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

1972. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 24 October 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Oct 24. 1811

My dear Danvers,

I hope I have heard of something which will take the Boy [1]  off your hands. It is the Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea, an establishment for 1000 boys, the children of soldiers, & about to be increased to 1500. [2]  They are educated upon Dr Bells plan, & at fourteen chuse for themselves their way of life, being apprenticed to what trade they like best, if they prefer trade to the army or navy. This is an institution in which no interest can be of any use, – you have only to cause application to be made at the proper office which may easily be found out, – if the child be admissable (which from all I can learn I suppose him to be) he will be admitted if there is a vacancy, – & if there be none will take his turn for one.

Our journey home was remarkably fortunate. We had neither rain nor accident nor hindrance of any kind either then, or indeed during our whole xxxxx journey, which considering that we travelled 800 miles & I 100 besides may be regarded as xxxx xx xxxx a rare instance of good fortune. We past two days with Landor, & slept in one of the towers of the ruin. The house which he is building is about a quarter of a mile, or rather more, from the Abbey, on the ascent of the hill, & on the bank of a dingle. [3]  It will be a very good sensible house but the situation from its utter seclusion has so many inconveniences necessarily attached to it, that I wish he had never begun xxx to build there.

We past a few days also very pleasantly at Ludlow, – which is so beautiful a town that I earnestly advise you to make it in your way when next you travel northwards. I forget whether you saw the Brownes at Keswick: – they are settled there. the Castle is one of the most impressive ruins I ever saw. We went also to Croft, [4]  – to me an interesting place because my mothers grandmother [5]  was born there – & to Downton [6]  a place of more celebrity, tho I think undeservedly so. Downton reminded me of finer things than itself in the country. From thence we made for Teddesley, where Sir Edward Littleton is literally kept alive by the incessant watchfulness of Miss Barker; – he is well enough to enjoy life, – but without the utmost care, so weak is he from age, he would drop like a leaf from a tree.

In our next visit we were less fortunate. Mrs Wynn having gone to pay a visit some eight miles from home, had miscarried there in consequence of the jolting on the way, & then she was confined while we were at Llangedwin. A friend of hers was sent for to receive Edith that there might be a female in the house. We were invited to take Sir Watkins in our way, but this I declined. On the road we halted at Llangollen & dined with the Ladies, [7]  – a visit which was not the least interesting event of our long journey.

Since my return I have been very much interrupted with visitors, to the grievous consumption of good time. Col. Peachy was here, & is daily expected here again from Scotland. That hideous house opposite us, is tenanted at present by the Bishop of Meath, – a sensible man, & with a pleasant household of females. [8]  Dr Bell is also now at Keswick. I have been fighting his battles in the Quarterly, & had not my work been mutilated even more unmercifully than usual, this affray would have been the severest blow that the Edinburgh Review ever received. [9]  for never have they committed more flagrant injustice nor more wilful & mischievous falshood, than upon this subject. I shall not however let the matter rest here. The Philistines are delivered into my hands, & I will [MS obscured] them just as much mercy as they deserve. I look upon Dr Bell as the man to whom, next to Clarkson, the human race is more deeply indebted than to any other of this generation, & never has any man been more infamously treated.

Nothing has been heard of Coleridge since our return. – When you write let me know the amount of my debt to you. Remember me to Rex – Hort [10]  & Dr Estlin. how is he? Xxxxx Joseph’s death [11]  must have been a shock to him, – which I fear his health is not in a state to support. Remember me also to David if he be not returned to the land where xxxx xxxx xx xxx xxx fiddle you can never be balked of a dance for want of a fiddle.

God bless you

Yrs affectionately RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: 1811/ 24 Oct
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Danvers’s nephew, John Danvers, son of his brother, John Danvers (d. 1812), a surgeon and apothecary in Woolwich, who had been made bankrupt in 1808. BACK

[2] The Royal Military Asylum had been founded in 1801 to educate the children of soliders in the regular army who had died in the service of their country. It was also known as The Duke of York’s School, after its patron. BACK

[3] Landor was attempting to improve his estate on the English–Welsh borders. It centred upon the ruins of the Augustinian priory of Llanthony. His new house was never completed. BACK

[4] Croft Castle, near Ludlow. BACK

[5] Margaret Croft (dates unknown). BACK

[6] Downton Castle, near Ludlow, the gothic revival house built in c. 1774–1778 by Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824; DNB). BACK

[8] Thomas Lewis O’Beirne (1747–1823; DNB), Bishop of Meath 1798–1823. The son of a County Longford farmer, he had been educated for the Catholic priesthood, but converted to Protestantism and became a Church of Ireland clergyman. He had been a well-known Whig, but by 1811 he was increasingly conservative and a defender of the Church of Ireland. His wife was Jane (née Stuart) (1755–1837) and he had two unmarried daughters, Jane Ormsby O’Beirne (1784–?) and Jean O’Beirne (d. 1838). BACK

[9] Southey advocated the educational system of Andrew Bell over that of Joseph Lancaster in his review of Joseph Fox (1775–1816; DNB), A Comparative View of the Plans of Education as detailed in the Publications of Dr. Bell and Mr. Lancaster, and Remarks on Dr. Bell’s Madras School, and Hints to the Managers and Committees of Charity and Sunday Schools, on the Practicability of extending such Institutions upon Mr. Lancaster’s Plan, 3rd edn (1811); Herbert Marsh (1757–1839; DNB), A Sermon, Preached in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, London, on Thursday, June 13, 1811. To which is Added, a Collection of Notes and Illustrations (1811); Reynold Gideon Bouyer (1741–1826; DNB), A Comparative View of the two New Systems of Education of the Infant Poor, in a Charge delivered to the Clergy of the Officialty of the Dean and Chapter of Durham, at Berwick-upon-Tweed, on Tuesday, May 12, 1811 (1811), in Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304. (This number of the Quarterly was published in October 1811.) The article was heavily censored by Gifford prior to publication and personal attacks on the Edinburgh Review were removed; see the account in Jonathan Cutmore, The Quarterly Review Archive. BACK

[10] William Jillard Hort (1764–1849), Unitarian minister at Frenchay Chapel in Bristol 1803–1815 and later in Cork. He taught in the school run by John Prior Estlin and was the addressee of Coleridge’s ‘To the Rev. W. J. H.’, Poems on Various Subjects (London and Bristol, 1796), pp. [12]–14. BACK

[11] Joseph Prior Estlin (1777–1811), eldest son of John Prior Estlin. BACK

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August 2013