3718. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 23 August 1821

3718. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 23 August 1821 ⁠* 

Keswick. 23 Aug. 1821

My dear Sir

Your letter followed me to Netherhall, where I spent nearly a fortnight, with the two Ediths, [1]  & little Cuthbert. Our good friend Senhouse is improving the interior of that old mansion, as much as he has improved the grounds; the house will be both good & commodious, & the situation is certainly not without beauty, now that its numerous disfigurements have been removed. My daughter bathed as often as the weather (which was not favourable) would permit; & I found fit occupation for the mornings in a library well stored with books of a certain age.

We have scarcely seen any visitors this year – but the Doctor writes me word that I may expect one of the first water, – no less a personage than – Mr Alexander the Ventriloquist, [2]  who has been seeking me in Queen Anne Street, with a letter of introduction from some unknown member of the R. Institute of the Netherlands, whose wife has translated Roderick into Dutch. [3]  – Three Cathedrals [4]  have been introduced to me, – one is the tutor, Mr Melville, [5]  whose father was a General, & Governor of Pendennis Castle, remarkable for having left an evangelical diary which has been printed. [6]  The others are a Mr Barker whose father is the intimate friend of Sir T. Ackland, & has the living of his parish. [7]  The other is a son of Sir George Hewett, [8]  & comes doubly accredited with a letter from Sir T Ackland, & a recommendation, thro my Uncle, from Mr Legge. [9] Archdeacon Nares left a complimentary card while we were at Netherhall.

Mr Fryer has removed to Ormathwaite. [10] xx Lord William has lent Finkle street [11]  to Mr Lynn, while the vicarage is undergoing some thing very like radical reform, [12]  only to better end than would result from the political experiment. The Calverts [13]  are in statu quo, Oriel seems to agree with John, as well as Harrow did, & he is in all respects a highly promising young man. Mrs Salkeld [14]  is at Allonby, where report says, she rejects one or two offers every morning: the talk of that side of the country is “Which is the Man?” – & the prevailing opinion is that it will be Mr Hasell. [15]  – We dined at Miss Craiks, [16]  & she put into my hands several letters written by Paul Jones [17]  to his sister in the latter years of his life. [18]  They were very creditable to him, relating almost wholly to the interest which he took in the education & prospects of her children, – to whom he left all that he had to leave. Properly as he would have graced the gallows, it is nevertheless pleasant to find that he possessed some redeeming virtues.

The mention of this unWorthy reminds me of America, – where the Massachusetts Historical Society (the oldest of their literary Societies) [19]  have elected me a member. I have lately received a present of books of American growth from one of my New England acquaintances; some of them are very respectable. – They were mostly selected as likely to assist me with useful knowledge for the composition of a poem which has been begun nearly seven years, & is now likely to be taken seriously in hand: the scene lying in New England, & the story being grafted upon historical facts. [20]  About a quarter part is written. – I received two very gracious messages from the King concerning my Vision of Judgement, – one thro the person by whom it was presented, [21]  – the other thro my brother the Dr, to whom the King spoke at the drawing room. [22]  – The first vol. of the Peninsular War is far advanced in the Press. [23]  And when I have told you that you will see a sketch of Oliver Cromwells life in the next number of the Q.R. [24]  – you will have as much of my occupations as is worth communicating.

Your non-arrival this xxxxxx this year is no-small disappointment to this family; the girls [25]  had looked forward to some mountain parties. I am not without hopes that this letter may have to wait your return from Oxford, whither, if the contest [26]  should be a hard one, I hope you may be induced to go. As there is no political difference between the two Candidates, on any point whatsoever, Hebers literary claims are such that they ought to make Sir J Nichol kick the beam. [27] 

So the World is rid of Buonaparte, [28]  & of another mischievous personage; [29]  – it may be said too truly of them both that they were neither fit to live nor to die. In the affair of the funeral the Radicals have outdone their usual out doings. Surely that business was sadly mismanagement, – the body should have been shipt off in the state barge from the garden of Brandenburgh House to Woolwich. [30]  – The Radicals have now a summers work cut out for them. Meantime the King is putting one of his kingdoms in good humour, – a very politic act. [31]  The prospect abroad is gloomy enough, look where we will: there is only this ground for consolation, that Revolutions when they are become so common, & their effects appear <to be> so pernicious as they will must uniformly prove, – may get out of fashion.

Mrs S & her sisters [32]  & the girls join in kindest remembrances to yourself & Mrs Peachy. I beg to be remembered also to Mr Henry [33]  if he be at Yarmouth.

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly


* Address: To/ Major-General Peachy/ Yarmouth/ Norfolk
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 28603. AL; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[2] Alexandre Vattemare (1796–1864), celebrated French ventriloquist who used the stage name ‘Monsieur Alexandre’. Trained as a surgeon, he was refused a diploma after making cadavers appear to speak. Between 1815 and 1835, he visited 550 cities with an act that involved him staging plays in which he voiced all the characters. In later life he developed the first system by which museums and libraries could loan items from their collections to each other. BACK

[3] Bilderdijk was a former President (1809–1811) of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Science, Letters and Arts (founded 1808), to which Southey had been elected an Associate of the Second Class in 1817. His wife was Katherina Bilderdijk, née Schweickhardt (1776–1830), who translated Southey’s Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) into Dutch as Rodrigo de Goth, Koning van Spanje (1823–1824), no. 2701 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] ‘Cathedrals’ was the name given in Keswick and its environs to young men from the University of Cambridge who visited the Lakes in study parties. It arose, initially, from a ‘comical confusion’ between ‘Collegian’ and ‘College’ and, later, between ‘College’ and ‘Cathedral’; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 19–20 August 1821, Letter 3715. BACK

[5] Henry Melvill (1798–1871; DNB), fifth son of Philip Melvill (1760–1811), had become a sizar of St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1817, migrated to Peterhouse, Cambridge, and graduated as second wrangler in 1821. He was a Fellow and Tutor at Peterhouse 1822–1829, and then took up positions in the Church. These included: Chaplain to the Tower of London, to which he was appointed by the Duke of Wellington in 1840; Canon Residentiary of St Paul’s Cathedral, from 1856; and Rector of Barnes, Surrey, 1863–1871. From 1853 he was one of the Chaplains to Victoria (1819–1901; Queen of the United Kingdom 1837–1901; DNB). An evangelical, he was a popular preacher and greatly admired rhetorician. BACK

[6] Philip Melvill, army officer and, from 1797–1811, the Lieutenant-Governor of Pendennis Castle. He founded the Falmouth Misericordia Society, for the relief of the poor, and schools for boys and girls. Southey cites Memoirs of the Late Philip Melvill, Esq. Lieut. Gov. of Pendennis Castle, Cornwall: With an Appendix, Containing Extracts from His Diaries and Letters (1812). BACK

[7] Philip Barker (dates unknown), a student at St John’s College, Cambridge (1817–1822), and later a barrister. He was the son of William Barker (1772–1838), Vicar of Broadclyst 1819–1838 and Rector of Silverton 1806–1838. Sir Thomas Acland’s seat of Killerton Park, Devon, was in the parish of Broadclyst and he was the patron of this living and of Silverton. BACK

[8] Philip Hewett (1799–1879), the fifth son of the army officer Sir George Hewett (1750–1840; DNB). He was also a student at St John’s College, Cambridge (1817–1822), and later a clergyman, serving as Rector of Binstead 1833–1879. BACK

[9] Heneage Legge (1747–1827), an acquaintance of Herbert Hill’s. BACK

[10] Joseph Harrison Fryer (1777–1855), surveyor, geologist and mining engineer from Newcastle, who spent part of each year at Keswick. He was renting Ormathwaite, 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

[11] Lord William Gordon (1744–1823), son of Cosmo George Gordon, 3rd Duke of Gordon (1720–1752). He owned the Waterend estate on the west side of Derwentwater, and in 1809–1810 had purchased Finkle Street, also called the Derwent Bank estate, on the western side of the lake. BACK

[12] James Lynn (1776–1855), Perpetual Curate of Strood 1805–1814, Rector of Caldbeck 1814–1820, Vicar of Crosthwaite, Keswick 1820–1855. He had married Charlotte Alicia Goodenough (1782–1822) in 1805. Her father, Samuel Goodenough (1743–1827; DNB), was Bishop of Carlisle 1808–1827, which may well explain Lynn’s appointment to Crosthwaite. His alterations to the vicarage and its grounds included destroying a horsing-block made famous by Thomas Gray (1716–1771; DNB); see Southey to Wade Browne, 1 August 1821, Letter 3707. BACK

[13] William Calvert and his family. BACK

[14] William Calvert’s sister-in-law, Abigail Salkeld, née Mitchinson (1777–1831), the widow of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Salkeld (1761–1820) of Holme Hill, near Carlisle. BACK

[15] Possibly Edward Hasell (1765–1826), owner of the Dalemain estate, near Penrith. Local gossip was ill-founded. In 1822 Abigail Salkeld married John Staig (1770–1855), Collector of Customs and later Deputy Lieutenant of Dumfriesshire. BACK

[16] The novelist, Helen Craik (1751–1825; DNB). BACK

[17] John Paul Jones (1747–1792), sailor from Kirkcudbright, who played a central role in the early American navy 1775–1783. It was widely rumoured that he was not the son of John Paul, Senior (1700–1767), a gardener, but of William Craik of Arbigland (1703–1798), the employer of John Paul, Senior. William Craik’s daughter, Helen Craik, stated her father did have an illegitimate son who went to America, but he was Dr James Craik (1730–1814), not John Paul Jones. BACK

[18] Jones had two sisters who survived him: Janet Paul Taylor (1739–1817) and Mary Ann Paul Young (later Louden) (1741–1825). Jones’s letters were sent to the former. Janet Paul Taylor had two children who survived to adulthood: Janette Taylor (d. c. 1843), who wrote her famous uncle’s biography, and William Taylor (d. c. 1817). BACK

[19] 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

[20] Southey’s unfinished epic, ‘Oliver Newman’, set in New England. A fragment was published posthumously in Oliver Newman: a New-England Tale (Unfinished): with Other Poetical Remains by the Late Robert Southey (London, 1845), pp. 1–90. BACK

[21] A copy of A Vision of Judgement (1821) was presented to George IV by Sir William Knighton. For the King’s response, see Southey to William Knighton, 30 March 1821, Letter 3661. BACK

[22] Henry Herbert Southey had possibly met George IV at the King’s levée on 2 May 1821, the court event closest to his official birthday on 23 April; see Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 2 June 1821, Letter 3690. BACK

[23] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1831). BACK

[24] ‘Life of Cromwell’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 279–347. BACK

[26] Richard Heber was returned as MP for the University of Oxford on 24 August 1821 after a bad-tempered contest against Sir John Nicholl (1759–1838), MP for Penryn 1802–1806, MP for Hastings 1806–1807, MP for Great Bedwyn 1807–1821, 1822–1832, ecclesiastical lawyer and Dean of the Court of Arches 1809–1834. Heber was, in particular, accused of favouring Catholic Emancipation. Peachy was entitled to vote in this contest as he possessed both Bachelor of Civil Law (1790) and Doctor of Civil Law (1813) degrees from Oxford. BACK

[27] ‘To kick the beam’: a commonplace meaning ‘to be found lightweight or wanting in consequence’. BACK

[28] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821; Emperor of the French 1804–1814, 1815) had died on St Helena on 5 May 1821. BACK

[29] Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821; DNB), the estranged wife of George IV. She had died at Brandenburg House, Hammersmith, her London home, on 7 August 1821. BACK

[30] The government feared Queen Caroline’s funeral procession on 14 August would provoke disorder and radical demonstrations and ordered the cortege to avoid the City of London on its route to Harwich, where the Queen’s body was to embark for Germany and burial in Brunswick Cathedral. However, crowds in London forced the procession to alter its route and go through the City. Soldiers forming the Queen’s honour guard opened fire on the crowd and two people were killed. BACK

[31] George IV paid a state visit to Ireland 12 August–3 September 1821, the first by a British monarch since the fourteenth century. BACK

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

People mentioned

Southey, Edith May (1804–1871) (mentioned 3 times)
George IV (1762–1830) (mentioned 3 times)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 2 times)
Fricker, Mary (1771–1862) (mentioned 1 time)
Calvert, William (1771–1829) (mentioned 1 time)
(mentioned 0 times)

Places mentioned

Netherhall (mentioned 2 times)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Yarmouth (mentioned 1 time)