3431. Robert Southey to Henry Crabb Robinson, 2 February 1820

3431. Robert Southey to Henry Crabb Robinson, 2 February 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 2 Feby. 1820

My dear Sir

I have a letter from poor Elton Hamond begun on the 15th of May last, & finished on the day before he effected his long meditated purpose. [1]  He refers me to you, in case I should think proper to consult his younger sister [2]  before I read her letters. I hope you anticipate what I shall do upon this subject, – which will be to open the box & seal up those letters in your presence, & deposit them in your hands to be returned to her. Some parts of his letter seem clearly to indicate an insane as well as a wounded mind.

He says “in all pecuniary matters confer with Mr J. Kirkman Miller,” [3]  whose address he gives me. There is no occasion to confer with any person upon that topic. If there be any thing worthy of publication, the bookseller will gladly undertake the charge, & I shall have only to ascertain to which of his relatives the eventual profits may with most propriety be assigned.

As I have not received any communication from the family, I begin to apprehend that none will be made. May I therefore request that you will direct the papers to be sent to my brothers in Queen Anne Street – No. 15. I ask you to take this trouble, as supposing that you may be known at Mr. Maskells, [4]  & therefore, that no objection will be made to delivering them.

This evening I have received a letter from Mr. A. Cowan, [5]  offering me some letters of Elton Hamond’s, according to his desire. Perhaps this is the person who published an odd book called Anthropaideia, about eighteen years ago, [6]  & who was intimate with Bristed. [7]  But I am not sure of this, because I remember that a Dr Cowan perished in an attempt to travel from the Cape to the Portugueze settlements in Sofala, [8]  & Bristed’s friend was a likely man to have engaged in such an enterprize.

farewell my dear Sir & believe me

Yrs most truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ H.C. Robinson Esqr/ 3. Kings Bench Walk/ Temple
Postmark: 2 oClock/ 5 FE/ 1820 Ann
Stamped: [partial] Unpaid
Endorsement: 2d Feby 1820/ Southey/ Hamond. ALS; 3p.
MS: Dr Williams’s Library, London, Crabb Robinson MSS
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Hamond committed suicide on 1 January 1820. The letter Southey mentions had been started by Hamond on 15 May 1819 and contained two postscripts dated 28 and 31 December 1819. The MS is in Dr Williams’s Library. BACK

[2] Harriott Hamond (b. 1788), who had shared a house with her brother. BACK

[3] Joseph Kirkman Miller (1785–1855), Vicar of Walkeringham 1819–1855; he was Hamond’s cousin. BACK

[4] Unidentified; presumably the person who had custody of Elton Hamond’s papers. BACK

[5] Unidentified. Letters sent to him by Hamond in 1817–1819 are now in Dr Williams’s Library. BACK

[6] Andrew Cowan (dates unknown), Anthropaideia: or, a Tractate on General Education (1803). Cowan was an American physician, who studied at Columbia College, New York, and the University of Edinburgh. He should not be confused with the Andrew Cowan lost in South Africa in 1808; see note 8, below. BACK

[7] John Bristed (1778–1855), born in England and educated at Winchester School, he later emigrated to America, became a minister in the Episcopalian church and prolific author. He married Magdalen (1788–1832), the eldest daughter of John Jacob Astor (1763–1848), in c. 1820. Bristed and Andrew Cowan were fellow students at the University of Edinburgh. They made an eventful journey together in 1801, Bristed passing as an American, to avoid any anti-English sentiment, and clad in a cat-skin cap and green spectacles. His disguise did not have the desired effect, and during their visit to Dundee they were detained as spies and had to obtain testimonies from fellow students in order to secure their release; see John Bristed, Ανθρωπλανομενος; or A Pedestrian Tour Through Part of the Highlands of Scotland, in 1801, 2 vols (London, 1803). In addition, Bristed used the ‘Preface’ to A Pedestrian Tour to provide a detailed account of the virtues and faults (many typographical) of Cowan’s Anthropaideia (I, pp. xv–lxxv). BACK

[8] Andrew Cowan (1778–1808?), Assistant-Surgeon to the 83rd Regiment. In 1808 he led an ambitious expedition to cross the African subcontinent from the Cape in the south-west to Sofala in Mozambique in the north-east, and thus explore areas unknown to European settlers. This left Cape Town on 29 September 1808. It reached the Klaarwater mission station, but did not make its next intended calling point, and on 24 August 1809 Cowan was declared dead. Later travellers claimed to find evidence of the murder of Cowan and his men, but when and by whom was a matter of increasing dispute. Southey’s recollection of Cowan was possibly gleaned from John Barrow’s (1764–1848; DNB) review of John Campbell (1766–1840; DNB), Travels in South Africa, Undertaken at the Request of the Missionary Society (1815), Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 309–340 (esp. 326–327). BACK

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