3282. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 16 April 1819

3282. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 16 April 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 16 April. 1819.

My dear Harry

We are just in the same state, except that the evil of the haemorrhoids is abated, or for a time removed. It is now three weeks since the tumour began to appear, & for full half that time it has been to all appearance stationary, without the slightest change. I have only discovered that Edmondson knows nothing about it, for having positively pronounced it an abscess, which must ripen & be pierced, the last time I saw him, he talked of it being coagulated blood, – the consequence of the labour, – which ignorant as I was I knew to be nonsense. [1]  The tumour is well-defined, hard, & Betty [2]  who applies the poultice, says it feels moveable: – the size of a hens egg: – there is a dull sensation about it, x it renders sitting uneasy, & is felt in walking – this I suppose is from the straining the skin. I had a notion that it might accelerate either the suppuration or the absorption, whichever process may be intended, x by drawing sparks from it. What say you to this? There is an electrical machine in the town, which I could easily procure & manage. – I forget whether I told you the strange effect it produced upon the woman for whom you advised it. [3]  It made her partly perhaps from aweful apprehension so very ill after the second xxxxxx application that it was impossible to repeat it, – but some of the tumour disappeared almost instantly, & her urine became bloody: – a very curious effect this, if it had fallen under the observation of a philosophical practitioner.

Edith is in bed 18 hours out of the 24. Laudanum agrees happily with her: – last night however she slept, for the first time without it. Her health has hitherto borne up well, – but she is very uneasy: – & I who do my best to keep up her spirits, & my own too, suffer much anxiety, as you may well suppose.

My movements are necessarily adjourned sine die. [4]  However I may regret this on all other accounts, it is not inconvenient for my finances. The effect of the close attention of the last six month to my Opus Majus is felt in them. – But I am hard at work upon the concluding chapter, which is a general view of the state of Brazil, at the time when the history thermin closes. [5]  – Never had man more pleasure in his work, as for the profit, – it will make no difference a hundred years hence, – & for me <one> who can look back as far as I can do, ought to find it naturally & easy to look so far forward, – even tho the habits & events of his life should not have disposed him to such anticipations.

Love to Louisa & Mrs G.

God bless you


P.S. Get a large prize in the lottery, & come & take the next house. [6] 


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: F/ 19 AP 19/ 1819
Seal: red wax, seal under triangular paper patch
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.99. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey was concerned about his wife Edith, who had been ill since the birth of Charles Cuthbert Southey on 24 February 1819. BACK

[2] Elizabeth Thompson (c. 1777–1862), long-standing servant at Greta Hall. She was buried in the Southey family grave in Crosthwaite, Keswick. BACK

[3] Unidentified; Southey was proposing to use one of a range of devices that applied electric shocks to the body. BACK

[4] ‘without assigning a day for a further meeting’. BACK

[5] Chapter 44, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 696–879. The History did not go beyond the flight of the Portuguese court to Brazil in 1807–1808. BACK

[6] Greta Lodge, next to Greta Hall, formerly occupied by Mary Barker. She gave the house up on 25 March 1819 and retired to France to recoup her finances, leaving her new home in Borrowdale half-built. BACK

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