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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1786. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 19 June 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Tuesday. June 19. 1810.

My dear Harry

From Alstone to Penrith is twenty miles, & the road is now so much improved that a chaise can travel it. The distances on the other side of Alstone I do not know; but I believe that from thence to Durham is something more than forty miles. You may very well get here in the manner you propose.

Tom & his bride arrived about two hours before your letter, – he had however apprized me of his coming by a line from Penrith. The rain so long looked for is come at last & seems to be set in, – so as there is nothing to be done out of door I have invented a very ingenious amusement for Sarah within, by appointing her my amanuensis extraordinary, to make notes for Kehama. [1]  She will soon become right learned in the wisdom of the East, & tho I do not flatter myself so far as to suppose that she will ever be mistress of the whole thousand & eight names of Seeva, [2]  yet she is in a fair way of learn knowing great part of his history.

I am glad to hear you are on the way to Jerusalem, [3]  – come out of your room only at nine o clock instead of ten, – & give that hour to it, – & you will soon be surprized at your own progress. What you have done is so well, & the subject itself at once so interesting & important that I am very very anxious t you should proceed with it. The discovery of the Byzantine historians puts you in possession of the most important documents, & I have little doubt that many other works to your purpose will be found in those two libraries. You will beyond all doubt find much in De Guignes [4]  for your introduction & to weave into the main web, but there cannot possibly be any thing there essential to the narrative; – on the contrary they will what information pertinent information you {can} meet with will be of such a nature, that till the narrative has been written you would hardly know where to dispose of it, nor perhaps xxx discern its use. There are many books which I am obliged to read over again, having read them too soon.

My villainous summer cold has taken me by the nose & sadly discomposes both my pocket-handkerchiefs & my way of life. All other employments give way to those of sneezing & sniting, & I am fain to go to sleep in the middle of the day for the sake of shutting my eyes, which are else {too apt} to shed tears in pure sympathy with their old friend from the promontory. The fable of Niobe [5]  was but a type of me. I am however somewhat less annoyed to day than yesterday. My present work is arranging the Kehama notes, which I expect to send off on Thursday. Since my return I have done some little reviewing, & taken a good spell at the second volume of my history. [6] 

How is Mary? she seemed poorly when we left her, & Tom’s account does not imply that she was better at the time of what you call his execution. Return her two kisses which I have duly received from Moon, & Bertha Bruin, – relations to whom I hope to introduce you very speedily, – & Mary also in September. – I want some half-guinea subscriptions begged for a book, – more Remains [7]  & of a poor fellow not less interesting than Kirk White, – tho he has xx no chance for want of sufficient unction of becoming equally popular. However I shall write to Mary herself a history of him & his Remains, & why the half-guineas are wanted, & if she & my letter go begging together, I [MS missing] they will not often meet with a refusal.

I beg you will tell Mrs Reid [8]  that my daughter likes her better than any body else whom she saw at Durham. Remember us to all that family, & mi in specialiter [9]  xx to Mrs Croft. [10]  I take a liking to old Ladies sometimes, holding them like many other things to be either perfectly unendurable, or very good indeed. – Ax since our return I have ascertained both gravel & ascarides [11]  in Edith May – & I am afraid there is yet something else to be discovered, to account for her disturbed sleep & the sudden pains she felt feels about the urinary passages. When I have talked with Edmundson it is my intention to write about her to Carlisle & to King. I have given her soda as you advised.

Edith & Sarah both desire their love – God bless you



* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Durham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, 1996.5.76
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[2] Shiva, one of the principal deities in Hinduism. BACK

[3] Henry Herbert Southey was conducting research on the crusades. BACK

[4] Joseph de Guignes (1721–1800), Orientalist and Sinologist. His Histoire Generale des Huns, des Turcs, des Mongoles, et des autres Tartares Occidentaux (1756–1758), was no. 900 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] In Greek mythology Niobe wept ceaselessly after her boasting led to the death of her 14 children. BACK

[6] The second volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819), published in 1817. BACK

[7] Southey’s edition of the Remains of Henry Kirke White had appeared in 1807. He was now soliciting subscriptions for Poems and Letters of William Isaac Roberts (1811). BACK

[8] Unidentified; someone the Southeys had met at Durham. She was not related to Southey’s old friend Samuel Reid. BACK

[9] ‘Particularly’. BACK

[10] Unidentified. BACK

[11] Kidney stones and intestinal parasites. BACK

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August 2013