352. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 14[-15] October 1798

352. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 14[–15] October 1798 ⁠* 

Sunday night. Oct. 14. 98.

Bwlch. Brecknockshire.

Without a map my dear Edith will know nothing of the place I date from, & if she have a map to refer to, very probably she may miss the name. we are however near Lanthony, if not the most important certainly the most agreable object of our journey. by Danvers’s letter this day put in the post office at Brecon, you will have learnt how we travelled up a most delightful glen to the mountain top, & how after hobbling over turnpike roads, which would have overturned any broad wheeld waggon, we reached Merthyr Tidvil, & Maber. him I found the same as ever, civil, formal, & tiresome; however the conversation about Edward was happily introduced & that matter is well settled. this has reconciled me to my journey – for otherwise Edith I should have half repented it. I often wish myself at home. all these mountain beauties are pleasant enough to see, but they will be pleasanter to recollect.

What have we seen? woods – mountains, & mountain glens & streams. in those woods are comprehended all imaginable beauty. sometimes we have been winding up the dingle side, & every minute catching the stream below thro the wood that half hid it, always hearing its roar. then over mountains where nothing was to be seen but hill & sky, their sides rent by the winter streams. sometimes a little tract of cultivation appeared up some coomb. places so lovely, so beautiful, – they lookd as tho no taxgatherer ever visited them. I have longed to dwell in one of these solitary houses in a mountain vale, sheltered by the hills, & the trees that grow finely round the house, the vale rich by the soil swept down from the hills a stream before the door, rolling over large stones, pure water, so musical too – & a child might cross it. yet at wet seasons it must thunder down, a torrent. in such scenes there is a simpleness of sublimity fit to feed imagination.

We left Merthyr this morning after a great breakfast. Maber asked us to sleep but without meaning us to accept his invitation I believe. his wife is a good natured woman – we drank tea & suppd there on Friday, & dined & spent the evening on Saturday. the morning wxx was better past at the inn, whence Danvers wrote to his mother, & I finished a letter to Stuart. at two we reached Brecon, a distance of 18 miles. a little but clean ale house afforded us eig eight pennyworth of bread cheese & ale. & we departed for Crickhowel, a stage of 13 more. a woman whom we met & of whom we asked the distance, measured it by the ‘great inn’ at Bwlch on the way, & we determined to halt there. before we got there heavy rain overtook us, & we were x wet the lower half when we reachd the ‘great inn at Bwlch’ which is not quite so good as the memorable ale alehouse at Tintern. however we have seen good beds here, the cream was good, & the tea excellent thanks to Mabers peach leaves which we put in requisition.

So we have eat, drank, dried ourselves & grown comfortable. also we have had the pleasure of the Landlords company, who being somewhat communicative & somewhat tipsy, gave us the history of himself & family & of his own & his daughters complaints. hers was xx is a sore leg. his is not.

We reach Crickhowel to breakfast tomorrow. Lanthony is not far from thence, but whether we reach Hereford that night, or the next day to dinner is uncertain. hitherto, except the trifling inconvenience of this evenings rain our whole journey has been fortunate & pleasant. the waterfalls indeed were deficient in the slight article of ––––– water. all else has equalled our expectations.

I much like the appearance of the Welsh women. they have all a [MS torn]ter in their countenances, an intelligence which is very pleasant [MS torn] round shrewd national physiognomy is certainly better than that of the English peasantry & we have uniformly met with civility. there is none of the insolence & brutality which characterises our colliers & milkwomen.

At Merthyr we witnessed the very interesting custom of strewing the graves. they are fenced round with little white stones, & the earth, in the coffin shape, planted with herbs & flowers, & strewn with flowers. two women were thus decorating a grave, the one a middle aged women, & much affected. this affected me a good deal. the custom is so congenial to ones heart – it prolongs the memory of the dead, & links the affections to them.

Danvers will write from Hereford. I must think of Stuart, & now resume Madoc. [1]  God bless you my own dear Edith.

Robert Southey.

Monday morning.

Last night was not so comfortable as last evening. our sheets were beastly dirty & we could procure no clean ones. dirty sheets are not an endurable evil, so we pulled them out & lay in our cloaths between the blankets. I did not easily get to sleep from the idea of nastiness, & the howling of the wind. however this morning I woke refreshed & rejoiced at daylight. we are now at Crickhowel where we have breakfasted. Lanthony is twelve miles from hence. eight miles from Lanthony is Lanvihangle, whe[MS obscured] hope to find beds, & if so, the 19 miles to Hereford will be easy wo[MS obscured] tomorrow. this part of Brecknockshire is most beautiful. the Usk rolling [MS obscured] a rich & cultivated vale, & mountains rising on every side. we feel as if [MS obscured] & I get more comfortable every day now our faces are turned homewards.

God bless you my dear Edith. shall I not find a letter at Hereford. the clouds fell all last night, & the weather now looks well. but these [MS obscured] alas how slippery! farewell – & now for the Black Mountain & St David. [2] 


* Address: To/ Mrs Robert Southey/ at Mr Cottles/ Wine Street/ Bristol./ Single
Postmark: [obscured]
Watermarks: LLOYD 1795; Britannia in a circle
MS: Bodleian Library, Oxford, Autogr. b. 10. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 348–350 [in part]. BACK

[1] Between 1797–1799 Southey wrote a fifteen-book version of his Welsh-American epic Madoc. BACK

[2] St David (c. 6th century), patron saint of Wales and alleged to have lived in retreat in old age near Lanthony; see Southey’s ‘Inscription for a Monument in the Vale of Ewias’, Morning Post, 21 December 1798. BACK

People mentioned

Danvers, Charles (c. 1764–1814) (mentioned 3 times)
Maber, George Martin (d. 1844) (mentioned 3 times)
Stuart, Daniel (1766–1846) (mentioned 2 times)
Southey, Edward (1788–1847) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Merthyr Tidvil [Merthyr Tyfil] (mentioned 3 times)
Crickhowel (mentioned 3 times)