1431. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 22 March [1808]

1431. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 22 March [1808] ⁠* 

My dear Edith

After writing my last hasty epistolet, I set off with Wynn for St Mary Cray. [1]  We were told it was twelve miles distant, so we walked, while his servant went by the stage like a gentleman, & carried what little luggage we wanted. In spite of a severe east wind blowing always either in our teeth or our ears, & of occasional show showers we had on the whole a pleasant walk. The view of Greenwich & Maize Hill which on our left was exceedingly striking, – masts & towers, – houses & gravel clifts, – there wanted only ver summer verdure for the gardens & trees, & sunshine which would have made an incumbent atmosphere of smoke beautiful. We very soon got into an unfrequented road, where even fewer travellers were to be met than I have seen between Keswick & Ambleside, when the laking season is over, & the country left to its own inhabitants. From time to time we had fine rich, woody inland views, – of that character which is peculiar to Kent. There is a greater appearance of general comfort in this county than in any other, – the cause is probably to be found in the old xxxxx british law of gavel-kind, [2]  which is retained here & here only, & which has necessarily prevented the formation of great estates, & (what would might not have been so much expected) has also preservd old families in the possession of small but independant estates. Hence there is less riches, less poverty, more industry & more comfort.

The distance proved to be 15 miles instead of 12. The last three, we complained of as an imposition, & but like other impositions we would not have submitted to it, – if it could have been helped. Elmsley has got into a comfortable old house, built about a hundred years ago. His garden communicates with the church yard, & the river Cray flows thro it, immediately under the dining room window. That river would be very beautiful if it were not bricked up with formal banks, & its bed defiled with the filth of the village, potshards, a dead dog or two – all xxxxx no ornaments to a stream of clear water which is nowhere above three feet deep. When the weather is warm enough Elmsley means to send in boys to clean it, & then to keep it clean by a grating where it enters his premises, small enough to stop such nuisances, & not so small as to shut out the fine trout, which at present look as if they had no business in so denaturalized a brook,. There are paper mills just above & below, – near enough to be heard, but not unpleasantly. He has two nephews & two nieces with their mother, living with him, & I believe wholly dependant on him. The eldest is a boy of eight years, the youngest a girl of four, – fine, good-humoured children, always disposed to laugh & romp, – but without the least shyness at the sight of strangers.

The post – & your letter. – I have escaped some uneasiness by being out of the way during Ediths feverish attack, – & yet I wish I had been there to have xx eased you of some part of the nights trouble. How is it that you have not mentioned the little one in? – not a word concerning her!

I have written to Taunton & expect an answer every day. On Monday next I leave town – reach John May this day week, stay with him Wednesday, & if it be possible shall go to Sir Ch. Mallets [3]  on the Thursday, but that will depend on the situation & accessability of his house. Your next must be directed to Taunton, – unless you will write me a line by Fridays post, which will reach me on the morning of my departure. The whole of my business is nearly compleated – I have not yet seen Mr Gonne, but go there on Friday.

As the lottery is drawn only on Tuesdays I know nothing of the ticket but shall enquire tomorrow. Last night Longman wrote me a note, inclosing a draft for 25 £ – which he & the other publishers of H K Whites Remains thought proper to present me, in consideration of the advantage they are deriving from the book. [4] 

The stockings are made. Today on my way out to dinner I shall buy your dinner service, – which is to be, like Elmsleys, the pattern of those breakfast cups & saucers which we have broken up at Keswick. – My Uncle leaves town before me, & is not likely to visit us this summer. Tom will in all probability return with me, till he has thoroughly recovered the effect of his long confinement. I will take the Espriella to Martha. [5] 

Dear dear Edith God bless you –

yr R Southey

Tuesday 22. March.


* Address: London March twenty=/ =second 1808/ Mrs Southey/ Keswick/ free Wm Lemon
Postmark: 22MA22/ 1808
Endorsement: London March 22 1808
MS: Beinecke Osborne MSS File S, Folder 14170. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A village to the southeast of London; home of Peter Elmsley. BACK

[2] System of land tenure that is particularly associated with Kent. BACK

[3] Sir Charles Warre Malet, 1st Baronet (1753–1815; DNB), of Wilbury Wiltshire, a retired East India Company servant. BACK

[4] The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham (1807), which were edited by Southey. BACK

[5] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)