2995. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 11 May 1817

2995. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 11 May 1817⁠* 

Calais. Sunday morning. 11 May. 1817.

My dear Edith

Here we are safe & sound, after a slow, comfortable but very easy passage of fourteen hours.

At half past six on Friday morning I sallied from Q Anne Street, with a porter carrying my luggage. – it consisted of a portmanteau a size larger than the old one, & a smaller one, value twelve shillings to carry shoes, night shirt, shaving tackle &c. In Oxford Street I called for Senhouse, & the two divisions having thus formed a junction proceeded to take up the third in George Street. We then advanced to the Brown Bear or the Black one [1]  (his complection is of little consequence) & there found Mrs Vardon & dear old fellow traveller William. [2]  We had taken the whole stage (inside) as far as Rochester. There we parted company Nash going on with Mrs V to Ospringe [3]  (the place where you & I slept on our way from Dover. Senhouse & myself had 2 ½ miles to walk to the Artillery Barracks, where Col. Pasley [4]  exhibited sundry parts of his profession as a lesson for me. a small mine was sprung, a little torpedo exploded which threw up the water & the machine annexed to it sixty or so feet in the air, – hand grenades were thrown, & I saw all the processes of sapping & mining, & went into a mine, being let down about thirty feet by a windlass. This was the work of several hours, after which we dined at the mess. – a red-coat table d’hote. The officers were very intelligent men, – particularly a Major Reed, [5]  –who tho not more than four or six & twenty had gone thro the whole Spanish war – We got back to our inn a little before ten, took tea & went to bed immediately, & I had a nights sound sleep undisturbed by carriages or watchmen.

Yesterday we rose at six, & got to breakfast at Ospringe – there we found Nash Mrs V & Miss V, with their maid, a new lass. [6]  We proceeded in two chaises & got a little after two o clock to Dover. Then after a little consultation we found it good economy to hire a packet for ten guineas rather than be delayed at the inn till noon the next day, & accordingly at five o clock we moved out of the harbour, with a fair wind in a beautiful evening, – but with appearances of rain. The wind was a little too much to the South, & drove us to leeward so that we could not run the tide. & at ten at night we thought better to remain on board than get onto a French boat a mile & half from the harbour. Mrs V. was sick, her maid & Miss V desperately so: – neither Senhouse, nor Nash, nor myself suffered in the least. Sufficiently uncomfortable however we were. At seven this morning we entered the harbour, & here I am shaved, purified, & better than I was by a good breakfast, – for my Wolf has returned.

Senhouse wrote from Dover, & wishes you could send a line from Keswick to Miss Wood [7]  to notify his safe arrival. I have two or three letters to write & therefore must conclude. Mrs V. xxxx xxxxx leaves us here, & will meet us at Waterloo to spend a day there on our way back. Love to all – God bless you my dearest Edith


I shall call on Sir Jere [8]  this afternoon, & peradventure sup with him.


* Address: To/ Mrs Southey/ Keswick/ Cumberland/ England
Stamped: P 61.P/ CALAIS
Postmarks: FPO/ MY 13/ 1817; MY/ 13/ 1817
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 157–158. BACK

[1] Probably the White Bear Inn in Piccadilly, from where coaches left to Rochester and other towns in Kent. BACK

[2] William (surname and dates unknown) was the Vardons’ servant who had accompanied them to the Netherlands in 1815. BACK

[3] A village near Faversham in Kent, from where travellers could catch the Rochester to Dover coach. BACK

[4] 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

[5] William Reid (1791–1858; DNB), soldier in the Royal Engineers and administrator. He served in the Peninsular War 1810–1814 and was later Governor of Bermuda (1839–1846), the British Windward Islands (1846–1848) and Malta (1851–1858). BACK

[6] The Vardons’ daughter is unidentified; the maid was a different one to the servant who had accompanied the Vardons on their trip to the Netherlands in 1815. BACK

[7] Mary Anne Wood (1782–1860), Senhouse’s cousin. BACK

[8] Sir Jeremiah Homfray (1759–1833; DNB), a Welsh ironmaster and speculator in mineral rights, living in Boulogne since being declared bankrupt in 1813. Homfray was the uncle of Mary Barker. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)