930. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [1] May 1804

930. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [1] May 1804 ⁠* 

May day. Keswick. 1804

I had a daughter – Edith hatchd last night – for she came into the world with not much more preparation than a chicken & no more beauty than a young dodo. Edith went to sleep at four after dinner. rose uneasy at half after five. retired to her room at half after eight, & before ten she & her child were two. They are doing well thank God. but the young one is very very ugly. so ugly that if I did not remember tales of my own deformity, how both mother & grandmother cried out against me – notwithstanding my present pulchritude, – I should verily think the Edithling would look better in a bottle than on a white sheet. She may mend & in about three months I may begin to like her. & by & by I suppose shall love her – but it shall be with a reasonable love that will hang loosely upon me – like all second loves. [1]  Make you no comment upon this.

As soon as Rickman answers my letter of to day [2]  I move for London, & will of course apprise you of all my movements. Your pencils I will buy if you repeat the order after hearing that this place is famous for pencils – the lead mine being in the neighbourhood. [3]  – & that certain chalk pencils once your own are here & may be your own again.

I never heard of Price’s book concerning Spain nor knew that he had written upon any subject connected with it. I will make enquiry in town, & then answer Sir Edwards question concerning the plagiarism. [4] 

As I am writing circulars – excuse me

God bless you.



* 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text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 110–111.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 275–276. BACK

[1] Southey’s first child, Margaret Edith Southey, had died in August 1803. BACK

[2] For this; see Southey to John Rickman, [1] May 1804, Letter 933. BACK

[3] A lead mine at Seathwaite in Borrowdale produced from 1555 a solid form of graphite used for the manufacture of pencils; these were especially valued by artists. BACK

[4] The book Southey refers to is by Udal ap Rhys [Uvedale Tomkyns Price] (1685–1764), An Account of the Most Remarkable Places and Curiosities in Spain and Portugal (1749). Price is an anglicised form of ap Rhys which led Southey to mistake the author and look for a work on Spain by his contemporary Uvedale Price (1747–1829; DNB), author of an Essay on the Picturesque (1796), rather than one by Price’s grandfather Udal ap Rhys. Thus, writing to Barker on 10 December 1804 (Letter 1000), Southey again declared his ignorance of the book. According to Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, (‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 144–147), Sir Edward Littleton then wrote on the blank third page of Southey’s letter, confusingly: ‘Uvedale Price Esq. of Foxly wrote an account of Spain said to be a Plagiarism from some Spanish writer; a Pamphlet in ridicule of Whister; Fine Lady’s Catechism Conversation between 2 Lap Dogs, Scipio & Braganza’. Because Littleton still failed to distinguish between grandfather and grandson, Southey continued to mistake the author in his letter to Barker of 10 December 1804 (Letter 1000). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)