3504. Robert Southey to John May, 3 July 1820

3504. Robert Southey to John May, 3 July 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 3 July. 1820.

My dear friend

You may imagine with what pleasure I find myself once more at my desk by my own fire-side, after so long an absence & so fatiguing a course of life as that from which I have escaped. [1]  I found all well, God be thanked. The children are perfectly recovered from the measles & all its consequences. Your god-daughter is looking as well as I could wish to see her. She thanks you for your present, & will wear it on high days & holy days with more pleasure – for the donors sake. I very much <wish> that you could see this girl, & see enough of her to know her character. You would be pleased with it in all points. She has a quickness of comprehension which is quite delightful: – frankness, perfect simplicity, lively feelings all of the right kind, & a love of all <those> useful womanly employments, which are perfectly compatible with the every womanly accomplishment but are worth all the accomplishments in the world. I could not have had a daughter more after my own heart. The other three, tho all as different as sisters can well be from each other, promise excellently well, each after her kind. [2] Cuthbert is much grown & much improved. His hair has learnt to curl, & he has begun to walk alone. A few minutes seemed to bring me to his recollection, – & when the book was produced & I talked to him in the respective languages of Rhinoceros, the Hyena, the Lynx the Eagle, the Cuckoo & the Serpent, he became presently as fond of me as he had been before my departure.

Our journey was remarkably fortunate, tho I was disappointed on not finding my Aunt at Birmingham. She had reached Bristol but was deterred by the heat from attempting to proceed. When Nash & I embarked in the Mail at the Green Man & Stile, [3]  the thermometers in the window of the Optician next door, were standing at 85, & this at eight o clock in the evening! Yet as soon as we were fairly out of town, there was just breeze enough to refresh us, & about one in the morning, I was wakened by the rain coming in upon my face. A good thunder shower laid the dust & compleatly cooled the atmosphere. We slept the next night at Birmingham in the house of Charles Lloyds father, & on Friday morning proceeded in the Manchester Mail. When we reached Manchester there was only room for one inside, & one out, in the Kendal mail, & that only as far as Preston, where the chance of getting places for the remainder of the journey depended upon the coach which was to join this mail, from Liverpool. To pass a night however at a Manchester Inn is so great an evil, that putting Nash in the inside, I mounted the roof at nine o clock at night. It was a threatening sky, & both my great coats (an old one & a new) were quietly lying packed up for the waggon in London. I cannot tell by what good happy adaptation Nash’s great coat was found to fit me perfectly well in every thing, except in length, which was of no consequence. The moon rose about eleven, & to my great delight comio poco a poco todas las nubes, [4]  as the old Chronicler of D Pero Nino says, – a xxxxx remark which I copied into one of my commonplace books twenty years ago, [5]  & which I now saw verified most opportunely. Still more opportunely one of the inside passengers got out at the end of the second stage, I secured his place, we found no passengers from Liverpool: which <this> enabled us to proceed without delay, & at two o clock on Saturday I reached home.

Here then I am at last, arranging my papers, writing letters (a heavy arrear of which I have to clear off) & settling to my usual employments. To those employments I will endeavour to add that of which we talked; & if I do not dispatch to you a sheet-full of recollections from time to time with tolerable regularity, – why I shall have given to myself x one proof more how much easier it is to form good resolutions than to keep them. [6] 

God bless you. The two Ediths [7]  desire their kindest remembrances. Remember me also to Mrs May & your daughters [8]  – & believe me

ever most truly & affectionately yours

R Southey.


* Address: To/ John May Esqre/ Richmond/ Surrey
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ 6JY6/ 1820; 10o’Clock/ JY.6/ 1820 F.N.n
Endorsement: 212./ 1820/ Robert Southey/ Keswick 3d July/ recd. 8th do./ ansd. 24th do
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 4pp.
Previously published: Charles Ramos (ed.), The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 186–187. BACK

[1] Southey had spent the months of May and June 1820 in London. BACK

[3] An inn on Oxford Street, from where mail coaches and wagons left for the Midlands. BACK

[4] ‘Little by little swallowed the clouds whole’. BACK

[5] Gutierre Diez de Games (c. 1378–1450), El Victorial o Crónica de Don Pero Niño (1436), an account of the life of Pero Niño, Count of Buelna (1378–1453); see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 6. BACK

[6] The series of autobiographical letters that Southey began to send John May; see Southey to John May, 26 July 1820, Letter 3514. BACK

[8] May’s daughters, Mary Charlotte (b. 1804), Susanna Louisa (1805–1885) and Charlotte Livius (b. 1812). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)