2807. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 6 June 1816

2807. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 6 June 1816⁠* 

Keswick. 6 June. 1816.

My dear Sir

The expectation that you would have left England before a letter could find you has alone prevented me from writing to you for some weeks past. At the time when your former favour reached me, I was in too much distress to answer it. Upon that subject suffice it to say that great & irreparable as our loss is, [1]  He who gives the burthen of affliction gives the strength to bear it, – Edith has borne it with exemplary fortitude throughout, – we have both looked for consolation where, & where only, it is to be found, – in resignation to the will of God, & in the assurance that these trying separations are only for a time.

It is not impossible that I may meet you on the continent. [2]  I think of running over about autumn, seeing the course of the Rhine & going thro those parts of Belgium which were left untouched in my last journey. The change will perhaps recruit me, & I stand somewhat in need of such excitement. I should rejoice much to fall in with you in my excursions. The Vardons [3]  with whom we joined company last year have taken a house at Louvain – should you pass thro that city on your way from the Rhine, – perhaps you may find me with them, – or certainly learn whether I am in that part of the world.

The Ponsonbys [4]  have removed to Castle-Hill, [5]  – thus lessening our little neighbourhood. I expect Nash to visit me in a few days, the fellow traveller to who I am indebted for the views of the scene of action in my Pilgrimage. [6]  That poem will be followed too closely (if it could have been helped) by another, which under the title of Carmen Nuptiale, or the Lay of the Laureate, will be published, as soon as it has been presented to the Princess, – such being the etiquette. [7]  It is now I believe in the bookbinders hands, & when it has been equipped in a full dress suit, my friend Herries (the Commissary General) will present it. The metre is the same six-lined stanza as that of the Pilgrimage, & the matter very unlike the usual strain of verse upon such occasions. The booksellers will not advertise it till it is actually published, – first as a point of etiquette, & for the not less material reason that it may interfere with the sale of my “last poem” as little as possible, – for in these days it is the “last poem” that is asked for, like the last new fashion.

Henry Koster is printing an account of his six years residence in Brazil, & his travels in that country. [8]  The book has no pretentions to what is called fine writing, & is the better for it, being, like the better class of our old traveller, the plain & faithful narrative of an attentive & accurate observer. The state of society which he describes, is exceedingly curious, & such as will always make his book valuable. His sister Charlotte (the deaf sister) [9]  has made some excellent drawings of Brazilian costume, xxxx from dresses &c which he brought home, & from his descriptions, aided by her own knowledge of Portugueze fashions. The whole family, except the father, are lodging at Mr Dares at present. [10]  The house stopt payment early in the year, owing to the failure of a house in London. So compleatly however is Kosters character unimpeached, that a deputation of Liverpool Merchants now in London to make some representations to Government respecting the Brazil trade, have added him to their number, – the best proof of the respect in which he is held, notwithstanding his contradictious manner, & his political opinions.

I hope you will meet with no unpleasant delays in France, – but the sooner you are out of that country the better. Its finest provinces are in a very disturbed state. I very much doubt whether the habits & temper of the people will bear so free a government as has been given them. Nothing seems so difficult as to give a free government to a people who have not been educated for freedom, & yet God knows the affairs of the world must ever go on miserably when each thing depends upon the will & caprice of a Sovereign or a favourite. – I look to hear of some cabinet revolution at Madrid, which shall consign Ferdinand to a convent as an incurable madman, & seat his brother upon the throne in his stead. [11] 

A curious fact in political science is beginning to develop itself. We used to hear of America as an instance proving that countries could go on well without an established church. A society has now been formed in Connecticut to devise means (in default of one!) for providing religious instruction for the people; they declare that an immediate, universal, vigorous effort must be made to provide xxxxxxxx xx for this purpose, xx & that such an effort is indispensable to prevent the great body of the nation from sinking down to a state of absolute heathenism. [12]  It is calculated that of the eight million inhabitants of the United States, five million are destitute of competent religious instruction for want of ministers! – We may be sure that the want will not be supplied by the present race of rulers in America, – & in a fe very few generations the consequences will be seen! – This is very curious & offers much matter for serious thought.

And now my dear Sir remember us most kindly to Mrs Peachy, let me hear of your movements from time to time, & believe me

very sincerely yours

Robert Southey

I am very glad to hear of Lt Guerins medal [13]  – it was but yesterday that I was talking of his sailing on dry ground.


* Address: To/ Major-General Peachy/ Southampton
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 10 JU 10/ 1816
Seal: black wax; design illegible
MS: British Library, Add MS 28603. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s son Herbert had died on 17 April 1816. BACK

[2] Southey’s continental journey was delayed until May–August 1817. BACK

[4] Lieutenant John Ponsonby (dates unknown) of the Royal Navy and his wife (name and dates unknown). BACK

[5] Castle Hill is a few miles to the north of Keswick, by Bassenthwaite Lake. BACK

[6] Seven sketches made by Nash at the Waterloo battlefield were engraved and used as illustrations in Southey’s The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[7] Southey’s The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816). It celebrated the marriage of Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865) on 2 May 1816. BACK

[8] Koster’s Travels in Brazil (1816); reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 16 (January 1817), 344–387. BACK

[9] Charlotte Koster (b. 1783). In his Travels in Brazil (London, 1816), pp. v–vi, Henry Koster stated ‘The drawings for the plates were executed by a near relative, from very rough sketches of my own, assisted by description’. There were ten plates in all in the book, including two maps. Southey may be referring here to ‘A Lady going to a visit’ (p. 188) and ‘A Planter and his Wife on a Journey’ (p. 384) in particular. BACK

[10] John Theodore Koster, his wife, and 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). They had rented Chestnut Hill Cottage (where Shelley had stayed in 1811–1812), owned by the farmer Gideon Dare (1768–1849). BACK

[11] Ferdinand VII (1784–1833; King of Spain 1808, 1813–1833). He had suppressed the liberal constitution and imprisoned its supporters in 1814. His nearest male heir was his brother, Charles, Count of Molina (1788–1855), who was even more of a reactionary than Ferdinand. BACK

[12] Southey is referring to Lyman Beecher (1775–1863), An Address of the Charitable Society for the Education of Indigent Pious Young Men for the Ministry of the Gospel (New Haven, Connecticut, 1814). This address was widely reported in Britain, e.g. the Literary Panorama and National Register, 7 (June 1816), 468–471. Southey had subscribed to this publication since 1809 – it was no. 1734 in the sale catalogue of his library. Southey later used this information in his article on ‘New Churches’, Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591 (at 550–551). BACK

[13] Unidentfied. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)