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

1890. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 28 March 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. March 28, 1811

My dear Sir,

The more necessary it becomes for Coleridge to exert himself in providing means for meeting the growing demands of his children, the more incapable, by some strange and fatal infirmity, does he become of exertion. Knowing his prodigious powers, and that there is no bodily disease which incapacitates him, so that the mere effort of his own will would at any moment render him all that his friends and family wish him to be, it is impossible not to feel a hope that that effort will one day be made; yet this is hoping for an intellectual and moral conversion, a new birth produced by an operation of grace, of which there is no example to encourage us to hope for it.

Wordsworth passed a few days with me lately. The enclosure of Skiddaw is likely to put him in possession of the eastern side of Applethwaite glen. [1]  We walked up it together in the character of surveyors, planning walks and plantations, and wishing it were but as easy to build houses as castle. You must come to Keswick this summer if you ever wish to see Skiddaw again in his majesty. The surface will soon be scored with enclosures, and stuck over with larches. I cannot however but approve of the enclosure, and my consolation is that if I live to go up the mountain twenty years hence, it will be a comfort to rest in the shade upon the way.

I expected to have been in London at this time, but business which admits of no delay has grown under my hands, and it will be impossible for me to leave this place before the first or second week in May, just when I should be wishing to come back to it. My headquarters will not be in town, as usual, but at Streatham, where my uncle has lately settled as rector. My goings on here are something like those of a horse in a mill for labour and regularity – I may add too, for quietness and content. I have made some little progress in a blank verse poem, of which Pelayo, the restorer of Spain, is the hero; [2]  and I am planning another, which you will think more original in conception when you hear that the scene lies in New England, that the subject is that war which ensured the superiority of the English settlers over the original inhabitants, and that the chief personage is a primitive Quaker. [3]  His abominable costume would be less manageable in your art than in mine.

That sweet island [4]  of Col. Peachy’s, I think, will be to be sold. If you should think of visiting us this summer it might not improbably be procured for the season. Mrs. Peachy was a great loss to us. I had a sincere regard for her, which struck the deeper root because I always looked upon her as one who bore about in her the seeds of a mortal malady. Having lost her, this lake will never again be to me what it has been, and yet I have felt more pain in beholding her in her most cheerful moments than when I heard the tidings of her death.

Mrs. S. and her sisters Sarah Coleridge and Mary Lovell. join me in respects to Lady Beaumont. – Believe me, Sir George, very truly and respectfully yours,

ROBERT SOUTHEY.


Notes

* MS: MS untraced; text taken from William Knight, Memorials of Coleorton, 2 vols (London, 1887)
Previously published: William Knight, Memorials of Coleorton, 2 vols (London, 1887), II, pp. 126–128. BACK

[1] Beaumont had given Wordsworth a plot of land at Applethwaite, a hamlet outside of Keswick, in 1803, so that he could be near Coleridge, then resident at Greta Hall. BACK

[2] An early version of what became Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). Pelayo [Pelagius] (d. 737; reigned 718–737) was the founder of the Kingdom of Asturias. He is credited with beginning the Christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsula. BACK

[3] Oliver Newman, left incomplete at Southey’s death and published posthumously. BACK

[4] Derwent Isle, in Derwentwater. BACK

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August 2013