3349. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 7 September 1819

3349. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 7 September 1819⁠* 

Dingwall. 7 Sept. 1819

My dear Tom

Here I am, on our return from Fleet Mound, [1]  in the county of Sutherland, – the farthest point North of our expedition. [2]  We were there yesterday, slept at Bonar Bridge & came back this afternoon to Dingwall. Tomorrow we strike for the western coast, return to Inverness on Saturday, – & on the Wednesday following (possibly the Tuesday) begin our way home by ascending the locks at the Eastern end of the Caledonian Canal, [3]  & sailing down Loch Ness.

Sarah has probably heard that I saw her sister Fanny at Edinburgh, & Elinor at Forres. [4]  Many civilities were offered me by the friends of the latter, – if I could have accepted them, – those of the former had no opportunity of doing so, – & thus I had more opportunity of talking with the person whom I wished to see. They were both looking very well, & seemed thoroughly pleased, as far as I could judge, with their situations.

My journey is very pleasant, – in spite of an unpleasant circumstance, of which I give no intimation in my letters home. I am travelling with a wound in my head. Skiddaw thought proper to explode as a volcano the third night after I left Edinburgh. I have shown it to two surgeons – at Aberdeen & Inverness. [5] Telford dresses it for me morning & night – it gives me no pain but I apprehend it will continue open till I reach home. The contents must be pretty well discharged, but the integuments must be got rid of also, & the surface levelled, because the part can heal & be skinned over.

I have seen a great deal, & have yet much more to see. We have been in sight of the Ord of Caithness. Never was any country in a more rapid state of improvement & xxx xx xx never was so much done <to improve a country> in so short a space of time by Government conjointly with the people. Besides the Canal, within the last 15 years – 1000 miles of the finest roads in the world have been made, & 1500 bridges – great & small. Telfords Viceroy [6]  is in our company, – a man who travels every year between 8 & 9000 miles superintending these works. I have the best means of information, – & endeavour to lose nothing that I learn. – What with keeping a journal, travelling, eating & drinking – & sleeping you may suppose that my time is pretty well over fully occupied.

I guess that the Arbutus plants may come from Lady Sunderlin, – who has relations of the name of Roper. [7] 

Love to Sarah & the children [8] 

God bless you



* Address: [in another hand] Dingwall Seventh <Eighth> Sept. 1819/ Capt Southey/ Newlands/ Keswick/ Cumberland/ Frm J Rickman
Stamped: [partial] DINGWA/ 71–
Postmark: SEP/ B 10 A/ 1819
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Fleet Mound was a massive causeway, commissioned in 1803, designed by Telford, and built between 1814–1816, to carry the road over Loch Fleet. It comprised an earthwork, and a bridge with self-regulating sluice gates that allowed the waters from the river to flow out, but prevented seawater from coming in. BACK

[2] Southey toured Scotland from 17 August until 1 October 1819. For his record of events, see Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (1929). BACK

[3] The Caledonian Canal (constructed 1803–1822). Rickman was Secretary to the Commissioners responsible for building the canal. BACK

[4] Frances Susannah Castle (b. 1801) was working as a governess in the family of the geologist, educationist and, from the 1830s, factory inspector and reformer Leonard Horner (1785–1864; DNB). Eleanor Castle (b. 1797) was with either Helen Cumming Gordon (d. 1830), the widow of Sir Alexander Penrose Cumming Gordon 1st Baronet (d. 1806), or her daughter-in-law, Eliza Maria Gordon Cumming (d. 1842). Southey saw Frances in Edinburgh on 17 August, and met Eleanor at the Cumming Gordon’s estate near Forres on 2 September; see Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (London, 1929), pp. 4, 104–105. BACK

[5] George Kerr (1771–1826) at Aberdeen; and William Kennedy (c. 1761–1823), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, first President of the Medical Society of the North and one of the founders of the Royal Northern Infirmary, at Inverness. BACK

[6] John Mitchell (1779–1824), Principal Inspector of Roads and Bridges in the Scottish Highlands 1810–1824. BACK

[7] Lady Sunderlin’s maiden name was actually Rooper, but some of her wider family spelt their name as ‘Roper’. BACK

[8] Tom Southey had six children: Margaret Hill Southey (b. 1811); Mary Hill Southey (b. 1812); Robert Castle Southey (1813–1828); Herbert Castle Southey (1815–1864); Eleanor Thomasina Southey (1816–1835); Sarah Louise Southey (1818–1850). They were followed by Nelson Castle Southey (1820–1834), Sophia Jane Southey (1822–1859) and Thomas Castle Southey (1824–1896). BACK