3254. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 25 February 1819

3254. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 25 February 1819 ⁠* 

Keswick. 25 Feby. 1819

My dear Sir

I can find but one paper with Mr Flemings [1]  communication. It is the concluding part, & I rather think that you could not have seen that of the preceding week, but after much search I have not been able to discover the paper which contains it, & am therefore afraid that it has been lost. But if it should turn up, I will not fail to send it you.

Till I could find this gazette I would not acknowledge the receipt of the two franks containing the papers respecting Bailbrook. [2]  This little delay enables me to add what I am sure both you & Mrs Peachy will rejoice to hear, – that Mrs Southey is safely in bed, with a son. She suffered very severely, & Mr Edmondson despaired of saving the child, – owing to its presentation [3]  & its enormous size, for it weighed more than ten pounds. However God be thanked it is living & well. We think of naming him Cuthbert, – which is a good Saxon name, & has never been obsolete in these northern counties. [4]  – After so long an interval, – nearly seven years, – the appearance of an infant in the house occasions a great change. [5]  And to compleat the bouleversement [6]  as a Frenchman would call it, my study has been converted into “my Ladys chamber”, the chimney over our usual bedroom having received a shake, which has given it a threatening & ugly appearance; & the mischief cannot be remedied till all chance of frost is over. So I have taken up my quarters in the Room <apartment> which was Coleridges study, & goes now by the name of All-Saints Room, – where I am now sitting in good company. [7] 

Can you learn from <for> what Order of Nuns it is that Bailbrook House is in danger of being purchased? [8]  My reason for wishing to know is this, – that in writing upon the subject [9]  I should like to sketch the history of that Order, if my mater authorities upon these shelves should contain sufficient materials (as most probably they will) – & then contrast the origin, nature, & consequence of such a nunnery, with the protestant establishment which is in danger of being superseded by it.

Your note was sent immediately to Daniel Crosthwaite. [10]  Excuse this hasty letter, – for I have, as you may suppose, many to write. Remember us all most kindly to Mrs Peachy

& believe me my dear Sir

very faithfully yours

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Major-General Peachy/ 35. Pulteney Street/ Bath
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 28603. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] John Fleming (c. 1769–1835) of Rayrigg Hall, Rector of Bootle 1814–1835, wrote a series of nine letters, which were published in successive weeks in the Westmorland Gazette, 17 October–12 December 1818. They defended the conduct of Fleming and his six fellow-Governors of St Bees School, near Whitehaven. The House of Commons Select Committee on the Education of the Poor, chaired by Brougham, had taken evidence which had raised some embarrassing issues about how the School was run, including the fact that valuable mining rights belonging to St Bees had been leased to the Lowther family in 1742 for 867 years and at a rent of only £3 10 shillings per annum, Morning Chronicle, 21–23 September 1818. The Earl of Lonsdale, head of the Lowther family, was a Governor of the school. BACK

[2] Bailbrook House, near Bath, home of the Ladies’ Association established in 1816 by Lady Isabella Lettice King (1772–1845; DNB). Peachy had sent information about this requested by Southey; see Southey to Peachy, 9 February 1819, Letter 3244. BACK

[3] Cuthbert Southey was a breech birth. BACK

[4] St Cuthbert (c. 634–687; DNB), whose cult was centred on Durham Cathedral, had ensured the name of ‘Cuthbert’ survived in the North East of England. BACK

[5] Isabel Southey was born on 2 November 1812. BACK

[6] ‘Overturning’; ‘convulsion’. BACK

[7] The room housed Southey’s copy of the Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), a huge, 53-volume, compendium of hagiographies bought by Southey in 1817 and that he was now working through; no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] Southey was reviewing Thomas Fosbrooke (1770–1842; DNB), British Monachism; or, Manners and Customs of the Monks and Nuns of England (1817), for the Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 59–102. His article dealt extensively with the need for communities to provide support for single women (90–102; esp. 96–101, which mention Isabella King’s work). BACK

[9] In Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 101, Southey wrote of Bailbrook House: ‘The premises have been offered for sale, an abbess from Yorkshire has inspected them in company with a Catholic priest, and the nuns are ready to remove and set up a Catholic school connected with the nunnery, the work of proselytism will go on in the neighbourhood, (as it does in the vicinity of all Catholic establishments,) and young women will be perverted and inveigled from their parents, to become tenants of the Bedlam which is designed for them.’ The only Catholic convent in Yorkshire at this time was the Convent of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin (or ‘Bar Convent’) in York. However, Bailbrook was not sold at this time. BACK

[10] The Crosthwaites were a numerous Keswick family of tradesmen; in Keswick directories of this period, M. and D. Crosthwaite are described as ‘mercers, drapers and grocers’ and D. Crosthwaite as ‘bookseller’. BACK

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