2992. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 8 May 1817

2992. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 8 May 1817⁠* 

My dearest Edith

Every thing is packed up. all my arrangements are made. I am in my travelling dress, & tomorrow morning at 7 o clock Senhouse, Nash, Mrs Vardon & I step into the Chatham stage. she goes on for her daughter [1]  to the place where she slept on our return. – we pass the day with Pasley, [2]  & join her on Saturday to escort her to Calais – the weather is delightfully fine, – I am stored with letters of introduction &c, & laden with civilities & good wishes from all quarters

You may follow us upon the map to Dijon, Besançon, Neufchatel, Berne, Lucerne, Sxxxxx Schweitz & over Mount St Gothard to Bellenzona, Lugano, Como & Milan. Thence over the Simplon to Vevay, Lausanne, Geneva, Zurich, Schaffhausen, Basle, & so down the Rhine, leaving it at Manheim for Heidelberg & Frankfort & rejoining it at Mentz. – then to Cologne & so by Aix la Chapelle & Huy to Brussels, Lisle, Douay & Calais. You can see we have given up Turin & Genoa, in order to take a finer pass into Italy; an alteration to which I easily acceded because it shortened the time of my absence. [3] 

Canning [4]  was prevented by H of Commons business from meeting us yesterday, & so was Lord Binning. [5]  We had Ward with us, a man of great parliamentary celebrity & a very pleasant companion. [6]  The Billet Doux continues to sell, & many orders for it come from the country. [7] Wm Smith has publicly (in the House yesterday) declared his intention of grinning & enduring it, – & my triumph is so compleat that every body congratulates me on having the occasion given me of obtaining it. [8] 

J May & Turner will manage matters about the purchase, [9]  & write to Wordsworth concerning it. Murray has very handsomely offered to advance at once 1000£ for the peninsular war. [10]  – so here is half of what is wanted.

I shall write from Calais, & again from Paris, tho it should be merely a line. About the first xxxx of July you may direct a letter to the Post Office Brussels. I have bought just such a book for my journal as the last, precisely the same sort of half binding.

Koster is going on well, & writes in good spirits – but I hear a dreadful history of his father from Mrs Gonne. It seems he has a family of children by some servant or governess, – & in this way his failure is partly accounted for. I am sure Henry did not know this & this has raised Mrs K. very much in my esteem, – for she made the discovery. Thus it is almost invariably when men have no religious principles.

And now my dear Edith God bless you. Keep in good spirits till I return, & in good exercise that you may be in training for the mountains. Love to all & tell the Senhora I will be satisfied if she paints one picture a week during my absence the size of Porthogo, [11]  or three smaller ones


Thursday afternoon

Gooch, Senhouse & Sir Wm Knighton & Hudson Gurney [12]  are coming to dinner & Spurzheim [13]  in the evening, – who is to examine my head as he did that of Jehephary the Prophet


* Address: To/ Mrs Southey/ Keswick/ Cumberland
Postmark: A MY/ 8/ 1817
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Unidentified. BACK

[2] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), military engineer, whose Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810) was much admired by Southey. At this time Pasley was Director of the School of Military Fieldworks at Chatham and he had offered to give Southey a demonstration of how fortifications were attacked and defended. BACK

[3] This is a fairly accurate record of Southey’s itinerary, though there were some changes (e.g. he was not able to cross the St Gothard pass) and he did visit Turin, but not Genoa. BACK

[4] George Canning was at the House of Commons on 7 May 1817 and spoke on a potential case of Breach of Privilege. BACK

[5] Thomas Hamilton, Lord Binning (1780–1858), MP for a succession of constituencies 1802–1827 until created Lord Melros in 1827; he succeeded his father as 9th Earl of Haddington in 1828. Binning was Commissioner of the Board of Control 1809, 1816–1822, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland 1834–1835, First Lord of the Admiralty 1841–1846 and Lord Privy Seal 1846. At this time he was a close ally of Canning. BACK

[6] John William Ward (1781–1833; DNB), MP for a variety of seats 1802–1823 until he succeeded his father as 4th Viscount Dudley and Ward. He was briefly Foreign Secretary 1827–1828 and a close friend of Canning. BACK

[7] William 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. BACK

[8] In a debate on a potential case of Breach of Privilege in the House of Commons on the previous evening, 7 May 1817, Smith had said ‘he had always considered it to be a kind of duty in every member to withhold himself from the defence out of doors of any expressions he might have used within. On that duty he had acted strictly and bona fide’. This might be interpreted as a declaration that he would not reply to Southey’s criticisms. BACK

[9] The future of Greta Hall was in doubt as its owner was in jail for debt and Southey was considering whether to buy the property. BACK

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

[11] A cavern near Neath, Wales. BACK

[12] Hudson Gurney (1775–1864; DNB), a Norwich author, antiquary and MP whose Cupid and Psyche, a Mythological Tale from The Golden Ass of Apuleius (1799) Southey admired. BACK

[13] The phrenologist Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1776–1832). BACK

People mentioned

Koster, Henry (1793–1820) (mentioned 2 times)
Barker, Mary (c. 1780–1853) (mentioned 1 time)
Smith, William (1756–1835) (mentioned 1 time)
Gooch, Robert (1784–1830) (mentioned 1 time)
May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 1 time)
Nash, Edward (1778–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Knighton, William (1776–1836) (mentioned 1 time)
Turner, Sharon (1768–1847) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)