3470. Robert Southey to Edith May Southey, 25-29 April 1820

3470. Robert Southey to Edith May Southey, 25–29 April 1820 ⁠* 

Shrewsbury. Tuesday 25 April. 1820

Having nothing else to do, for a dismal hour or two, I sit down to write to you, in such rhymes as may ensue, be they many or be they few, according to the cue, which I happen to pursue. I was obliged to stay at Llangedwin till to day: tho I wishd to come away, yet Wynn would make me delay, my departure yesterday, in order that he & I might go to see, a place whereof he once sent a drawing to me.

And now I’ll tell you why, it was proper that I should go thither to espy the place with mine own eye. Tis a Church in a vale, [1]  whereby hangs a tale, how a hare being prest by the dogs & much distrest, the hunters coming nighxx, & the dogs in full cry, lookd about for some one to defend her, & saw just in time, as it now comes pat in rhyme, a Saint of the feminine gender. If you can xxx xxxxxx the story you may find The Saint was buried there, & a figure carved with care, in the church yard is shown as being her own; but tis used for a whetstone (like the stone at our back door) till, the pity is the more, (I should say the more’s the pity, if it suited with my ditty) xxxx it is whetted half-away, lack a day – lack a day!

They show a mammoths rib (was there ever such a fib!) as belonging to this Saint Melangle. [2]  It was no use to wrangle. & tell the simple people that if this had been her bone, she must certainly have grown to be three times as tall as the steeple.

Moreover there is shown a monumental stone as being the tomb of Jorwerth Drwndwn; [3]  (w you must know serves in Welsh for long o.) In the portfolio, there are drawing of these tombs & of the Church also. This Jorwith was killed six hundred years ago. Nevertheless as perhaps you may guess, he happened to be an acquaintance of mine & therefore I always have had a design, to pay him a visit whenever I could, & now this intention at last is made good.

Ludlow. Saturday. 29 April

Thus far I had gone, ding dong xx rhyming on, till at last I myself was grown tired of the song; poor I was sleepy, the hours were too slow & gladly I went to beabo. And now twill be better, in plain prose to hasten & finish my letter.

There being no coach to London from this place either on Saturday or Monday I am obliged to take my place for the Sunday, which makes my stay here a day longer than I had intended. Mr Kenyon had given a full account of all our goings on at Keswick. He said a great deal I find of you my Lady, but I shall not tell you what he said, farther than that Kenyon would be as good a name as Kennaway, [4]  if I could but find as good a rhyme to it. – Our good friends here have given me some seeds of the vegetable marrow for your Aunt Lovell. They are to be raised like cucumbers & planted out on a hot bed, but when the frosts have ceased they need no covering, they spread largely, bear abundantly, & two plants will furnish as many much produce as we can desire, till about the month of October. No time should be lost in sowing the seeds. I will send them in a frank from London & the best way will be to give them to Mrs Crothers ask her to raise them, & to give us two or three of the plants. They are said to be one of the best vegetables, either plain boiled, or stewed. It is a small gourd, & is best when about the size of a small cucumber.

A small packet for your Mamma was given me yesterday, & in London I am to receive a packet for your Ladyship, containing a watch, which Mr B. has desired a friend to purchase at Paris for you. Should this prove, as probably it will handsomer than your own, yours shall be consigned to Bertha, & the sum which you paid for it added to the capital of your private fortune. When I was asked why I did not bring you, as Mr & Mrs B. had so often desired, I said you would not come: that you were a very obstinate, odd sort of girl, & I gave you a very bad character, as you deserve.

The weather is very cold. I start at six o clock tomorrow, & shall have to wait three or four hours at Worcester for the Mail. But I shall reach town to breakfast on Monday – We dine to day at Dr Nicholls, [5]  a pleasant man. – love to all – I wish Pappa & his Cuddy could go into the study. We would not mind any thing that might happen in the way of a misfortune.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Miss Southey/ Keswick/ Cumberland
Postmark: [partial] AP 29 1820
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), V, pp. 36–37 [in part; dated 25 April 1820]. BACK

[1] St Melangell’s Church, Pennant Melangell. The medieval Historia Divae Monacellae describes how St Melangell, a seventh-century Irish princess, protected a hare from a local prince’s huntsmen. He was so impressed that he gave her the land for the church and the hare became her symbol. The story is represented on a series of panels on the church’s rood screen. BACK

[2] A large bone, more than four feet in length, displayed in the church. It is a whale bone. BACK

[3] The reputed tomb of Iorwerth Drwyndwn (1145–1174), son of Owain Gwynedd (c. 1100–1170; Prince of Gwynedd 1137–1170). In Madoc (1805), Iorwerth was the eponymous hero’s brother; and Madoc visits the Church of St Melangell at Madoc (1805), Part One, Book 10, lines 144–190. BACK

[4] Sir John Kennaway, 1st Baronet (1758–1836). Two of his sons had visited Southey in October 1819: John Kennaway (1797–1873) of Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A. 1821), who later succeeded to his father’s baronetcy; and Charles Edward Kennaway, a student at St John’s College, Cambridge (B.A. 1822). BACK

[5] Whitlock Nicholl (1786–1838; DNB), physician and biblical scholar, resident in Ludlow 1816–1826. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)