3452. Robert Southey to Andrew Bell [fragment], 17 March 1820

3452. Robert Southey to Andrew Bell [fragment], 17 March 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 17 March. 1820

My dear Sir

I have for some time been hoping that the course of your affairs would bring you to the North, & more than once upon hearing a ring at the door, have indulged the thought that perhaps it might be Dr Bell. – The bell, you know, is seldom disturbed at this season of the year: during the summer & autumn it is not suffered to rust for want of action. – However I shall see you ere long. In about four weeks, if the printer [1]  pleases. I intend to leave home on my way to London; halting in Montgomeryshire for a few days, if Charles Wynn be in the country at that time, & also at Ludlow, – then straight to town, – in or near which I shall continue about two months, engaged in hard work & hard visiting.

Did I tell you that during my Scotch tour I saw an excellent man, who was your contemporary, at St Andrews, & would be delighted to renew his acquaintance with you, if anything should take you to Perth? His name is Dr Wood. [2]  An old friend of mine has married his niece, [3]  & transplanted himself from Maize Hill, Greenwich, into Perthshire in consequence. One of their sons, [4]  who is very backward in consequence of ill health, is at that school in your native city of which I have heard you speak with so much pleasure, – & these good people are perfectly delighted with the progress which he has made under your system.

We have lost poor good Mrs Wilson, in her seventy eighth year. She was struck down by a paralytic seizure, & lay senseless till the eighth day.

And now let me give you some tidings of myself. Lord Somervilles [5]  death gives me some reason to expect a – lawsuit, in the hope of recovering his estates in Somersetshire, worth about a thousand a year. They were bequeathed to him & his issue by his mothers Uncle, a certain John Cannon Southey: [6]  – he has died without issue, & I am the testators heir at law. But Lord Somerville sold part of the estates & has willed away the rest, – all sorts of legal niceties are involved, & whether either in law or equity I may ever receive what in justice ought to be mine, is a doubtful matter, concerning which I am now taking advice.

I am waiting at home till the printer compleats my life of Wesley, long-lookd for, but finished at last, as far as I am concerned. To the various attacks which it will draw upon me, I shall make no reply, nor take any other notice of them, if they fall in my way, than that of silently correcting any errors if they point out any, into which I may have fallen. The printer is about a dozen sheets behind xx me. & this will give me time to clear off some other matters, – among others a poem upon the Kings death. [7]  You will readily believe that I should never voluntarily write upon subjects of this kind which raise expectations that cannot be answered, & at which moreover every body is trying his strength.

Your young friends, thank God, are all well: & much grown since you saw [MS missing]

Two winters, a green spring
A bloody summer & no King. [8] 

The woman firmly believes this, – & the prophecy shows what sort of spirit is at work among the populace. – Far as we are from the xxxx xxxxx scenes of contest, these elections keep the rabble of Keswick in a ferment of & occasion more drunkenness than would xxxx take place even on a fair day. [9]  [MS missing]


* MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 192 and 193. AL; 4p.
Note on manuscript: only the first leaf and the top third of the second leaf survive. BACK

[1] Andrew Strahan (1749–1831; DNB), MP for various constituencies 1796–1820 and printer of Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[2] James Wood (d. 1825), of Keithick, Perthshire. Southey had visited him on 24 August 1819, Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (London, 1929), pp. 49–51. BACK

[3] Edward Collins (c. 1777–1841), Captain in the 21st Light Dragoons and brother of Southey’s friend from Westminster School, Charles Collins, had married Dr Wood’s niece, Margaret Wood (d. 1852), in 1810. BACK

[4] Unidentified. Andrew Bell’s ‘native city’ was St Andrews, but it is not clear which school is being referred to here. The two long-established institutions were the Grammar School (which Bell had attended) and the ‘English’ School (because instruction was in English rather than Latin). The latter had adopted Bell’s monitorial system. There were, however, also a number of other, less prestigious, schools in St Andrews that used this system. BACK

[5] John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB), agricultural reformer and Southey’s third cousin. His death gave Southey some hope of inheriting Somerville’s estates at Fitzhead in Somerset. BACK

[6] John Cannon Southey (d. 1768), uncle of Lord Somerville’s mother, Elizabeth Cannon Lethbridge (d. 1765). BACK

[7] Southey was writing A Vision of Judgement (1821) on the death of George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB). BACK

[8] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols (London, 1829), I, pp. 31–32, relates this prophecy, which was believed to have been spoken ‘lately’ by a cow in Cumberland, though the wording is slightly changed to: ‘Two winters, a wet spring,/ A bloody summer, and no king’. BACK

[9] The House of Commons was dissolved on 29 February 1820 and election contests occurred 6 March–14 April 1820. In Cumberland, a contest was (successfully) forced by John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), MP for Carlisle 1786–1790, 1791–1812, 1816–1820, MP for Cumberland 1820–1828. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)