1009. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 29 December 18[04] 

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1009. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 29 December 18[04] ⁠* 

Lovest thou a joke. Mary Barker?
Lovest thou a joke like me?
If thou lovest not a joke
By the Lord be it spoke
Never more will I love thee.

Look you what is going to the Review, if Arthur Aikin will put it in.

Mr. Dallas has prefixed to this novel [1]  an engraving of the Labradore stone which represents the profile of Louis XVI. [2]  perhaps the following paragraph from a provincial newspaper may furnish him with a companion print equally extraordinary for his next publication. ‘The mountain commonly called Causey Pike near Keswick, having been observed to present in its outline the exact profile of his present Magisty, the Pike forming the nose, a party of Gentlemen on Thursday last ascended this difficult eminence, & breaking a bottle of wine upon the summit, as is the custom when a ship is named, they gave it the classical name of Georgris (Greek for Georges nose) in commemoration of this eternal likeness, executed by the hand of Nature herself. They then drank another bottle to his Majistys health, & sung God save the King while all the mountain Echoes joined in the chorus of loyalty.’  [3]  The Labradore stone [4]  is nothing to this. Pyrrhuss ring [5]  & the head of Chaucer [6]  in the Museum are of the same description as the French wonder. [7]  but what King’s head was ever like a mountain before? & how admirably, says the Paragraph writer – has Nature typified the greatness of his character, the elevation of his rank, the immoveableness of his resolutions, & that exalted piety which always looks up to Heaven!’ —What newspaper you ask. – I made it.

I do not know that Price has written any book about Spain, & should be very glad to see the book if he has. his Essays on the Picturesque are very satisfactory & quite as good as they could be for their given purpose. [8]  Beckfords Tale is called Vathek an Arabian name Senhora. he wrote it in French, & the English translation is by Mr. Henley, who has added some of the most learned notes that ever appeared in any Book whatever! – [9] 

I did tell you that the secret history of the persons tried for returning from transportation is that they never were transported at all, having by dint of money evaded the execution of the sentence. If Sir E. will consider the almost impossibility of getting from Botany Bay to England, & also how much less public & less attended to the shipping off a gang of transported convicts is than any other sentence of the law whatsoever, he will perceive that this is not very unlikely. I was told so by the man in the world who of all my acquaintance is the least likely to believe any thing upon light grounds – & he added that he had by accident received full proof of what he was affirming – saying – it is a thing one does not like to say – because it will not be believed. I do not believe that he has told any person but myself. [10] 

My brother has been providentially preserved in a strange way. he & his captain [11]  quarrelled – he was brought to a Court Martial – for neglect of duty, disobedience of orders, & contempt of his superior officer. On the two first charges he was acquitted – but found guilty of having said to his Captain, when accused of these offences – I beg your pardon Sir – I must contradict you. This is ‘contempt’ in the Court Martial sense – contempt is a crime – & he is sentenced to be dismissed the ship. While he was under arrest the attempt upon the Lilly took place, & the Lieutenant who went in his stead fell! [12]  – I do not wonder that Sailors are predestinarians.

Wynn is alive & well.

Madoc has four vignettes thus disposed. One in the title page – a groupe of all sorts of things Welsh & Aztecan among them Madocs shield, bearing three Eaglets displayed, which Wynn quarters, being descended lineally from Madocs brother Rhodri. [13]  – the Palm Tree & Cross engraved above the exordial lines. & two others from the poem placed on the blank titles to the first & second parts of the poem. the one a ship in full sail – the other the Great Snake at the Cavern mouth. [14]  – If the poem sells we will do as you say – but I am not sanguine in my expectations. this night I expect to finish & send off the last parcel of notes – & if they be not delayed on the road a fortnight will compleat the printing.

The Edithling has had neither illness nor inconvenience from vaccination. [15]  I also have seen Richardsons letters, [16]  & was more pleased at finding him a good man than disappointed by finding him a dull correspondant. It is a most worthless book more worthless than anything I ever saw except Mrs. Barebalds essay prefixed.

xxx from all I know xxx rather suppose xxx Count Burnnetski yawns at his leisure in Poland where he has nothing to do but to say what is English for this thing & that thing when they ask him. – John [17]  seems to have got the better of his unfortunate attachment. he is a good ass, & I am very fond of him – for he is as fond of me as a dog could be. Come with the first spring weather. – Edith is poorly & I do not know what is the matter with her. she is being physicked for it however.

God bless you.


A Merry Xmas & a happy New Year.

Saturday. Dec 29. 18[MS torn]


* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Congreve/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire
Postmark: KESWICK/ 298
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. 135–139.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 302–305.
Dating note: [Kirkpatrick’s note:] Warter misdates the letter “24” December. BACK

[1] Southey and his brother Harry were reviewing Robert Charles Dallas (1754–1824), Aubrey: a Novel (1804) for the Annual Review. However the review of this work (which appeared in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 551–553) does not seem to have been by Southey according to letter 1093 of this edition which states that his article was suppressed. BACK

[2] Louis XVI (1754–1793), King of France from 1774–1792. BACK

[3] Causey Pike lies in the Newlands valley, south of Keswick and visible from Greta Hall. Seen from Derwentwater, it displays a prominent bump on the ridge line near the summit, named ‘Georgris’ by Southey because he thought the bump made it resemble George III (1738–1820, King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB) in profile. In letter 984 of this edition, Southey expressed his intention of sending ‘a paragraph about it to the Whitehaven paper’. BACK

[4] An engraving of the Labradore stone, a small natural gem in which the profile of Louis XVI could be discerned, is prefixed to the dedication of Dallas’s novel, Aubrey, and the stone is described in the preface. See Dallas, Aubrey: a Novel, 4 vols (London, 1804), I, xxii–xxiv. BACK

[5] According to Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79), the stone in the ring worn by Pyrrhus, King of Epire (319–272 BC) had the figures of Apollo and the nine muses in its veins. BACK

[6] An agate given to Hans Sloane (1660–1753; DNB) some time before 1740 and displayed at the British Museum since 1761. The stone is described as a ‘rough Egyptian pebble, broke into two Parts; on each Piece is a perfect Resemblance of the Head of Chaucer . . . entirely the Work of Nature’, in the catalogue The General Contents of the British Museum (London, 1762), p. 85. BACK

[7] That is, the Labradore stone. BACK

[8] The book was by Udal ap Rhys, An Account of the Most Remarkable Places and Curiosities in Spain and Portugal (1749). Price is an anglicised form of ap Rhys which led Southey to mistake the author and look for a work on Spain by his contemporary Uvedale Price (1747–1829; DNB), author of an Essay on the Picturesque (1796), rather than one by Price’s grandfather Udal ap Rhys/Uvedale Tomkyns Price (1685–1764). According to Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick (‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 144–147), after Southey wrote to Barker to declare his ignorance of the book, Sir Edward Littleton then wrote on the blank third page of Southey’s letter, confusingly: ‘Uvedale Price Esq. of Foxly wrote an account of Spain said to be a Plagiarism from some Spanish writer; a Pamphlet in ridicule of Whister; Fine Lady’s Catechism Conversation between 2 Lap Dogs, Scipio & Braganza’. Because Littleton still failed to distinguish between grandfather and grandson, Southey continued to mistake the author. BACK

[9] The French original of William Beckford’s (1760–1844; DNB) Vathek was published in 1787, after the publication of its English translation with notes by Samuel Henley (1740–1815; DNB) in 1784. BACK

[10] Probably Southey’s friend, John Rickman, secretary to the Speaker of the House of Commons. BACK

[11] Captain (later Admiral) Henry Heathcote (1777–1851), in command of HMS Galatea 1803–1805. BACK

[12] On 14 August 1804, the boats of Thomas’s ship, HMS Galatea, made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British sloop of war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe. Of the 90 men sent on the mission 65 were killed or wounded. Southey had suspected that his brother was among the dead, but he was absent from the raid because he had been placed under arrest. Charles Hayman (d. 1804) was made first lieutenant in his stead and died in the attack. BACK

[13] The engraved titlepage of Madoc (1805) appears as Southey describes it here. Rhodri (1135?–1195) was the son of Owain Gwynedd (c. 1100–1170; DNB) and brother of Dafydd (died 1203), from whom Wynn claimed descent. BACK

[14] Madoc (1805) has only three illustrations: the engraved titlepage with Wynn’s shield upon a trophée; the palm and cross upon the rock (after the Table of Contents); and the snake before the cave, engraved on the titlepage for the second part, ‘Madoc in Aztlan’ (bound incorrectly after 320 instead of after 184). It is probable that the image of the ship by Nicholas Pocock (1740–1821; DNB) was omitted because Southey was displeased with the vessel’s anachronistic modernity; see Southey to Joseph Cottle, 25 August 1805, Letter 1097. BACK

[15] Edith May had been inoculated against smallpox, using cowpox serum; a method popularised by Edward Jenner (1749–1823; DNB) in An Inquiry Into the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ (1798). BACK

[16] The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Anna Laetitia Barbauld, 6 vols (1804). BACK

[17] John the jackass, whose lovesickness Southey had previously described to Mary Barker; see Southey to Mary Barker, 10 December [1804] , Letter 1000. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013