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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1174. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 12 April 1806 ⁠* 

Saturday. April 12. 1806.  Norwich

My dear Edith

I write, tho literally with nothing to say, merely because you will be wishing to receive a letter. My place is taken for tomorrow, & I hope to be in London by – noon on Monday, some five or six hours before this can reach you.

Your letter arrived the day on which my last was written, [1]  tho from the lateness of the post I had concluded there would be none till the morrow. When the morrow came I was sorry that I had it not still to look for. You will not I suppose be more comfortable in your feelings till this intolerable weather changes: intolerable it may truly be called. The wind seems determined to get a new character, & make the weathercock an emblem of immutability. My fingers ache while writing & I do not stir out without the bearskin [2]  – which thick as it is is hardly sufficient to keep me warm, even with exercise. Spring however will come on rapidly whenever this blasting wind is at an end.

My adventures here are such as you might guess – a mere repetition of visits & dinners. Tuesday a dinner party here Dr Sayers – Pitchford [3]  & two other men. Wednesday we dined with Dr Sayers, & the day was the pleasanter because he could get nobody to meet us. Thursday with a walk & called on John Gurneys family [4]  – the tribe who were once at Keswick, dined with Pitchford – & had droppers in to the tray at home. Yesterday a sumptuous dinner with Joseph Gurney. [5]  The two impossibilities for a stranger at Norwich, are to find his way about the city – & to know the names of the Gurneys. They talked about Clarkson, & seemed to fear his book would not sell as he expected it to do. [6]  Not more than twenty subscribers having been procured among the Quakers there. Today we dine with Dr. Sonxxx with Mr. John Taylor – & tomorrow I sup at Newmarket on my way to London & sleep in the coach – & then have you my whole history thus far.

I shall write soon from London & as my daughter is fond of a letter will frank down a book for her with a great-seal which I think will delight her. It is now thirteen days since my departure from home – the time seems thrice as long – so much ground have I gone over, & seen so many new scenes & fresh faces. You may be well assured that I will lose no time in London, but get thro my business as rapidly as possible – & off for Herefordshire [7]  without going an inch out of my way to right or left.

The Annual does not seem to be quite published – King Arthurs weekly numbers coming out a fortnight or three weeks asunder. He has I see been playing his usual editorial tricks with me, & has left off some a defence of Bruce [8]  against Pinkerton [9]  – because he did not chuse to have Mr Pinkerton contradicted, & some remarks upon the infamous blunders of the printer because he did not chuse to insert anything which was not agreable to the booksellers. [10]  And yet Miss Lucy Aikin [11]  says her brother is by nature of an intrepid character, – & alleges as a proof of this intrepidity that he puts his name to the Annual Review. The whole of the theology is written by a Mr. Wellbeloved [12]  of York whose qualification for reviewing is – that his mother is Mrs Aikins sister – so he is not only our Wellbeloved cousin, but also in consequence of this cousinship becomes our Wellbeloved brother in the Review. – Charles Aikin [13]  is going to marry Miss Wakefield, [14]  he is said to be a truly amiable man – but a more unlovely one you never saw. There is a certain pitch of ugliness to which it is inconceivable how either man or woman can make up their minds, & poor Charles Aikin is unfortunately at that pitch.

I begin to think that my expedition to Lisbon may be disconcerted – that since Bonaparte has succeeded in making Prussia shut her ports against us, he may think to compleat his project by ejecting us from xxxxx Portugal – at least this is more probable than it was a fortnight ago. – Tell me if you would like to see Patch’s trial, [15]  & in that case I will frank it down to you.

I have got a clue to the state of the Catholicks here of which some use may be made by D Manuel. [16]  Pitchford is the head of the sect here & loves to talk about them, & from him I have borrowed a sort of Catholick Almanac which explains their present state. I shall purchase one in London & turn it to good account. He tells me the Jesuits exist in England as a seperate body, & have even a chapel in Norwich [17]  – but how they exist, or whence their funds are derived? is a secret to him himself. This is a highly curious fact, & to me particularly – a very interesting one. I shall make farther enquiry. St. Winifred has lately worked a miracle at her Well, & healed a paralytic woman. [18]  These Catholicks want only a little more success to be just as impudent as they were three centuries ago.

Some hope I have of finding a letter in London – if you have not written however, let me have by the first post – if it merely tells me that you & the child are as when I left you it will xxx xx lighten my heart of a sort of weight which is daily growing heavier. I have seen the fire safeguards, or whatever they are to be called. They are perfectly answer their purpose, do not obstruct the heat, rather improve than hurt the look of the grate & are of such utility that I think no fire ought to be without one.

My first business in London must be to send for Hyde, [19]  & to buy a hat – for the journey to London is an excuse for my old one here.

And I shall the first walk I take buy a book for my daughter, that I may have this pleasure of sending it her in a letter which is to be for her own self, & to be given into her own hand. Give her a kiss – & fifty more added to it – & remember that all you give her you lend me – & that I shall soon repay every one with interest.

God bless you my dear dear Edith

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ Mrs Southey/ Keswick/ Cumberland./ Single
Stamped: NORWICH/ 110
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 38–39. BACK

[1] See Southey to Edith Southey, 5 April 1806, Letter 1172. BACK

[2] Southey’s name for his greatcoat. BACK

[3] John Pitchford (1772/3–1839), one of the Norwich intellectuals with religious and literary interests who had gathered around Sayers and William Taylor. BACK

[4] John Gurney (1749–1809; DNB), merchant and banker of Norwich, the father of Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845; DNB), the Quaker prison reformer. BACK

[5] Joseph Gurney (1757–1830), a member of the Quaker banking family and brother to John Gurney. BACK

[6] His fears were unfounded. In 1806 Thomas Clarkson published A Portraiture of Quakerism, which met with great success. BACK

[7] Herbert Hill had the living of a parish at Staunton-on-Wye, Herefordshire, which, while he was in Lisbon, he had left in the care of Dr Thomas, father of his business agent William Bowyer Thomas, who had died in 1802. Southey was visiting the estate on his uncle’s behalf to investigate the payment of tithes’; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 17 March 1806, Letter 1166. BACK

[8] Southey reviewed James Bruce’s (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768–73, 2nd edn. (1804–1805), in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 2–16. BACK

[9] John Pinkerton (1758–1826; DNB): Scottish antiquarian and cartographer whose many publications earned him a reputation for irreligious views, arrogant irritability and personal immorality. BACK

[10] The second edition of Bruce’s Travels was printed by the firm of Ballantyne for the booksellers Archibald Constable & Co. (1774–1827; DNB), Manners and Miller, and Longman (the publisher of the Annual Review). BACK

[11] Lucy Aikin (1781–1864; DNB), the daughter of John Aikin and sister of Arthur Aikin. BACK

[12] Charles Wellbeloved (1769–1858; DNB), Unitarian minister and theology tutor. As well as having responsibility for reviewing religious and metaphysical works for the Annual Review, he published Devotional Exercises for Young Persons in 1801. BACK

[13] Charles Rochemont Aikin (1775–1847; DNB), son of John Aikin, and brother of Arthur and Lucy, who was adopted by his aunt, Anna Letitia Barbauld, and trained to be a surgeon. BACK

[14] Anne Wakefield (d. 1821), daughter of Gilbert Wakefield (1756–1801; DNB), the biblical scholar, religious dissenter and political radical, who was a friend of the Aikin family. Anne’s father was indicted for seditious libel in 1798 and imprisoned until 1801, dying shortly after his release. BACK

[15] On 5 April 1806, Richard Patch (1770?-1806; DNB) was tried for the murder of Isaac Blight (d. 1805). He was found guilty and hanged on 8 April. Shortly afterwards an account was published, by Joseph Gurney (1744–1815) and his son, William Brodie Gurney (1777–1855), of The Trial of Richard Patch for the Wilful Murder of Isaac Blight, at Rotherhithe, on the 23rd of September 1805: at the Session House, Newington, Surrey, on Saturday the fifth of April 1806. BACK

[16] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella; Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[17] A small Jesuit chapel was built in St Swithin’s, Norwich, towards the end of the eighteenth century. It was rebuilt on a grander scale after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. BACK

[18] Saint Winifred was a 7th-century Welsh noblewoman, who died rather than lose her chastity. She was canonised, and a shrine was established at the place of her death, in Holywell, Flintshire, where a spring on the site was said to have healing powers. BACK

[19] A tailor frequented by Southey when he was in London; his first name and dates are unknown. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013