3636. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 16 February 1821

3636. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 16 February 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 16 Feby. 1821.

My dear Sir

I am glad to hear that you & Mrs Peachy after your long circum-journeyings are safely & comfortably settled for a season in Baker Street. You are I verily believe the most unweariable traveller that ever traversed this island of Great Britain. You make Edinburgh in the way from Keswick to London, & I should not be surprized to hear that you made Penzance, or the Scilly Islands, in the way from London to Keswick. Fortunatus himself hardly possessed greater powers of locomotion. [1] 

I am glad also to see you confirm what the papers say concerning the abatement of the Queens-fever, [2]  which has raged so long & so violently throughout the country, to the disgrace of our national character, & to the indelible infamy of the Whigs who did not act with greater baseness in the affair of the Popish Plot, [3]  than they have done, & are doing on the present occasion. Some other popular question will arise, – some new apple of discord be thrown, & Queen Caroline will be as little thought of as Queen Elizabeth. [4]  It should be part of the policy of an English Minister to throw out tubs to the Whale. [5]  This might often be done with good effect. Vansittart [6]  got all his grants last year without the slightest trouble; – the Opposition who would otherwise have baited him like a badger whenever the budget appeared, were so hot upon the Queens scent, that they let him do the whole business without molestation. A good tub-maker would be one of the most serviceable members of administration.

We have had one of the finest winters that ever was remembered. The glass has been almost as high as the temperate point very frequently, & generally is nearer 50 than 40. There has been no snow in sight, on any of the mountains, for many weeks, – & there were many days in which January & this month as well, had it not been for the appearance of the trees, might have been mistaken for June.

The weather, I believe, affords the only news which I can send you from this place, – except that Mr Edmondson has been several times at the point of death, with a disease which I suppose to have been the iliac passion. [7]  He is very much recovered, but the escape has been a very narrow one, & I never saw any person so much & so suddenly reduced as he was at one time. – Mr Fryer has taken Ormathwaite for a year, while his own house is repairing. [8] 

My History of the War [9]  is fairly in the Press, & I & the printers keep on at a good steady pace. I have a poem [10]  forthcoming which will probably occasion some discussion, as a metrical experiment, being written in a measure as nearly upon the model of the hexameter as the nature of our language will admit. This novelty, & the subject (relating to the late King [11] ) will bring on some thing like a hail stone chorus of abuse, which I shall regard as much as I do one of your London fogs while I am breathing the free fresh air of these mountains.

You would be sorry to hear of the death of my poor friend Mr Nash, a man for whom I had the greatest regard. His loss is a great grief to us all, more particularly to me; for in my pleasantest recollections of later years he made a part, & I had hoped to make one more journey on the continent in company with him. [12]  The loss of an intimate friend is a severe calamity at any time; & at my time of life new connections are seldom formed to stand in the place of those which are thus broken.

We all unite in kind remembrances to Mrs Peachy & Mr Henry. [13]  Remember us also to Mr Senhouse’s family. It gives me great pleasure to think that he will soon return to Netherhall

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Major-General Peachy/ 66. Baker Street/ Portman Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] 19 FE 19/ 1821
MS: British Library, Add MS 28603. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Fortunatus was the hero of a series of tales widely published in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. He had a cap that could carry the wearer wherever he wished. BACK

[2] Under extreme pressure from George IV, the Cabinet had reluctantly agreed to introduce a Bill of Pains and Penalties into the House of Lords to deprive the King’s wife, Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821; DNB), of the title of Queen and to dissolve her marriage to the King. On the Third Reading of the Bill on 10 November 1820, the government majority was only nine votes and it seemed very unlikely the Bill could pass the House of Commons. Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister, therefore had announced the Bill would be withdrawn. The Queen’s supporters included many opposition politicians, and the controversy dominated political debate into the spring of 1821. BACK

[3] The idea that the mythical ‘Popish Plot’ was a reality was promoted by Whig politicians in 1678–1681 to discredit the Stuart monarchy. BACK

[4] Elizabeth I (1533–1603; Queen of England 1558–1603; DNB). BACK

[5] Seamen who hunted whales were believed to throw empty tubs into the water to distract the whales so they would not notice the approaching hunters. BACK

[6] Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley (1766–1851; DNB), Chancellor of the Exchequer 1812–1823. BACK

[7] A disease characterised by griping pain, costiveness and violent vomiting, including of faecal matter. It is caused by inflammation or obstruction of the large or small intestine. BACK

[8] Joseph Harrison Fryer (1777–1855), surveyor, geologist and mining engineer from Newcastle. From 1808 he spent part of each year at Keswick. He had been living at Lyzzick Hall, about two miles north of the town. Ormathwaite was a large house about a mile and a quarter from Keswick and two miles from Derwentwater; see Southey to William Wilberforce, 3 June 1818, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Five, Letter 3146. BACK

[9] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). The printer was Thomas Davison (1766–1831). BACK

[10] A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[11] George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB). BACK

[12] Nash had accompanied Southey on his continental tour of May–August 1817. BACK

[13] One of Peachy’s two stepsons, James Henry (1803–1884) and Charles Edward Henry (1807–1833). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 3 times)
Netherhall (mentioned 1 time)