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

2311. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 8 October 1813 ⁠* 

Streatham, Oct. 8th, 1813

Two sisters [1]  of Mrs Hill arrived here to dinner, — & they have all the Ionic pronunciation [2]  in such perfection, that by an easy process of thought I was led to think of the Senhora & the ‘ill at Keswick, & ome, & sundry other things sympathetic of the malady called ome sickness, whereof I ave a touch at the art just now. — There they are, talking away below stairs as appily as possible, & just as if there was no h in the alphabet, & here am I above stairs, by my own fire in the inner part of the drawing room (Edith will recollect the room) wishing myself three undred miles off. & feeling very much as I used to do at school when I was thinking of the olydays. The church clock has just struck seven. — Herbert has got his letter this evening, & is perhaps at this moment preaching it out with all gravity to Wilsey , who will be yet more delighted to listen than he is to read. In a few minutes I shall be summoned to tea. However I have begun a letter, meaning to scrawl thro it in the course of the evening, (for sufficient for the day hath been the labour thereof) [3]  & to take it with me to London tomorrow, in hope that I may find Pegasus at the Doctors & seal it therewith. [4] 

First then & foremost of the things which are to be said. I desire that I may have a letter sent off by Tuesday’s post & directed here that it may reach me on Friday. My present engagements stand thus, — tomorrow dine with Dr Stanger, [5]  Sunday at Holland House, Monday at Mrs. Gonnes where this family are going. Wednesday with John May at the Doctors, Thursday at Travers’s [6]  to be introduced to his sister, whom Gooch  [7]  is going to marry. Friday & Saturday will complete my business here, & then I remove to town. — There I shall stay as short a time as my unpaid engagements will permit, & then take the shortest road home, for I am beyond measure weary of being out of my own proper element.

I shall look for Lord William [8]  on Sunday & endeavour to hurry this appointment by a simple notification that I certainly do not intend to wait for it. As long as my own affairs keep me in town, well; but they are not to suppose that I will submit to be detained here for the Marquis of Hertford’s pleasure, or anybody elses. They ought to know that in accepting the office [9]  I am conferring a favour rather than receiving one. I want it settled, because as I intend to invest the salary in a life insurance, I shall save a fine of ten pounds by appearing at the insurance office: & I believe also that the oath of allegiance which I must take cannot on this occasion be taken in the country. However I shall ascertain all this & get thro it with the least possible delay.

Of the many things which remain to be done in London, one is to wait upon Smith & have the bust finished. [10]  & another to send off the hamper from Burgess’s, [11]  which shall be done as soon as I get the one thing needful for doing it, & you will not find fault with me Senhora, if I put in a pot of caviare, in expectation that you & I who have tips to our tongues, shall like it. I have to see Miss Linwood’s pictures, [12]  & the beasts at the Tower, [13]  & the Strand Bridge, [14]  to dine with Longman & Murray & Croker, & to go with Sharp to his country house. [15] 

Senhora, I am really too lazy & too Simorgish [16]  to write anything but such mere gossip as this. It is “poor I” & I wish it were bed time, & that the days were gone & the nights too which must pass before I take my seat comfortably in the mail coach, & pack myself up for forty hours. For I want some garlick pie, & the odour of your snuff box, & to see Wilsey, & to kiss the children, & to make a noise, & to sit under the shadow of Mrs. Coleridges nose, & to sit by my own fire side, & to sleep in my own bed, & to resume my own way of life, & to say Aballiboozo-banganeribo [17]  in the right place & in the right tone of feeling; — & (when I am called upon) to sing the Bloody Gardener [18]  with my usual obligingness.

Tuesday last I met Lord St Helens [19]  at Mr Legges: [20]  a regular built old courtier. He said that I must have lived a great deal in Spain, for tho Espriella [21]  had been put into his hands with information who the author was, he could hardly persuade himself that it was not the genuine work of a Spaniard, so well had the characters been preserved. — The newspapers among their fashionable news have it that Mr Legge gave this dinner to Lord St Helens, whereas the truth is that it was given to me: however as I made a better figure over the hermitage & the claret, his Lordship is welcome to figure by himself in the Morning Post. [22]  — I took Coleridge to Me Stael [23]  on Monday, & left him there in the full spring tide of his discourse. His time of departure seems still uncertain. Mrs. C. will not be sorry to hear that he is selling his German books. — I cannot quite so well say whether Edith will be glad that I shall purchase some of them. The worst news is that Mrs Morgan has some symptoms of derangement, — so she herself apprehends, & I am sorry to say that there is too much reason to apprehend it. Harry is very much afraid of it. He went from here on Wednesday evening, in consequence of receiving a note from Coleridge which said that she was worse. I have not heard from him since. Today had been rainy, or he would have walked over & returned to town with me tomorrow.

I hope the early meeting of Parliament will bring Canning to town time enough for me to see him. — Shall you not delight in seeing Madame Stael next year on her way to Scotland? — she is a real Lioness. I shall see her again next week, & introduce Duppa to her, he being what Sharp calls a very presentable person. Duppa is at present very busy & very happy. Some papers have been put into his hands, which as he thinks, demonstrate the author of Junius, & contain his own memoirs for twenty years of his life written by himself. Part of these memoirs he is now printing. [24]  I saw enough of them to see that they are very curious. Duppa dined & slept here on Wednesday. We had the Captain , whose wig is now in such a state that he might advantageously make an exchange with the nearest scarecrow, — & Rickman. Mrs. Rickman comes to town before parliament meets, & the last three or four days of my abode in town will of course be spent at my old quarters.

And now Senhora good night. Should I learn anything in town tomorrow I will add it in a postscript. As soon as you have had your tea, take your pen ink & paper & write me a letter & tell me all the news of home: & if you send it to the post that night, i.e. Monday, direct it to 28 Queen Anne Street. N.B. you may as well add London, which was forgotten in the direction of the last letter. — My love to all belonging to me, — & God bless you.



* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Keswick/ Cumberland
Postmark: Oct 9 1813
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 412-417
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 330–333 [in part]. BACK

[1] Elizabeth Heathcote (1773–1855) and Alethea Bigg (1777–1847). BACK

[2] i.e. a London accent. Ionic Greek was closely related to the language spoken in Athens, as opposed to Doric pronunciation, which was associated with areas of rural Greece, and hence, by extension, to rural accents in English. BACK

[3] ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof’, Matthew, 6: 34. BACK

[4] ‘Pegasus’ could be either Rickman, Bedford or Wynn, who could frank the letter. BACK

[5] Christopher Stanger (1759–1834), son of a wealthy Keswick family and graduate in medicine from Edinburgh. BACK

[6] Benjamin Travers (1783–1858; DNB), eye surgeon. BACK

[7] Miss Travers (dates and first name unknown) became Gooch’s second wife in January 1814. BACK

[8] Lord William Gordon (1744–1823), son of Cosmo, 3rd Duke of Gordon (1720–1752). He owned the Waterend estate at Derwentwater and was the brother-in-law of the Marquis of Hertford, the Lord Chamberlain. BACK

[9] i.e. the office of Poet Laureate. BACK

[10] James Smith (1775–1815), sculptor. BACK

[11] Possibly the provision merchants, John Burgess & Son, of 107 The Strand. BACK

[12] Mary Linwood (1775–1845; DNB), whose needlework copies of paintings by old and modern masters were being exhibited at Leicester Square. BACK

[13] The Tower of London was the site of the Royal Menagerie until 1835. BACK

[14] The Strand Bridge (built 1811–1817) was named Waterloo Bridge at the dedication ceremonies in June 1817. BACK

[15] Fredley Farm, Mickleham, Surrey. BACK

[16] The great sleeping bird mentioned in Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 11. BACK

[17] A nonsense word much favoured by Southey; used as a ‘mystic word’ in ‘Interchapter II’ of The Doctor, 7 vols (London, 1834–1847), I, pp. 91–94. BACK

[18] The traditional ballad, ‘The Bloody Gardener’s Cruelty: or the Shepherd’s Daughter Betrayed’. BACK

[19] Alleyne Fitzherbert, Baron St. Helens (1753–1839; DNB). A distinguished diplomat, he had been Minister-Plenipotentiary to Spain 1790–1794. By this time he had retired and was a Lord of the Bedchamber 1803–1830. BACK

[20] Hon. Heneage Legge (1788–1844), MP for Banbury 1819–1826. BACK

[21] Letters from England (1807). BACK

[22] This newspaper report is untraced. BACK

[23] Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (1766–1817), hostess of a famous salon. BACK

[24] Richard Duppa, Memoirs of a Literary and Political Character (1813) sought to identify the writer of the anti-government ‘Junius letters’ of 1769–1772 with the writer and politician Richard Glover (1712–1785; DNB). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013