2309. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 28 September [–1 October] 1813

2309. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 28 September [–1 October] 1813 ⁠* 

Tuesday night. Sept. 28. 1813.

My dear Edith

I have stolen away from a room-full of people at Mr Barlows, [1]  that I might spend an hour in writing to you instead of wasting it at the card table. On Saturday I sent you Murrays xxx check for thirty guineas [2]  Sunday at twelve I went by appointment to Lord William Gordon, [3]  who wanted to take me to see a young Lady. Who should this prove to be but Miss Booth, [4]  – the very actress whom we saw at Liverpool play so sweetly in Kotzebues comedy of the Birthday. [5]  There was I taken to hear her recite Mary the Maid of the Inn! [6]  & if I had not interfered in aid of her own better sense, Lord W. & her mother & sisters would have made her act as well as recite it. As I know you defy the Monster, [7]  I may venture to say that she is a sweet little girl, tho a little spoilt by xxx circumstances which would injure any body, – but what think you of this old Lord asking permission for me to repeat my visit, & urging me to “take her under my protection” – & show her what to recite, & instruct her how to recite it? – And all this upon a Sunday! So I shall give her a book, & tell her what parts she should chuse to appear in, – & if she goes again to Edinburgh be civil to her if she touches at the Lakes; – she supports a mother a brother & two or three sisters. – When I returned to Q Anne Street from the visit I found Davy sitting with the Doctor, & awaiting my return. I could not dine with him tomorrow, having an engagement, but we promised to go in the evening & take Coleridge with us, & Elmsley, if they would go. It will be a party of Lions, where the Doctor must for that evening perform the part of Daniel in the Lions Den. [8] 

I dined on Sunday at Holland House with an ill assorted party of some 18 or 20 persons. However Sharp was there who introduced me with all due form to Rogers & to Sir James Macintosh who seems to be in that state of health that a certain personage & his grannam will not have very long to kick their heels in waiting for him. [9]  In the evening Lord Byron came in. He had asked Sharp xx xxx xxx if I was “magnanimous”, – & required him to make for him all sorts of amends honourable for having tried his wit upon me at the expense of his discretion: & in full confidence of the success of his apology had been provided with a letter of introduction to me in case he had gone to the Lakes as he intended to have done. As for me you know how I regard things of this kind: – so we met with all becoming courtesy on both sides, & I saw a man whom in voice, manner & xxx countenance I liked very much more than either his character or his writings had given me reason to expect. [10]  Rogers wanted me to dine with him on Tuesday (this day) – only Ld Byron & Sharp were to have been of the party – but I had a pending engagement here & was sorry for it.

Holland House is a most interesting building. The library is a sort of gallery xx xxx 109 feet in length, & like my study serves for drawing room also. The dinner room is pannelled with wood, & the pannels emblazoned with coats of arms, – like the ceiling of the room in the palace at Cintra. [11]  The house is of Henry 8ths time. [12]  I slept there & got back to London the next morning before Sir Domine was awake. I borrowed from Lord H. two Spanish plays connected with the story of Roderick. [13]  I read <thro> both & made notes from them in the course of the morning before Harry & I started. This was a good mornings work. We got here to dinner. to day I did a good days work & tomorrow shall get a spell before we return to town. I see the end of my business here, & shall probably see the first proof tomorrow. [14]  It is entirely to Mr B’s satisfaction, & in this case that is enough.

Lord Wm is not a little pleased with appearing to be my patron, & I rather expect that he, from his intimacy with the Prince, will procure a private presentation for me & take me xxx to Carleton House, [15]  in which case I escape bag, sword and ruffles [16]  for the present. As for the appointment, there is no doubt about it; most probably in the course of the week I shall pay the fees for it, – it will give the children three thousand pounds, with an accumulating interest, so that if I should live fourteen years the three thousand will be four. This is going so far toward a provision for them, that I am really sincerely glad of the office which enables me to secure it.

Thursday we dine with Me Stael. [17]  Friday I return & dine with Mr Davis. [18]  Sunday Coleridge dines with me at Stuarts. Tuesday I & the Doctor dine at Mr Legges, [19]  & the Saturday following at Dr Stangers. [20]  xx by that time I expect to be near the end of my business here, – perhaps to have compleated it. You do not know how I long to be at home. I must stay about a fortnight in town after my removal: – & then, if it were not for Lucien Buonaparte, [21]  I think I should write an excuse to Mr Brown & take the mail for Penrith. But it is better to delay my return for a few days, – than to lose the opportunity of seeing Lucien & regret it for ever afterwards.

Mrs Hill wins upon me a good deal. Today she began a conversation with me about Miss Tyler & said it was as much as she could do to bear her. One of her sisters, [22]  returning from Stanton a little before the Man was born called in to College Green with a letter. Miss T. on hearing that her brother was likely to have a child said she was not glad to hear it, & indeed she had not approved of his marrying. She made my Uncle very uncomfortable while she was here by her intolerable humours. however before she went away he made her make over xx her estate to him; it is worth about 200£ a year & whenever she dies he will be able to clear off the mortgage upon it gradually. She told Mrs Hill that she had all my play things. When my Uncle escorted her home to Bristol she actually suffered him to sleep at an inn – because she would not make up one of her own beds.

Rickman has to return today. His sister [23]  enquires for you. Neville White will be in town soon. I tell everybody that I am not yet in town, & make this my excuse for an apparent neglect for as yet I have had no possibility of calling on many persons, Boswell [24]  & John Thelwall among the number, – & Miss Linwoods [25]  pictures, & Heaven knows what beside.

I expect that your seal will be finished about Saturday, & if so I shall seal a letter to Herbert with it early in the next week. I should like to see him when he receives it xxxx Time passes with a heavy pace, & yet how many weeks are gone since I left home!

We have begun fires at Streatham today – which was not before I wanted one. I write in the drawing room – in the inner part of it where I am quite by myself. Below stairs the young xxx Bears [26]  put all my accomplishments in requisition. The Marquis has profited greatly by my lesson in articulation but Duke Bruin is not so teachable. I am grown very fond of them – but how glad I shall be to see my own Bruinella.

M de Stael writes such a foot that in a note of hers which arrived this evening to tell me where she lives & when she dines I can only guess that the hour is 7 o clock. – The gate bell rings, – & they are come home from next door. I leave my letter open till the post arrives tomorrow, – in case there should come a letter from you as I hope there may, – so good night my dear Edith, – dear dear Edith good night.

Friday two o clock. – I forgot to fold up this letter on Wednesday, – which is rather fortunate as I have seen Coleridge & Mrs Morgan this morning. She tells me that things are looking better than they had at one time cause to fear, [27]  – & that she & her sister [28]  will go to Keswick & take lodgings there for some little time, – the more willingly as it happens to be directly in the road to that part of Ireland where John Morgan is. In three weeks or a month they talk of going – & by that time I trust to be at home myself.

We had a very pleasant dinner at M de Staels. Davy & his wife, Bozzle & her husband, [29]  – a Frenchman whose name I never heard & the Portugueze Ambassador the Conde de Palmella, [30]  a gentleman & accomplished man. I wish you had seen the animation with which she exclaimed against Davy & Macintosh for their notions about peace. Rickman is returned & walked half way to Streatham with me this morning. I dine at Mr Davis’s to day. – It was some disappointment not to find a letter from home, – I must console myself with thinking upon the one & twenty ducks [31]  which I bought yesterday, & the corner of Harrys room in which they & my other purchases of the same kind are placed together waiting for the joyful day of packing up.

I saw John Thelwall yesterday. His wife [32]  has been very ill & has not yet recovered her looks. Algernon is going to Cambridge, & if he goes on cramming his head there as he seems to be doing at home, he will kill himself. [33]  – I thought you would have written to acknowledge the xxx money – God bless you. Next week compleats my work & I begin to think of cutting off all visits on my return & taking the mail. Once more farewell.



* Address: To/ Mrs Southey/ Keswick/ Cumberland
Postmarks: 7 o’Clock/ OC 1/ 1813 N. T; [partial] OC/ 1/ 1813
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 76-80; Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 43-45 [in part]. BACK

[1] William Barlow (1759–1839), a merchant and neighbour of Herbert Hill’s in Streatham. BACK

[2] See Southey to Edith Southey, 25 September 1813, Letter 2308. BACK

[3] Lord William Gordon (1744–1823), son of Cosmo George Gordon, 3rd Duke of Gordon (1720–1752). He owned the Waterend estate on the west side of Derwentwater. BACK

[4] The actress Sarah Booth (1789/94–1867; DNB). BACK

[5] August von Kotzebue (1761–1819). The Southeys had seen an English version of his play, The Reconciliation; or The Birthday (1799), translated by Anne Plumptre (1760–1818; DNB). BACK

[6] Southey’s ballad, first published in his Poems (Bristol, 1797), pp. 161–168, as ‘Mary’, and widely reprinted thereafter. BACK

[7] i.e. the green-eyed monster; a private joke about Edith Southey’s tendency to be jealous. BACK

[8] Daniel 6: 1–28. BACK

[9] Southey’s prediction of Sir James Mackintosh’s imminent demise was wrong – born in 1765, he lived until 1832. BACK

[10] Byron’s response was recorded in two letters, to Thomas Moore, 27 September 1813, and to James Wedderburn Webster, 30 September 1813: ‘Southey – the best-looking bard I have seen for some time. To have that poet’s head and shoulders, I would almost have written his Sapphics. He is certainly a prepossessing person to look on, and a man of talent, and all that, and – there is his eulogy’; ‘I met Southey; he is a person of very epic appearance, and has a fine head – as far as the outside goes, and wants nothing but taste to make the inside equally attractive’ (Leslie A. Marchand (ed.), The Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, 12 vols (Cambridge, Mass., 1973–1981), III, pp. 122, 127). BACK

[11] The Sala dos Brasoes (built 1515–1518) in the Royal Palace at Sintra. The domed ceiling is decorated with 72 coats of arms. Southey and Edith would have seen the palace during their stay at Sintra in 1800. BACK

[12] Henry VIII (1491–1547; DNB). Southey was mistaken, the house, originally named Cope Castle, dated from 1605. BACK

[13] Probably Felix Arturo Lope de Vega y Carpio (1562–1635), El Ultimo Rey Godo de Espana (1617) and another play, possibly Bartolomé Palau (fl. 1520s-1550s), Historia de la Gloriosa Santa Orosia (c. 1550). BACK

[14] Southey was writing a pamphlet entitled An Exposure of the Misrepresentations and Calumnies in Mr Marsh’s Review of Sir George Barlow’s Administration at Madras. By the Relatives of Sir George Barlow (1813). This was a defence of Sir George Barlow’s (1763–1846; DNB) conduct as Governor of Madras in 1807–1813, especially during the army mutiny of 1809. It was a direct reply to Charles Marsh (c. 1774–1835; DNB), Review of Some Important Passages in the Late Administration of Sir G. H. Barlow, Bart., at Madras (1813). BACK

[15] The London home of the Prince Regent. BACK

[16] The dress Southey was required to wear for his official presentation at Court. BACK

[17] Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (1766–1817), the writer and salonnière, who was much feted during her 1813 visit to England. BACK

[18] Reynold Davies (1752–1822), Curate of Streatham and a neighbour of Herbert Hill’s. He ran a school for small boys. BACK

[19] Hon. Heneage Legge (1788–1844), MP for Banbury 1819–1826. BACK

[20] The physician Christopher Stanger (1759–1834; DNB). He was a member of a family that owned estates near Keswick. BACK

[21] Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), brother of Napoleon. Since 1810 he had been living under house arrest in England and writing Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Delivree (1814), an epic poem which it had been suggested that Southey should translate. BACK

[22] Catherine Hill had no fewer than six sisters: Margaret (born 1768); Jane (born 1770); Dorothy (born 1771); Elizabeth (born 1773); Alethea (born 1777); Mary-Anne (born 1783). BACK

[23] Rickman had two sisters. This is probably a reference to Mary Rickman (dates unknown). BACK

[24] James Boswell (1778–1822; DNB), son of the biographer and an erstwhile fellow pupil with Southey at Westminster School. BACK

[25] Mary Linwood (1755–1845; DNB), artist in needlework. An exhibition of her copies of Old Masters were on display in Leicester Square. BACK

[26] Herbert and Catherine Hill’s sons, Edward, Herbert and Errol. BACK

[27] The Morgans were in financial trouble; see Southey to Edith Southey 5[–7] September 1813, Letter 2299. BACK

[28] Charlotte Brent (dates unknown). BACK

[29] Possibly a nickname for the writer Fanny Burney (1752–1840; DNB). She was a friend of Madam de Staël. Her husband was Alexandre-Jean-Baptiste Piochard d’Arblay (1754–1818). BACK

[30] Pedro de Sousa Holstein, Conde de Palmela (1781–1850), Portuguese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, 1812–1817. He was later Prime Minister of Portugal, 1834–1835 and briefly in 1842 and 1846. BACK

[31] Southey’s name for his more dilapidated books. BACK

[32] Susan Thelwall (d. 1816). BACK

[33] Algernon Sydney Thelwall (1795–1863; DNB). He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1818. In 1819 he was ordained and from 1819–1826 served as English chaplain and missionary to the Jews in Amsterdam. He was a prominent evangelical and anti-Catholic. From 1850 he was a lecturer in elocution and public reading at King’s College, London. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Holland House (mentioned 2 times)
Streatham (mentioned 2 times)
College Green, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)