3681. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 4 May 1821

3681. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 4 May 1821⁠* 

Keswick 4 May. 1821

My dear Harry

If you are writing a paper upon Siphilis, – or if you ever have occasion to touch upon the history of the disease, – you may be glad to have proof positive that it & the Brenning were known to be different diseases. [1]  I send you this proof in which from a book, in which full as it is of burning, you would not look for any thing about burning of this kind, – old Foxs Martyrs. It occurs in The Supplication of Beggars, a very <notorious> lying libel in favour of the Reformation written by Simon Fish in the year 1527, or thereabout. [2]  Speaking of the Pope’s Clergy he says “These be they that have made an hundred thousand idle whores in your realm, which would have gotten their living honestly, in the sweat of their faces, had not their superfluous riches illected them to unclean lust & idleness. These be they that corrupt the whole generation of mankind in your realm, that catch the pox of one woman, & bear them into another, – that be burnt with one woman & bear it to another, that catch the lepry of one woman, & bear it unto another.” Fox’s Martyrs. Vol. 2. p. 230. ed. 1684. [3] 

Dr Hammond used to say that whatever the book was which he might happen to be reading, he was always sure to find something in it pertinent to his next sermon. [4]  – My own daily experience confirms this, my reading is as various as that of any man can well be, & yet in every book I find something to my immediate purpose, – always excepting works of metaphysics & modern criticism, – from which nothing is to be learnt extracted, because ex nihilo nihil fit. [5] 

Bouyer [6]  of Pall Mall wants to put me – in the House of Lords, “in the part allotted for Strangers,” – properly enough in this sense that I am a stranger there, & mean to continue so. – I refer him to you for the Miniature, [7]  if you have not sent it off. –

Our love to Louisa. God bless you –



* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ 15. Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ 1821
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.115. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Brenning or ‘the burning’ was a venereal infection possibly first noted in the fourteenth century. It may have been a term for gonorrhoea. BACK

[2] Simon Fish (d. 1531; DNB), A Supplycacion for the Beggars (1529). BACK

[3] John Foxe (c. 1516–1587; DNB), Acts and Monuments of Matters most Special and Memorable happening in the Church, 9th edn, 3 vols (London, 1684), II, p. 230, no. 975 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] John Fell (1625–1686; DNB), The Life of the Most Learned, Reverend and Pious Dr. H. Hammond, 2nd edn (London, 1662), pp. 11–12 : ‘His Method was (which likewise he recommended to his friends) after every Sermon to resolve upon the ensuing Subject; that being done, to pursue the course of study which he was then in hand with, reserving the Close of the Week for the provision for the next Lords-day. Whereby not onely a constant progress was made in Science, but materials unawares were gain’d unto the immediate future Work: for, he said, be the Subjects treated of never so distant, somewhat will infallibly fall in conducible unto the present purpose.’ This work was a biography of Henry Hammond (1605–1660; DNB), Anglican theologian. BACK

[5] ‘nothing comes from nothing’. BACK

[6] The artist and publisher Robert Bowyer (1758–1834). He was working on a painting – View of the Interior of the House of Lords, during the important investigation of 1820 – and wished to include Southey amongst the crowd in the Strangers Galley of the House of Lords that observed the debate on the Bill of Pains and Penalties brought against Queen Caroline (1768–1821; DNB). The finished work (minus Southey) was later engraved and included in Bowyer’s An Impartial Historical Narrative of those Momentous Events which have Taken Place in this Country During the Period from the Year 1816 to 1823 (1823). BACK

[7] A miniature of Southey painted by Edward Nash in 1820, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)