649. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 9 January 1802 

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649. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 9 January 1802 ⁠* 

Saturday. Jany 9. 1802.

My dear Danvers –

I should not so immediately have answered your letter but for what you have heard of Coleridges seperation. [1]  On this subject I have been silent even towards you, nor did Edith ever mention it to her sister Lovell – till he had made it the talk of all his acquaintance.

Something I saw myself. Edith saw a great deal. in no one instance was Mrs Coleridge ever to blame. sometimes he has succeeded in provoking her by saying how Dorothy Wordsworth & Mary Hutchinson would have acted towards him – by eternally & falsely praising them. & he has repeatedly before me failed. I never saw two tempers so altered.

He complains that she irritates him & makes him so ill that he can do nothing. this is a wretched excuse for idleness. ill he assuredly is & that illness has perhaps so changed his temper. he is in debt to the booksellers – to Johnson. [2]  to Longman – this preys upon him – he has not resolution enough to clear it off by exertion – letters come to him which he often will not open – still they vex him – & he can vent the vexation only upon his wife. Edith has heard him talk to her seriously of seperating – Mrs Coleridge never knows whether he means it or not – . she now knows not that his conversation with Davy, Tobin &c is about his wifes ill temper – in order that it may reach Wedgwood [3]  thro those channels. the worst trait is he has charged her with extravagance in keeping two servants. she did keep two servants for three months – that is from the time that Derwent grew so heavy that she could not nurse him all day, till he was able to crawl about. & during that time Coleridge himself was half his time in bed & had always a room & fire to himself – & you know that in health he takes up the time of a servant in waiting upon him.

I shall write to him to say that as for seperating that will be a good thing certainly for both. but that he is very foolish & very criminal in making his domestic disputes the talk of all his acquaintance – men whose system it is to xxx disallow all matrimonial connections. On this subject if he will make it so publick I cannot be silent, because I know from what I have seen & heard that the fault is his. she did told him once in Ediths hearing that he had been a bad son, a bad brother, a bad friend, & a bad husband. it stung him – because it was true.

In the first years of their marriage she often put him out of temper by urging him to write. this was natural enough but very unwise, & she at last left it off as useless & only productive of dissention. the fact is no wife could suit Coleridge – he is of all human beings the most undomesticated.

____

Do you write to my Uncle. it will be better than my writing as you can state more clearly the situation of his things. this has been a very troublesome business to you & I am heartily sorry for it.

My poor Mother was buried yesterday. Carlisle accompanied me to the funeral. Edith continues very poorly [4]  – I am well – & employ myself.

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey –


Do not let me be so long again without hearing of you. – our love to Mrs Danvers – God bless her! – except Edith there is no woman left whom I love so well or should most miss so much.


Notes

* Address: Mr Danvers/ Kingsdown/ Bristol./ Single
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: [partial] 9
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890
Previously published: Lynda Pratt, ‘“Of All Men the Most Undomesticated”: Coleridge’s Marriage in 1802: An Unpublished Letter by Robert Southey’, Notes and Queries, n.s. 49 (March 2002), 16-17. BACK

[1] Coleridge had arrived in London on 15 November 1801, leaving his family in Keswick. He returned home in March 1802. BACK

[2] Joseph Johnson (1738–1809; DNB). BACK

[3] Thomas Wedgwood and his brother Josiah (1769-1843) had paid Coleridge an annuity of £150 since 1798. BACK

[4] Edith’s ill-health was possibly caused by pregnancy. Her first child was born on 31 August 1802. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2011