649. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 9 January 1802

649. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 9 January 1802 ⁠* 

Saturday. Jany 9. 1802.

My dear Danvers –

I should not so immediately have answered your letter but for what you have heard of Coleridges seperation. [1]  On this subject I have been silent even towards you, nor did Edith ever mention it to her sister Lovell – till he had made it the talk of all his acquaintance.

Something I saw myself. Edith saw a great deal. in no one instance was Mrs Coleridge ever to blame. sometimes he has succeeded in provoking her by saying how Dorothy Wordsworth & Mary Hutchinson would have acted towards him – by eternally & falsely praising them. & he has repeatedly before me failed. I never saw two tempers so altered.

He complains that she irritates him & makes him so ill that he can do nothing. this is a wretched excuse for idleness. ill he assuredly is & that illness has perhaps so changed his temper. he is in debt to the booksellers – to Johnson. [2]  to Longman – this preys upon him – he has not resolution enough to clear it off by exertion – letters come to him which he often will not open – still they vex him – & he can vent the vexation only upon his wife. Edith has heard him talk to her seriously of seperating – Mrs Coleridge never knows whether he means it or not – . she now knows not that his conversation with Davy, Tobin &c is about his wifes ill temper – in order that it may reach Wedgwood [3]  thro those channels. the worst trait is he has charged her with extravagance in keeping two servants. she did keep two servants for three months – that is from the time that Derwent grew so heavy that she could not nurse him all day, till he was able to crawl about. & during that time Coleridge himself was half his time in bed & had always a room & fire to himself – & you know that in health he takes up the time of a servant in waiting upon him.

I shall write to him to say that as for seperating that will be a good thing certainly for both. but that he is very foolish & very criminal in making his domestic disputes the talk of all his acquaintance – men whose system it is to xxx disallow all matrimonial connections. On this subject if he will make it so publick I cannot be silent, because I know from what I have seen & heard that the fault is his. she did told him once in Ediths hearing that he had been a bad son, a bad brother, a bad friend, & a bad husband. it stung him – because it was true.

In the first years of their marriage she often put him out of temper by urging him to write. this was natural enough but very unwise, & she at last left it off as useless & only productive of dissention. the fact is no wife could suit Coleridge – he is of all human beings the most undomesticated.


Do you write to my Uncle. it will be better than my writing as you can state more clearly the situation of his things. this has been a very troublesome business to you & I am heartily sorry for it.

My poor Mother was buried yesterday. Carlisle accompanied me to the funeral. Edith continues very poorly [4]  – I am well – & employ myself.

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey –

Do not let me be so long again without hearing of you. – our love to Mrs Danvers – God bless her! – except Edith there is no woman left whom I love so well or should most miss so much.


* Address: Mr Danvers/ Kingsdown/ Bristol./ Single
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: [partial] 9
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Lynda Pratt, ‘“Of All Men the Most Undomesticated”: Coleridge’s Marriage in 1802: An Unpublished Letter by Robert Southey’, Notes and Queries, n.s. 49 (March 2002), 16-17. BACK

[1] Coleridge had arrived in London on 15 November 1801, leaving his family in Keswick. He returned home in March 1802. BACK

[2] Joseph Johnson (1738–1809; DNB). BACK

[3] Thomas Wedgwood and his brother Josiah (1769-1843) had paid Coleridge an annuity of £150 since 1798. BACK

[4] Edith’s ill-health was possibly caused by pregnancy. Her first child was born on 31 August 1802. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)