1959. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 28 September 1811

1959. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 28 September 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick, Sept. 28. 1811

My dear Sir,

It was no little mortification to me on my arrival in town to learn that you had left it, though indeed, from the long delay of my journey, it was reasonable to expect that this would be the case. Had I however been certain of this, and received your friendly invitation before my departure from home, it would have been easy for us to have seen you at Coleorton, – a pleasure which on our return was not within our reach. On the way up we were so near as Nottingham, where we passed two or three days. Our way home was by Llanthony Abbey, Ludlow, Llangedwyn, and Llangollen, where we passed a day very pleasantly with the ladies. [1] 

Coleridge was the last person whom I saw in the neighbourhood of London. He told me at parting that he should be at Keswick before me. Here, however, I am, and there are no tidings of Coleridge. I found him in better health than usual, and, better still, in better habits; and while I see him so well employed as he has lately been in the Courier, I shall not urge him to leave town. Well employed must be said rather in reference to his no-employment than to the manner in which such talents ought to be directed. The way in which they would be most beneficial would be if he held a confidential situation with some man in power, either at home or abroad. I do not know that man in the world whose wisdom would then appear so practical.

I have been fortunate enough at last to obtain my brother’s promotion to the rank of commander. [2]  It was done for me in a very flattering manner by Mr. Percival, through the intervention of his late secretary, Mr. Herries, at present Commissary-General, a very able as well as excellent man, with whom I have been acquainted many years. The promotion, which it has given me the greatest pleasure to have obtained, I mention because I feel assured, from the kindness with which you formerly endeavoured to obtain it for me, that you will rejoice to hear we have now been more successful.

My literary concerns, though upon the whole more prosperous than they have heretofore been, afford a curious proof of the humour of the times, I am best paid for what is worth least; and if I consulted merely my own interest, should leave nothing for posterity, but employ myself wholly in writing such desultory essays as come within the limits of a review, and therefore do not trespass too much upon the leisure of a modern reader. For the last two years my chief and indeed favourite employment has been writing the annals of these most interesting times for the Edinburgh Annual Register. [3]  Those of 1809 happen to exceed those of the preceding year considerably in bulk, because the events are far more numerous. Nevertheless the public, who were well pleased with the length of the first volume, complain grievously because the second is longer, and the booksellers represent this to me as a serious evil. [4]  It is needless to say that, should the work continue, these representations will have no effect whatever upon me. In a history of this kind it is the business of the annalist not so much to regard the amusement of his own age as the information of those who are to come after him.

I am advancing with a poem in blank verse, [5]  which I wish were finished, because its whole spirit is applicable to the present state of Spain, and it might have some effect in making others feel as I do upon that subject.

Mrs. Southey and her sisters [6]  join with me in respects to Lady Beaumont. – Believe me, my dear sir, truly and respectfully yours,



* MS: MS untraced; text taken from William Knight, Memorials of Coleorton, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1887)
Previously published: William Knight, Memorials of Coleorton, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1887), II, pp. 141–144. BACK

[2] See Southey to Herbert Hill, 12 May 1811 (Letter 1921), and Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 4 August [1811] (Letter 1943). BACK

[3] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810) and Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811). BACK

[4] Ballantyne was concerned enough about the length of the historical section to insist that Southey explained himself to the readers in a prefatory note; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), [v]–vi. BACK

[5] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Llanthony (mentioned 1 time)