3447. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 28 February 1820

3447. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 28 February 1820⁠* 

Keswick 28 Feby. 1820

My dear Harry

I have letters both from my Aunt & the Vicar of Wellington. [1]  The register of that parish goes back only to the year 1683, – & therefore continues extends no further than to the birth our grandfather Thomas, [2]  who appears to have been the eldest of eight children. Beyond his birth written evidence is not to be procured: – & if we were to lose my Aunt, there might be some difficulty in finding personal evidence to supply it. Will you call on Turner, & ask him what is to be done. And as I have (from my Aunts positive testimony no doubt as to the fact of my being heir at law (John & Robert [3]  (our Gd. G. Grandfather) being the only two brothers who married) – he had better take an opinion upon the case without farther delay. I would write to himself, but for two reasons, – first that I do not like to send him a mere letter of business, – & secondly that being doubtful whether Parliament is dissolved or not, I cannot frank up the letter in the usual way. [4] 

I write in haste, unwilling to lose time, because I am in hopes that I shall bury Wesley this night. [5]  This new Guy Faux business, & the murder of the Duc de Berry, coming so close upon each other, will do much towards strengthening the Governments of Europe. [6]  I have long expected some murderous act or attempt in this country

God bless you


Wellington has swarmed with Southeys who must have branched off at an earlier time. The Vicar tells me of Peter & Margaret, – George & Faith, Thomas & Mellinah, (I never saw this name before – ) – John & Elizabeth, John & Hester, Hugh & Sarah, Edward & Grace. [7] 

Among so many one might apprehend a prior claim, if my Aunt were not positive in her account, & if her means of knowing had not been good.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 2 MR 2/ 1820
Endorsement: 28 Feby 1820
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 4. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Robert Jarratt (1766–1843), Vicar of Wellington 1791–1843. Southey was dealing with the consequences of John Cannon Southey’s (d. 1768) fantastically complex will, which 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] Thomas Southey (1696–1777), a farmer at Holford Farm, Lydeard St Lawrence in Somerset. He was the eldest of eight children, his younger siblings being Mary (b. 1698), John (b. 1700), Ann (b. 1701), Robert (b. 1703), Mary (b. 1704), Hannah (b. 1706) and William (b. 1708). BACK

[3] John Southey (1666–1728) was John Cannon Southey’s father and a lawyer; Robert Southey (1670–1726) was John Southey’s younger brother, the father of Thomas Southey (1696–1777) and Robert Southey’s great-grandfather. BACK

[4] The House of Commons was dissolved on 29 February 1820 and a general election was called. This event suspended the power of Rickman, who was an official of the Commons, to frank mail until the new parliament met. BACK

[5] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[6] The Cato Street Conspiracy to assassinate the Cabinet was broken up on 23 February 1820; Southey compares it to the plot in 1605 by Catholic conspirators to blow up parliament, in which Guy Fawkes (1570–1606; DNB) was a leading figure. Charles Ferdinand d’Artoise, Duc de Berri (1778–1820), a nephew of Louis XVIII (1755–1824; King of France 1814–1824), had been mortally wounded at the Paris Opera on 13 February 1820 by Louis Pierre Louvel (1783–1820), a Bonapartist. BACK

[7] All of these Southeys were distant relations of Southey from the late seventeenth century and early eighteenth century whose names appeared in the parish register as married couples and who had baptised children at St John’s Church, Wellington: Peter Southey (1634–1717), a serge maker, married Margaret Burd (d. 1702) in 1680; George Southey (d. 1736) married Faith Marsh (d. 1730) in 1687; Thomas Southey was married to Melliah Southey (dates unknown); John Southey (1685–1770) married Elizabeth Payne (dates unknown) in 1708; John Southey was married to Hester Southey (dates unknown); Hugh Southey, a farmer, (d. 1725) married Sarah Fursland (dates unknown) in 1694; Edward Southey (d. 1705), a labourer, was married to Grace Southey (dates unknown). BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Mary (1750–1838) (mentioned 4 times)
Turner, Sharon (1768–1847) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)