3528. Robert Southey to John Kenyon [fragment], 19 August 1820

3528. Robert Southey to John Kenyon [fragment], 19 August 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 19 Aug. 1820

My dear Kenyon

I have been very remiss in not having ere this thanked you in the names of Edith & Sara, & the three little girls, [1]  for the presents with which you have loaded them. I owe you thanks also on my own account for some of the pleasantest hours which I past in London. – You will readily suppose that I have been both very busy & very idle since my return; busy in the regular course of things, & idle by inclination, temptation, & course of season. The very pleasure <sense> of being at rest, after eleven weeks of perpetual excitement & continual change of place, & society, was in itself a pleasure of high degree: & then the comfort of breathing fresh air, without either dust or smoke; – of knowing that I had nowhere to go, & nothing to do except what I chose to be doing, – no trouble for to day, & no engagement for tomorrow, – Christian in the Pilgrims Progress, when the burthen drops off his back, is but a type of such a deliverance. [2] 

I found all well on my return, & God be thanked, all has continued so. Cuthbert runs about the room & the garden, & the greatest noise which I hear now is of my own making when I am exhibiting for his edification the Cries of London, in a book bought for that special purpose, [3]  & amusing his ears as much as his eyes, – or turning over the leaves of Bewick, [4]  & making more sounds & stranger than were heard in Noahs Ark, [5]  every day before the beasts were fed, – another of my domestic beatitudes.

The other day I received a short note from Everett, with two numbers of a review whereof he is the Editor. [6]  To my great surprize the review is violently Anti-Anglican, which I think must proceed more from his coadjutors than himself. He says I shall not think an apology for this necessary when I call to mind the language of certain English journals respecting America. I shall tell him in reply that none was needed, but that certainly if I had the direction of a Journal, nothing should appear in it concerning America but what was conciliatory in its spirit & tendency. The Yankees suppose that they are of as much importance in our eyes, as we are in theirs, & it is strange that Everett after being in England should continue in this error. We have more important things to think of, & they have not.

Poor Hartley seems to make out that he has been rigorously dealt with at Oriel, & it is very desirable that his friends should be so persuaded. [7]  It is very likely that his peculiar manners, his love of paradox, & his uncomfortable propensity to disputation may have prejudiced the fellows against him more than they are willing to acknowledge, & perhaps more than they are conscious of themselves. If it teaches him self-command, & that degree of conformity with the manners & usages of the world which is necessary for ones comfort as well as for that of others, he will have made a good purchase, tho at a high price. [Remainder of MS missing]


* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] John Kenyon Esqre/ 72 Oxford Street <Post Office>/ London <Lemington>/ <Warwickshire>
Seal: black wax, design illegible
MSS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.236, and Oriel College Library, Oxford. AL; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 208–209 [in part].
Note on MS: The letter survives as two manuscript fragments, the larger (pp. 1–the top portion of p. 3) in Keswick Museum and Art Gallery; and the smaller (the mid section of pp. 3 and 4) in Oriel College, Oxford. The closing section and signature are missing. BACK

[2] John Bunyan (1628–1688; DNB), The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), in which the pilgrim, Christian, is finally able to rid himself of the burden of sin. BACK

[3] A popular series of prints of London street-sellers, by Francis Wheatley (1747–1801; DNB). The book could have been The Cries of London: for the Instruction and Amusement of Good Children (1810). BACK

[4] The engraver Thomas Bewick (1753–1828; DNB) had begun publishing illustrated editions of fables in the 1770s. Southey is probably referring to Bewick’s The Fables of Aesop and Others (1818), which he had ordered a copy of from Longman on 19 February 1819 (Letter 3249). BACK

[5] Genesis 6–8 relates how the patriarch, Noah, saved his family and two of every kind of animal from a universal flood. BACK

[6] Edward Everett was editor (1820–1824) of the North American Review (1815–1940), the first literary magazine in the United States. BACK

[7] Hartley Coleridge had been elected a Probationary Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford, in 1819. On 30 May 1820 Oriel’s Fellows decided he had not passed his probation on the grounds of ‘sottishness, a love of low company, and general inattention to college rules’. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)