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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

225. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, [c. 21 June 1797] ⁠* 

I am unlucky my dear Edith — & have not yet found Dr Aikin. I shall make another attempt this evening & least I may be again unsuccessful take a note in my pocket requesting him to leave the money for me tomorrow morning in case he should again be out. I am much tired & more vexed — the vexation I cannot help as it is on account of you — as for being tired I have enough practical philosophy not to mind stiff knees, aching thighs, swoln feet & blistered heels.

I have no money to do any business. this is provoking as I am walking about to see people & pass by the shops at which my business would lie. I saw the Hendersons [1]  at Brixton yesterday, & like the younger much. they were going to Lymington I persuaded them not.

I saw John May this morning & had much conversation with him. he explained the latter part of his letter — & this explanation led to the subject of society till I had given him my opinion upon the subject; his mind was prepared for it by having a witness of much wretchedness & depravity, & it seemed to impress him strongly. I shall see him again tomorrow. I dine at Grays Inn to day — with Carlisle tomorrow — & if I get my money & my place at Christ Church in the next day. if I can only secure the first article you shall receive another letter with the necessary inclosure on Friday but I hope to come myself. you know Edith with what reluctance I ever absent myself one hour from you & will easily conceive the vexation I feel. this vexation I know to be useless & half subdue. we are more the masters of our own feelings than we are willing to confess.

Mr Biddlecombe had explained to me upon the subject of our conversation that night. our rough friend in the boat told truth. & his reason for so strongly objecting to your becoming an inmate at the parsonage is because the Lady [2]  has not been a better women than she ought to be — nor quite so good. Morbleu!

I saw Montagu. [3]  he tells me Coleridge is with Wordsworth.

I am writing to you with the utmost haste, in momentary expectation of Grosvenor. who is to call for me here. I am again at Carlisles. he has the worst pens in the world — & they like our constitution — too bad to be mended — & like the barren fig tree & our ministers — fit only to be hewn down & cast into the fire. [4] 

Wynn is in regimentals a private horse man — & about to enter parliament. he gave me the deed, settling 160£ for life. payable quarterly on the 20 of January April July & October.

Wynn wants to hang the sailours [5]  — I & Carlisle want to hang their betrayers & judges — & there are probably people in London who would like to hang us. Thomas is not returned — they heard from him the sixth of this month & daily expect him. this is unfortunate. George Dyer is not in town.

It is long since I have been so greatly fatigued — & yet it has no effect upon my spirits. they are as regular as ever. this nasty dinner to day will occasion me a needless walk, but I shall never bear the name of Broad Street Buildings again for Dr Aikins sake. the distance is terrible. you will however have the comfort of supposing by the time this reaches you that all my jobs are over, & that I am at rest for the rest of my stay in London. if it be possible I hate it worse than ever; & feel already a horrible & loathing reluctance ever again to inhabit so detestable a place. God bless you my dear Edith. I am tired & vexed but in a very few days all the fatigue & vexation will be over & I shall be comfortably settled. now & then when my feet give an extraordinary ache or I tread upon a rough stone I think I am the happiest fellow living when at home — & curse the Grays Inn dinner.

yr affectionate

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: For/ Mrs Southey/ at Mrs Barnes’s/ Burton near Ringwood/ Hampshire
Postmark: FJU/ 21/ 97
Endorsement: June 21, 1797.
MS: Robert H. Taylor Collection, Princeton University Library
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Possibly connected to the actor John Henderson (c. 1747–1785; DNB). BACK

[2] Lady Strathmore, Mary Eleanor Bowes (1749–1800; DNB), heiress, botanist and author of a five act play, The Siege of Jerusalem (1769). Her first husband was John Lyon (1737–1776), 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, her second the fortune-hunter Andrew Robinson Stoney (1747–1810). In 1789, her abusive marriage to Stoney ended in an acrimonious and scandalous divorce. The sexual and domestic scandal that tarnished her reputation can be seen in James Gillray’s (1756–1815; DNB) The Injured Count, S- (c. 1786), which depicts Lady Strathmore drinking gin with her servants and suckling two cats (a reference to the rumour that she was fonder of her pets than of her son). BACK

[3] Basil Montagu (1770–1851; DNB), lawyer and author, illegitimate son of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718–1792; DNB) and the actress Martha Ray (d. 1779; DNB). Montagu, like Southey, was a member of Gray’s Inn, and was called to the Bar in 1798. He was a friend of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and in 1795, Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, undertook the upbringing of his two-year old son by his first wife. BACK

[4] Matthew 7: 179 and 2: 18–21. BACK

[5] Sailors who had participated in the naval mutinies at Nore and Spithead of April-June 1797. BACK

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March 2009