2112. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 9 June 1812

2112. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 9 June 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. June 9. 1812

My dear Senhora,

The first frank is carefully deposited in my desk till you come for it. I am sincerely glad of the young knight’s election [1]  & had I been a Staffordshire freeholder would have given him a vote, in spite of his youth, — an objection, weighty as it is, of less moment than the political principles of his opponent.

Sir Edward’s will seems to have been in all its provisions, perfectly conformable to his life, — that is, all that it ought to have been. [2] 

My wicked summer cold has taken up its quarters with me, & will no doubt torment me for many weeks. It brings with it much discomfort, but, thank God does not disable me, & is less accompanied by any general indisposition than one would suppose possible from so violent a local affection. Last year I escaped it by setting out on a long journey just as it was beginning.

I have my eye upon that ugly house opposite, — which ugly as it is without, would become a pleasant object if it can ever be got for you. Lord Sunderlin (a brother of Malone) [3]  has it for three years, one of which is expired, — he took it for the sole purpose of resting a few weeks every year on his way from Ireland, — but he is a very old man & may very likely drop his lease, — or drop himself. He left it in August last year, & lent it to the Bp of Meath: [4]  very likely he may be disposed to let it this autumn. It would suit you well, — There is land belonging to it, which may probably be had, & the communication by land would be easy, & better still by lake.

Do not send off anything but what is wanted for your own use, for this House tho rather of larger dimensions than a nutshell, is almost as full as one. Martha is coming next week, & Danvers, — & what is worse the boys holidays begin. — I shall march off with Danvers early in July for Durham, — & the holydays luckily have an end as well as a beginning. Hartley is grown a great fellow, all beard & eyes, — as odd & as extraordinary as ever he was, with very good disposition, but with ways & tendencies which will neither be to his own happiness, nor to the comfort of any body connected with him. Derwent contrary to all former appearances, is much weaker in body, — he is very tractable, may be made anything, — whereas Hartley is of such unmalleable materials that what he may make of himself God knows, but I suspect, nobody will be able to mould or manage him. — You will be much pleased with Herbert , who may best be characterised by calling him a sweet boy. — You can hardly conceive anything more gentle & more docile. He has just learnt his Greek alphabet & is so desirous of learning, so attentive, & so quick of comprehension, that if it please God he should live, there is little doubt but that something will come out of him.

I have long had many day dreams of what was to be done when you came to reside among us. One has been of a poem or series of poems about this country, for which you were to make drawings, — so as to make a splendid book. [5] 

If you get off as soon as you expect — we may look for you early next week. — I had nearly forgotten what you say about the Island. — it does not seem to me the kind of thing that could be asked. [6]  God bless you. Come speedily, & cure me of my cold, — for you know you have undertaken to cure every body. — I must go to work upon this endless Register, [7]  — hoping & trusting to finish the third volume this week, — after which the first letter from Edinburgh will be to press me to lose no time in beginning the fourth. [8]  There is the difference between my labour & that of a millers horse, that he goes round & round, & that I go straight forward, — but both of us are likely to be kept working as long as our strength lasts. Well! & if the horse likes it as well as I do, he has no reason to complain.

Yrs affectionately


We are afraid Neddy [9]  will marry before she goes to London, in which case it is to be feared marriage will not rid us of our neighbours. I want Mr White to come for her a-la-Lenora: [10]  if he came belly & all [11]  he *** make such a Ghost as was never seen before.


* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Teddesley/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire
Postmark: KESWICK/ 298
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), 405–408
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 278–80. BACK

[1] Edward John Littleton (later Lord Hatherton) had been elected unopposed as Tory MP for Staffordshire in a by-election in May 1812. His Whig opponent, Sir John Wrottesley (1771–1841), MP for Lichfield 1799–1806, Staffordshire 1823–1832, Staffordshire South 1832–1837, declined to go to the poll after a lengthy canvas of his support among the voters (owners of freehold land worth 40s. per annum). BACK

[2] In Sir Edward Littleton’s will Mary Barker was bequeathed £500, an annuity of £200 and all the gifts and furniture that Sir Edward had bought for her use. His main heir was Edward John Littleton (later Lord Hatherton). BACK

[3] Edmund Malone (1741–1812; DNB), the editor of Shakespeare and friend of Johnson, Boswell and Burke. BACK

[4] Thomas Lewis O’Beirne (1749–1823; DNB), Bishop of Meath from 1798 until his death. Originally a Whig, he was by this time more conservative and a noted defender of the Church of Ireland. BACK

[5] This project was never completed. BACK

[6] Miss Barker apparently asked about the possibility of using General Peachy’s house on Derwent Island. BACK

[7] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

[8] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813). BACK

[9] William White’s (d. 1811) former mistress and heiress, and Southey’s neighbour. BACK

[10] In Gottfried August Bürger (1747–1794). Leonore (1773), Lenore’s lover returns from the grave to claim her. BACK

[11] “Belly-gerant”, Southey’s nickname for the late William White (d. 1811). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)