Part Four, covering the period 1810-1815, was a crucial one for Southey’s career and reputation. It has, however, never before been fully documented or fully understood. By 1810 he was established in Keswick...
324. Robert Bloomfeld to Hannah Bloomfield, 2 April 1818*
Dagget's Court, Apr 2. 1818
My Dear Hannah
I shall write you a Diary, and begin with
Started from Shefford ill, and without food—Dined or breakfasted, at Wellwyn, got to town rather better, sleept with little Jack who had the tooth ache all night, had only 2 hours sleep.
Got up as ill as the day before, could not eat, nor was I able to go to Putney or any where else.
Not able to go before eleven oclock to Putney by the stage. Got there just as Charles returnd from his first morning's trial. Dined, and went with him to the school at one and staid till 5. Charles exerted himself much more than I could have believed had I not witnessed it. He was totally unprovided with slates, and with half his quantity of Books. He had to meet 60 Boys without knowing a single face amongst them, 30 of these composed the late town Charity-school, and 5 or 6 from the workhouse, and these 36 were by far the most abandon'd and audacious rascals I ever beheld in my life. Not one of them had the least knowledge of the system, nor did they want. It was utterly impossible to keep them in squares or order, so they made game of the plan, and almost defied the master. I assisted him when they had made me angry enough, by pushing half a dozen at a time into square and some degree of subjection, this, with Charles's arm with a good stick at the end of it, at last brought them to a little silence. I also stood guard over the nessisary door; and the front door at the time of dismissal, compelling them to retreat in order and by name. Charles the schoolmaster is not anything like Charles any where else, he is quite another creature, as I always told you. He read prayers with a voice and manner that would have done honour to a parson, and made them sing the last verse of the 100th psalm. We returnd home to his lodgings both out of heart at seeing what scoundrels he had to govern, and the task he had undertaken. He however consented that I should return to town to see Miss Ansted, and write my opinion of the case to Mr Sandilands. Charles lookd completely pale and faggd, and dreaded the next day intirely by himself.
Caled on Miss Ansted to report progress, and wrote to Mr Sandilands, that for so young a lad to tame 60 of the worst boys I had ever seen was not to be expected without an immediate assistant to help him the organization and to get some of them in training &c &c—
Went to Putney again; found Mr S had attended to my representations, and promised an assistant & Charles had gone through his Tuesday's work better than he expected, but the boys were still very unruly, and yielded to nothing but wooden arguments: but it fell out luckily for him that Mr Sandilands was in the girls school and heard the young hellhounds roaring and swearing in Charles's department! He came round to know if it was possible that the noise he had heard could come from the boys? 'Oh yes indeed Sir, I could govern the younger part of them who are much the best, but the Charity schoolboys are abominable, particularly these five.' Mr S. collard the chickens one after another, and threshd them severely with his stick. So your Brother has a parson for his whipper-in! On the day when I arrived [word cut off] had dismissed his Lions, and being half holiday we had a walk, and much conversation; he seemd quite cheerfull, and lookd well, and much more determined from the opposition he had met with. He had begun to train 4 pickd boys for teachers who promised well, and evinced a wish to learn, particularly one little fellow of the name of Bussell—promised to go to him again on Saturday—walkd al the way home, after walking from Hyde Park in the morning.
Confoundedly weary, but in good health, having no stomach complaint, writing this scribble all the afternoon, and intend to see Charlotte tomorrow who does not yet know that I am in town! For I was determined to do one thing at a time. Diary to be continued—Thursday night Apr 2d—
Mr S. askd Charles if he did not want a cane? Ch. yes Sir I do sadly. S. Well Ill take care you shall have one.—The inclosed letter would have been posted if I had not been here. Miss Ansted laughs at Mrs Napier's proposal and says that in these things ladies are as mean as dirt, much more than they would with menial servants. She gives her own servant 10 guineas. And little Mary Hawyes at the age of 19 is out at service at 6 pounds. Aunt George has had a narrow escape for her life, being blown into a ditch on Farnham heath on the 4th of March during the storm, when she stood to her knees in water from eight in the evening till eight in the morning, when she was relieved by some man who pulled her out and gave her some Brandy.