3631. Robert Southey to Edward Hill, 11 February 1821

3631. Robert Southey to Edward Hill, 11 February 1821⁠* 

My dear Edward

It gave me very great pleasure to receive a letter from you, – to hear than you are placed in the upper fourth, [1]  (which, judging from your age, is higher than I had expected) – that you are in the room with the head of the house, (which is a great advantage in point of comfort,) & that you have so kind a friend in my good friend Mr Knox, [2]  who could not oblige me more than by his kindness to you. Three & thirty years have passed since I was in that form where you are now, & I perceive by your letter that the school (like every thing else) has undergone some changes during that time. Three & thirty years hence, Edward, when thro the mercy of God I shall be in a better world, you I hope may look back upon Westminster with as much satisfaction as I do now, for the advantages which I have derived from being there.

You enquire for your old acquaintance Skiddaw, [3]  whom I am pleased to find you have not forgotten. But Skiddaw is no longer in existence. Perhaps you may have heard of Mr Telford the great Engineer, who will be known hereafter for having proposed made the three greatest works in this island, – to wit, – the Caledonian Canal by which frigates can pass thro the Island from sea to sea (the greatest work of inland navigation in the world) the Pontcy-syllti Aquaduct which carries a canal over the river Dee, at the height of 100 feet above the bed of the river, & the hanging-bridge over the arm of the sea which separates Anglesea from Wales. [4] – What has Mr Telford to do here, you are ready to ask: & you may will probably be surprized to hear that among his other works he – removed Skiddaw. When I was travelling with him & Mr Rickman in Scotland, [5]  the old mountain became a volcano, & discharged its contents. Mr Telford with great kindness & good nature, attended to it night & morning, & at the end of our journey not a trace of it remained upon the place where it had stood.

Give my love to your Mother, & Alfred, & the little ones when you go home on Saturday, – I wish I were near enough to see them oftener. And remember me to Herbert & Errol when you write to them: I shall be anxious to hear the news from Bristol, – & that your father is returned. Remember that I shall be glad to hear from you as well as of you, from time to time; the correspondence which is now begun between us, will last, it is to be hoped, as long as I live. Your Welsh neices & nephew [6]  are all well, & live in hope of seeing you here when you are a few years older

God bless you my dear Edward,

Your affectionate cousin

[MS missing]

Keswick. 11 Feby. 1821

When next you write tell me the name of your boarding-house, it was called Clapham’s in my time, but that name must long since have been obsolete. [7] 


* Address: To/ Mr Edward Hill.
Endorsement: R.S. Feb. 11. 1821.
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 203. AL; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Edward Hill had just joined Westminster School, where Southey was a pupil 1788–1792. Hill had been born in 1809, which meant he would usually have been placed in the third form. BACK

[2] John William Knox (1784–1862), clergyman, scholar and usher at Westminster School 1806–1821. BACK

[3] A bump on Southey’s head. BACK

[4] Telford oversaw the construction of the Caledonian Canal (1803–1822), the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the River Dee (opened 1805) and the Menai Suspension Bridge (opened 1826). BACK

[5] Southey, Rickman and Telford had travelled in Scotland in August–September 1819. BACK

[6] Southey’s children, Edith May, Bertha, Kate, Isabel and Charles Cuthbert. BACK

[7] Most boys at Westminster School belonged to boarding houses. These were named after the women who ran them, in this case a Mrs Clapham (dates unknown). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)