830. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [25 August 1803]

830. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [25 August 1803] ⁠* 

I wrote to you yesterday in haste & since that, Edith has been seized with what would have been fever if it had not been stopt in time. Of course it delays our departure, but I trust not later than Monday. Thoroughly comfortless as this house is become I know not whether this illness should altogether be considered as a misfortune – bodily suffering in some degree acts as an antidote against worse feelings. in all probability she has brought it on herself by refusing to take food for almost three days – now she takes medicines more patiently than she ever did (you know her mulishness of old) – in the hope of getting well & departing.

I too am suffering for want of uniform self command. my eyes which God created for the purpose of reading & writing I used as water works with a womanly profusion by fits, the one presently became sore – & warm salt water proved a most vile collyrium. let what will happen, grief must find some other vent in me. You see the original sin begins to appear again in me. in truth I can be chearful & joyous even now, & shall soon be contented – but to be as happy as I was four weeks agone – so calmly & completely happy, & so awake to that happiness as to break out into fits of boyish sportiveness as I then did – O Christ it must be a long time before that blessed state be restored to me. the pain of amputation is over – but God knows how I miss the limb! & I could & would go on but these damned hydraulics begin to work, & if I cry I must actually roar. I never before understood the force of Quarles’s quaint phrase to be pickled in the brine of one’s own tears. [1] 

The post before our departure I will send off a letter annunciatory. I purpose staying in Cumberland some time if my health stands the climate. perhaps till I go to dear dear Portugal. if things go on smoothly I shall be able to keep a jack ass there – & you shall come up & ride him before the winter be over.

God bless you.




* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Congreve/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire
Postmark: [partial] BRISTOL AUG 5 803.
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text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick Jnr, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 62-63
Dating note: Dated from internal evidence, written the day after Southey’s letter to Barker, [24 August 1803]. BACK

[1] Francis Quarles (1592-1644; DNB), Emblemes, Divine and Moral (1635), Book 2, Emblem 4, lines 52–53, ‘Now, Stoic, cease thy laughter, and repast/Thy pickled cheeks with tears, and weep as fast.’ The book is no. 2311 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

People mentioned

Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)