3130. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [late April 1818]

3130. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [late April 1818] ⁠* 

If any of your Borrodale friends are employed in slate quarrying, tell them as a curious fact lately ascertained in Brazil, that the force of gunpowder in blasting is more than doubled by mixing it with sawdust, in the proportion of three or even four parts sawdust to one of powder. The coarse sawdust of green wood answers still better than that which is finer & drier. [1] 

In Borrodale this may be no very material saving. But in sieges & bombardment it will be of the greatest importance.

Mr. Wilson [2]  is evidently going to try the private trade, – & my fear is that your cousin [3]  will be sent back as soon as he arrives or be obliged to try his fortune out of the Company jurisdiction.

Why does not Miss F. go to Birmingham? would not that be the best place for her?


Saturday morning


* Address: To/ Miss Barker
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), p. 451 [dated Autumn 1818]
Dating note: Dating from content, which places this in late April 1818. BACK

[1] This discovery was made by Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Varnhagen (1783–1842), a German engineer in the Portuguese army in Brazil. It was widely reported in the British press, e.g. Lancaster Gazette, 21 August 1819. BACK

[2] Thomas Wilson (1760–1829) was Mary Barker’s uncle: his first wife was her mother’s sister, Catherine Homfray (1764–1801). He was a London merchant engaged in international trade. BACK

[3] Jeremiah Homfray (1790–1850), eldest son of Mary Barker’s uncle, Sir Jeremiah Homfray (1769–1833; DNB). Sir Jeremiah’s financial difficulties forced his son to give up his career in the Church of England and seek to recover the family’s fortunes. After initial plans to seek his fortune in South America came to nothing he went to India and became a leading figure in the development of the coal industry in Bengal. His decision to go to India was probably suggested by his uncle, Thomas Wilson, but as Wilson was not a member of the East India Company, Homfray had to make his own way in the sub-continent. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Rosthwaite, Borrowdale (mentioned 1 time)