendous sight. Two large boughs were torn off the tree behind the house.

I must not wish you to be paid off, unless you could be sure of a better appointment than you have at present, or of not being appointed at all. If however you should be set adrift, & are afraid of coming here (– I must not venture to say what I would about it) – at any rate you had better make for Hereford, – that is not at a very costly distance, – & you are so far on the way & only a little [MS illegible] of it. As for peace I see no hope of it. – no fear of it would be the better phrase.

The Junta [13]  have mismanaged & so have we – I know not whose mismanagement has been the worst – The army which has been wasted at Flushing would have recovered Spain. The Spaniards will not be left to do it their own way, by detail. What these changes at home will produce one cannot guess till it is known what is going out & who is coming in. If M. Wellesley comes in we may expect something. If Canning goes out – the candle will be taken out of the dark lantern.

God bless you


Another book of Heraldry which I have just lain my hand on explains Humet or Humetty – a Term made use of to denote an Ordinary [14]  which is couped or cut off, & no where reaches to the edges of the Escutcheon, [15]  such as Crosses, Fesses [16]  &c. [17] 


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought/ Plymouth Dock
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298; [partial] PLYMOUTH / 2
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 251–253 [in part]. BACK

[1] See the postscript to this letter. BACK

[2] Southey is referring to the controversy surrounding the Battle of the Basque Roads in April 1809. Although the British fleet achieved some success, it failed to destroy the French navy completely. Captain Thomas Cochrane, later 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860; DNB), who had led a highly effective fireship attack at the start of the battle, accused his commanding officer, the evangelical Admiral James Gambier, Baron Gambier (1756–1833; DNB) of being reluctant to pursue the attack and thus achieve a complete victory. Cochrane was also an MP with a reputation for exposing abuses of office, and, in the weeks after the battle, he pursued his campaign against Gambier via parliamentary speeches. Gambier demanded a court-martial at which he was exonerated and, by implication, Cochrane was blamed for libelling a superior officer. Whilst Gambier received public thanks from parliament for his actions in the battle, Cochrane was not permitted to rejoin his ship for a few months. When he received new orders to serve in the Mediterranean, Cochrane refused and went on half-pay, devoting his time to exposing abuses in the Admiralty. For Southey’s account, see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 364–379. BACK

[3] Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle (c. 1761–1833; DNB), MP for Okehampton 1807–1812, who played a central role in exposing Frederick, Duke of York (1763–1827; DNB) and Mary Anne Clarke’s (1776?-1852; DNB) involvement in office trafficking. However, his own reputation was quickly sullied by counter-allegations from Clarke, alleging corruption and conspiracy. He was the author of The Trial of Colonel Wardle (1809). BACK

[4] In one of the more bizarre sporting contests seen in Georgian England, a ‘Mr Wardel’ had raced his pony against the mail-coach from London to Exeter, the pony winning by 45 minutes. In addition, the pony ‘is accustomed to drink ale and beer, and frequently drank a pint of port at a time’, National Register, 1 (1808), p. 565, reporting events on 3–4 September 1808. BACK

[5] One of Clarke’s allegations against Wardle was that he bought her testimony against the Duke of York by promising to pay for furnishing her house, but then failed to do so. BACK

[6] John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham (1756–1835; DNB), army officer and younger brother of the former prime minister William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB). The Commentary criticised his role in the ill-fated Walcheren expedition of 1809. BACK

[7] From 1809 to 1812 Southey contributed to the ‘History of Europe’ for 1808–1810 in James Ballantyne’s Edinburgh Annual Register. BACK

[8] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[9] Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[10] Southey’s visitors have not been traced. BACK

[11] Here Southey has omitted to write a word. C. C. Southey, in the published text, has interpolated ‘spent’. See Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 251–253. BACK

[12] A small market town in Cumbria, north of Keswick. BACK

[13] The Spanish Supreme Central Junta, whose unwillingness to organise supplies for the British Army while urging a policy of attack, led Wellesley (and Southey) to suspect some of the Junta of co-operating with the French. BACK

[14] In heraldry, an ordinary is a simple geometrical figure that runs from side to side or top to bottom of a shield. BACK

[15] A shield, or shield-shaped emblem, displaying a coat of arms. BACK

[16] A fess is a horizontal band running across a shield. BACK

[17] The postscript is written at the top of the first sheet. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)