1195. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 27 June 1806

1195. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 27 June 1806 ⁠* 

You will find no house-room at the Wordsworths, Mrs. W. being in the straw as the phrase is for being in bed on a certain occasion; [1]  & the house fuller than it can hold at all times. However if you are determined to take the views in that part before you come here, you had better get lodgings – if possible – at Grasmere for a week than at Ambleside as being nearer many fine things, which W. will shew you. I recommend a week there – & another at Buttermere – & Scale hill, & certainly a day in Wast-dale [2]  – if you can ride 36 miles – of which about five are to be past on foot in crossing the worst mountain pass in the country. [3]  You shall have my company & Harrys – if not more upon this hard days work, & we will start with the sun that you may have some hours there. Perhaps too we may find means of lodging you there with some good statesman & his wife. From Scale Hill you command Lowes Water, & can easily ride to Ennerdale. [4] 

Senhora I am not sure that a set of your drawing might not accompany a parting poem of mine upon this place – which it has just come into my head that I could write, – & so make a magnificent & thin book at the publishers risque, they, you & I sharing the profits if any there should be. [5]  Come & talk of it.

My rich Uncle is dead – & I not a penny the richer. He has left nothing to either of his nephews. In my case who was his heir at law this is leaving it from me. Another Uncle has a main part, with whom I am on hopeful terms; but his life is in all probability as good a one as mine; for I am not made of lasting materials. They talk when people have done amiss of hauling them over the coals. I hope Beelzebub will not serve old John so upon my account: brothers are nearer than nephews. only in as much as he has left one good estate to one almost a stranger he has done me wrong, – not otherwise. It is likely that by the time you make your appearance I may have finished some odd lines upon this affair, which may not displease you. Senhora I shall never get as much nor one tenth as much, by all my writings, as this old man has deprived me of by what he has written upon one rascally skin of parchment. – If you know any kind hearted gentleman who has money to leave & is in want of a nephew, – pray convince him that it is easier to adopt nephews than sons – & tell him that I am disengaged.

We expect Tom in England, God bless him! [6]  – he hopes to get a months leave of absence & gallop down to us. & if he should come He & I & Sir Domine will sing the following glee upon yonder Lake –

Three merry men
And three merry men
And three merry men, are we.
As ever did float
In one little boat
Old Derwentwater, on thee!

A true glee Senhora, & happy woman be her dole who shall hear it, while every rock hill & mountain sound rimbombas to our voices. The word is famous Senhora in Tasso’s Italian, where it is applied to the reechoing either of the Devil’s voice or his trumpet – I forget which. [7]  Flattering myself that I am fit to sing second as my powers of voice I thought it more applicable than the common word echoes.

Another improvement in discriminating the masculine & feminine genders in English – I believe I sent you some specimens before – such as he-mises & she-mises, hepistles & shepistles, penmanship & penwomanship &c. What think you now of –




& have not I a right to sign myself

your agreabeau correspondent

as well as heartily & truly yours –


Saturday June 27. 1806.


* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Congreve/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire
Postmark: KESWICK/ 298
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. 198–201
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 328–330.
Dating note: The letter is misdated 1805 in Warter. BACK

[1] The Wordsworths’ second son, Thomas, was born on 15 June 1806. BACK

[2] Buttermere is a small lake and valley ten miles southwest of Keswick; Scale Hill is five miles north of Buttermere, above Crummock Water; the Wasdale valley, near Scafell Pike, is ten miles south of Buttermere. BACK

[3] Probably the Styhead Pass. BACK

[4] Loweswater is fifteen miles west of Keswick; Ennerdale is five miles south of Loweswater. BACK

[5] Southey did not write this poem. BACK

[6] Thomas Southey had been serving with the West India fleet as part of the British campaign to achieve naval dominance in the Caribbean during the Napoleonic wars. BACK

[7] Torquato Tasso (1544–1595), author of the epic La Gerusalemme Liberata, translated as Jerusalem Delivered (1580), which Southey admired. The line ‘Et l’aer cieco de quel romor rimbomba’ (Book 4, stanza 3) describes the trumpet-blast. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Grasmere (Dove Cottage) (mentioned 1 time)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)