680. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [started before and continued on] 28 May 1802

680. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [started before and continued on] 28 May 1802 ⁠* 

SenHORa BARKeriANA – it is but an awkward way of expressing the tune of those words – & yet it will do – the great letters forté – & the little ones andanté or allegro – the whole base – but the tenor of the whole to stand instead of a formality & remind you of the risings & fallings – the sinkings & swellings – the hills & dales – the mountains & glens, the lights & shades – the storm-waves, & the calm ripplings of my voice most musical, which is a great voice & loud, but now lyeth at rest. howbeit having found my way out of this parenthesis – tho by the by there must come in something about the apple which is a large apple – & therefore having of course a large core must fit the voice-organ for a corus – being I say fairly arrived half way down the first page of my paper & at the beginning of my letter – preliminaries you know take up a large portion of a statesmans time – & Secretaries learn something. – to proceed to the matter desired – here we are

Kingsdown. Bristol : Friday May 28. 1802

safely arrived after a warm journey of twenty four hours, which cost almost a shilling an hour, the fare being one pound three, & of course would have been as cheap again if the coach had been eight & forty hours upon the road, which would have made it a great bargain. Swineabell bore the journey well, better I think than Mrs Lovell. Bella [1]  was sick I am sorry to tell, we had two other decent peopell, poor I was sleepy, & to Bristol at last we all of us got filthy & tired & plaguely hot.

Some six months ago a Lady called & expressed prodigious delight at seeing Mrs. Danvers working the carpet, upon which the desk was to stand, whereon so many beautiful poems were to be written. & cannot you guess who this Lady of prophetic complaisance was? why who should it be but Miss Bunjy or Bungy or Benjy or Bengy, [2]  who doubtless remembers the game at Pope Joan, [3]  & views me now in her imagination “shorn of my beams.” [4] 

There was joy in store for me at Bristol − my dear & noble books − such folios of Saints! dull books enough for my patience to diet upon till all my flock be gathered together into one fold. but Where & When? of course I know as little as when we parted – or rather did not part − for that cursed Good bye − is a world I never pronounce if it mean more than a fortnights seperation. however I do see for about four months forward, & Edith is now looking out for a small − ready furnished house − lodgings would not now so well suit us − & do you Senhora instruct yourself in the Creed, the Lords Prayer & the Ten Commandments in the Vulgar tongue to qualify yourself for the office [5]  designed you by my Threetailship. [6] 

When I tell you that sixteen volumes of Spanish poetry are lying uncut in the room − & a large folio long in requisition & yet untasted lying at − yea actually jogging my elbow − you will allow that I sacrifice something in bescrawling this paper at this time. So fail not you to certify us of your safe arrival and well being in Staffordshire. There is a strangeness in the great quiet of this place − still more in missing at once a whole army of acquaintance, & those such remarkables as were used to frequent our rooms. But I shall do wonders − & if by the end of the year there be not much history [7]  done, & much Madoc, [8]  & Amadis [9]  in a parenthesis, & half a poem as good as [Kehema] [10]  Thalaba, [11]  why woe be to the little moveables on each side my head.

I am persuaded here by Danvers to settle near London − tho to be near him is the only reason that tempts me to settle here. however here we must tarry for a season − & if during that time any very desirable house were vacant − I feel a somewhat towards the country where I grew up − that would perhaps bird-lime me. We have some lovely scenes near, − within an easy walk − I should be content to live in the Strand if I could drop down these rocks & woods & river just upon St Gile’s or St James’s − (giving you know the inhabitants of the said parish warning to remove −) but that not being the case − you know what Mahommed did when the mountain [12]  would not come to him. − exactly what I must do just now with respect to the Post Office − So remember you all the remembrances that I always chuse to forget in my Epistolizations and know me

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Congreve/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire
Postmark: Bristol May 29. xx02
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick Jnr, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 24-27
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 193–195 [dated 9-28 May 1802]. BACK

[1] The Southeys’ servant, she died in 1804. BACK

[2] The dramatist and novelist Elizabeth Benger (c. 1775-1827; DNB). BACK

[3] A board game played with cards and counters. BACK

[4] John Milton (1608-1674; DNB), Paradise Lost (1667), Book 1, lines 594–596. BACK

[5] Mary Barker was to be the godmother of the baby the Southeys were expecting. One of the duties of godparents was to ensure that their godchildren knew the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. BACK

[6] In the Ottoman empire, bashaws signified their status by the number of horse tails on their standards; three tails indicated high rank. See Peter Pindar [John Wolcot (c. 1738-1819; DNB)], Tales of the Hoy (London, 1798), p. 58. BACK

[7] Southey’s projected ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[8] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[9] Southey’s translation, Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[10] The Curse of Kehama (1810). As yet, Southey had only drafted Book 1 of the poem. BACK

[11] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[12] A phrase first used by Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans (1561-1626; DNB), in ‘On Boldness’, Essays (1625). Southey noted the idea in Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 20 and planned to use it in the epic on Muhammad (570-632), Prophet of Islam, that he planned to write with Coleridge. BACK

People mentioned

Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 2 times)
Fricker, Mary (1771–1862) (mentioned 1 time)
Danvers, Mrs. (d. 1803) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

35 Strand, London (mentioned 1 time)