3351. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 14 September 1819

3351. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 14 September 1819⁠* 

Inverness. 14 Sept. (Tuesday) 1819

My dear G.

Here I am again, having been as far North as Fleet Mound [1]  which is within sight of the Ord of Caithness – & across the island to the Western sea at Loch Carron. The surgeon here [2]  has put us in the right method of treating my head. He said that if I had been stationary he should perhaps have applied the lunar caustic [3]  to the wound – but this required more skill in its management, & could not be entrusted to ignorant hands. So he substituted a mercurial ointment to act as an escharrotic. [4]  The effect of this was that the first application altered the discharge which had become very offensive, – this evil was effectually remedied, – a membranous substance which I suppose to have been the cist came away three or four days afterwards, – the volcano is now almost extinct, the hill itself levelled, – it is healing round the edges, & if it proceed according to the present appearance I may hope to have a whole skin before I reach home.

Tomorrow we go to Fort Augustus. Telford will be detained there two or three days & as much more at Fort William, – after which we proceed without farther delay to Glasgow & Carlisle. There Telford parts company, & the Rickmans [5]  turn aside to Keswick on their way toward Wales. If you write by the next days post after this reaches you, a letter may reach me at Glasgow. put it under cover to Rickman, & write Free in the corner above.

I have seen great part of Scotland, under the most favourable circumstances, – & have endeavoured to lose as little as possible of what I learn. Xx It is hard work to keep up a full journal, – but the time & xxxx exertion are well bestowed. [6]  This country is in a state of great & rapid improvement. – If the public works which have palpably & undeniably produced xxxx this effect had been carried on in France instead of Scotland, our newspapers would have been full of eulogiums upon such them, – think of more than 1000 miles of the finest roads in the world thro countries which were before impassable, – & not less than 1500 bridges. – And this Canal besides [7]  – the most stupendous work of its kind that ever was undertaken, it is already in use at both ends – before the middle is compleated. The locks are large enough for a 32 gun frigate – & of these there are four in succession at this end, & at the other eight, – which go by the name of Neptunes stair case. [8]  These I have yet to see. They form altogether the greatest piece of masonry in the world. – But I cannot afford time to enter upon these subject – while I have a whole head full of recollections which must be secured before they are driven out by new scenes, images & information. So God bless you. Tell me if you have got my third volume yet, [9]  – & tell the Longmen when you happen to see them (it is not worth a separate communication) that they have miscalled my poem in their List of New Books, – it is A Tale of Paraguay, & not The Fall of Paraguay as they have printed it. [10] 

I hope to be at home in little more than a fortnight, – & then to work like a Lion.



* Address: [in another hand; with deletions and readdress in a further other hand] Inverness Fifteenth Septr 1819/ Grosvenor Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer <Post Office>/ <Dover> Westminster/ Fm/ JRickman
Postmarks: INVERNESS/ 15/ SE/ 1819; [partial] FREE/ SE/ 1819; [partial] 1819
Endorsement: Inverness 14 Sept 1819
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. 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] Fortunately for Southey, he was treated by one of the most eminent doctors in the north of Scotland: 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, Inverness. BACK

[3] Fused silver nitrate, shaped into sticks. It was used as a cauterising agent. BACK

[4] A corrosive salve that causes tissue to die off. BACK

[5] John Rickman, his wife Susannah and their two youngest children, William Charles Rickman (1812–1886) and Frances Rickman (dates unknown, she married Richard Brindley Hone (1805–1881), Vicar of Halesowen 1836–1881, in 1836). BACK

[6] Southey’s Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (1929). BACK

[7] The Caledonian Canal (constructed 1803–1822). BACK

[8] Neptune’s Staircase at Banavie, near Fort William, completed in 1811. This is a staircase lock on the Caledonian Canal, comprising eight locks, which raise (or lower) boats 64 feet in a distance of 180 feet. It is the longest staircase lock in the United Kingdom. Southey visited it on 19 September 1819, Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (London, 1929), pp. 202–207. BACK

[9] The third volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819) was delayed by a missing proof and did not appear until Southey’s return from Scotland. BACK

[10] Literary journals were widely announcing, ‘Robert Southey, Esq. will speedily publish in foolscap 8vo., the Fall of Paraguay, a Poem’, for example, Eclectic Review, n.s. 12 (September 1819), 298. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)