3294. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 14 May 1819

3294. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 14 May 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 14 May. 1819.

My dear Sir

You will wonder at seeing my letter dated from home, at a time when I hoped to have been thinking of leaving London on the way to Ludlow. My movements however are only delayed, & the main cause of delay is, I trust, removed. – I have had a long train of anxieties since Mrs Brownes kind letter arrived. Mrs S. at the time when she should in the ordinary course of things have been recovering, [1]  was seized with a succession of maladies, one after another, some of them of a very distressing & alarming kind, – by which she was confined more than four weeks to her bed, & nearly ten weeks to her room. Nor was it till the day before yesterday that she & the child (who has had a serious illness also) were well enough to be taken to church. [2]  It will be yet some time before she recovers her strength, but the season is favourable, & I hope & believe there is nothing now to apprehend.

During this long interval I have frequently been under too much anxiety to sit calmly at my desk, & thus have lost time when I could ill afford to lose it. The consequence is that I shall be going for London just when instinct would induce every man, woman, & child to get out of it, if they had it in their power. My history of Brazil has grown tremendously under my hands. After having done so much, the desire of leaving nothing undone induced me to wind up the work with a view of the state of the country, as compleat as I could make it, at the time when the history concludes, which is with the removal of the Court thither in 1808. [3]  Perhaps if I had properly estimated the extent of this concluding Chapter I should have been tempted to make some excuse to myself for omitting it, in full assurance that no one would have had reason to complain of the book as being imperfect without it. It will however add as much to its value as to its bulk. But it will take me a month longer before I am fairly thro the press with it, – & this I fear will make it August before I can reach Ludlow, on my homeward journey.

You will be glad to hear that Hartley has gained a fellowship at Oriel, – a great instance of good fortune, & a fair proof of good desert. Thus early is his comfortable provision for life secured, & the door open to situations of honour & emolument. [4] Derwent I believe will be going to the University after Christmas, but whether to Oxford or Cambridge is as yet undetermined. [5] 

Mrs Browne is very kind in repeating her invitation to Edith & Edith I trust will one day have great pleasure in accepting it. But I must travel alone now, – & I believe she imagines that she could not be spared from home, now there is a baby in the house. Poor little Cuthbert is I assure you in some danger of being pulled to pieces by his sisters [6]  in their outrageous fondness. He is perpetually reminding me of Gulliver in the arms of the monkey. [7] 

My brother the Captain is now quietly settled in Newlands, very much pleased with his removal from the bleak east winds, & the no-neighbourhood of his last place of abode, – three miles from Brough. Compared to that situation Newlands is in a polished part of the world, & Keswick a place where every thing may be had that can be wanted. From <At> Warcop they were literally unable to get a wash-hands bason at any place nearer than Penrith, – which was nineteen miles off! And yet (it is a curious fact) that every fellow <there> was a coiner, till the new silver was issued; [8]  – honest coiners, however, in comparison with the Birmingham artists, for their business practise was to make silver sixpences by hammering them out of old spoons!

Mrs S. & her sisters [9]  desire their kindest remembrances to Mrs Browne & your daughters. [10]  Present mine also,

& believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ Wade Browne Esqre/ Ludlow
Stamped: KESWICK
MS: Cornell University Library. ALS; 4p. (c).
Unpublished. BACK

[1] i.e. recovering from the birth of Charles Cuthbert Southey on 24 February 1819. BACK

[2] Charles Cuthbert Southey was baptised at St Kentigern, Crosthwaite, Keswick on 12 May 1819. BACK

[3] Southey was completing the third and final volume of his History of Brazil and the final chapter occupied more space and time than he had originally envisaged; see History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 696–879. It was not finished until ‘June 23rd, 1819’ (p. 879). The book did not proceed chronologically beyond the flight of the Portuguese court to Brazil in 1807–1808. BACK

[4] Hartley Coleridge had been elected to a Probationary Fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford, on 16 April 1819. Southey’s hopes for his future were to be proved wrong, as Hartley lost his post at the end of the probationary year on grounds of intemperance. BACK

[5] Derwent Coleridge matriculated at St John’s College, Cambridge in 1820. BACK

[7] Jonathan Swift (1667–1745; DNB), Gulliver’s Travels (London, 1726), Part II, ‘A Voyage to Brobdingnag’, Chapter 5. BACK

[8] There had been a serious shortage of silver coins until the Coinage Act (1816) had authorised a new issue, the first minted since 1787. To discourage people from melting them down, and thus producing another shortage, the coins contained less than their face value in silver. Birmingham, the centre of the ironmongery trade, was notorious for the number of forged coins it produced, including imitations of silver made from base metals. Coining also had a long history in Westmorland, though, going back to the seventeenth century . BACK

[10] Browne had three daughters from his first marriage: Lydia (c. 1789–1864), Elizabeth and Sarah; and one, Mary Browne (dates unknown), from his second. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)