2124. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 18 July 1812

2124. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 18 July 1812 ⁠* 

St. Helens Auckland. July 18. 1812

My dear Edith

We had a delightful walk after leaving Keswick as far as Lyulphs Tower, where we parted with S. Reid, & then went on to Pooley Bridge, had a comfortable cup of tea & reached Penrith about eight o’clock. Called on A. Harrison [1]  found he was at Carlisle, but that we were expected to supper, excused ourselves on the necessity of eating at the inn, supped there upon trout & roast fowl, drank some most admirable cyder & a new manufactory of a nature between soda water & ginger-beer, & called pop because pop goes the cork when it is drawn, & pop you would go off too if you drank too much of it. Wednesday we left Penrith at five o clock bound for the house of Mr Salkeld of Ranbeck near Kirkland, [2]  from whom we were to receive directions for xxx our march over Crossfell & trusting to find a place to breakfast at upon the way. The road was now new to us. Past thro a newly inclosed country covered with fine corn. in Penrith parish there are this year 400 acres of wheat more then were ever sown there before. 4 miles to Eden-hall, the seat of the Musgraves; [3]  – a fine old mansion, deserted by the family, but inhabited by servants. crost the Eden about three quarters of a mile below <farther> by a fine bridge, – a beautiful stream winding flowing under a wooded bank by a fine meadows on the other side. Langwathby the next village – then xxxxx crossing a great common before xx we came to Skirwith a village pleasantly bowered in trees, seven miles from Penrith. here we learnt was the only public house which we should find, – & a miserable one it was, where all we could get was a basin of milk & a piece of dry bread, served us by a girl whose xxxx hands went out of the washing-xxx tub into the milk vessel. This breakfast cost us three pence a piece. about nine we reached Mr Salkelds, at the foot of Cross fell he provd to be a brother of Colonel S. [4]  & a very good natured man, but living quite like a man who as his fathers had done before him. Tho only nine o clock nothing was said of breakfast, we had beer set before us, hung beef, & an uneatable cold gooseberry pie. The beef & beer however stood us in good stead, as you will possibly perceive.

How far to Middleton Tees-dale over the fells? About ten mile, he said, & he would go with us to the top of the mountain which was three miles. Accordingly he guided us up a very easy ascent to the highest point of Crossfell – where a heap of stones with a plank placed upright at the top of them had been raised xxx by Colonel Mudge [5]  when he took the height of the mountain x xxxxxxxxx <xxxxxx> it with the xxx which it seems is now ascertained to be inferior to Skiddaw, – as indeed it evidently appears to be. About two years a remarkable accident occurred here. Three men from Alstone Moor were crossing the mountain, & were on the descent walking over a mass of frozen snow which when as they were near the edge of the snow it slid from beneath <them> the under part being dissolvd. Two of the men attempted to run, but were of course overtaken by the xxx current of xxx water & half dissolved snow. The third, as he afterwards said, thought it best to face the enemy, he xxxxx xx turned round when he felt his feet failing him, sprung up, & threw himself with his face on the crust of snow & fixed his hands into it. In this manner he was floated down about two hundred yards, with tremendous rapidity, faster he said than ever mail coach went, but he reached the bottom with no other injury than a few scratches from the masses of hard snow & found his way to Mr Salkelds which was the nearest house. Salkeld immediately mustering all the men about his house set out with his sheep dog in quest of the other two. The dog who had been accustomed to search for sheep under the snow soon found their bodies, – they had been drowned & crushed at once, xxx so that their death must have been instantaneous, – & they were dashd against the stones as the incumbent torrent xxx swept them away.

A very little below the summit is the head of the Tyne, you hear water flowing under the stones <beneath you> for several yards before you reach the place where it is visible, the spring which appears is but a small stream, Kate could step over it, the water intensely cold. Close beside are the remains of some stone tables where the Duke of Norfolk [6]  & a party of Cumberland gentlemen used annually to dine. The xx meeting was at length given up because they used to get drunk & break their bones in riding down the mountain, no person was so glad of its discontinuance as Salkeld’s father, [7]  – who used to have xx to nurse the drunkards in xx his house xx xxxxx xxxx while they were under the surgeon’s hands. At one of the last meetings a quarrel arose between two of the party, – one of whom in his cups ordered the fidlers to play Over the water to Charley, [8]  – & a battle took place upon this Jacobite provocation, some forty years after Jacobitism was at an end every where else.

Within a mile of the Tyne head, & on the same summit is the head of the Tees, so small a spring that just below its rise I spanned it. Mr S. told me to follow this, & it would bring us to the Weal, the Cauldron Snout & the High Force. We had from seven to ten miles he said, to Middleton & the day was before us for it was not twelve when he left us. From thence till eight at night we were on our feet, & except one mine at which we enquired xxx & a party of three miners afterwards saw nothing xxx which bore any marks of humanity or cultivation till 7 in the evening when we came to the first house about three miles below Cauldron Snout. Luckily about xxxxx a mile & half farther we came to a public house at Moor-Ridge near the Falls where we got one bed, – heartily glad to get there, after the most fatiguing days work (except one days water-work at Cambridge) [9]  that I ever went thro. We were fifteen hours on foot with only half an hours rest, – a most bad breakfast & no dinner.

Next morning saw the Force & Wynch bridge – which I have no time to speak of farther than to say that they well repaid us for our march.

Harry & Tom met us. We got here in good time & good spirits but Danvers found a letter telling him of his wretched brothers death. [10]  Desirable as such an event was it has affected him, as it naturally would a good deal, he thinks it best not to say anything of it while he is here. We supt at the Taylors [11]  yesterday. I should have written yesterday but the letters xxx must set off at ten in the morning, so an early epistle this morning will arrive as soon as if it had been pennd yesterday afternoon. We go to Durham today, return tomorrow or Monday, & start Tuesday. Tom I believe will walk back with me. Harry we shall see in the autumn when he leaves Durham. Yesterday he received a letter from my Uncle, telling him that Sealey [12]  will assist him to try his fortune in London, where he cannot fail of making it.

God bless you. Love from all here, & a kiss to the Queen & Kate.



* Address: To Mrs Southey/ Keswick/ Cumberland./ Single
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 283–287 [in part]. BACK

[1] Anthony Harrison (dates unknown), a Penrith attorney, whose Poetical Recreations (1806) had some success. BACK

[2] John Salkeld (1763–1819), who owned and farmed the Ranbeck estate. BACK

[3] The owner at this time was Sir Philip Musgrave, 8th Baronet (1794–1827). BACK

[4] Lieutenant-Colonel Salkeld (1761–1820) of Holme Hill, formerly Quarter Master General of the Bengal Army. BACK

[5] William Mudge (1762–1820; DNB), superintendent of the Ordnance Survey. He had been responsible for developing the Ordnance board’s trigonometric and topographical surveys. BACK

[6] Wealthy aristocrat and landowner, whose property included estates in North and North West England; at this time the title was held by the Whig politician Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk (1746–1815; DNB). The anecdote, though, may refer to his father, Charles Howard, 10th Duke of Norfolk (1720–1786; DNB), who was well-known for his heavy drinking. BACK

[7] Joseph Salkeld (d. 1809), who owned land at Ranbeck, Kirkland and Penrith. BACK

[8] The toast given by Jacobites to the Stuart pretender to the British throne, Charles Edward, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ (1720–1788; DNB). BACK

[9] When Southey rowed from Cambridge to Ely and back in one day, Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 3 June 1793], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 50. BACK

[10] John Danvers (d. 1812), a bankrupt former apothecary. BACK

[11] The home at St Helen Auckland of George Taylor. BACK

[12] Richard Sealy (c. 1752–1821), a merchant at Lisbon and father of Henry Herbert Southey’s first wife. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Skiddaw (mentioned 1 time)