838. Robert Southey and Sara Coleridge to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [8 September 1803]

838. Robert Southey and Sarah Coleridge to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [8 September 1803] ⁠* 

By this you must have received the letter which I wrote in the very depth of our distress. Indeed I have suffered sorely & sorely am suffering – by day I can exert myself – I can read – & write & talk, but Nature gets the better at night & my dreams xxxx what has been suppressed by effort breaks out in dreams. We reached Keswick yester-evening. the sight of little Sara  [1]  I was prepared for, but afterwards she stung me to recollections which I must blunt & wear out for they are not avoidable. – It was for Ediths sake I came here – for her it was evidently the best place – for myself, with the Cain-curse [2]  of wandering that seems to lie upon me – a feather driven by the wind – it mattered little which way I was drifted. I wished to leave Mrs Lovell behind. Edith begged me not – at that time I did not press the point – for we come with no plan of settling – merely as to the first haven. I knew you would house us awhile – & that if her presence was an objection to our remaining with you while we are thus unsettled that lodgings are to be had in the neighbourhood. moreover as soon as a situation can be found for her, I shall with great pleasure see her into the stage. I hardly look forward, my hopes have been so often prolonged & are now so blasted – but my wish is to finish & publish Madoc [3]  that I may have wherewith to return to Portugal.

Enough of this. you shall find me with little outward alteration. – now to transcribe your letters.

from Stuart.


I have the pleasure to inform you that on Saturday last I sold the M Post for 15,000£. seven eighths of which was paid down, the rest remains in a share for the Editor Mr Byrne, [4]  who has edited the Morning Herald for 10 years, & who is now engaged for the Post. He is a man in every way as well qualified as myself, except that I think he will not dash so much in politics. To him I have coupled in a share Mr Fleming [5]  who for 7 years has been a Chief Reporter in the M Chronicle. He is the best scholar about the Newspapers, was at College with Mackintosh, [6]  & is altogether an able good man. I think therefore that the Paper cannot fail to thrive at least as well as any other. I shall write more in it at least for the next two years, while I am receiving Byrnes money, than I have hitherto done. I will have more time to write, & I will have as you see an actual interest in the paper; but I will be exempted from the editorial drudgery. I am sure you will say I have given a proof of my moderation, when I tell you I have sold a Property at present producing at least 8000 per annum for 13,000 down; a Property too which I have every reason to suppose I can keep up. It stands up just now beyond all example; so much so, that I two or three times refused to sell, changing my mind almost daily. But the conduct of my Reporters & other Writers so irritates me I was disgusted & resolved to sell. they are in general a bad set, but I could give reasons for it. I have realized in all about 25,000£ – besides 2000 to come from Byrne, & my share in the Courier [7]  which I reckon worth 3000. I could have gone on to make 50 or 60,000 – but for what? to keep servants & live ostentatiously – which is in itself a trouble. I intend to buy a piece of land if I can find some to my liking, & to live very quietly. I shall be out of the M Post in three weeks, but I shall continue to give it the most active assistance, & hope you will favour me with an Essay or two to set it well agoing, for I assure you I shall always feel a pride in seeing it flourish. Three Gentlemen who have made fortunes in India have purchased the 7/8ths [8]  – I wish to keep the transaction as secret as I can at present for their sakes. My mind has been deeply engaged with it of late, which is the reason I have not answered your letters of as fully as I should have done.


Dr Beddoes


As far as I can conjecture your gout is willing to become gout if it could – the Gout medicine may help it on to this. I suppose you should try it in two ways. first by drinking 4 5 or 6 glasses at the interval of 1 2 or 3 hours each day. I suppose if in 4 5 or 6 days your stomach do not feel a different creature, it will be hardly worth while holding on.

But shd you not be careful that there be no vinegar brewed all this time? suppose the medicine by changing the stomach, changes all the sensations, a stomach-full of wind & sourness will change them all back again. I do not know if I can propose any means of prevention you have not already practised. But food not acescent in general, with super carbonated In ale (or calcined magnesia in case of costiveness) with ginger to check any commencement of acid fermentation seem to me to promise.

The second method must be confined to the time of appearance of gouty inflammation about the feet. Then I would urge the medicine, taking a glass (2oz) every 4 5 or 6 minutes till I glowed red hot. I have more expectation from this cutting & spurring than the other gentle lashing. Most medical men would recommend the Bath waters, supposing them to connect the letters g o u t with the other sufferings

I should have been glad of your remarks on my Essays, [9]  tho I sincerely think they contain few texts worth your commenting upon. I did not think I ever could have written them in any other manner – I mean except by compulsion. I imagined that by writing even in that manner I could save many human beings much of the direct pain which human beings can suffer. And thus were they begun & ended in a spirit of true humiliation.

I possibly may be able to send you in a few weeks 48 pages worth all the good & tolerable of all Hygeia. [10]  – If a fit of gout in the feet bring the movements of the medullary fibres of the brain excited by the said Hygeia, & corresponding ones of the fingers into the juxta-position of time, I shall feel some gratification. for I am anxious <curious> to know whether I have anticipated your opinion of its demerits. So far you may proceed on recollection. particular doctrines may require reference.

So wishing (if you wish it) that you may writhe & write

I am &c –

How is the Liver? I think nothing of the paralytic feelings. they may be paralytic, but the palsy of hysteria & hypochondriasis goes off always: & there may be very different states of nerve producing impotence of will over muscles.


from Dr Anti-podagra. [11] 


It is seldom that I feel more satisfaction in any action than I do in the one I am now engaged in. A letter from Dr Beddoes yesterday informed me you were gouty – he need not have added that you wished to be cured – for I shd have supposed it. I have in my possession a kind of nectar (for it removes pain, & of course promotes pleasure, & may in the end immortalize – me) – [MS torn] I freely offer to you. I will farther add the prediction founded on experience, that you may be relieved from the gout & your general health improved into the bargain. for confirmation of this you may consult Sir Wilfred Lawson Bart [12]  &c who is your near you, & Thomas Wyndham Esqr M P [13]  – Dunraven Castle near Cardiff Glamorgans. whom I beg you will enquire of for your own consolation. & if you should then wish to try this remedy & will give me a particular detail of your gouty affections & general habits of life, I will immediately send you the medicine with such directions as I believe will not fail to bring about the desired effect.


A Welles. [14] 

18 London Vale London.

<After Michaelmas my address will be 44 Upper Titchfield Street.>


Now do not damn the second Solomon [15]  for being a wag – but write to him without delay.

Moses is the same unique. he makes me wonder.

God bless you Coleridge. why will you play such fools-tricks with yourself!

R Southey.

Longmans fears have delayed the Bibliotheca [16]  – & I shall hardly resume it.

See Elmsley if you go to Edinburgh. he lives in St Andrews Square. I wrote to him in so happy a mood upon his marriage [17]  that I have now no heart to write again & tell him how all is changed.

[start of Sara Coleridge’s hand]

Thursday & just received yours

My poor dear, your letters from Fort-william gave me the heartache I little thought your journey would have ended in so short a time when will the Wordsworth’s [18]  rejoin you? – Alas, I fear this walk will knock you up, without Shoes, without money, good luck! good luck! – I got £5 pounds of Southey, and five of Mr Jackson, as he had not setled with me I think he must have said as much as that or more, and I think ten-pounds will not be too much for you as you are situated. – Poor Hartley’s other eye is now closed up with a sting – he does not mind it – Sara is inoculated and her Arm in good fashion; a child is dead at Buttermere in the small pox – More [19]  at Buttermere is poorly

I shall be glad when you are safe at home – this is Thursday night, I fear you will wait long at Perth for this letter. Derwent is quite well – I have had another kind letter from Lady Beaumont. – There was a letter for Mrs Wordsworth from Inverness. – I suppose you will write to Southey. yours,

Sara C– .


* Address: To/ S. T. Coleridge Esqr/ Post Office/ Perth/ N Britain
Postmark: [partial] SEP/19
MS: University of Kentucky Library. ALS; 4p. (c).
Dating note: Dated from internal evidence. BACK

[1] Sara Coleridge was born on 23 December 1802 and so was three months younger than Margaret Southey. BACK

[2] In Genesis 4 Cain killed his brother Abel and was condemned to be a wanderer. BACK

[3] Southey had finished a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[4] Nicholas Byrne (d. 1833), editor and part-owner of the Morning Post 1803-1833. BACK

[5] Possibly Dr John Fleming (d. 1815), who was at Edinburgh University with Mackintosh. BACK

[6] James Mackintosh (1765-1832; DNB), writer and politician who contributed regularly to the Morning Post. BACK

[7] Daniel Stuart had become joint owner of The Courier in 1800-1801. BACK

[8] The names of the three gentlemen, if they existed, were not revealed. They could have been a front for a political buy-out of the Morning Post. BACK

[9] Thomas Beddoes, Hygeia: or Essays Moral and Medical, on the Causes Affecting the Personal State of Our Middling and Affluent Classes (1802-1803). BACK

[10] Probably Beddoes’s ‘Observations on the Effects of the Newly-Discovered Medicine in Gout’, included in A. Welles (first name and dates unknown), An Account of the Discovery and Operation of a New Medicine for Gout (London, 1803), pp. 65-194. BACK

[11] Dr ‘anti-gout’. BACK

[12] Sir Wilfred Lawson, 10th Baronet (c. 1764-1806) of Isell, Cumberland. BACK

[13] Thomas Wyndham (1763-1814), MP for Glamorganshire 1789-1814. BACK

[14] Welles was the inventor of a potion called ‘Dr Welles’s gout remedy’; see A. Welles, An Account of the Discovery and Operation of a New Medicine for Gout (1804). BACK

[15] Solomon (c. 1011-931 BC, King of Israel 971-931 BC), famous for his wisdom. BACK

[16] Southey’s plan for a chronological history of all literature published in Britain. BACK

[17] This was a false rumour: Elmsley never married. BACK

[18] William and Dorothy Wordsworth had parted company with Coleridge two weeks into their tour of Scotland. The Wordsworths returned home on 25 September 1803. BACK

[19] Possibly Colonel Nathaniel Moore (dates unknown), a friend of the Coleridges, or one of his family. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)