3318. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 15 June 1819

3318. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 15 June 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 15 June. 1819

My dear Sir

When you hear that my journey to the south must be postponed till the fall of the leaf, I fear you will think me infirm of purpose, & as little to be depended on as the wind & weather in this our mutable climate. The cause however lies rather in a good obstinate principle of perseverance, than in any fickleness of temper. This history, [1]  of which the hundredth sheet is now upon my desk, will confine me here so far into the summer (beyond all previous or possible calculation) that if I went into the South as soon as it is compleated, I should be under the necessity of shortening my stay there, & leaving part of my business undone, in order to return in time for a long-standing engagement, which in the autumn will take me into the Highlands. [2]  – All things duly considered, it seemed best to put off my journey to London till November, by which time all my running accounts with the press will be settled.

Mrs S. tho still with some remains of her complaint, is so much better that I look with much confidence to her compleat recovery. And Cuthbert, who is now four months old, is beginning to serve me as well as his sisters [3]  for a play thing. – The country is in its full beauty at this time, – perhaps in greater than I may ever again see it, for it is reported that the woods on Castlet are condemned to come down next year, this, if it be true, is the greatest loss that Keswick could possibly sustain, & in no place will the loss be more conspicuous than from the room wherein I am now writing. [4]  But this neighbourhood has suffered much from the axe since you were here. The woods about Lowdore are gone, so are those under Castle-crag, so is the little knot of fir trees on the way to Church, which were so placed as to make one of the features of the vale, & worst of all, so is that beautiful birch grove on the side of the lake between Barrow & Lowdore. Not a single sucker is springing up in its place, – & indeed it would require a full century before another grove could be reared which would equal it in beauty. It is lucky that they cannot level the mountains, nor drain the lake, – but they are doing what they can to lower it, & have succeeded so far as to render all the old landing-places useless. If the effect of this should be to drain the marshy land at the head & foot of the lake, without laying as xx leaving as much more swamp uncovered, it will do rather good than harm. The Island [5]  however will be deformed for a few years by the naked belt which is thus made around it.

Two cases so extraordinary as to appear almost incredible occurred in the course of last month in this country. A child four years old wandered from its mother who was cutting peat among the Ennerdale mountains, & after four days was found alive. [6]  A man among <upon> the Eskdale fells was found after eighteen, still living, & able to wave his hand as a signal, by which he was discovered. He had fallen in a fit, & was incapable of moving when he recovered his senses; [7]  – in both cases there was water close by, by which life was preserved. The child is doing well. Of the man I have heard nothing since the day after he was found, when Wordsworth was in Eskdale & learnt the story; at that time there seemed to be no apprehension that his life was in danger.

I think you will be pleased with Wordsworths “Waggoner”, – if it were only for the line of road which it describes. [8]  The master of the Waggon was my poor Landlord Jackson, – the cause of his exchanging it for the one-horse-carts was just as is represented in the poem; – nobody but Benjamin could manage it upon these hills, & Benjamin could not resist the temptations by the way side. [9] 

In the course of July you will receive my ponderous volume, [10]  – will it be xx suit your convenience that I should take Ludlow in my way up – toward the end of November; or two months afterwards on my way back? Whichever may suit you, will be equally convenient to me.

Mrs S. & her sisters [11]  desire their kindest remembrances to you & yours. Present mine also to the Ladies, [12] 

& believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Wade Browne Esqre/ Ludlow
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 346–348 [in part]. BACK

[1] The third and final volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[2] Southey visited Scotland, in the company of John Rickman and Thomas Telford, from 17 August until 1 October 1819; see Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (1929). BACK

[4] One of the views from Southey’s home was of Castlehead wood, which was part of the estates around Derwentwater that were owned by the Greenwich Hospital. The Hospital was under increasing pressure to maximise its income from its estate and some tree-felling was planned. However, Castlehead wood was saved from this process. The Hospital’s administrators had also ordered the draining of some of their land next to Derwentwater, by lowering the level of the lake. BACK

[5] Derwent Island, which Peachy had purchased in 1796. BACK

[6] The story of the lost child, discovered ‘in a place called Clea Gill’ after ‘six days and five nights of incessant hunger and exposure on these bleak mountains’, was widely reported, including in the New Annual Register, or General Repository of History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1819 (London, 1820), p. 98. Southey probably learned of the matter from a more detailed report in the Westmorland Gazette, 12 June 1819, headed ‘Miraculous Incident’. BACK

[7] This incident does not seem to have found its way into newspaper reports. BACK

[8] Wordsworth’s The Waggoner. A Poem. To Which are Added Sonnets (1819). The title poem describes the waggoner’s journey on the road from Grasmere to Keswick. BACK

[9] Southey describes the end of Wordsworth’s poem. It was summarised in the Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Politics, &c., 125 (12 June 1819), 369, as: ‘at day-break the master of the waggon rides up from Keswick, and dismisses Ben [the waggoner] for his loitering humanity, and degradation of his charge, by associating with tippling vagrants and vicious asses. No one else can drive the horses, and the waggon is soon laid down for a substitute of one-horse carts’. BACK

[10] The third volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819) ran to 950 pages. BACK

[12] Browne’s wife Elizabeth and daughters (Lydia (c. 1789–1864); Elizabeth and Sarah from his first marriage; and Mary (dates unknown), from his second marriage). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Lodore (mentioned 2 times)