1754. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 6 March 1810

1754. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 6 March 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. March 6. 1810

My dear Tom

Another book of Kehama [1]  has been cruising after you for this month past & ought ere this to have found you out. I have sent off two more to night, that Bedford may see them, a journey to London will do them no harm, & if they do not reach you at Durham they will follow you from thence by virtue of Mr Percevals sign manual. You are right enough in not liking the Snake battle. [2]  – I can find very good reasons why it should be liked, – but the truth is I am not very fond of it myself in spite of those reasons. As for the resemblance to Madoc [3]  the objection will obviously be x made, & yet it is so obviously unreasonable that I altogether disregard it, there being nothing in common except the name of snake, – if it were worth while I might turn him into a great cuttle fish with nine tails to & so destroy the likeness. That book goes off to night for Edinburgh – Ballantyne I think will come to it in something less than a month. – certainly not in less than three weeks. – If you find your way here in the course of the next fortnight I will talk of over the scene in the first walk we take, & then it is ten to one but something some radical alteration may be struck out in time to supply its place: for tho the battle is well-managed & all circumstances kept skilfully in view, certes I do not like it myself

You will find upon comparing the printed with the mss copy that of the altered passages some things which appear alterations & not improvements, have been made necessary by others which really are improvements: & others (that which you have instanced is an example) made <became> necessary xx when it was determined to cast the poem in rhyme, which you know was not wholly determined till it was resumed with a resolution of going thro with it.

And so after promising to write from Bristol, & after your ghostly silence, – you had the conscience to be half vexd at that page & half of my letter! Ah Goblin! When I wanted to hear news of Charke of Antwerp, [4]  & of whom you had seen at Bristol, & of my Aunt Mary & of Mr T. Southey, & of D Duardos, & of my new Aunt, & what her christian name is, & how old she is, & half a hundred other things; – there comes your Goblinship with a notion that my Uncles letter contained all the information you could possibly send! Ah Goblin!

A word to Sir Domine Doctor. What time in April does the General Gallic Engagement take place? [5]  I hope not early in the month, for I am afraid my hands will not be clear till after the middle. Let him ask Dr Gooch if he has ever seen Quarles’s Poem of Argalus & Parthenia, [6]  for if he have not I will put x mine in my trunk.

The bottle letter is oiled. By all means send an account to the newspapers. [7] 

For a Monument in the Church of Bishops Lydiard [8] 

Here in the fruitful vales of Somerset
Was Emma born, & here the Maiden grew
To the sweet season of her womanhood
Belov’d & lovely, like a flower whose leaf
And bud & blossom all are beautiful.
Her virgin years were past in peacefulness;
And when in prosperous wedlock she was given,
Among the Cumbrian mountains far away
She had her summer bower. Twas like a sight
Of old Romance to see her when she plied
Her little boat on Derwents glassy lake
Under the gorgeous evenings glowing sky.
But soon a wasting malady began
To prey upon her. frequent in attack
Yet with its intervals of calm that mock
The hopes of anxious love, & most of all
The sufferer self-deceivd. During those days
Of treacherous respite, many a time hath he
Who leaves this record of his friend, drawn back
Into the shadow from her social board,
Because amid her smiles & innocent mirth
There was the bloom of death upon her cheek, –
And at that aweful thought a heavier grief
Opprest his heart, then when the tidings came
That, all her sufferings ended, she was laid
To rest, amid Madeiras orange groves.
O gentle Emma! over lovelier form
Than thine, Earth never closd, nor eer did Heaven
Receive a purer spirit from the World.

I was sorry when the Col. askd me for an Epitaph, but am not so now that this is written.

Your way here x must be by Newcastle & Carlisle. The mail reaches Carlisle about 11 at night. You may get on by stage the next day either to Penrith or Wigton the latter will be a new road for you, & preferable because it is a very fine approach to these Lakes. –

God bless you


My love to Mary – we shall bring her niece, – who is now old enough to enjoy the journey, & all I think the better for change of air


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ with Dr Southey/ Durham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. BACK

[2] The Curse of Kehama (1810), Book 16, lines 207–332. BACK

[3] The comparison is with Madoc (1805), Part 2, Book 7. BACK

[4] Unidentified. BACK

[5] The Long Main cock fight that coincided with Newcastle races in the last week of April, or first week of May. This was a ‘Gallic Engagement’ as the cockerel was a symbol of France. BACK

[6] Francis Quarles (1592–1644; DNB), Argalus and Parthenia (1629), a romance derived from Philip Sidney’s (1554–1586; DNB) Arcadia (1590–1593). BACK

[7] A reference to Southey’s long-standing experiment of sending Tom Southey letters which he placed in glass bottles and then threw overboard, to see where they would wash up. BACK

[8] Published as ‘Inscription XVIII’ in Minor Poems, 3 vols (London, 1815), II, pp. 131–132. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)