3669. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 9 April 1821

3669. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 9 April 1821⁠* 

My dear Harry

I am very glad to hear of Louisa’s well-doing, & of my niece’s arrival. [1]  – The more the merrier there, & no fear at last of good chear for them all.

I am about to strike you with astonishment, – in which I know Louisa & her mother & Miss Harding, [2]  & Marianne [3]  also will partake, by requesting that you will – send me a new hat, – the measure of your head will do for mine. A hat I must have pro formâ, – but for daily use I should like at the same time a German Cap [4]  – such a one as you may chuse: – an excellent fashion for me, because having no brim behind, they <it> will allow me to lean back upon the collar of my coat, & so bring my eyes to a position in which I can see with them, – which I cannot do without elevating the head.

I have lately met with a passage which would have been worth more than all the facts in your Thesis, [5]  because it sets question incontestably at rest. It is one of Peter Martyrs Epistles [6]  dated April 1488, four years before Columbus set out on his first voyage, & addressed to his friend the Greek Professor at Salamanca, [7]  then suffering under “the peculiar disease” of that time which the Spaniards called the Bubas, & the Italians, he says, the French Disease. I transcribed the original passage in a letter to my Uncle, the other day, [8]  – but if you wish to have it for your Lectures I will copy for you the whole Epistle. It seems very strange that this authority should not have been hit upon by the many writers who have discussed the history of this disease, – & yet I concluded that it must have been unknown to them, because it so compleatly decides the question.

Edith desires her love to Louisa, & congratulates her on having a girl this time – Aunt Mary also sends her love.

Remember us to Mrs Gonne.

God bless you


Edward affects to be greatly surprized at learning from me that his Aunt died in debt, & says she had always told him she would leave him some thing. – It is not possible that he should not have known how the constant state of embarrassment in which she lived.

Keswick. 9 April. 1821


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ 15. Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 12 AP 12/ 1821
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.113. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Henry Herbert Southey’s first daughter, Louisa Mary Southey (b. 1821), was born on 14 March 1821. BACK

[2] Catherine Harding (dates unknown), unmarried sister of Mary Gonne. BACK

[3] Mary Anne Gonne (b. 1792), sister of Louisa, Henry Herbert Southey’s wife, had married, in 1816, Thomas March (1781–1859), a British merchant from a family prominent in the trade with Portugal. BACK

[4] A peaked cap; made fashionable by Prussian and Russian soldiers during the Napoleonic wars. BACK

[5] Henry Herbert Southey’s dissertation for his Doctorate of Medicine, ‘De ortu et progressu syphilidis’ (University of Edinburgh, 1806) argued for a North American origin of syphilis. BACK

[6] Peter Martyr d’Anghiera (1457–1526), Opus Epistolarum (Amsterdam, 1670), p. 34, no. 1902 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Christopher Columbus (1450/1–1506), Italian explorer, was commissioned by the Spanish Crown to sail west across the Atlantic in 1492; he discovered America rather than Asia. BACK

[7] Arias Barbosa (c. 1465/70–1540), Portuguese scholar and Professor of Greek at the University of Salamanca 1495–1530. BACK

[8] Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 8 April 1821, Letter 3666. BACK

People mentioned

Gonne, Mary (1768-1825) (mentioned 2 times)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Mary (1750–1838) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Edward (1788–1847) (mentioned 1 time)
Tyler, Elizabeth (1739–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)