1641. Robert Southey to Mary Matilda Betham, 3 June 1809

1641. Robert Southey to Mary Matilda Betham, [c. 3 June 1809] ⁠* 

More than once have I been on the point of writing to you, & as often prevented by some disquieting or distressing circumstance. Within this week I have deposited in yonder church-yard, the little girl who was newly born when you saw me. I had not ceased to thank God for the preservation of my only boy, who had been saved from the croup, – when this visitation befell us; – & I do not cease to thank Him now. – Edith has happily an infant at the breast, – a better comforter than I could be, – still it will be long before she recovers from this stroke, which x was as unexpected as it is severe. –

I go on Thursday next to visit Durham, to visit my brother, who is just married. [1]  my xxx absence from home will not exceed a fortnight. The sooner you arrive after my return the better, – for the delight of this country is in the long evenings at Midsummer, & I shall be sorry if you miss them. The straight road from London is to Penrith, – one stage short of Carlisle, & 18 miles from Keswick. From thence there is a stage which runs thro this place Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays. But if you reach Penrith early enough to come by chaise, it is less wearisome to proceed to a place where house where you will feel yourself at home, than to pass a night at an inn, – for this Stage leaves Penrith in the morning. If you come by way of Leeds or Manchester, there is no Stage nearer than Kendal, which is thirty miles from hence. It is a long journey, – but if you start from London, the least fatiguing plan is to take the mail, remember not that which goes by Manchester to Carlisle, – for that takes in the unwary passengers for some thirty additional miles, & for a spell of two hours in the dead of the night at a Manchester inn, waiting to be turned over to another coach; – but the Carlisle mail which goes by Newark & Doncaster, – & sets out from the & Mouth. I enter into these particulars because some of my friends have been deceived by book-keepers & sent the more circuitous route. Allen [2]  was at school with me, I remember him well, but never had any intimacy with him. John Dolignon [3]  was one of my earliest playmates, & while I was at Westminster his mothers house was my home every Saturday & Sunday. The chances & changes of this world have thrown us far asunder, – the more so perhaps because ever since we ceased to associate we must have grown more unlike each other. I used to shoot with him, fish with him, & lay snares for rabbits. These things I could not do now. Were I however to meet Dolignon (& I would turn fifty miles from my way for the sake of meeting him) – my first feeling would xx be like that of a brother, – we should both shed tears at thinking of his dear mother & of his sister, – & when that sympathy was over I should begin to feel a weight at my heart, – from perceiving how little other sympathy was left us. – I know what this feeling is by experience, & there are few feelings more painful.

The Mr. Townshend [4]  of whom you speak was to me a new name, for Cumberland’s Review has not travelled here, [5]  – & I suppose will not long travel anywhere, – some of his assistants having applied for employment to the Quarterly. – I entreat you, read Wordsworths pamphlet upon the affairs of Spain, – just published by Longman. [6]  Only Burke equals it in eloquence, & xx he only by fits & flashes, – but there shines thro this the light of truth & of nature & of God, – a light of which nothing more than the dim & discoloured reflection ever shone upon Burke. [7] 

God bless you. We shall be glad to hear you are coming, still more so when you arrive. – Edith desires to be remembered to you –

yrs very truly,

[signature cut out]


* Address: To/ Miss Betham/ 14. New Cavendish Street
Postmarks: [partial] o’Clock 3 JU/ 18[illegible]; [partial] 10 o’Clock/ 3 JU/ 1809 FNn
Stamped: [partial] [illegible]/ Unpaid/ [illegible]
MS: University of Kentucky Library. AL; 4p.
Previously published: M. Betham-Edwards, ‘Letters of Coleridge, Southey and Lamb to Matilda Betham’, Fraser’s Magazine, ns 18 (July 1878), 73–84.
Dating note: dating from postmark BACK

[1] Henry Southey had married Mary-Harriet Sealy the daughter of a Lisbon acquaintance of Southey’s. BACK

[2] Untraced. BACK

[3] John Dolignon (dates unknown) was the son of Elizabeth Dolignon, who acted as a guardian for Southey while he was a pupil at Westminster School. BACK

[4] Perhaps Rev. George Townsend (1788–1857), poet, Bible scholar & religious controversialist. BACK

[5] Richard Cumberland (1732–1811; DNB), playwright and novelist who edited a short-lived critical journal called The London Review (1809) that was intended to be a rival to the Quarterly Review. BACK

[6] At the Convention of Cintra (signed 30 August 1808), British generals allowed a defeated French army to evacuate Portugal. On 27 December 1808 and 13 January 1809 Wordsworth published, in The Courier, an article condemning the Convention. In May 1809 Longmans published the article as a pamphlet: Concerning the Relations of Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal, to Each Other, and to the Common Enemy, at this Crisis; and Specifically as Affected by the Convention of Cintra. BACK

[7] Edmund Burke (1729/30–1797; DNB), politician, orator and author who was renowned for his eloquence. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Bull and Mouth (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)