3446. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 25 February 1820

3446. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 25 February 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 25 Feby. 1820

My dear Harry

Some time ago my Aunt Mary wrote to tell me she had been prevented from <by> a fall from going to Wellington to get the registers, – & that she thought it was not worth while to look after them, she being perfectly certain that I am the old Cannons heir at law. [1]  Upon this I immediately did what I should have done as soon as I knew where the registers were – if my Aunt when she gave me that information – had not declared her intention of going herself in quest of them. I wrote to the officiating minister of the parish, [2]  – & Rickman franked the letter. This must be between two & three weeks ago, & he has not had the civility yet to answer my letter reply

I have had a letter from Edward, with a certificate of his illness – & a statement of his xx necessities, – which made him eight pounds in debt. I sent him ten, – which I could very ill afford to do, being at this time a long way before the constable. [3]  To do justice to this poor unhappy brother he has <always> been xxxx moderate in his demands on me, seldom asking for more than two or three pounds, & that at long intervals. The person who attends him says he has a pulmonary complaint, but he does not write as if he supposed himself to be in any danger

Tom expects another child in April. [4]  He now begins to feel his situation, & not x unfrequently frets me as well as himself with asking what he can do, or what can be done for him. This however does not prevent him from growing fat. The prospects of that family are among my most uncomfortable thoughts & forebodings. My chance at law is far too uncertain to be taken into xxx any calculation for the future, – except that it may involve me in expence. And if I were dead, or disabled what would become of them! Or if as my own expences increases, the means of keeping pace with them should fail, a very possible chance to one whose means are of so precarious a character. I am no longer young. I have nothing to gain in reputation, – & had I other means of subsistence, in point of prudence, the less I am henceforth to write, the better. My inclination would make me confine myself x wholly to my historical works, – from which little or no emolument is to be expected. [5] 

I shall finish Wesley in three or four days. [6]  And perhaps the Carmen Funebre in about a week afterwards. [7] Elton Hamonds papers are probably by this time under your roof. Tell Gooch that if there are any of his letters among them, I shall of course return them to him unread.

What with carmenizing (væ mihi!) [8]  & with preparing the first vol: of Brazil for the press [9]  (to make up those sets which would otherwise be broken) I must delay my departure another month. Perhaps this may enable me to hit Wynn at the time of his election, [10]  when I should like well to be present at his chairing.

I perceive Brougham thinks that Queen & Knave make a good hand against the King. [11]  He will be disappointed in this, I trust, & in every thing else.

We have had a desperate influenza in the house – which has spared no body except Cuthbert & myself. – I have made surprizing progress in what many persons would call spoiling him. Yesterday was his birthday. Thank God he is strong & promising. But what is an infants life! or what is human life at the best! How does your nursery come on.

My finis [12] has not troubled me in the slightest degree for the last three months.

God bless you


Our love to Louisa & Mrs Gonne.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 28 FE 28/ 1820
Seal: black wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.108. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] John Cannon Southey’s (d. 1768) fantastically complex will gave Southey some hope of inheriting property at Fitzhead after the death of his third cousin, and John Cannon Southey’s heir, John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB). Aunt Mary had intended to search the parish registers at Wellington, Somerset, to prove that Southey was John Cannon Southey’s heir at law, i.e. the person entitled to inherit his real property if he died intestate. BACK

[2] Robert Jarratt (1766–1843), Vicar of Wellington 1791–1843; see Southey to John Rickman, 7 February 1820, Letter 3433. BACK

[3] Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 18 February 1820, Letter 3439. To ‘outrun the constable’ was a term for getting into debt. BACK

[4] 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) on 8 May 1820, and then Sophia Jane Southey (1822–1859) and Thomas Castle Southey (1824–1896). BACK

[5] An opinion confirmed by Southey’s experience with his History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[6] The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[7] This work became A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[8] ‘Woe unto me’. BACK

[9] The second edition of the first volume only of the History of Brazil (1822). BACK

[10] Wynn was, as usual, returned unopposed for Montgomeryshire on 17 March 1820. Successful candidates were, by tradition, carried in a chair by their supporters in their victory parade. BACK

[11] Brougham was one of the most important supporters of Queen Caroline (1768–1821; DNB) in her fight against George IV’s decision to divorce her, and was appointed Attorney-General to the Queen on 10 February 1820. BACK

[12] Southey’s ‘end’; he was suffering from a rectal prolapse. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)