2969. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, Easter Sunday [6 April] 1817

2969. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, Easter Sunday [6 April] 1817⁠* 

My dear Harry

The business about the Estate has grievously interrupted & harassed me. Sold it certainly must be in the course of the summer, for if the Extent should not pursue its course (which in all likelihood it will) the mortgagee will bring it to sale. I must make up my mind in London, & if the ways & means be forthcoming, leave Wordsworth to act for me. [1] 

The greater part of the property is freehold, but there is a part which is customary [2]  & pays a fine of 33£ on changing proprietor or the Death of the King. The sum which I could give is 2000£ taking it with the charges of legacies & annuities to the value of 800£ more. The rents are 75 my own house (which is very dear but includes some furniture valued the other day at 42£ after the expiration of my unexpired 14 years) 35 Miss Barkers, the nursery garden 40£ (of course it would be much less if laid down in grass) & the field 8 – or ten: – in all 158£ – or 160. But Clarke [3]  who has the nursery garden on lease is a bad tenant, & a ruined man. The property would probably sell for 4 or 500 more than this if it were cut up for building: – so that there can be no danger of ultimate loss by it.

We will talk over this matter in town. I am to have 1000 guineas for the History of the War, [4]  – which I may calculate upon for Xmas in the ensuing year, & the Grand Murray has offered me the same sum for a desultory poem in blank verse, for which another year would be an ample allowance of time. [5]  In three years I shall clear the property if I live so long & have my health without any serious interruptions from domestic calamity. And who can calculate upon this! But there would be the estate to pay for itself, if I shall be in yonder church yard; [6]  – & my family not the worse for the transaction.

Wynn is so anxious for me not to deal arrogantly with Wm S. [7]  that I shall soften one or two passages in the proof but it will only in modo & not in re. [8] 

These interruptions delay my departure. I cannot set out till the 22 – a week later than we intended, & this must cause us to delay seeing my Uncle till my return, – when I hope he will be at Streatham. – If you pass Nash’s door I wish you would call & tell him that I will bring up Westalls drawing.

Love to Louisa.

God bless you


Easter Sunday.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 9 AP 9/ 1817
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 4. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 152–153. BACK

[1] Greta Hall and the surrounding estate had suffered from the complicated financial and legal entanglements of their owner, Samuel Tolson Jnr (dates unknown) who was by April 1817 in Carlisle jail for debt; a creditor had taken out an injunction (an ‘extent in aid’) against him, seeking recompense by forcing a sale of the estate. BACK

[2] Customary tenantright was a Cumbrian form of tenure equivalent to copyhold. The tenant in practice had the same security as a freeholder, but was required to pay ‘fines’ to the Lord of the Manor on particular occasions, as Southey outlines. BACK

[3] Thomas Clark (dates unknown), a Keswick nurseryman. He had gone bankrupt on 11 March 1817. BACK

[4] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[5] Southey began, but did not finish, such a poem, entitled ‘Consolation’, occasioned by the death of his son, Herbert Southey, on 17 April 1816. Sections were published after his death as ‘Fragmentary Thoughts Occasioned by his Son’s Death’ in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 93–95, and ‘Additional Fragment, Occasioned by the Death of his Son’, Poetical Works of Robert Southey. Complete in One Volume (London, 1850), p. 815. BACK

[6] The churchyard of St Kentigern’s, Crosthwaite, where Southey is, in fact, buried. BACK

[7] Smith had denounced Southey in the House of Commons on 14 March 1817 in the debate on the Seditious Meetings Bill, condemning ‘the settled, determined malignity of a renegado’ and comparing Southey’s arguments against radical views in the Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 227, with those expressed in Wat Tyler (1817), Act 2, lines 103–112. Southey’s response was his A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (1817), published by Murray at the end of April 1817 after Southey, at Wynn’s suggestion, had toned down some passages. BACK

[8] ‘In manner’ not ‘in matter’. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)