2224. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 24 February 1813

2224. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 24 February 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Feby 24. 1813

My dear Tom

It is a long while since you have written. Your Nelsoniana have proved very useful, – something too I got from Ponsonby, [1]  – he tells me the narrative is account is correct & free from any blunders, – & the rest I can tell myself. I hunted your letters without of success to find the midshipmans name; – he could not have belonged to the Victory, – I rather think & upon comparing circumstances I am inclined to think that the man who was killed in the French ship by prize by the French fire belonged to the Temeraire, [2]  & was not Collingwoods [3]  companion. This is what the printed accounts (Beattys [4]  & those in the Twenty-Pounder [5] ) lead me to conclude. – There remain five or six sheets still to print, when you get within two of the end I will direct the rest to be franked to you St Helens.

Mr Downman [6]  wrote me a dolorous history of our pictures, – that they were lying at Barnard Castle in the carriers hands, who would not carry them on because they rattled. He had desired the man to take them back to him & not having heard further wrote to me to begging that I would return them to him that the damage might be repaired. They have never reached me, & heaven knows where they are, or what has become of them. Downman was very desirous that I should see a volume of poems published (anonymously) by his son, [7]  an army-officer then with Lord Wellington. Accordingly Murray sent me the book, – & when it came it proved to be all about loves & doves, eyes & sighs, arms & charms, fires & desires, kisses & blisses, embraces & graces, & passion & rapture to the end of the chapter. A precious collection! Downmans wife was <a> daughter of Jackson of Exeter, [8]  – & a whimsical woman she must have been, for she would have this son christened Damon, [9]  & his sister Chloe, [10]  – so Miss Downman is probably the only two-legged Chloe in existence.

After living ten winters in this country I have been wise enough to mount a pair of proper Cumberland clogs. – your sea phrase ‘ bending” will not apply to them – I find neither difficulty nor inconvenience in walking in them, & they keep me effectually dry. Were you here I am sure you would follow my example, xxxxxxxxxx I walk before breakfast whenever the weather permits, the Moon calls me with proper punctuality & perseverance, & away we go with Shedaw always, & Sara when she chuses, for a walk of an hour or an hour & half. Moon has out grown a pair of clogs, which are transferred in course of inheritance to Queen Henry; & the clogger [11]  is now making new others for him & xx Shedaw; – so we shall make a fine clatter thro the town.

One of the newspapers says that Brougham wrote the Princess’s letter. [12]  I suspected this, because it was so exceedingly mischievous, so exceedingly imprudent & so impudently hypocritical. The real case <as> I understood some time ago why it was wished that the Princess of Wales should not be much with her daughter, was because she had compleatly given herself up to a party, & was raving about the Catholic question, – upon which subject she was using all her endeavours to prejudice the child. With regard to the Delicate Investigation [13]  I suppose the simple truth is that the Princess is a coarse woman who brought over with her the manners of a German Court. But probably nothing can be proved against her more offensive to that decorum which she of all women ought, for her own sake & that of the country to preserve, than her publicly visiting & that too at this time, the Countess of Oxford, – a woman whose children go by the name of the Harleian Miscellany: – being as is believed all by different authors. [14]  – The more I consider the times <signs> of the times, the less able do I feel to resist the sorrowful conclusion that this country will in its turn be visited by the revolutionary plague. An arbitrary government will be the certain result. We shall probably perhaps get to this consummation without going thro so long a series of horrors as the French, – the consummation is worse enough, – & when I travel in spirit over the map of the world I know not where there will <would> be a resting place to be found, if it should become necessary for a man of the old English stamp to seek for one.

I have been reading the life of Washington, [15]  & some of my Yankee books upon later affairs, – the insurrection of Massachusetts, [16]  – & the Whiskey insurrection xxx in Pennsylvania. [17]  They have made me fear what xx Washington [18]  himself feared in the latter years of his life, that the experiment in America was made too soon, & that instead of accelerating that better order of things to which he & his friends looked on, it ha will in xxx reality defer it. Upon the great scale, all has been without doubt as it should be, & that it could <not> have been otherwise, without being worse, I can distinctly see. America felt itself of age, & where that is the case it is with colonies as with individuals; they will have their way, whatever cause they may have to repent it. Did I not tell you of a design which I have formed of writing ‘the Age of George 3.”? [19] I think the chapter concerning America If it be executed I have thoughts xx for a most valuable chapter upon the American Revolution.

When you come next to Keswick you will find a collection of references & facts for your Opus, [20]  which I note down as they occur in the course of my reading. – My Mothers picture you shall have at some convenient opportunity – that is to say, whenever a commodious box or trunk travels from Greta Hall to St Helens. – I shall soon be rich in pictures. Millman [21]  here has painted me two very interesting landscapes – one a view of the Agueda, – the other the Castle of Almourol (Miraguardas Castle in Palmerin) [22]  – on the Tagus. And Dawe [23]  has made a delightful whole length of Kate sprawling on the Senhoras scarlet sopha: this, I believe will be in the Exhibition. [24]  Our love to Sarah. Margaret I suppose is a great prattler, & for Miss Mary Hannah I hope she is as quiet by day & a better sleeper by night than her cousin Isabel.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Capt Southey. R. N./ St Helens,/ Auckland
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Possibly Lieutenant John Ponsonby (dates unknown), who was then living at Ormathwaite, near Keswick. BACK

[2] The 98-gun HMS Temeraire, which participated in the victory at Trafalgar (1805). BACK

[3] Midshipmen David Ogilvie (1783–1821) and Francis Edward Collingwood (1785–1835) of the Victory boarded the ship’s French prize, the Redoutable, to prevent her drifting away. They were joined by a midshipman from HMS Temeraire, William Pitts (1783–1805), who was killed by French fire. Collingwood and John Pollard (d. 1868) were credited with shooting the French sniper who killed Nelson. BACK

[4] William Beatty (d. 1842; DNB), An Authentic Narrative of the Death of Lord Nelson (London, 1807), pp. 57–58. BACK

[5] James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) and John McArthur (1755–1840; DNB), The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from his Lordship’s Manuscripts 2 vols (London, 1809), II, p. 530. BACK

[6] John Downman (1750–1824; DNB), who in autumn 1812 had painted two portraits of Southey (one commissioned by Murray) and one of Edith Southey. BACK

[7] Probably Charles J. Downman (dates unknown), a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. The book of poems is unidentified. BACK

[8] William Jackson (1730–1803; DNB), Exeter-based musician, composer, painter and writer. Southey had met him during a stay there in 1799. Downman had a brief second marriage to Jackson’s daughter, Mary Jackson (d. 1807). She was not the mother of Damon and Chloe Downman. BACK

[9] Damon Downman is said to have died young. BACK

[10] Isabella-Chloe Downman (1787–1840), she married Richard Mellor Benjamin (1794–1823) in 1817. BACK

[11] There were several shoemakers in Keswick, but only Joseph Braithwaite (dates unknown) described himself as ‘shoemaker and clogger’. BACK

[12] On 14 January 1813, Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1768–1821; DNB), the estranged wife of the Prince Regent, had written to her husband protesting about the restrictions placed on her access to their daughter, Princess Charlotte. In early March a second letter on the same subject was sent to the Speaker of the House of Commons. As it was unsigned its authorship was initially questioned, though it was later attributed to Caroline. After debate, parliament agreed that it was the Regent’s right as a father and ruler to be in charge of his daughter’s education; see Gentleman’s Magazine, 83 (April 1813), 361, 363–364, 373–376. Brougham was her legal adviser and did indeed draft these letters. BACK

[13] A commission of enquiry set up in 1806 to investigate claims that Caroline was the mother of an illegitimate child (William Austen). Although these were found to be false, her conduct was censured. BACK

[14] Jane Elizabeth Harley, Countess of Oxford and Mortimer (1774–1824). Her lovers included Byron. The original Harleian Miscellany (1744–1746) was a collection of material from the library of Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer (1661–1724; DNB), edited by Samuel Johnson (1709–1784; DNB) and William Oldys (1696–1761; DNB). BACK

[15] John Marshall (1755–1835), The Life of George Washington (1804); no. 1808 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[16] Possibly George Richards Minot (1758–1802), The History of the Insurrections in Massachusetts in the year 1786, and the Rebellion consequent thereon (1788). BACK

[17] William Findley (c. 1741–1821), History of the Insurrection in the Four Western Counties of Pennsylvania, 1794 (1796), no. 1026 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[18] George Washington (1732–1799), President of the United States 1789–1797. BACK

[19] George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB), whose reign saw the American Revolution of 1775–1783. BACK

[20] Southey was encouraging Tom Southey to write a history of the West Indies, which finally appeared in 1828. BACK

[21] Either the poet Henry Hart Milman, or, more likely one of his older brothers, Sir William George Milman, 2nd Baronet (1781–1857), who Southey recorded as staying at Keswick for about a year at this time (Southey to Chauncy Hare Townshend, 12 April 1818, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Five). BACK

[22] Miraguarda was a beautiful but haughty woman who lived under the care of a giant, see Palmerin of England, 4 volumes (London, 1807), III, especially pp. 360–398. The Agueda is a river between Spain and Portugal and Almourin Castle is an old Templar fortress on an island in the Tagus. BACK

[23] George Dawe (1781–1829; DNB), history and portrait painter. BACK

[24] Possibly a reference to George Dawe, Mother Rescuing her Child from an Eagle’s Nest, for which Kate Southey acted as a model; or to a portrait which Dawe painted around the same time. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)