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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1643. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 15 June 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick. June 15. Thursday. 1809.

My dear Danvers

As for the books I never dreamt of your bringing them, – folios being far too bulky for that sort of travelling. Send them off by the waggon, either now, or after your return, as may be most convenient. There were some in the list for which I would have been in a hurry, had they been procured, – these others I am glad of, but not in haste for them. –

You had better cross the sands from Lancaster, which is xxx safeliest done by the stage, – see Furness Abbey on the way, go up the side of Coniston, & from the head of that Lake strike to the Ferry on Windermere. You will of course call on Lloyd, & Coleridge you will find at Wordsworths, who now lives in a great house on the other side of Grasmere, [1]  about a quarter of a mile or rather more above the church, but no tarriance there, farther than is necessary to let David see the country, – for I must have all the time you can spare. I will go with you from hence to Paterdale, where we will sleep, & xxx getting half a day to see the things thereabouts; – from thence if the weather permit we will cross Helvellin to Grasmere, & return to Keswick over the Stake. We must also contrive to see Eskdale.

I returned yesterday from Durham having been about eleven days. Harry is well settled there; – he makes at the rate of 200 a year now, which for so young a practitioner is very much. A Bill in Chancery will put him soon in possession of 600£ left to his wife some years ago, & in the hands of the Court for her use, – the interest is disputed, but without the slightest shadow of right. This sum will enable him to go on till his profession can compleatly support him. And if his wife outlive her father [2]  he will have enough to enable him to retire from practice altogether. ‘Some thing handsome’ is a phrase which Sealy makes use of, – I apprehend not less than 10,000 & probably half as much more. Sealy is at present in Lisbon, & will xxx I suppose make his daughter some present as soon as he hears of the marriage, which is now with his perfect approbation.

All this you will say is very well, – better still you will think when I tell you that my new sister is an accomplished woman, gentle-minded, with a very pleasing countenance, & by the testimony of all who know her best, a good heart, – to which I am sure she {has} all possible right of inheritance. But there is one evil which counterbalances the whole, – at least it would so to me. By some accident in her childhood her shape has suffered, so little that I, who have no very curious eye for these things, did not perceive it till I was told so; – but it is enough to affect her health. she has an habitual nervous cough, – when at the best, that is in its general state, it shows itself by one or two hems – as if to clear the throat, – but of a deep & distressing sound; – unattended with any pain however, except to the hearer. & whenever she catches cold this ceases, – which is a curious circumstance. The last earthquake terrified her so much th (for she was then very ill) that she has even since been subject to something more distressing still to my ear, – a way of groaning at times when she breathes, – something like the noise a man makes in paving the streets only in a very low tone. It would break my heart to hear it, if she were my wife. Harry says there is nothing alarming in all this, – & as she has had the cough for eight years it may be so. But this was the objection I made when he first told me of his attachment, – & I confess it would have prevented me from ever forming one. I always liked her, – like her better now that I have seen her more.

I came home thro Newcastle for the sake of staying a day with Losh . He enquired for you, & expressed a great wish that you might one day take that road. It was seven years since I had seen him, he in better health than ever, & has five fine children.

Coleridge has vexed me by his ‘Friend’ [3]  – the affectation of humility even to downright canting, is to me insufferable, – & the folly of talking as he does about his formed principles is still more. It is worse than folly, for if he was not a Jacobine, in the common acceptation of the name, I wonder who the Devil was. I am sure I was, am still, & ever more shall be. I am sure too that he wrote a flaming panegyric of Tom Paine, [4]  & that I delivered it in one of my lectures. [5]  As to his announcing a sketch of his own life, – there is one comfort which is –– that he will never write it. The Friend will never go on, [6]  – it is impossible that he should carry it on to 20 numbers. I regard every number as a dead loss, – & worse than all I fear he will totally degrade himself before he has done. There is a baseness in talking about himself as he has done for which even all his powers of intellect cannot atone.

God bless you. We shall heartily rejoice to see you – write from Liverpool. Double bedded down we have none, – I hope & trust however we shall have two beds, – but if the one happen to be pre-occupied, – (for we never know when Coleridge may come, & nor if he comes when he may go) – we will engage John Fishers [7]  bed for David.


Notes

* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Endorsements: [various calculations on address sheet]
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 509–511. BACK

[1] Allan Bank. BACK

[2] Henry Southey’s father-in-law, Richard Sealy (dates unknown) a wealthy Lisbon merchant. BACK

[3] The first edition of Coleridge’s new periodical The Friend was published on 1 June 1809. BACK

[4] Thomas Paine (1737–1809; DNB). BACK

[5] Delivered by Southey at the end of April 1795. For the gist of the panegyric, ‘O Paine! hireless Priest of Liberty! unbought teacher of the poor! chearing to me is the reflection that my heart hath ever acknowledged — that my tongue hath proudly proclaimed — the Truth & Divinity of thy Doctrines!’; see Southey to Thomas Southey, 9 May 1795, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 126. BACK

[6] Coleridge began the journal in June 1809; the last number appeared in March 1810. BACK

[7] A neighbour of Wordsworth who had lived at Skyeside, at Townend, Grasmere. Where Fisher lived in Keswick is not known but Espriella lodges at the ‘neat’ house of a Keswick barber and his wife, which ‘bears marks of industrious frugality’ during his Lake tour in Letters from England: by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807), Letter 41. BACK

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August 2013