3288. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 28 April 1819

3288. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 28 April 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 28 Apr. 1819

My dear Harry

The tumour is diminishing, [1]  – this I believe is certain, but the cause, whatever it may be, seems still to exist in the system, & to have shifted to the right breast, which is become tergid, & indurated [2]  round the nipple: fomentations are used by day, & last night a poultice was put on, which Edmondson thought would have removed the inflammation. But it has not had that effect.

The infant has been so ill with a spasmodic cough since Tuesday in last week, that Edith has not thought of herself. He is better now, but still with a cough, – for which a pitch plaister has been put on. More relief may be expected from change of weather than from medicine. At present a severe East wind prevails.

And thus we go on. It is nearly twelve months since Edith has had one day of comfortable health. My spirits are the worse for all this, – & my health not the better. A journey would do me good, – but I know not when I shall be able to leave home with a mind at ease, – & till I can do that, it is better to remain on the spot.

Tom walked over this afternoon. It would surprize you to see his bulk. If he could fatten his cattle as well as he does himself, he might xxxx stand a fair chance of making his fortune by a fat oxe, – which you know is one way to fortune in these queer times.

Have you seen Wordsworths Peter Bell, to which I have the honour of being dedicatee? [3]  It is a truly original poem. There are one or two lines which might easily have been made unexceptionable, – & seem placed as if to invite mockery. And in one part I think the Poet is hardly serious enough for his subject, – where he is asking what Peter saw in the water. [4]  But the latter part has passages which can hardly be read without tears, – & the Prologue is exquisite in its kind, – & indeed the whole, – take it as a whole, what no man but Wordsworth could have written.

Did I tell you that Hartley has got a fellowship at Oriel? [5] 

The book of Lady Byrons protegeé [6]  is still lying at Murraylemagne’s. I suppose it will come in the first parcel, – which will not be before his next number is published, [7]  – a cap & frock for Cuthbert is waiting for the same conveyance (from his Godmother Mrs Vardon –) – poor child, if he live till its arrival, he will in all likelihood have outgrown them.

Love to Louisa & Mrs Gonne

God bless you


Do you know any one who can give a tolerable guess at the population of Para, – the city. Perhaps Wm Burn [8]  may have an opportunity of enquiring for me: I ask, – because my last chapter is a view of Brazil at the time when my history concludes, – & I believe I shall have the population of every other considerable place. [9]  Therefore it would be desirable to have this also.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: [partial] KESWICK
Postmark: E/ 1 MY 1/ 1819
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 4. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The letter begins with continued anxiety over the health of Southey’s wife, Edith. BACK

[2] Hardened. BACK

[3] William Wordsworth, Peter Bell, A Tale in Verse (London, 1819), pp. [iii]–v. BACK

[4] Peter Bell, A Tale in Verse (London, 1819), pp. 38–40. BACK

[5] Hartley Coleridge was elected to a one year Probationary Fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford, on 16 April 1819. BACK

[6] Anne Isabella Byron (1792–1860; DNB), née Milbanke, wished Southey to draw public attention to the work of the American loyalist and Anglican clergyman Thomas Coombe (1747–1822; DNB). Coombe’s The Peasant of Auburn; or, The Emigrant: A Poem (1783) was an imitation of Oliver Goldsmith’s (1728?–1774; DNB) Deserted Village (1770), and told a cautionary tale about the perils of leaving an English village for a new life in America. It was republished by Longman in 1819. BACK

[7] Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819) was published on 4 June 1819. BACK

[8] William Burn (1750–1821), a merchant whom Southey knew well from his visits to Portugal in 1796 and 1800–1801. Burn had moved to London in 1806. BACK

[9] Chapter 44, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 696–879. Southey described Para at pp. 741–744, but without giving its population. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)