1805. Robert Southey and Edith Southey to Elizabeth Browne, 12 September 1810

1805. Robert Southey and Edith Southey to Elizabeth Browne, 12 September 1810 ⁠* 

[Start of section in Edith Southey’s hand]

Keswick. September 12, 1810.

My dear Madam

It gave me no great pleasure to hear that you had all arrived in safety at your distant-dwelling; & that you received pleasant accounts of the young ladies, [1]  whose sweet dispositions & agreeable manners, make them receive & impart pleasure wherever they go.

I am not that all surprized that your meek Mary [2]  disapproved of the numerous faces she encountered upon the road: I dare say such little timid darlings feel a real trouble upon those occasions for I can well remember what my sufferings used to be, at six & seven years old, when “dear Mama” was out of sight; even in the house of our nearest relations. My sister Coleridge quizzes me about it to this day.

We are all very much obliged by your kind inquiries. I left my room much earlier than after my other confinement, & felt no inconvenience from it: – the dear child thrives. they are both to <be> Christianed immediately, & we mean to call the new-born Katharine; after Mrs Hill, who is to stand for her, with my Sister Coleridge & Sir Edward Littleton. I have only two pieces of news to relate to you from this neighbourhood; the one is that we are to have a regatta on Thursday, Mr White [3]  – I believe – is the conductor of it, the other relates to Mr & Mrs Janson of the Royal Oak, [4]  who having refused to entertain a gentleman who came on foot, concluding he was of no consequence, he swears he will spare neither time, money nor pains to see them punished to the utmost rigour of the law. We hear he has since commensed his operations, he is the son of Alderman Brown, [5]  no doubt he is well informed of the nature of the business & will not prove a Madman as Mrs Janson, she, poor deluded woman, a few days since turned away a Noble Lord from her own door before she had glanced her eye at the Coronet upon his Carriage which she did not discover untill he was on the wing, but her dispair was witnessed by some of her servants who relate the story with no small glee.

Derwents arm gains strength very fast, & he will join his brother after the regatta. The Ponsonby’s [6]  are return<ed> they, with Mrs Calvert, [7]  & Miss Christian, [8]  beg to be kindly remembered to you: the latter feels the want of your company in her neighbourhood, exceedingly. Sara & Edith will long retain a lively remembrance of the many happy days they have passed in your society. they often talk of their delightful visits to you. Poor Lancaster [9]  called here a few days since to ask if we had heard from his friends. He is much altered by illness that my Sister [10]  did not know him.

My Sisters [11]  unite with me in kind remembrances to yourself, Mr Browne & the young ladies – believe me dear Madam – very affectionately

E. Southey [12] 

[End of section in Edith Southey’s hand]

My dear Madam

I have requested Edith to leave me a page of the letter that I may request your assistance in a business wherein I am taking great interest. A Bristol youth by name Wm Roberts died not long since of consumption at the age of 19. leaving a collection of poems to two of his friends (to be by them published) for the benefit of an only sister.  [13]  – that being all he had to leave her. At the time of his death he had a salary of 80 or 90£ from one of the Bristol Banks: his father  [14]  had been a respectable brewer, who failed, & obtained a situation in the Customs, just sufficient with the profits of a lodging house, & Williams salary, to support in decent comfort a family accustomed to better things. The death of the son therefore not only cut off all their hopes of again rising in the world, but bereft them of a considerable part of their means of support. Since that event the father has been disabled from discharging the duties of his situation by illness. A grandmother makes part of the family, & they are all sinking fast to absolute poverty & want.

Under these circumstances it is easily possible that the poor legacy bequeathed by William to his sister,  [15]  may be made far more valuable than he could have had any expectation. One of the friends <persons> to whose care they <papers> were left (P.M. James, a banker at Birmingham) sent them to me, with a history of the circumstances, – he edites them & will prefix an account of the life of his friend.  [16]  My advice was that they should be published by subscription, in this way the sale would depend upon the exertions of a few well-disposed individuals, & if they exerted themselves strenuously, about 300£ might be raised, which would suffice to place the daughter in some way of life that might enable her to support herself & her parents in respectability. I am doing my best to swell the subscription list, & I hope the statement which I have thus plainly & briefly made, will justify me in requesting your assistance.

The book will be a half-guinea volume, to be paid for on delivery. What merit it may possess I should now consider was its least claim, but the truth is that William Roberts was a youth of the most promising genius, ardently devoted to literary pursuits, & certainly (in my judgement) capable of attaining a very distinguished rank, had it pleased God to prolong his life. In his whole conduct, his hopes & habits, & in every domestic relation, he was as far as I can learn from his most intimate friends, or judge from his letters, as nearly as man can be supposed to be, without spot or stain. I am sure that no person who subscribes to the book will consider its cost as ill-bestowed, even if in bestowing the half-guinea they looked to the half-guineas worth. In its form, arrangement & embellishments it will resemble Henry Kirke Whites Remains,  [17]  – only I believe no portrait is in existence.

I must not conclude without communicating to Mr Browne some information which will probably surprize him as much as it did me. That pamphlett upon the State of Ireland which he formerly sent me, & from which I have made some extracts in the Edinburgh Annual Register, was written by Mr Croker.  [18]  This I have from undoubted authority. – The affairs of Ireland have often been discussed in the house of Commons since he has been in Parliament, – & yet not a single section of manly, bold plain truth has ever fallen from him there upon the subject!

I beg my respects to Mr B. & his daughters & am my dear Madam

very truly yours

Robert Southey


* Address: Mrs Browne/ Ludlow
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Probably a reference to Wade Browne’s daughters by his first marriage, Lydia (c. 1789–1864), Elizabeth and Sarah. BACK

[2] Mary Browne (dates unknown), Wade Browne’s only child by his second marriage. BACK

[3] Mr White (d. 1811), a wealthy man who had retired to Keswick with his mistress. BACK

[4] Mr and Mrs Janson (dates unknown), owners of the Royal Oak inn at Keswick. BACK

[5] Possibly a son of Alderman Charles Brown (dates unknown), a retired merchant and Alderman of Leeds (Mayor in 1811 and 1824). Wade Browne had been Mayor of Leeds in 1794 and 1804. BACK

[6] Lieutenant John Ponsonby of the Royal Navy and his wife (name and dates unknown). They were staying at Ormathwaite. Ponsonby gave Southey some information about the Battle of Copenhagen (1801) for his Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[7] Possibly the wife of William Calvert. Her name and dates are unknown. BACK

[8] Mary Christian (1759–1831). A neighbour of the Southeys in Keswick. BACK

[9] Unidentified. BACK

[12] to ask if we … Southey: written upside down on fol 2 v. BACK

[13] Eliza Roberts (dates unknown). BACK

[14] William Roberts (dates unknown), he had been made bankrupt in 1793. BACK

[15] Eliza Roberts. BACK

[16] Poems and Letters, by the Late William Isaac Roberts (1811). BACK

[17] Southey’s Remains of Henry Kirke White (1807). BACK

[18] Croker’s A Sketch of the State of Ireland, Past and Present (1807). Southey cited it as by ‘far the ablest publication upon this subject’ in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 9 n. *. BACK

People mentioned