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

2609. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 2 June 1815 ⁠* 

Keswick. 2 June 1815

My dear Harry

I hope your Lordship goes on well with your contested election for Middlesex, [1]  which the Bp of Chester [2]  (who gives you his vote) tells me is very warmly contested. You should have sent Bedford to Wynn when you wrote to me, – for we were too late in that quarter, – & Dr Bell was too late with Mr Pike Watts, [3]  but he promises for the Lord & the Baronet, – who the former is I know not unless it be Ld Calthorpe, [4]  the latter I suppose to be Sir T Bernard. [5] 

I have made an ugly discovery of a swelling in my neck, just above the collar bone, & a little to the right of the windpipe, which I found out by my shirt collars becoming tight upon me. Edmondson saw it yesterday. You know I just know enough of nosology to have in turn every imaginable disease; – however I persuaded x myself that this was not an aneurism, because I could find no pulsation. Edmondson is not certain whether it is an enlargement of some muscle whose name I do not remember, – or if it be something under that muscle which protrudes it, & which he imagines may be some of those hydatids who seem to have taken a fancy to me. You know I have two lumps of them on my head & there is a third coming. If it be so, he says, they will make way to the surface & suppurate. But there is no soreness nor any pain whatever. He has given me a discutient lotion, & if that fail will apply a mercurial plaister for the same purpose, – & he desires me to use no muscular exertion that I can avoid. I am not sensible of having straind myself, – tho it is very possible I may have done so, for I am fond of muscular exertion, such as hanging by the hands from a bough &c. Aneurism, he says, it is not: which of course he would say, – but I believe him; – nor is it any thing in the nature of a wen. In short it is some damned thing or nother, as the Hampshire foxhunter said of his dyspepsy, – & I cannot button my shirt-collar & must not row in a boat, – which prohibition at this season is an evil.

I have worked very hard this quarter for the Review for a reason which you may easily conjecture. [6]  And this reminds me of the pleasant Captain whom you saw here; it seems that having exhausted his credit in England he was on his way to the continent, & died at Dover of apoplexy. [7] 

Murray means I believe to announce my Hist: of the Peninsular War in this forthcoming number. [8]  I care not how soon it goes to press, the introductory chapter indeed is not written, – but so much of the history itself is ready that the spur of the printer would xxx keep me in a steady jog trot to the end of the journey. To days proof of Brazil [9]  brings me to page 216. Henry Koster has brought me a MSS from Pernambuco relating to the disturbances in that Captaincy in 1710, – it is a good paper, & gives me as much x information as I could desire upon that subject. [10]  I am getting on well with this work.

In the Panorama (which is on my xxxx xx establishment of Periodicals) it is stated that a late Brazil packet when 1000 miles from any land was covered with a yellow dust in some places half inch deep. A volcano is supposed: [11]  – if any volum there was an eruption at the time either in the Canaries or the Azores, xx we should have heard of it ere this, – or certainly shall hear. If I believe that these showers proceed from the same cause as the sky-stones, [12]  & are precipitated from the atmosphere.

A Mr Scoresby of Whitby proposes to travel over the ice to the North Pole in sledges. I like his scheme & his reasonings better than I should like the journey. He has often been in the Whalers as far North as they go, & therefore has some experience of the climate. [13] 

Shall we see you in August? Have you got a new house, or got rid of your old one? How is Gooch? – I shall certainly be in town at the fall of leaf, if not prevented by any unforeseen ill. The childs ear continues in the same state, – & a similar discharge now takes place from the other. The hearing is not affected, & therefore I suppose not in danger, – but I wish the disease were removed – Edmondson will do nothing, & evidently dislikes to be spoken to about it. Excepting this & my own neck we are doing well. My complaint you see is neck or nothing, – which is as bad a pun as ever was laughed at by virtue of our old contract. Remember me at Champion Hill [14]  & at Streatham

God bless you.



* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 5 JU 5/ 1815
MS: Bodleian Library, Don. d. 3
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Henry Herbert Southey was standing for election to the post of Senior Physician at the Middlesex Hospital. Although the election was initially contested, by the time of the actual vote Southey was the only remaining candidate. BACK

[2] George Henry Law (1761–1845; DNB), Bishop of Chester 1812–1824, Bishop of Bath and Wells 1824–1845. BACK

[3] David Pike Watts (1754–1816), a wealthy brewer and vintner. BACK

[4] George Gough-Calthorpe, 3rd Baron Calthorpe (1787–1851). BACK

[5] Sir Thomas Bernard (1750–1818; DNB), lawyer and philanthropist. BACK

[6] Southey’s work for the Quarterly Review was driven by his need for money. BACK

[7] Thomas Perkins (1778–1815), a Captain in the Royal Navy and a cousin of Edith Southey. He had visited Keswick earlier in 1815 and Southey had lent him money that was not repaid. Perkins died at Dover on 3 April 1815, so he may have been prevented from reimbursing Southey because of ill-health, rather than as part of a fraud. BACK

[8] History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). It was not advertised in the Quarterly Review at this time. BACK

[9] The History of Brazil; the second volume appeared in 1817. BACK

[10] Probably a narrative of the Mascate War, or ‘War of the Peddlers’ in Pernambuco in 1710–1711, ‘transcribed from the original mauscript’. Koster was thanked for providing Southey with this work in History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, p. vi. It appears as ‘Guerra Civil ou Sedissoens de Pernambuco Exemplo Memoravel aos vindouros 1710’, no. 3840 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s Library. BACK

[11] Literary Panorama, and National Register, 2 (May 1815), cols 317–318. This phenomenon was possibly caused by the huge volcanic eruption at Tambora in Indonesia in April 1815. BACK

[12] Meteorites. BACK

[13] William Scoresby Jnr (1789–1857; DNB), sailor and scientist, undertook several voyages to the Arctic on Whitby whalers captained by himself or his father. He wished to lead a government sponsored expedition, and in 1817–1818 corresponded at length about this with Joseph Banks (1743–1820; DNB). His idea was taken up, but command was given to the naval officer David Buchan (1780–1838). In spite of this, Scoresby continued his Arctic researches, publishing numerous scientific papers and an Account of the Arctic Regions (1820) and Journal of a Voyage to the Northern Whale-Fishery (1823). Southey’s information was from a report in the Literary Panorama, and National Register, 2 (May 1815), cols 290–291. BACK

[14] The family home of Louisa Gonne, soon to be Henry Herbert Southey’s second wife. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013