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

2655. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 September 1815 ⁠* 

Ostend. Saturday 23 Sept. 1815

half past six. A M.

My dear Grosvenor

We sailed yesterday at noon, with a fair wind, – it slackened on the way, & we did not reach this place till four in the morning. I was thrice in the same predicament as the whale when Jonah was landed from his live boat; but even sea sickness does not subdue my chearfulness. [1]  I shake my head, wipe my face, & am alive & kicking again.

Here we are at the Cour Imperiale, & in the public room, for the town is so full owing to the coronation at Brussels [2]  (an event which we had overlooked that there is not a single apartment unoccupied. Behold then the optimism of our having been delayed all night upon the passage. – But I have a dolorous void within me. I had no dinner yesterday, & no supper – & the breakfast which I had was lost upon the way. True it is that after a mournful parting with my breakfast (you know the pain of such partings) I ate bread & cheese, & drank porter, & added to my meat a slice of German sausage civilly offered b me by a fellow passenger, but I accepted it only as receiver for the fishes, & in that capacity all that I took was taken, & faithfully paid over to their account. –

May the Maid (of whom concerning whom & the wonder which she saw in her journey from the land of the hills & the water, I her father, ‘Mully the Poet – have written a long chapter for the instruction of Lunus my son) here is a long parenthesis – so I must begin again. Maid May was dismally sick; but by a provokingly it happened that her Mother to whom sickness would have been the best remedy, was not affected to any good purpose by her qualms.

Will you write a line to Mrs Coleridge, the Venerable among women, informing her of our safe arrival. & another to Tom, directing St Helens – Auckland – Durham. Rickman will frank them, & thus you {they} will be spared pay postage & I shall save time of which it becomes me to be avaricious. Nevertheless I shall probably fill this paper. – About two in the morning it began to rain, so that I was below in my berth when I wished to have seen the entrance of the port. Little was lost in this. The Ramsgate captain cheated me, – a la Ramsgate. The agent for the packet, seeing Ediths size, demanded 16 shillings for her, – the captain when he saw her asked for one pound. We offered to pay, & he desired to be paid at Ostend, – then he demanded full price for her, – alledging that she had occupied a whole berth. This he knew she must of necessity do when he saw her. Of course I paid the money without dispute, & now write down X Capt Aylesbury of the Lord Liverpool for a picaroon. [3]  – There came on board a fellow with an old soldiers jacket whose speech was Irish, he wanted to carry our luggage, a number of natives, all speaking English disputed this, – & their conversation xx plainly indicated a great jealousy between the people & the garrison, which we did not chuse to increase by giving any preference to the son of green Erin, when it was due to the peo natives. So we left our luggage for the present. I fear the rain will continue. The boat for Bruges starts at three in the afternoon, – perhaps we shall not find apartments when we arrive there such is the trouble which this coronation, of which I had not heard in London, makes in this country. Tomorrow will probably be past in Bruges {a[MS torn]} Our fellow passengers was a horse dealer to the army by name Wm Taylor, [4]  who had been with the troops from the battle of Busaco [5]  till they returned home thro France, & was now carrying over 16 horses for sale – one being for the Prince of Orange. [6]  In spite of his profession the man had one of the best countenances I ever saw, & a Doctor of Theology, & of both laws would have been less agreable as a companion.

Breakfast being ready this deponent proceedeth no farther.

God bless you my dear Grosvenor

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ Grovesnor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ London
Stamped: [partial] P P/ OSTENDE
Postmark: FOREIGN/ SE 25/ 1815
Endorsement: 23 September 1815/ Ostende
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The comparison is with Jonah 1: 17 – 2: 10. Jonah spent three nights in the whale, before the latter vomited him onto dry land. BACK

[2] William I (1772–1843; King of the Netherlands, 1815–1840), had taken his oath to uphold the new State’s constitution in Brussels on 21 September 1815. BACK

[3] The Lord Liverpool was a packet ship which sailed between Ramsgate and Ostend. Presumably Captain Aylesbury (dates unknown) was its master. BACK

[4] Unidentified beyond the information given here. BACK

[5] An Anglo-Portuguese victory over the French, 27 September 1810. BACK

[6] William II (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849). He had served in the British Army and briefly been engaged to Charlotte, Princess of Wales (1796–1817; DNB). At this time he was Crown Prince of the Netherlands. BACK

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August 2013