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419. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 30 June 1799 ⁠* 

Sunday. Burton : June 30. 99

My dear Edith

I am fearful that the Post Boy will pass before I can fill the sheet – therefore it will be advisable to begin at the wrong end & tell you what you will be most anxious to know. the inside of the house I have not yet seen but on the ground floor there are three rooms, one of which is the kitchen. into this the street door opens. they are boarded. there is also a back kitchen. the sitting rooms are in front (plague on the builders – the back-kitchen behind. when I go over the houses I shall see how improveable they are. We are not likely to get possession before Michaelmas!!! [1]  So my Mother may send Edward off, & you & I will take a journey. the garden is a good size, quite large enough to supply us with vegetables, & is said to be prime ground. there is a stable & a pigeon house, which we will stock, as the pigeons feed themselves. the house is as far from the road as Mr Biddlecombes. tho open to it – but there is a railing about the premises which is to be placed there. it at the bottom of the garden is a fish-pond. all this you see is sumptuous. B. would have bought it but they could not make out a clear title. he has taken it for 5 years. we hold of him. & I shall arrange matters so that the goods may be sent & housed. soon. So much for this. now for my travels here.

I was too late for the Salisbury Coach. [2]  I mounted the Oxford Mail & rode to the Globe at Newton. thence I walkd about six miles crossing over to the Warminster & Frome Road. the Coach for which I was too late in the morning here overtook me. I mounted it. eat some bread & cheese at an alehouse where they stopt, & proceeded to Warminster. here it was to dine – & as I found it would not be at Salisbury xxxx before six, I thought it would be too late then to reach Fordingbridge that night. so I altered my plan for the campaign. left the coach at Warminster & trudged away for Shaftsbury. read my poem about walking in the heat & learn how I felt. [3]  My way led me within sight of Beckfords magnificent building. [4]  at an alehouse I got some cold meat & strong beer. nothing but strong beer would suit me. by seven o-clock I found myself at Shaftsbury 15 miles from Warminster – after riding 20 miles & walking 21. I looked about the town but did nothing there. xx it stands commandingly on an eminence – I could even distinguish Glastonbury tho more than 30 miles from it.

At 6 I rose & set out on foot for Blandford, 12 miles to breakfast chiefly over the downs. I met crows in abundance, two weazels, & one humble bee on the way. who seemed to have as little chance of finding a breakfast as myself, for the deuce a flower grew on the short scant turf. the hill sides were in some places quite naked – washed bare by the rains – the skeletons of vegetation earth. I had a fine walk. & the clouds canopied me with most cool comfort. after breakfast I pushd on ten miles for Winborne again over downs. this was a tough pull. but still the clouds shaded me – there I got pickled salmon, & more strong beer. then I proceeded tho somewhat faint & wearily, 12 miles more to Christ Church. I entered under St Catherines Hill, & found my way over the marsh & thro the fields behind our old habitation. here I met a hospitable welcome. B. is well & in as good spirits as ever. his mother is as well as ever – his cream as good & her tea as weak. Mr Corbyn [5]  is here to dinner & do not forget to tell my Mother that Mr Coleman [6]  enquires for her.

I purpose setting off tomorrow if Biddlecombe will let me. in that case I hope to get home on Tuesday night, for my limbs are so supple & I feel so little fatigue as to depend upon my legs in case I miss the coach. indeed I am better able to walk to day than when I left home. the morning has been taken up in walking. the dinner now hurries me, & I momently expect to hear the horn.

From all I see I think the house will be very convenient & comfortable. we must stay at Bristol till our money comes, & then go somewhere, either to Wales or Devonshire. my remember me to Mrs Danvers. God bless you.

Yrs truly

R Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ Mrs Southey/ at Mr Cottles/ Wine Street/ Bristol/ Single
Stamped: RINGWOOD
MS: British Library, Add MS 47888
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 74–76. BACK

[1] 29 September 1799. Michaelmas was one of the traditional quarter days when rents were paid and properties changed hands. BACK

[2] For Southey’s journal of this trip see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 517–518. BACK

[3] ‘A Midsummer Poem’, published anonymously in the Morning Post, 28 June 1799. BACK

[4] Fonthill Abbey, the creation of William Beckford (1760–1844; DNB). BACK

[5] Unidentified; presumably an acquaintance of Southey from his residence at Burton, July–September 1797. BACK

[6] Unidentified; presumably an acquaintance of Southey from his residence at Burton, July–September 1797. BACK

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August 2011