1150. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 31 January 1806

1150. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 31 January 1806 ⁠* 

Both your letters are arrived, & my sole motive for writing is, in the manner of business to acknowledge their receipt. Edith will send you an account of the disbursement.

Of course you take your sketches to Bath. I shall therefore beg leave to send Danvers to look at them, when I know where he can find you. It will delight him to recollect the places & to talk about the Lakes. I suppose if the fair balance were struck in my own mind, Danvers is of all men living the one whom I most entirely & heartily esteem & love, – I pray you remember this if you should be disposed at first sight to think him only an odd-looking good-natured little man.

I shall certainly not pass thro Penkridge, you being gone, but either go in the mail from Penrith, or travel slowly, as I find stage coaches to suit me, thro Yorkshire & Derbyshire, for the sake of seeing the country. It was my intention to have picked up Espriella [1]  on my way, – you can take it with you to Bath, & send it me to London when I get there. – but neither show it nor speak of it to any body except Sir E. for I consider its success & sale as almost wholly depending upon secrecy. [2]  – Remember the fugues, [3]  & write me a letter about the Rooms, & the form of government under the Master of the Ceremonies [4]  – in fact as much about the place as you please, which I will knead up with my own knowledge. There is no place in England, except Bristol with which I am so well acquainted, & none anywhere which I think so beautiful, tho it is much injured within my remembrance, as well as much improved. Senhora if these things are done at all it must be within the next weeks, & the sooner the better. Think of the vignettes [5]  & do not procrastinate till it be too late.

If Barker [6]  recollects me, as probably he will do, Wynn having introduced me to him, when I went to see his picture from Mary the Maid of the Inn [7]  – give my compliments to him. I wish he would paint a picture from Henry the Hermit – am I right in thinking that the dead man, with the chapel bell rope in his hand is one of the best subjects to be found in all my Operas?  [8] 

There is much beautiful scenery towards Bradford & on the course of the Avon that way – at Claverton – at Freshford – & by Farley Castle, [9]  – if you can get at it. Were I at Bath I could show you many many interesting things both as wholes, & in detail. indeed I know no part of England which has supplied me with more interesting recollections of scenery & the feeling it produces than the immediate neighbourhood of Bath. It was my home till I was six years old, [10]  & from 91 to 98 I was occasionally there at my mothers. At no place have I been so happy – at none so miserable, – & there is scarcely any place where I should so well like to settle, in spite of its visitors.

My reviewing will be finished Monday three weeks [11]  – admire my precision! – if no new interruption prevent. Then for a months steady work at Espriella, & then my journey. The death of Pitt is a great event, [12]  – the best thing he ever did was to die out of the way. It is possible that the new arrangements may ultimately affect me – but blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed. However my journey to London becomes more expedient, as I have a special invitation to call at Holland House, & what I want is only to be had thro that channel. [13]  Not a syllable of this to any human ear.

My daughter who is at the table increases in wisdom as in days –

God bless you.


Jany 31. 1806.


* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Congreve/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire.
Postmark: [partial] KESWICK/ 8
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 179–181
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 352–354. BACK

[1] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[2] Southey’s fears were justified. Letters from England was published anonymously, but as soon as the authorship became generally known, towards the end of 1807, its sales fell off. Southey’s profits amounted to just over a hundred pounds. See Jack Simmons, Letters from England (London, 1951), p. xxiv. BACK

[3] Southey’s plan to include letters on music in Letters from England did not materialise. BACK

[4] A visit to Bath, presumably contributed by Barker, is included in Letters from England, Letter 74. BACK

[5] Southey had wished Barker to provide illustrations for Madoc (1805); her procrastination meant that the poem was published without them. BACK

[6] Thomas Barker (1769–1847; DNB), called Barker of Bath (to distinguish him from another painter of the same name), was a popular painter of historical subjects and landscapes. His designs of rustic scenes can be found on the pottery and printed fabrics of the period. There is no evidence that he was related to Mary Barker. BACK

[7] Southey’s ‘Mary the Maid of the Inn’ was written in 1796. Southey’s note in the 1837–1838 edition Poetical Works Collected by Himself states that it was the ‘subject of a fine picture by Mr. Barker’ (VI, 4). BACK

[8] ‘Henry the Hermit’ was published in the Morning Post on 1 November 1798 and then in Poems (1799 and revised in later editions), Minor Poems (1815) and Poetical Works Collected by Himself (1837–1838). BACK

[9] Scenes of various interest near Bath: Bradford, a town of antiquarian interest, three miles from Bath; Farley Castle, three miles southeast of Bradford; Freshford and Claverton, picturesque villages in the Avon valley. BACK

[10] A large part of Southey’s childhood was spent in Bath with his eccentric aunt, Elizabeth Tyler. BACK

[11] Southey reviewed in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806): James Bruce (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768–73 (2nd edn, 1804–1805), 2–16; Thomas Lindley (dates unknown), Narrative of a Voyage to Brazil; ... with General Sketches of the Country ..., and a Description of the City and Provinces of St. Salvadore and Porto Seguro (1805), 27–32; Joseph Skinner (dates unknown), The Present State of Peru, Comprising its Geography, Topography, Natural History, Mineralogy, Commerce, the Customs and Manners of its Inhabitants; Embellished by ... Engravings of Costumes (1805), 49–60; John Griffiths (dates unknown), Travels in Europe, Asia Minor and Arabia (1805), 67–77; James Stanier Clarke (1765?-1834; DNB), Naufragia, or, Historical Memoirs of Shipwrecks (Vol. 1; 1805), 99–100; Charles François Dominique de Villers (1765–1815), An Essay on the Spirit and Influence of the Reformation of Luther (1805), trans. B Lambert (dates unknown), 177–187; William Roscoe, The Life of Pope Leo X, Son of Lorenzo de Medici (1805), 449–467; Arthur Cayley (1776–1848), The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh (1805), 477–483; Dieudonné Thiébault (1733–1807), Original Anecdotes of Frederic the Second, King of Prussia, and of his Family, his Court, his Ministers, his Academies, and his Literary Friends: Collected During a Familiar Intercourse of Twenty Years with that Prince (1805), 488–495; William Parr Greswell (bap. 1765–1854; DNB), Memoirs of Angelus Politianus, Joannes Picus of Mirandula, Actius Sincerus Sannazarius, Petrus Bembus, Hieronymus Fracastorius, Marcus Antonius Flaminius, and the Amalthei: Translations from their Poetical Works: and Notes and Observations Concerning Other Literary Characters of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (1805), 509–515; George Ellis, Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances (1805), 536–544; Henry John Todd (bap. 1763–1845; DNB), The Works of Edmund Spenser (1805), 544–555; William Lisle Bowles, The Spirit of Discovery (1804), 568–573; William Hayley (1745–1820; DNB), Ballads; Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals, with Prints, Designed and Engraved by William Blake (1805), 575–576; John Hoppner (1758–1810), Oriental Tales: Translated into English Verse (1805), 576–578; Francis Burroughs (dates unknown), A Poetical Epistle to James Barry Esq. (1805), 578–579; Vincenzo Monti (1754–1828), Penance of Hugo: A Vision (1805), trans. Henry Boyd (1748/9–1832; DNB), 581–588; James Grahame (1765–1811; DNB), The Sabbath (1805), 588–591; Sir Martin Archer Shee (1769–1850; DNB), Rhymes on Art, or, The Remonstrance of a Painter (1805), 592–596; Samuel Whitchurch, (dates unknown), Hispaniola, a Poem (1804), 596–597; Matthew Rolleston (dates unknown), The Anti-Corsican, A Poem (1805), 597–598; Charles Grant, Baron Glenelg (1778–1866; DNB), Poem on the Restoration of Learning in the East (1805), 598; Edward Coxe (dates unknown), Miscellaneous Poetry (1805), 598–600; Malcolm Laing (1762–1818; DNB), The Poems of Ossian, Containing the Poetical Works of James Macpherson in Prose and Verse, with Notes and Illustrations (1805), 615–620; Archibald Macdonald (1739–1814; DNB), Some of Ossian’s Lesser Poems Rendered into Verse [from Macpherson]; with a Preliminary Discourse, in Answer to Mr. Laing’s Critical and Historical Dissertation on the Antiquity of Ossian’s Poems (1805), 620; Philip Massinger (1583–1640; DNB), Plays (1805), ed. William Gifford, 625–634; Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), Nathan the Wise; a Dramatic Poem in Five Acts (1805), trans. William Taylor, 634–639; John Collett (dates unknown), Sacred Dramas: Intended Chiefly for Young Persons (1805), 639; Henry Mackenzie (1745–1831; DNB), Report of the Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland, Appointed to Inquire into the Nature and Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian (1805), 679–699; Hannah More, Hints Towards Forming the Character of a Young Princess (1805), 708–713; Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838), Improvements in Education as it Respects the Industrious Classes of the Community (3rd edn, 1805), 732–736; Samuel Jackson Pratt [pseud. Courtney Melmoth] (1749–1814; DNB), Harvest-home: Consisting of Supplementary Gleanings, Original Dramas and Poems, Contributions of Literary Friends and Select Re-publications (1805), 736–738; William Henry Ireland (1775–1835; DNB), The Confessions of William Henry Ireland Containing the Particulars of his Fabrication of the Shakespeare Manuscripts (1805), 743–745. BACK

[12] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806. He died on 23 January 1806. BACK

[13] Under the coalition government formed by Charles James Fox and William Wyndham, Baron Grenville Southey’s friend and patron Charles Wynn was appointed Under-Secretary for the Home Department. Through him, and the influential Whig and hispanophile, Lord Holland, Southey hoped to secure one of two vacant posts in Lisbon. BACK

Places mentioned

Teddesley (mentioned 1 time)