3493. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 16 June [1820]

3493. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 16 June [1820]⁠* 

Friday Noon. 16 June.

My dear Edith

If I had time I would write an amusing letter to the children to tell them how I was ushered into the Theatre at Oxford [1]  (which they must not suppose to be a play house) in a gown of scarlet cloth with rose coloured silk sleeves, & a black velvet cap (like a beef eaters) in my hand; & how the Theatre above & below was crowded as full as it could hold; & we who were to receive our honorary degrees were introduced in a line into the middle of the arena. & Dr Phillimore introduced us one by one with a Latin speech. & the Vice Chancellor then, one by one created us L.L.Ds, & the xxxx xxxx xx assembly applauded as they thought good, & the bar was lifted up & we were admitted to our seats among the Doctors. [2]  – I wish you had been there. the sight is one of the finest that can be imagined of its kind: & you would have been pleased to hear how the place rung & thundered with applause & acclamation when my name was pronounced. – I xxxxx went from the Theatre to a splendid cold collation at Brazen Nose [3]  given by the Vice Chancellor: – & at ten o clock, by invitation from the Master [4]  & Fellows sat down to dinner in the hall at Balliol.

It was on Tuesday that I went to Oxford. Hartley met me at the coach, we dined at the Inn, & Chantry Chauntry (the sculptor) [5]  & Collins (Sara’s painter) [6]  happening to pass the window, we called them in to join us, & had I dare say the pleasantest dinner as far as conversation goes, of any men in the city that day. They went away after dinner for London, & I adjourned to Oriel, where Wm Heathcoate gave me a bed. Wednesday was the ceremony, & yesterday I returned to town.

This visit to Oxford, tho it brought with it many melancholy thoughts, was on the whole very gratifying to me. – The whole expences were under 18 pounds. – A good many persons claimed acquaintance with me, & a great many more were introduced.

This morning I breakfasted at Ch. Lambs. & poor Miss Betham, by accident was there: perfectly sane in her conversation & manner, tho she has written me the maddest letter I ever saw.

Love to all, I will write again soon.

God bless you



* Endorsement: [1820?]
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 214–215. BACK

[1] The Sheldonian Theatre (built 1664–1668), the main centre for ceremonies at the University of Oxford. BACK

[2] Southey had been awarded an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law at the University of Oxford on 14 June 1820. The Vice-Chancellor at the ceremony was Frodsham Hodson (1770–1822; DNB), Principal of Brasenose College 1809–1822, Vice-Chancellor 1818–1820, Regius Professor of Divinity 1820–1822. BACK

[3] Brasenose College, Oxford. BACK

[4] Richard Jenkyns (1782–1854; DNB), Master of Balliol College, Oxford (1819–1854), where Southey had been an undergraduate 1792–1794. Southey had never completed his studies and left without a degree. BACK

[5] Francis Leggatt Chantrey (1781–1841; DNB), sculptor. He was later (1828) to produce a bust of Southey. BACK

[6] William Collins (1788–1847; DNB), who in 1818 had visited Keswick and painted Sara Coleridge. The portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy as ‘The Highland Girl’. BACK

Places mentioned

Balliol (mentioned 1 time)