3297. Robert Southey to Caroline Bowles, 21 May 1819

3297. Robert Southey to Caroline Bowles, 21 May 1819⁠* 

I shall be in London, if no unforeseen circumstances occur to prevent me, in three or four weeks from this time; – & if you direct your manuscript [1]  to me, at Dr Southeys (my brother)19 Queen Anne Street, Cavendish Square, I shall find it there, sooner than it would find its way to Keswick thro the booksellers hands. I dare say you write blank verse, – your ear will lead you to the measure but if you should have written under any erroneous notion of its structure, it will be very easy to show you where you are wrong, & what you have to correct.

Bristol is my native place, & the first imagery which I ever drew from nature was from the rocks & woods about Clifton. There was (& probably still is) not far from Cook’s Folly [2]  a horse block upon the Down, close to the wall, – a point from whence strangers look down upon the river & the opposite woods. Immediately under that horse block is a little cave overhung with ivy, – the access to which I should probably find difficult now, – but when I was between fifteen & eighteen many & many are the verses which I wrote in that cave. [3]  One of my schoolfellows seemed at that time to have an inclination for poetry, almost as decided as my own; – we called ourselves Nisus & Euryalus, [4]  – & the former of these names I cut in the rock, where I used to take my seat.

One thing before I conclude. An old friend of mine, for whom I have a great regard & affection, lives (I believe) within a few doors of your present abode. His name is King, he is by profession a Surgeon, by birth a Swiss, – & his wife, a sister of Miss Edgeworth. [5]  If you would like to have an acquaintance who would be desirous of rendering you any service in his power, – let me know, & I will write to him [6]  that he may call upon you & introduce himself as my friend: – he is a man of great goodness & extraordinary talents.

farewell & believe me

yrs faithfully

Robert Southey

Keswick. 21 May 1819.


* Address: To/ Miss Bowles/ 19. Mall/ Clifton/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: No 13/ To Miss Caroline Bowles/ Keswick, 21 May, 1819
MS: British Library, Add MS 47889. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Edward Dowden (ed.), The Correspondence of Robert Southey with Caroline Bowles (Dublin and London, 1881), pp. 15–16. BACK

[1] A manuscript of Bowles’s blank verse, autobiographical poem ‘The Birth-Day’. It was never completed, but was published in 1836. BACK

[2] A Bristol landmark; a six-sided tower built in 1693. BACK

[3] The poems included the inscription ‘For a Cavern that Overlooks the River Avon’, first published in Southey’s Poems (Bristol, 1797), pp. 57–58. Southey’s ‘Catalogue of His Juvenile Poems’, at Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, contains no fewer than ten poems with titles such as ‘Cave’, ‘To the Cave’ and ‘In the Cave’. BACK

[4] In Publius Vergilius Maro (70–19 BC), Aeneid, Book 9, lines 168–459, Nisus is a follower of Aeneas and famed for his loyalty to his friend Euryalus. Southey referred to himself as ‘Nisus’ in a few of his early poems, for example, ‘To Ignorance’, Southey to Charles Collins, [c. 16 April 1792], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 6; and ‘To Lycon’, Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 22–[24] December 1793, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 76. ‘Euryalus’ was probably Grosvenor Charles Bedford, as Southey indicates he was a friend from Westminster School with an ‘inclination for poetry’ that was not sustained. BACK

[5] Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849; DNB), novelist. BACK

[6] Southey did draw King’s attention to Bowles’s presence in Bristol; see Southey to John King, [c. 21 May] 1819, Letter 3299. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)