1949. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 5 September 1811

1949. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 5 September 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Sept. 5. 1811.

My dear Harry

At length we are returned after a long & weary circuit, during the greater part of which our movements from place to place were so frequent, that except intelligence from home at stated intervals, I never received a single letter. We heard of you at Liverpool from the Dysons, [1]  – & now shall look to hear from you without delay, & to see you as soon as you can come to us. I expected to have found a letter from Gooch saying when he would be here, tomorrow I shall write to enquire about his plans (today there is no London post) – perhaps you had better arrange your plans so as to take him back to Durham with you.

My journey to London had the good effect of at least expediting Toms business. [2]  Perceval wrote me a very handsome note when it was done, & it is much to his credit that he should have thus interfered to oblige me, after the manner in which I had spoken of upon the D. of Yorks business, [3]  & the Walcheren Expedition, [4]  – for the sheets of the Register were at the Admiralty before the whole was printed. Unquestionably common sense ought to teach a minister that he may be assisted more efficaciously by the a man who does not fear to condemn parts of his conduct, than by one who defends him thro thick & thin, but this is a kind of sense which is very improperly named, for no kind is so uncommon.

I went to Taunton, leaving Edith at Bristol. My Aunt was well & in good spirits, convinced that there had been some foul play about the wills, & determined to spare no trouble in finding it out. She has recovered tenements to the amount of about 400 £. purchased after the dormant surrenders were made, & therefore devolving to her as heir at law by the custom of Taunton Dean. [5]  There seems also a chance that I may have a lawsuit for the recovery of ten acres recovered under Cannon Southeys [6]  will, & sold by Mr T. Southey, he it is supposed having no power to sell them. This poor man had the punishment before his descent –of perceiving the rascality of his servants, when it was too late for him to alter his will. They would literally have let him die for want of necessaries in his bed, if my Aunt had not been in the house, – & he declared that if he lived to get up again he would make strange alterations. His man Tom [7]  has never gone to bed sober since, it is a race between his constitution & his finances, & if he do not drink himself to death, he will live to be a beggar – so completely is this wretched fellow ruined by having his fortune made. Old Oliver [8]  it seems has for years been maligning x us, in the view of obtaining t what he has got for his own family. The old xxxxxxxx scoundrel now affects to wonder at the will, but he says nobody could expect he would leave his property to a set of nephews who were always insulting him. This charge he has frequently & publicly made in Bristol, – & Danvers is now authorised to meet it with a declaration that the charge is absolutely false, & that he himself has Mr T.Ss belief of it was produced by Oliver himself, my Aunt having heard him abuse us. I know not why I have written so much upon a subject of which I have thought so little.

Write & tell me how you are, & what are your present plans. It would give me great pleasure to hear you had resolved upon remaining at Durham, – By this time you are in some degree recovered from the shock which you have sustained, & are more able to consider calmly the hazard of exchanging a certainty for a precarious adventure. [9]  My own views may not be entirely disinterested, for it is a considerable comfort to me to have you settled in the North, within a days journey; but I think that however this may influence my wishes, it has no effect upon my judgement.

The Colonel is here, & will be rejoiced to see you in these parts, tho I dare say the first sight of you upon the island will throw him into such a fit of tears, as he came upon yesterday when we were for the first time at his table. [10]  It was a very painful visit to all parties.

The children are all well, – I hope you will soon come & make acquaintance with the three whom you have never seen. Ediths love.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Durham
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.80. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Probably Thomas Fournice Dyson (1767–1843) of Everton. He had formerly lived in Lisbon and moved in the same circles there as Southey in 1800–1801. His wife, Anne Baldwin Sealy (c. 1780–1857), was the sister of Henry Herbert Southey’s first wife, Mary-Harriet. BACK

[2] i.e. Tom Southey’s promotion; see also Southey to Herbert Hill, 12 May 1811, 1921, and Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 4 August [1811], Letter 1943. BACK

[3] In 1809, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), had been forced to resign as commander-in-chief of the British army in the wake of allegations that he had profited from office trafficking. After a lengthy investigation, the charges were found to be unproven. It had, however, become apparent that his former mistress Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB) had received money from individuals keen for her to use her influence with the Duke, and that the Duke himself had known of her actions. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 109–301. BACK

[4] The Walcheren Campaign, an unsuccessful British expedition to the Netherlands in 1809. The plan had been to open another front in the war against Napoleon. Although there was little actual fighting, the British forces were severely depleted by a sickness quickly dubbed the ‘Walcheren Fever’. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 660–692. BACK

[5] The ‘custom’ of Taunton Deane was the local Manor’s custom of copyhold tenure. Mary Southey felt this allowed her to inherit some of her brother, Thomas Southey’s, copyhold property, especially property that was separate from the land and buildings he held in trust (under a ‘dormant surrender’). BACK

[6] Cannon Southey (d. 1768), was a distant cousin of Southey’s. His exceptionally complex will, especially concerning his estates at Fitzhead, was a constant source of litigation. Thomas Southey had been a trustee of some of this property. BACK

[7] Tom, a servant of Thomas Southey (dates and surname unknown). BACK

[8] Possibly Simon Oliver (1732–1814), a Bristol linen merchant and an old acquaintance of Thomas Southey, who was also in this line of business. His son, William Oliver (1775–1830) of Hope Corner, Taunton, was probably a major beneficiary of Thomas Southey’s will. BACK

[9] The ‘shock’ was the death of Henry Herbert Southey’s first wife, Mary-Harriet. He was thinking of moving his doctor’s practice from Durham to London. BACK

[10] This was Peachy’s first visit to Keswick since the death of his first wife, Emma. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)