936. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 7 May 1804

936. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 7 May 1804 ⁠* 

You will have discovered ere this, Miss Mooncalf, that the theory of the tides has nothing to do with lying-in. If your moon-gazing prediction had been true it would have been exceedingly inconvenient to us – it is bad enough to leave Keswick now when Spring has just put on his seven leagued boots & set out upon a race as if he meant to overtake summer. I move tomorrow – but only thirteen miles – to sleep at Grasmere. the next day foot it sixteen to Kendal in time to step into a long coach which will convey me that night to Lancaster & the next to Liverpool. there I purchase & send off a stock of writing paper, & there I mean to see the Kosters so that possibly I may remain there the whole of Thursday, & not make my entry into London before Sunday night, or Monday morning. it is a tremendous journey! look at your map & see what a figure it makes there!

I will be (God willing & if all go on well) with you at Congreve about the 4th of June. you must tell me what coach will convey me from London to the nearest town that is the most convenient, for as I shall be on my return encumbered with nothing but a knapsack a twenty miles walk will go for nothing in the account. direct to me with John Rickman Esqr New Palace Yard, Westminster, & lay on me what commissions you want; – & if I can do anything for your friend Mrs Lewis [1]  you may command me.

You may do what you please here & dress as you please in boots & buckskin if you think proper. Where you will go to draw, nobody will see you & you may ‘prink & prank & put on your ‘power’ & your tussocks’ for our visitors if you chuse to defy the ghost of old Bishop Latimer. [2]  – There is no camera here. [3]  I would have you send off your trunk by waggon some fortnight before you stir yourself – & take only what is immediately necessary for your road-accommodation with you. which – you being a woman – will be more than a reasonable mans wardrobe for a journey to Jerusalem.

And moreover I have a commission for you. in this land there is no eatable bacon – & Edith is a great eater of green peas – & I am longing for veal pye. so if you will send off per waggon a stock of gammons (for lean bacon is what the pies require you know) we shall be very glad. 30 or 40 shillings worth will not be too much. And then Senhora you & I will eat garlic, & I will be sure & lay in Jackass-sausages in London for a bonne-bouche. [4]  for between you & I, there is no feasting for anything but the eyes in this country – there being a cruel scarcity of fruits & flowers, not a sweet violet in Cumberland – not a cowslip near Keswick.

All well – both Edith & the Edithling. the elder sends her love

God bless you.


May 7. 1804. 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. 113–115.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 276–277. BACK

[1] Possibly the wife of A.F. Lewis (dates unknown), a doctor who is listed among the subscribers to Mary Barker’s novel, A Welsh Story (1798). BACK

[2] Southey quotes Hugh Latimer’s (1487–1555; DNB) last sermon preached before Edward VI (1537–1553; King of England and Ireland, 1547–1553; DNB) in which he fulminated against extravagant feminine dress and exclaimed, ‘there should not any such tussocks nor tufts be seen as there be!’ The Sermons of the Right Reverend Father in God, Master Hugh Latimer, ... Many of Which Were Preached Before King Edward VI, 2 vols (London, 1758), II, pp. 281–282. BACK

[3] Camera obscura, used by artists to establish perspective. BACK

[4] A tasty titbit. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 3 times)
Grasmere (Dove Cottage) (mentioned 1 time)
Congreve, Staffordshire (mentioned 1 time)