1419. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 23 [January] 1808

1419. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 23 [January] 1808 ⁠* 

Jany. 23. 1808.

My dear Harry

We have been very long, & somewhat impatiently looking for news of you, & certainly had I thought a letter would have reached you in time I should have written to dissuade you from trying Durham, & urge you to take Whitehaven in preference – I have learnt that Durham is a purse-proud priestly place, – where great entertainments must be given, & a great stile of living is necessary to succeed at all, & Fenwick [1]  is a man of reputation, – in that very party to whom your name would else be an introduction.

Fearons [2]  friends all thought Whitehaven would have been better for him than Carlisle, & yet he is satisfied with his success there. At Whitehaven you are sure of beating Jos. Dixon [3]  out of the field almost immediately. It is not a place to make a fortune, – but it is a place to make a good livelihood, & get a reputation which may be transplanted if necessary. It is Wordsworths opinion that living must be fifty per cent cheaper than at Durham; – indeed as cheap as <at> any place in England. It is a very pretty place, – & within a walk of Keswick. We could come to you for sea bathing, & change of air, – & you to us for fresh water, & mountain air. I say this on the supposition that you will soon find Durham a bad post. There is no physician near Whitehaven except an old apothecary at Egremont or thereabouts who has taken a fancy to the name of Doctor, & gone to Scotland for it. Perhaps you may take wing & reach Keswick before Tom & I start.

Arthur Aikin wants the books you have in hand. the historical first – & so <on> in the order of chapters. I have been obliged to do Joinville myself [4]  – against my inclination, & in haste, – & I galloped thro Burnetts Specimens [5]  at the same time. Did I tell you that when Davis’s Life of Chatterton [6]  comes before you, – you may in reference to the trick of writing in Rowleys [7]  name, make a difference between such an artifice & that of publishing a book under the name of xxx another man, well known to the public, so as to cheat the public with a belief out that they are purchasing one of his works, – for this Davis is the author of a novel called the Post Captain which you may see advertised at this time as Dr Moores. [8]  I happen to know this because Longman sent me the MS. for my opinion upon it. You need not explain the meaning of the allusion, but it will be well to make it.

Now that the last of Chattertons family is dead, you may in this review speak-out, & say what I could not in the edition of his works. There was a madness in his family. Mrs Newton [9]  was once confined, & her daughter had taken a Moravian turn. The money which Cottle & I raised by that edition had th just came in time, to preserve Mrs N. from want in her last sickness, & procure for <her> all the comforts which were to be procured. Do not mention me without mentioning Cottle also, – it was upon him that most of the labour latterly devolved, & the heraldic remarks – which are decisive of the controversy – are his –. If you say any thing about the controversy here is a remark – or rather discovery of Rickmans which will figure in the argument. The pieces which he produced as originals are in an impossible hand writing: in the twelve lines of the Account of Wm Cannings feast [10]  the letter e is written in above twenty different ways – no man ever could have done this unless he had been trying to write an uncouth hand. – When I showed Rickman the fac-simile he said – give me <let me look at> this – I shall make find out something here, & in a minutes time – he cried out Ah-ha! – a rogue! – took out his pencil & traced all the varieties of this letter, – there said he – theres proof of the forgery. This is quite characteristic of Rickman. Speak of this <argument> as the argume discovery of a man who never examines any subject without throwing new light upon it. It is my I am certain know that Rickman has found out more in Homer & Herodotus than all the commentators put together. – Lose no time in getting thro your reviewing, – I am in bodily fear of a fresh application about it by every post. – I will get you your money as soon as I reach London – we start as soon as Edith is safe in her bed, – & this is an event of which I am in daily expectation.

Tom parts from me at Penkridge & goes to Bristol – to put himself under King – his funds are low, – for there is no news of the Mercury, [11]  – nor of the residue in his other prize money. – If you stay two months at Durham & then move westward, I shall probably by that time be returned, & he perhaps with me – If he should not, you will find plenty of house room, – plenty of books – Edith to receive welcome you, & neice to play with, a nephew to top, & a young one [12]  who I hope will not stand in need of your advice, – the only thing you will can have to give it one so young. I will go with you to look for lodgings when I return, – & you shall show yourself at Netherhall at Irton, [13]  – & we will get an introduction to Ld Lonsdale.

If you do any thing for the Athenæum, [14]  write it on foolscap paper in your smallest hand, – that it may travel to me by post, which will be cheaper than by parcel. – Your letters give proof of the best requisite for good writing, – & I am certain that if you settle near enough to me to draw with upon my library with facility, – & upon me for any assistance which it may be in my power to give, – you may very soon make as much money by literature as I do – which God knows is not very much, – but is enough to keep a comfortable house over my head. Some ways & means were pointed out in my last letter, – that about the Romances is very feasible, – I shall write as soon as there is any family news – meantime you may conclude that I am very busy with the Tapuyas the Tupinambas, the Tupinaes, the Tupiniquins, the Tamoyos, the Guarames, the Margaias, the Payaguais, the Carios, the Xarayes [15]  &c &c &c – getting on well with my Brazilian campaigns –

God bless you


I do not remember to have heard the Imperial talk of Durham.

N.B. It is an act of great self denial on my part to avoid putting under the name of Mrs Bungay (if there be such a queer b––) & so making the direction compleat. [16] 


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ at Mrs Bungays/ in The Old Elvet/ (if there be such an outlandish place)/ Durham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG.1996.5.59. ALS; 4p.
Dating note: ‘ Jan’ is written over ‘Dec’ BACK

[1] Dr. John Ralph Fenwick (?-1855), of North Baily, Durham. BACK

[2] Dr. Henry Fearon, MD (1780–1822). BACK

[3] Dr. Joshua Dixon (1744–1825), of Lowther Street, Whitehaven. BACK

[4] Memoirs of John Lord de Joinville, Grand Seneschal of Champagne Written by Himself (1807). The book was reviewed in Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 215–219. BACK

[5] Southey reviewed George Burnett, Specimens of English Prose Writers, from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Seventeenth Century (1807) in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 618–631. BACK

[6] John Davis (1774–1854), The Life of Thomas Chatterton (1806) was reviewed in the Annual Review for 1808, 7 (1809), 270–276. Southey’s remark about pseudonymous authorship appears verbatim on p. 273. Southey had co-edited, with Joseph Cottle, Chatterton’s works in 1803: The Works of Thomas Chatterton (1803). BACK

[7] Chatterton’s pseudonym. BACK

[8] The Post Captain, or, the Wooden Walls Well-Manned (1805), was authored by Davis, a little-known former sailor, but advertised by the bookseller Thomas Tegg (1776–1846; DNB), known for his commercial acumen, as the work of Dr John Moore (1729–1802) author of Zeluco (1789). BACK

[9] Mary Newton (1749–1804), sister of Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB). BACK

[10] Chatterton’s ‘The Accounte of W. Canynges Feast’, a manuscript poem forged by Chatterton, supposedly medieval. BACK

[11] Tom had been involved in the capture, on 26 January 1804, of the Mercury by HMS Hippomenes in the Caribbean. BACK

[12] Emma, the Southeys’ fifth child was born on 9 February 1808. BACK

[13] The seat of the Irton family, Lords of the Manor of Irton and Melthwaite since medieval times, in the valley of the Irt between the Wasdale fells and the sea. BACK

[14] The magazine edited by John Aikin, The Athenæum, A Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information, to which Southey was a contributor. BACK

[15] Indian tribes of the Amazon. BACK

[16] Written upside down at the top of 1r. BACK

Places mentioned

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