3701. Robert Southey to William Westall, 7 July 1821

3701. Robert Southey to William Westall, 7 July 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 7th July. 1821

My dear Westall

An artist by name Keenan [1]  was for a great many years a subscriber to the Artists Benevolent Fund, [2]  (I know not whether I give it xx its right name), but among other & heavier faults towards his family, neglected latterly to make his regular payments before he died. He has left a widow & one daughter. [3]  The Life Assurance Offices, I believe, on such an occasion, act liberally, & return the sum which had been paid in, to the persons whose interest has been thus sacrificed by neglect or inability. May I intreat you to inquire if any thing can be recovered in this instance? The widow is a person for whom I have the highest esteem & respect. She is the sister of that General Mackinnon who was killed at Ciudad Rodrigo; [4]  & offended her parents [5]  by this marriage so much that they never forgave her. I do not make this application on the score of distress; – Mrs K. is not in want: she keeps a school at Exeter, & is endeavoring to make some provision for her daughter. But she is in declining X years, life is precarious, & inasmuch as any thing which could be recovered would facilitate this object, it would lessen the last anxiety of an xx a most unfortunate & excellent woman.

I do not apologize for requesting you to learn whether any thing can be done in this matter.

What a marvellous night <starlight> scene is that which you have made in Capt Parrys book! [6]  The effect is perfect, – & I question whether any artist but yourself would have ventured to attempt it. The others are not what they would have been if you had made the sketches yourself; – but they are very striking. [7] 

I am nearly half thro the press with the first volume of the Peninsular War; [8]  & shall not leave home until it is compleated, unless particular business should call me away. – Are we likely to see you this year? I have as many fine points to show you as would make a good number of your Lake Views. [9] 

How is your Brother’s arm? [10]  – I hope you received the Vision of Judgement, [11]  which Longman was desired to send you. The King sent me word that he had read it twice, was much gratified with the Dedication & pleased with the poem. [12]  This was very gracious; – & what was more so, he said the same thing to my brother.

The Girls [13]  and the Elders [14]  desire to be kindly remembered. Edith has set up a sketch book, & has made great advances in it to my great satisfaction. Cuthbert thrives, & is not the worse for a full share of what is commonly called spoiling, but which does not spoil a good disposition. We are all thank God tolerably well. Miss Wordsworth was here last week, & Dorothy is now at Mr Calverts, & was with us yesterday at Watenlath & at the Phawleigh, – a place which made me melancholy to see it. [15] 

God bless you

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey

I have just received advice that the Massachusetts Historical Society have elected me a Member. [16] 


* Address: To/ Wm Westall Esqre/ 20. Euston Crescent/ Somers Town
Stamped: [partial] T. P. Bge St West
Postmark: [both partial] 4 o’Clock/ JY 11/ 1821; 2 o’Clock/ 11 JY/ 21 ANn
Seal: [partial] red wax
Watermark: G PAINE/ 1816
MS: Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester, Robert Southey Papers A.S727. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Irish portrait painter John Keenan (d. 1819), who had met Southey in Exeter in 1799 and painted him twice. Keenan had been appointed ‘Portrait Painter to Queen Charlotte’ in 1809. BACK

[2] The Artists’ Benevolent Fund had been founded in 1810. It consisted of two schemes. The Artists’ Annuity Fund was supported by donations from its members, to be used for their own relief in sickness or old age; the second scheme was funded by donations from benefactors, and used to support the widows and orphans of those who had contributed to the Annuity Fund. BACK

[3] Frances Keenan (d. 1838), wife of John Keenan. Southey had also first met her in Exeter in 1799. Frances Keenan was an artist, too, as was her daughter, Frances Louisa Keenan (1801–1884), wife of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807–1894; DNB). Both were visiting Southey at this time. BACK

[4] Major-General Henry Mackinnon (1773–1812; DNB) had been killed storming the fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo on 19 January 1812. He was the subject of Southey’s inscription ‘To the Memory of Major General MacKinnon’, Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 152–154. BACK

[5] William MacKinnon (1732–1809), of Antigua and Binfield, Berkshire, and his wife Louisa MacKinnon, née Vernon (d. 1816), of Hilton Park Hall, Staffordshire. BACK

[6] Westall’s ‘H.M. Ships Hecla & Griper in Winter Harbour’, in William Edward Parry (1790–1855; DNB), Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific; Performed in the Years 1819–20, in His Majesty’s Ships Hecla and Griper (1821), between pp. 122–123, no. 2138 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Westall’s contributions to the Journal had been worked up from sketches done by members of Parry’s expedition. BACK

[8] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[9] Westall had previously published colour aquatints of local scenes in his Views of the Lake and of the Vale of Keswick (1820), for which Southey had written an introduction. BACK

[10] Richard Westall (1765–1836; DNB) had broken his right arm in a fall from a horse and it was taking a long time to heal, thus damaging his career. BACK

[11] Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[12] A Vision of Judgement was dedicated to George IV, and Southey had arranged for a specially bound copy to be presented to him by Sir William Knighton, who had in turn conveyed the King’s opinion of the poem to Southey; see Southey to William Knighton, 30 March 1821, Letter 3661. George IV also sent his opinion via Henry Herbert Southey; see Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 2 June 1821, Letter 3690. BACK

[15] ‘Phawleigh’ was Southey’s name for the house Mary Barker had built in Borrowdale; its expense was so great that she had been compelled to retreat to Boulogne to cut down her expenditure. BACK

[16] The Massachusetts Historical Society (founded 1791) is the oldest historical society in the United States. It is based in Boston, and collects and preserves documents on American history. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Edith May (1804–1871) (mentioned 2 times)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
(mentioned 0 times)
Southey, Bertha (1809–1877) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Sarah (1770–1845) (mentioned 1 time)
George IV (1762–1830) (mentioned 1 time)
Calvert, William (1771–1829) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)