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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1644. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 15 June 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick. June 15. 1809

My dear Tom

Yesterday I returned from a visit to Harry & his bride. I set off on Saturday the third after an early dinner, & walked to Penrith, slept there & took the mail next day to Bowes, where Robert Lovell is at school, – from thence I walked on ten miles, the same evening to Staindrop passing thro Bernard Castle, – a place very finely situated on the Tees. On the Monday I rose in time to walk seven miles before breakfast – which meal I took at George Taylors, [1]  – whom I believe you once met at Mirehouse, [2]  – a remarkably able & pleasant man. From his house to Durham is thirteen miles. Just as I reached the Doctors house he was sallying forth in quest of me. He lives in a street called by the unaccountable name of Old Elvet, – a lucky opening on the opposite side of the way leaves him a good view of the Cathedral on its hill, & the river is within a stones throw of his back door. Durham stands upon a peninsula, – that is to say the main part of it, – a high bank, on which is the Cathedral & the Castle & the best houses, & there are the most delightful walks below such as no other city can boast, – thro fine old trees on the river side, from whence you look to the noble building on the opposite side, & see one bridge thro the other. Harry is well off there getting rapidly into practise & living among all sorts of people, Prebends & Roman-Catholicks, Fox-hunters, Cock-fighters, & Old women, with all of whom he seems to accord equally well. There is an old lady whom they call his Mamma, because she takes such care of him, – as indeed she is bound to do, for she lives by his rules, & he keeps her alive on nothing but milk. It is a place where any person might live contentedly, – among all these thousand & one acquaintances there are some whom one might soon learn to love, x a great many with whom xxx to be amused, & none that are insufferable. Mary seems to think herself fortunate in finding so many kind-hearted persons.

One day I dined with Dr Zouch who wrote the Life of Sir P. Sidney [3]  – I never saw a gentler-minded man. The few sentences of bigotry which he has written must have cost him strange efforts to bring forth, for I do not think a harsh expression ever could pass his lips, nor a harsh feeling ever enter his heart. In spite of his deafness I contrived to have a good deal of talk of with him. Dr Bell was there, the original xxx transplantor of that xxx Hindoo system of teaching which Lancaster has adopted; [4]  he is a great friend of Coleridges, – a man pleasant enough, certes a great benefactor to his country, – but a little given to flattery, & knowing less about India than a man ought to know who has lived there. Another day I dined with Dr Fenwick, [5]  the ex-Physician of the place, & long considered as the leader of the democratic party. There we drank the Archduke Charles’s health [6]  in Tokay [7]  a wine which I had never before tasted; – this is the first victory by which I ever got any thing. The Tokay proved prolific. Harrys next door neighbour who was of the party, fancied some unknown wine which had been presented to him might be the same as this, & he proposed we walked home, to bring in a bottle & sup with us. I however recognised it for old sack, [8]  – itself no bad thing.

On Monday last, after a weeks visit, I took coach to Newcastle, where I had appointd to pass a day with James Losh, whom you know I have always mentioned as coming nearer the ideal of a perfect man than any other person whom it has ever been my fortune I know, – so gentle, so firm; so zealous in all good things, so equal-minded, so manly, so without speck or stain in his whole life. I slept at his house which is two miles from Newcastle, & the next day took the mail to Carlisle, – it is an interesting road, – frequently in sight of the Tyne before you reach Hexham, & then as frequently along the Eden. xxx We reached Carlisle at half-past ten. Yesterday I rose at five & walked to Hesket to breakfast – 14 miles, – a mile lost on the way made it 15. There was many a gentle growl within for the last five miles. from thence another stage of 14 brought me home by half-after two – a good march, performed with less fatigue than any other of equal length in the whole course of my pedestrian campaign.

I found all well at home – God be praised. Your letter was waiting for me, & one from Gifford, containing 16–8 for my articles in the second Quarterly, [9]  with quant: suff. of praise, which I put down to the account of due desert. He has xxx a reviewal of Holmes’s American Annals in his hands for the third number, [10]  – I am about the Polynesian Missions, [11]  & am to have Lord Valencias Travels as soon as they appear. [12]  He requested me to chuse any subjects I pleased – I have named Barlows Columbiad, [13]  – Eltons Hesiod [14]  & Whitakers Life of St Neots, the brother of Alfred [15]  (the two latter conditionally that I shall not review them, unless upon perusal it appears that they supply good subjects. And I have solicited the xxx office of justifying Frere against Sir J Moores friends, being decidedly of opinion that he was thoroughly in the right, & the General utterly unequal to his situation. [16] 

Send for Wordsworths pamphlet, [17]  the more you read it, the higher will be your admiration. – Curwens bill [18]  is worse than good-for-nothing. of this there can be but one opinion among the true friends of liberty.

I am almost as glad you have got Solly again as Solly himself can be, & will forgive soft Tommy all his past actions & fatheadedness for letting you get him on board. [19] 

God bless you –

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought/ Plymouth Dock
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 223–226 [in part, and misdated 14 March 1809]. BACK

[1] George Taylor (1772–1851), gentleman farmer in Co. Durham, classicist and occasional contributor to the Quarterly Review. Father of Southey’s friend, Sir Henry Taylor (1800–1886; DNB). BACK

[2] Home of John Spedding (1770–1851), Wordsworth’s schoolmate. BACK

[3] Thomas Zouch (1737–1815; DNB), Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Sir Philip Sydney (1808), a work which was reviewed by Southey in the Annual Review for 1808, 7 (1809), 224–235. BACK

[4] Bell’s ‘madras’ system of monitorial teaching influenced the similar schemes of the Quaker school reformer Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838; DNB). BACK

[5] Dr John Ralph Fenwick (d. 1855), of North Baily, Durham. BACK

[6] In the battle of Aspern-Essling (21–22 May 1809), the French attempted to cross the Danube near Vienna but were driven back by Austrian forces commanded by their leader Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen (1771–1847). BACK

[7] Tokaji wine (known as Tokay wine in nineteenth-century Britain) is produced in Hungary. BACK

[8] A fortified wine, often from Jerez, Spain (sherry). BACK

[9] Southey’s next review was of Extractos em Portuguez e em Inglez; com as Palavras Portuguezas Propriamente Accentuadas, para Facilitar o Estudo d’Aquella Lingoa (1808) in the Quarterly Review, 1 (May, 1809), 268–292. BACK

[10] Southey reviewed Abiel Holmes (1763–1837), American Annals; or, a Chronological History of America, from its Discovery in 1492 to 1806 in the Quarterly Review, 2 (November 1809), 319–337. BACK

[11] Southey reviewed the Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 24–61. BACK

[12] Southey reviewed George Annesley, Viscount Valentia (1770–1844), Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, and the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt in the Years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 (1809) in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 88–126. BACK

[13] The American writer and politician, Joel Barlow (1754–1812) whose The Columbiad. A Poem was published in England in 1809. Southey did not review this work for the Quarterly. BACK

[14] Hesiod was a Greek pastoral poet thought to have flourished between 750–650 BC. Charles Abraham Elton (1778–1853; DNB) published The Remains of Hesiod the Ascraean: Translated from the Greek into English in 1809. Southey did not review this work. BACK

[15] John Whitaker (1735–1808; DNB), historian whose The Life of St Neot, the Oldest of all the Brothers to King Alfred was published posthumously in 1809. Southey did not review this work for the Quarterly. BACK

[16] The diplomatist John Hookham Frere was sent to Spain as minister-plenipotentiary to the Central Junta on 4 October 1808 and when the French marched on Madrid he urged Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), the Commander of the British forces in northern Spain to also advance upon Madrid, despite his inclination to retreat through Portugal. After the disastrous retreat to Corunna, Frere was blamed for this advice and recalled by the British government. Some of Frere’s and Moore’s correspondence was read out in the Commons on 27 April; Moore’s side of matters was presented in James Moore (1763–1860; DNB), A Narrative of the Campaign of the British Army in Spain, Commanded by His Excellency Sir John Moore. Authenticated by Official Papers and Original Letters (1809). Frere’s correspondence with Moore was published in 1810 in a work entitled To the British Nation is Presented by Colonel Venault de Charmilly, Knight of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, the Narrative of his Transactions in Spain with the Rt. Hon. Hookham Frere, His Britannic Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary, and Lt. Gen. Sir John Moore, K.B. Commander of the British Forces: with the Suppressed Correspondence of Sir J. Moore: Being a Refutation of the Calumnies Invented Against Him, and Proving that He was Never Acquainted with General Morla. BACK

[17] At the Convention of Cintra (signed 30 August 1808), British generals allowed a defeated French army to evacuate Portugal. On 27 December 1808 and 13 January 1809 Wordsworth published, in The Courier, an article condemning the Convention. In May 1809 Longmans published the article as a pamphlet: Concerning the Relations of Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal, to Each Other, and to the Common Enemy, at this Crisis; and Specifically as Affected by the Convention of Cintra. BACK

[18] John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), agriculturist and politician responsible for Curwen’s Act, passed in 1809. The act was a significant attempt at parliamentary reform that intended to reduce the sale of seats and the amount of government placemen in the House of Commons. The government’s opposition took the form of suggesting modifications that watered down the bill so much that those who had supported it voted against it because it was feared it would stand in the way of proper reform. BACK

[19] A reference to the fact that Southey’s acquaintance, William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), would be pleased that Thomas had been commissioned onto HMS Dreadnought, the flagship of his younger brother Rear Admiral Thomas Sotheby (1759–1831). BACK

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August 2013