950. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 8 June 1804

950. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 8 June 1804 ⁠* 

I arrived safely. how many years purgatory you are to undergo for the disappointment you occassioned must be left to some merciful Catholic Casuist to determine. [1]  the Evangelicals would not let you off for any thing short of half eternity – & were the punishment at my discretion or Ediths – or Mrs Lovells – you would certainly be sentenced to vigorous carts-tailing [2]  perhaps to travel in that fashion to Keswick instead of by the stage coach.

You left me to make your excuses – which I assure you turned out a very botched & boggling piece of business.

How I got home is a narrative which may be useful to you as example – if you can stand the fatigue. before 12 the mail reached Manchester, & I set off at half after two in another mail – from the same inn, which in twelve hours carried me to Kendal. from thence in chases I reached home before nine on this Tuesday evening.

I have no leisure to write more now. all are well – the Edithling healthy & promising to be like me – the extract from Mrs Cockburne [3]  you will bring with you as there is no hurry, & therefore postage may be spared – if you chuse to make such an abstract of her life & merits as will fill a common novel page & half, in terms pert & pertinent, so much the better

Remember me to your sisters & to Frederick. [4]  I wish him success in fishing for the wife of the great Jack – who must I presume be called the Great Gill. [5]  You may then make a song how Jack & Gil Went to the Mill.



Friday June 8. 1804.

Mary Jellicorra [6]  was certainly predestined for Hartley.


* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Congreve/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire
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text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 119–120.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had visited Barker at her home in Staffordshire, but she had failed to carry out her plan of travelling on with him to Keswick. BACK

[2] An archaic punishment: women convicted of immorality could be sentenced to be whipped while walking at the rear of a cart. BACK

[3] Extracts from the poetry of Catherine Cockburne (1679–1749) appear in Southey’s Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), II, pp. 119–123. BACK

[4] Barker’s brother. BACK

[5] The ‘great Jack’ was a pike. Frederick had clearly caught a pike, and now intended to catch its mate. BACK

[6] A young relative of Miss Barker. Mary Barker’s paternal grandmother was named Mary Jellicoe Barker. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)