1375. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 26 October 1807

1375. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 26 October 1807 ⁠* 

It will not be very long before I shall be able to tell you something about my winter operations. My uncle & Harry were to take flight from Lisbon on the 12th of this month; they will probably come in a Liverpool ship as they talk of seeing me soon, – but this is only a guess. If my uncle could get a passage in a Kings ship as one of his majestys servants he meant to prefer it: in that case he would come to Plymouth or Portsmouth, & it would be more likely that I should meet him in London than that he should come here during the winter. Rickman wishes me to come before Xmas, – I can do my reviewing in time & shall do it to be ready for any call. My movements will be in a very zig-zag line. Wynn wants me to stop at Wynnstay – how can I cross from Shrewsbury over to your part of the world? This evening has brought me a letter from Litchfield, [1]  & I am bound to make a visit there. She is really a very staunch friend. Fellowes [2]  having become joint editor of The Critical Review besought her to give him an article; to serve him she reviewed the poem of Hogg the Ettrick Shepherd, [3]  & Heaven knows how, lugged in Madoc by neck and shoulders. Poor Fellowes petitioned that this may be left out, in compassion to the Review, which had abused Madoc by bell book & candle, & must not, he says, throw off all consistency at once. but he promises great civility to all my future works, – & this it is likely they will meet with, thro this interest. Pretty work this reviewing Senhora, I am abused because one reviewer hates Coleridge, [4]  & now am to be praised because another is a friend of Miss Sewards! – She however is a good friend of mine, & I am very much obliged to her.

The books shall be sent you forthwith. Palmerin [5]  was advertised yesterday for the first time as published. – In the Athenaeum for September is a letter pointing out a (real) blunder of the translator of D Manuel [6]  in one of his notes, written by some body who admires the book & believes in its authenticity. [7]  The Count who took his departure on Sunday morning told John Fisher on his way out of town that I had a book in which his lodgings were mentioned, & Aggy Fisher [8]  his sister has been here today begging to see it, which as his Sawneyship kept Espriella for the last two months at his lodgings, & left it there after all to be brought home when the man of the house pleases to bring it, we could not lend her. She imputes it to – guess whom? – to a Turk, who, she says, lodged there once. & I assure you she is expecting it with as much anxiety, as a Lady of fashion looks for the description of her first court-dress in the newspaper. Were you gone before Koster wrote a criticism upon this book to me, not suspecting me to be the author, but hinting to me to take the hint, invite an Italian to travel with me, & supply the deficiencies in D Manuel?

The Peachys were gone a day before your letter arrived. She desired she might stand to the unborn, [9]  – a thing which I should have asked had it not been for that fear which year after year I feel at seeing her depart, that she never possibly can live to return, – & for which there is more cause every year than the last. There is a sweetness in that womans nature which is worth all other endowments whatsoever. that sweet Island [10]  of hers always makes me melancholy when I look at it after she is gone. – seven years ago I should have said so in half-a score poems, but I am now as practical a suppressor of all such indulgencies of feeling as if I were a Quaker in form as well as in fact. – If the unborn be of the weaker sex her name will of course be Emma, – if he be one of the Lords of the Creation I shall name him Danvers, after the man whom I suppose if it were possible to sum up such things I should be found to love best of all my friends. [11] 

The books from London will not arrive this year. [12]  Rickman is in the country & will not return to town till December, – of course as he expects me soon, & moreover as that would be a bad season for their removal, he will let them stay. – If my pension has any effect upon my politics it is to make me a greater grumbler than before. I have received as yet only one quarter, & that was one early in April. Out of the 50 they modestly deducted 38 for fees &c. Two quarters more are due, & a third running on. This irregularity of payment is very inconvenient to a man who has no other certain income to look to, – & who has the happy art of getting worse paid for every thing that he does than any living Brother of the Grey-goose quill. – The Buenos Ayres business makes a pretty concluding chapter for me!! – I regard it as a good thing, were it not for the disgraceful way in which it has been done. It was to be hoped that some stigma will be fixed upon Whitelocke & Crawford [13]  But bad as this is it is nothing to the everlasting & ineffaceable infamy of bombarding Copenhagen. [14]  You know how little I have ever feared the power of France & what my feelings have been concerning invasion. They are changed since this atrocious business: my faith was in God & in a good cause, as much as in our human power; – but now that we have laid that aside, – that we have foregone the vantage ground on which we stood, put ourselves on a level with Bonaparte, & voluntarily chosen to fight him with his own weapons of cruelty & tyranny & injustice; – in as much as I believe in God’s retributive justice, do I fear for what may be the fate of this country. The curse of man is upon us, & when that is the case – the curse of God sooner or later follows. God help us that the main principle, the foundation & mainspring of all public & all private morality, should still openly be set at defiance & laughed to scorn! – & that such miserable trash as Count Burnetski used to vent from a brain half filled with French morality picked up in Poland – should be the creed of our ministry – & our nation also! Woe be to the nation & to the individual who believes that any thing which is wrong can ever be expedient.

God bless you.


Thank you for the gold leaf [15]  but not for the blank inclosure.

Monday Oct. 26. 1807.


* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Congreve/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire
Postmark: [partial] KESWICK
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. 247–251.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 23–26. BACK

[1] See Southey to Anna Seward, 25 October 1807 (letter 1376). BACK

[2] Robert Fellowes (1771–1847), editor of The Critical Review from 1807–1814. BACK

[3] Seward’s review of James Hogg, The Mountain Bard appeared in The Critical Review, 13 (November, 1807), 237–244. She criticized Southey severely for the historical inaccuracies in Madoc, but her praise was omitted from the published article. BACK

[4] This was Charles Valentine Le Grice (1773–1858; DNB) whose negative review of Madoc appeared in the Critical Review ns 7 (1806), 72–83. BACK

[5] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[6] Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, the putative author of Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[7] A letter in the September issue of the Athenæum, 2 (1807), 242–243, corrected a mistake in Letters from England concerning the use of the Apocrypha in English churches. A reply appeared in the November issue (2, 555). BACK

[8] A mistake by Southey. Aggie Fisher was the wife, not the sister, of John Fisher, a neighbour of Wordsworth who had lived at Skyeside, Townend, Grasmere. She died in April 1804. John’s sister, who lived with him as his housekeeper, was Molly, formerly a servant of the Wordsworths. Where they lived in Keswick is not known. Espriella stops at a cottage near Grasmere, and describes the making of oat bread, on the Saturday of his Lake tour journal in Letters from England, letter 41. BACK

[9] William Peachey’s wife Emma became the godmother of Emma Southey (b. 9 February 1808). BACK

[10] Derwent Island, in Derwentwater. BACK

[11] Charles Danvers, who Southey knew from childhood. BACK

[12] Having decided to stay at Greta Hall, Southey had sent for his books and other belongings which were scattered between friends in London and the West Country. BACK

[13] Sir John Whitelocke (1757–1833; DNB), commander of the disastrous British attack on Buenos Aires in July 1807; Brigadier-General Robert Craufurd (1764–1812; DNB), participated in the failed attack. BACK

[14] The English fleet had bombarded Copenhagen from 2–7 September 1807, Denmark being neutral at the time. BACK

[15] For tooling and lettering the bindings of Southey’s books. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Grasmere (Dove Cottage) (mentioned 1 time)
Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)