2699. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 14 January 1816

2699. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 14 January 1816⁠* 

Keswick. 14 Jany. 1816

My dear Harry

Of me you will have heard from time to time thro the Light Horse Man, & thro him I have heard occasionally of you, – but there are other things of which I should be glad to hear, – how is Louisa going on? How is Mrs Gonne? & how is that wound of my Uncles? the vis medicatrix [1]  is languid at his time of life, & it xxxx I do not think of this without some degree of uneasiness.

Here we are going on well. Your niece has recovered her health & spirits, & xxxxxxx <amusing> Calvert by her discourse account of foreign parts. I am at present making enquiry with much solicitude & little hope for a house for Tom, who will be ejected in March in consequence of George Taylors [2]  marriage. Tom as the proverb says has “brought an old house on his head” by his own marriage, [3]  but George Taylors xxxxxx very much increases the inconvenience by taking an old house off his hands. Where he will find a place I know not. I have heard of several, & upon farther inquiry, they have all proved ineligible.

My poem approaches its close, & will fall little short of 1500 lines. The title is A Poets Pilgrimage to the Field of Belle Alliance. [4]  I transfer to it as much of the proem to the intended marriage verses as is transferable, [5]  & conclude with a L’Envoy in the same strain. There is much variety in the poem, & it is not like any thing else. If any person asks why I call it the field of B Alliance, it may be replied as a sufficient reason that I wished not to give it the same title as Walter Scott had done, – being especially desirous of avoiding any thing which might seem to invite a comparison between two poems, which are in structure & manner essentially & totally different. [6]  I wish you to introduce yourself to my fellow traveller Mr Nash, & see the sketches which he made, – Bedford having more leisure than you, will arrange about the engravings with Longman, [7]  – but if his outer xxxxxx view of Hougoumont be not from so good a point as Charles Bells, [8]  or not likely to make so good a print, you can procure the letter, in which that was offered for the purpose. Nash lives next door to Wm Burn. [9] Xx xxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx – we found him a very pleasant companion. I wrote to him at Paris about the drawings. The sooner now that they are in the engravers hands the better.

I have marked in the course of my reading since my return every thing that can relate to your lectures, & will send you them very shortly.

This day fortnight some of my foreign purchases were to sail from London for Newcastle, on board one of Mr Vardons ships. I hope the Acta Sanctorum are among them, but am not certain. In the course of another week they ought to reach me. [10] 

You will have heard of Kosters affairs – Henry K says they are in full hopes that things will be settled amicably, – but it is clearly a severe calamity. The female part of the family leave Liverpool, & have taken Dares [11]  house here, – I do not know if you recollect it, it is opposite Calverts, on the edge of the common between the Penrith & Ambleside road, the situation good but the house very small. Harriet K & three of her sisters [12]  are already arrived there, Mrs K with the other girls & the poor boy [13]  are delayed a little while by his arm, & the xxx state of one of the girls health. I suppose Koster will go on again ere long, – but the prospect is a dreary one, with so xxxx many daughters, xx he is a man of 65, & Henry the only son (for Johns life is I believe not to be desired) not likely, I fear, to bear the English climate.

Our love to Louisa. Let me hear from you ere long–

God bless you



* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square./ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298; [partial] Txx Late/ Morng
Postmarks: 12oClock/ JA-16/ 1816 Nn; [partial] 16/ 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 3. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] ‘The healing power [of nature]’. BACK

[2] Taylor, Tom Southey’s landlord, married for the second time in 1818 to Jane Mills (c. 1770–1853), the second daughter of Henry Mills (d. 1807) of Willington House, near Bishop Auckland. The Taylor family then moved to Witton-le-Wear. BACK

[3] A proverb usually expressed as ‘brought an old house over his head’ i.e. created a calamitous situation by his own actions, as in someone who is caught inside a building that collapses because he is working inside it. Tom Southey’s marriage had increased his financial liabilities, but his wife had little money of her own. BACK

[4] Published as The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[5] In 1814 Southey, as Poet Laureate, had started a poem celebrating the forthcoming marriage of the Prince Regent’s only child Princess Charlotte to the Hereditary Prince of Orange, William (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849). The poem had not been published because the royal engagement was broken off in June 1814. Southey did not use these stanzas in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo; instead he reworked the 1814 poem into The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816) to celebrate Charlotte’s marriage to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (1790–1865; DNB). Nor did he conclude The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) with a ‘L’Envoy’. BACK

[6] Walter Scott, The Field of Waterloo; a Poem (1815). BACK

[7] Seven sketches made by Nash at the Waterloo battlefield were engraved and used as illustrations in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo, published by the firm of Longman in 1816. BACK

[8] In the event, Nash’s drawings of the ‘Ruins of Hougomont’ and ‘Interior View of the Ruins of Hougoumont’, a farmhouse and one of the most fiercely fought-over sites on the battlefield of Waterloo, were used as the basis for engraved illustrations that appeared in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), pp. 68–69 and pp. 70–71; Charles Bell (1774–1842; DNB), who worked with Henry Herbert Southey at the Middlesex Hospital, had made a drawing of the ‘Entrance to Hougoumont’, and this was used at pp. 58–59. BACK

[9] William Burn (1750–1821) was a friend of the Southeys from their days in Portugal. A member of the Lisbon Factory, he was well-known to Herbert Hill and John May and had first met Southey in Lisbon in 1796. He moved to London in 1806. BACK

[10] Southey hoped he had bought in Brussels the 53–volume compendium of hagiographies entitled Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. He had, though, only bought the 6–volume abridgement (1783–1794), no. 152 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[11] Gideon Dare (1768–1849), farmer and owner of Chestnut Hill Cottage (where Shelley had stayed in 1811–1812). BACK

[12] John Theodore Koster had seven daughters: Harriet (b. 1780); Charlotte (b. 1783); Juliana Elizabeth (1788–1790); Maria Susanna (d. 1790); Lucretia (1795–1822); Emma (1797–1817); and Elizabeth (1799–1875). BACK

[13] John Theodore Koster had two sons at this time: Henry Koster; and John (b.1803), who was in ill-health. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)