1980. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [started before and continued on] 6 November [1811]

1980. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [started before and continued on] 6 November [1811] ⁠* 

Senhora I am going to abuse you. As for the sin of keeping my pantaloons [1]  till I was almost reduced for want of them to a state not to be mentioned, – let that be forgiven, – but why send the box by coach making it thereby cost eight shillings for carriage, when by waggon it would have come for half a crown? – & moreover instead of the North Wilshire cheese which we brought from Ludlow, & which should have been in the box – lo & behold – you have sent salts enough to last Og the King of Basan [2]  for his life, even if he were as big as the Rabbis tell us, & took physic every Sabbath day like old Sir Edward Williams. [3]  O my Cheese my cheese! Senhora. It was a present from Mr Brown, & no doubt it was an excellent cheese Senhora, & such cheeses are not to be had here for love nor for money. Make inquiry for it I pray you. It was tied up & had my name on the paper. – & send it by waggon to be forwarded by waggon from Manchester. A good cheese is too good [a] thing to be lost, especially by a man who lives in the very worst cheese country in England.

Nov. 6

I have laughed Senhora, – rather chuckled heartily while I was reading your hypothesis concerning Clarissa. [4]  It is many years, two or three & twenty I believe, since I read that book, but my remembrance of it is distinct & strong, – good proof of the power with which it is written. My own opinion of Richardson is, that for a man of decorous life, he had a most impure imagination, & that the immorality of our old drama is far less mischievous than his moral stories of Pamela & Squire Booby (how I like Fielding for making out that name!) [5]  – & of Clarissa.

What I would have said to Mr. Lister [6]  is this. Miss Seward desired that her letters should be published at intervals, till the whole collection should be before the public. [7]  Her evident intention was that all which she bequeathed to him should be printed, & that twelve years should elapse before the last portion appeared. Her evident reason for this latter request was that some persons whose feelings will now be hurt (Col. T. [8]  & his wife for instance) – would by that time, in the ordinary course of nature, have followed her to the grave. – By publishing only such as he thought proper Mr. Constable [9]  makes Miss Seward deliver opinions to the public which she afterwards modified or retracted in her after letters.

Constable was afraid of Jeffray about these letters, & for that reason put them into the hands of Mr Morehead, [10]  Jeffray’s brother in law, – that the selection might be made as agreeable to Gog as possible. Hence, every mention of Jeffray is left out, & hence, no doubt, the omission of all her best letters to me. Indeed special care has been taken to keep in all that could injure me, & omit as much as possible of what might serve me. This however is for you, not for Mr. Lister.

I wish you could have made for me of that marvellous tree a little cabinet to hold my manuscripts, – about three feet high, & proportionably wide, – with shelves to hold three tiers of mss. – that is to say two shelves. It may stand at the bottom of the room against the great bookcase.

Dr. Bell is here – the best of all good men. I read him only one sentence of your letter, & he is half in love with you for it. You must know that I am about to reprint my article from the Quarterly concerning the New System of Education, & to enlarge it, [11]  – it will put the question at rest for ever, & remain a clear history of the most important invention for the diffusion of knowledge that has ever been made since printing was discovered.

I get on with Pelayo, [12]  & long to read you a passage from it which not altogether satisfies me. Almost I could resolve upon setting to some evening & transcribing the 250 lines, but I am grievously afflicted with business, & have literally more upon my hands than any other three men, who ever pursued the trade of the grey goose quill. whether I shall ever have more leisure God knows.

Remember that the cheese comes by waggon, – by waggon, – by waggon. & if you have in your shop a brass contrivance to hold a lamp send it with the other brasses. Make my respects to Sir Edward – & Write a little more frequently yourself Senhora, – & then you may have the better reason to complain of me. God bless you. R. S.

Next week you will have the Imperial C. at Teddesley. If you were to guess these hundred years you would never guess what I am about to do tomorrow. – Nothing less than to draw up instructions with Dr Bell for a system of education to be introduced into every regiment throughout the army! [13] 


* 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), pp. 366–369
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 296–299 [misdated 4 November 1811]. BACK

[1] The Southeys visited Miss Barker at Teddesley in August 1811. BACK

[2] A giant; Deuteronomy, 3: 11. See also Southey’s note to Madoc (1805), Part 2, Book 7, lines 74–75, on how the role of Og was expanded in Rabbinic tradition. BACK

[3] Possibly an obscure allusion to Sir Edward Williams (d. 1721), MP for Brecon. BACK

[4] Samuel Richardson (1689–1761; DNB), Clarissa (1747–1748). BACK

[5] ‘Squire B—’ in Richardson’s Pamela (1740) appeared as ‘Squire Booby’ in Henry Fielding (1707–1754; DNB), Shamela (1741). BACK

[6] Thomas Lister (1773–1828) of Armitage Park, near Lichfield. He was a lawyer and landowner, who in his youth had been a writer and protégée of Anna Seward. BACK

[7] Letters of Anna Seward: Written Between the Years 1784 and 1807 (1811). According to the terms of her will, the letters should have been published in seven volumes with a two-year interval between each. BACK

[8] Colonel Hugh Taylor (dates unknown) had once courted Seward, but their relationship collapsed in the face of her father’s disapproval. Letters exchanged between Taylor’s wife and Seward in 1796 revealed that the Colonel had remained infatuated with Seward; see, Letters of Anna Seward: Written Between the Years 1784 and 1807, 6 vols (Edinburgh, 1811), IV, pp. 171–181, 214–220; also, Ibid., IV, pp, 271–275. BACK

[9] Archibald Constable (1774–1827; DNB), Edinburgh publisher of the Edinburgh Review and editor and publisher of Seward’s Letters. BACK

[10] Robert Morehead (1774–1842), writer, Episcopalian minister and editor of the Scots Magazine, 1817–1826. BACK

[11] The Origin, Nature, and Object of the New System of Education (1812), an expansion of Southey’s advocacy of Bell in Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304. BACK

[12] The early incarnation of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[13] Bell’s ‘Madras system’ was introduced into the Army’s regimental schools from 1811 onwards. BACK

Places mentioned

Teddesley (mentioned 1 time)