409. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 15 May 1799

409. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 15 May 1799 ⁠* 

Wednesday night. May 15. 99. Brixton.

Edith I begin to be uneasy at not hearing from you. you know I always scold when you hurt yourself, & now I am angry because I am anxious. you have often told me Edith, that when I am away from you, you fancy all possible accidents & alarm yourself; dear dear Edith if I could but look at you now you should not <think> I felt the least harshness – but indeed disappointment makes me uneasy. perhaps tomorrow will bring me a letter.

You know Carlisle is coming to Bristol. now our arrangements are thus. he will be fishing at Hungerford, for you know he likes to be at one end of the stick & string with a maggot at the other. I shall come down by the day coach, pick him up there, & be with him at Westbury on Monday night 27th of this month. I do not suppose he will stay more than three days & will not perhaps sleep at Westbury all the time. the inconveniences of this are – coming home so late, & bringing him with me when I had rather be alone, but then I shall be home on Monday night instead of Tuesday noon. tell Burnett Carlisle is coming down. while Carlisle is with me he can bed at his sisters I suppose – or perhaps Danvers can lodge him. he will be glad to see Carlisle, & may talk to him with advantage of his physical views. Edith I count the days like a school-boy. it is Monday week – & now the uncomfortable thought comes across me that you have been so long silent – that perhaps you are ill – or have met with some accident. write – if but a line that I may think of you with pleasure, for think of you I must.

I called on Hamilton [1]  yesterday. there had been an oversight about the 20 £ for which I drew on him. he was not at home when it was presented for payment, & it was sent back to Bristol. Cottle had it immediately returned to town, wrote to me, & Hamilton promised it should be taken up immediately. it seems he has now the whole review, having seperated from his brother. I dine there on Tuesday to meet Carlisle & Friend. I called on Mary Hays. she appeared glad to see me, & the conversation of course turned upon Lloyd. she told me Lloyd had behaved very ill to her. The circumstances were these. One evening when her spirits were very much oppressed by some grief, she went on a visit somewhere with Lloyd & Stephen Weever Browne: [2]  a man whom you know talks most mightily. from the effort which persons often make when they are depressed, she had talked with a degree of gaiety, so as to exhaust herself. they went home with her, Stephen Brownes talking fatigued her still more, he left her first - & when she came into her lodgings & sat down she burst into tears. Lloyd was full of expressions <of friendship –> – had she anything on her mind? &c. &c. & the following day wrote her a letter full of professions & sentiment & feelings. But Lloyd tells this story in company with these alterations – that Mary Hays was in love with him – that she contrived to send away St. Browne that she might be left alone with Lloyd, & burst into tears because Lloyd would not understand her. this was repeated to her, & she wrote to Lloyd, rather rallying him for his ridiculous vanity than reproaching him, because it was so contemptible & because she did not fully understand the whole abuse till his reply. he answered by confessing that he had traduced her character – & apologizing most humbly for it, alledging that her principles were so very bad that he had suspected her conduct – yet saying that no one who knew her could doubt her excellence unless he were a fool or a villain. of course she thinks him either the one or the other, nor was it possible for me to justify him – as he evidently has said that she would have prostituted herself to him if he had pleased – & now comes out with a canting repentance. it has sadly sunk him in my opinion. She told me these circumstances because she thought I might hear something of them from him. she spoke with temper & great good sense. you know I like Mary Hays. About his marriage she blamed him for telling every body that he had no affection for Sophia. [3]  Edith those persons who talk most about their feelings do not feel the most.

I shall only tell Lloyd that I have seen Mary Hays & heard that they have disagreed. it is not my wish to enter upon the subject. the intercourse between us, he will probably drop if he takes orders – & I xxxxxx xxxxxx that suspect that will be the end – in that case my consistency will estrange him, & his inconsistency, to use a gentle word, must preclude all esteem on my part.

On Saturday I am going with Mary Hays to see Barrys Pictures [4]  – which Taylor the Pagan [5]  is to show us. my life I understand is likely to be stuck into Phillips’s dirty book of Public Characters. [6]  for this there is no help – he is a money making fellow who cares nothing for any bodys feelings so he can make money <fill his pocket>. however as this must be one must make the best of it, & as there is something to be got by me it had better be got by a friend, so the job will be Amos Cottle’s, & then there will be no lies, & I can object to any thing objectionable.

Perhaps you will be amused to hear that there is a man in Bond Street [7]  who teaches gentlemen for half a guinea to tie their neckcloths! [8] 

If I do not get a letter tomorrow Edith – but my dear dear Edith write to me when you receive this & tell me if you will be at home on the Monday? I shall get over the down by ten o clock I suppose. it is almost supper time – the pleasantest part of the day because the day is nearly over. God bless you. yr Robert Southey.

Remember me to your sister. I think of Moses, & shall probably remember him when he has forgotten me. perhaps one of these days. God bless you Edith – if I was not as happy at home as any man can hope to be, I should not <look> forward with such eagerness to my return.

Mrs Opie & Mary Hays inquired for you.


* Address: To/ Mrs Southey/ with Mrs Coleridge/ Stowey/ near Bridgewater,/ Somersetshire/ Single
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 186–189. BACK

[1] The Critical Review, for which Southey was working, was owned 1793–1804 by the brothers Archibald (fl. 1790s) and Samuel (fl. 1790s-1810s) Hamilton. BACK

[2] Stephen Weaver Browne (1769-1832). Southey had met Browne in Norwich in 1798 (William Taylor to Robert Southey, 23 December 1798, J.W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, p. 236). He was a Norwich clergyman who later became a Unitarian minister and published The Duties of a Christian Minister (1819). BACK

[3] Charles Lloyd had married Sophia Pemberton on 24 April 1799. BACK

[4] The history painter James Barry (1741–1806; DNB), who had been deprived of his Professorship of Painting and expelled from the Royal Academy in April 1799, shortly after the publication of his controversial A Letter to the Dilettanti Society (1799). Southey possibly went with Hays to see Barry’s contributions to the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall Mall, London, widely advertised in the London press. BACK

[5] The philosopher and translator Thomas Taylor (1758–1835; DNB). BACK

[6] Richard Phillips (1767–1840; DNB), publisher of Public Characters of 1799–1800 (London, 1800), pp. 224–230. BACK

[7] A fashionable and expensive area of London, frequented by the wealthy, the aristocratic and their hangers-on. BACK

[8] Unidentified; possibly someone influenced by – and cashing in on – the dandyism espoused by George ‘Beau’ Brummell (1778–1840; DNB) and his followers. BACK

People mentioned

Lloyd, Charles (1775–1839) (mentioned 9 times)
Hays, Mary (1759–1843) (mentioned 7 times)
Carlisle, Anthony (1768–1840) (mentioned 5 times)
Cottle, Joseph (1770–1853) (mentioned 1 time)
Opie, Amelia (1769–1853) (mentioned 1 time)
Pemberton, Sophia (d. 1830) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Westbury (mentioned 2 times)