800. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 22 June 
Miss Barker –
I am glad I am not at Amsterdam,  because all the English who went to
Amsterdam, when there was peace with Amsterdam, must now
stay at Amsterdam, & cannot leave Amsterdam, whether
they like Amsterdam, or do not like Amsterdam, for now there
is war with Amsterdam, all the English who are at Amsterdam
are made prisoners at Amsterdam. And therefore respecting
Amsterdam, much as I have wished myself at Amsterdam, that I
might see Amsterdam, & buy books at Amsterdam, for which
I must one day go to Amsterdam, as you have heard me say
when we talked of Amsterdam, for in truth I had a longing to
go to Amsterdam, yet now that Amsterdam is such an
inhospitable Amsterdam, I must say truly of Amsterdam, that
I am glad I am not at Amsterdam, damn Amsterdam.
And also Rotterdam – if I had gone to
Rotterdam, as I wished to go to Rotterdam, I often said of
Rotterdam & sung of Rotterdam, & sighed for
Rotterdam, I should now [be] at Rotterdam, have been tired
of Rotterdam, a prisoner at Rotterdam, tho on my parole at
Rotterdam, yet confined to Rotterdam, obliged to eat in
Rotterdam, drink in Rotterdam, sleep in Rotterdam, walk in
Rotterdam & never go out of Rotterdam, verily if I were
at Rotterdam I should say of Rotterdam rot Rotterdam.
There is a cheap Coach set up to & from
Birmingham – for a guinea. Come while it lasts –
That volume of Giberish Poetry  I bought as soon as published. it is much
worse than Gebir  – that is far more understa[n]dable. Lander & I
as Poets are each others Antipodes. he strives to muffle up
his meaning in the most obscure metaphysical language – I
wish to give mine stark naked. I will swear and & I can
prove out of my Homer, & my Bible & my old ballads
& Romances, that the finest passage in poetry are always
& uniformly so plain & perspicuous, that you catch
their full force & meaning immediately. the worst nuts
have the hardest shells. a horse chesnut has a hedgehog case
that puzzles the pigs but nectarines & strawberries
dissolve on the lip. Lander is a man of great genius. he is strong but
it is an unwieldy strength – verse-painting is his talent.
he makes me see – but he never makes me feel, & he is
always trying to make me think, & often makes very
shallow water look deep by muddying it.
I am glad – heartily glad to hear your report
of your own pictures. for landscape you will find fine
studies here if you are equal to a walk of five or six
miles. wood & rock scenery – & the Welsh mountains
in distance, & the channel looking like a great muddy
lake. I will get together all the sketches I have of Spanish
& Portuguese scenery, & you shall fill them up for
me. there are some which you might make fine pictures from.
& I will show you my neighbour Charles Fox’s  views in Norway – he draws
vilely – but the scenery is beautiful beyond anything I had
This war in which we are so unavoidably
involved by the credulity of honest English Ministers &
the rascally insolence of your countryman Mr Parker  will
grievously molest me. Portugal will in all probability be
attacked – & it is said that this country will leave it
to its fate. I know not whether wisely or not, for I think
30,000 English could defend that country against any force
which the French could bring against it. the Portuguese
peasantry want neither patriotism nor courage – but you know
what the officers are! We shall see a great uproar in the
world. I learn that in case of the conquest of Portugal by
France, Spanish America & Brazil will be revolutionized
by England. so strangely have things turned about!
England is actually fighting for liberty
against French usurpation! But in the midst of all this I
suffer, as I shall neither be able to go over – nor will
Uncle be able to stay & collect books for me.
Oh curse the politics of this foolish world! if they would
but settle these things by a rubber at whist – or a game at
chess – or the toss of a halfpenny – the decision would be
quite as fair, & a great deal cheaper & pleasanter
to both parties.
Sunday next I go to London for a fortnight.
write now & say when you will come – & do not let
the cheap coach slip. it will bring you to the foot of our
Hill & you shall be met here at the entrance of the
Town. so now take two new Poems & farewell.
Alas how they use their daughter!
They wash me in cold water
Every morning alack!
My head – & my hands & my
And also the side of my back.
Now whenever I come near
This my Love – & my Dear.
But by & by od rot ’em –
I know they’ll be whipping my
She is a most worthy child, & a truly excellent
character. I think that is no common-place nursery phrase of
Bating the growels – all
June 22. Wednesday
To/ Miss Barker./ Congreve/ near Penkridge/
Postmark: [partial] BRISTOL, JU
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert
Galloway Kirkpatrick Jnr, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey
to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD,
Harvard, 1967), pp. 52-56
Previously published: H.
Spencer Scott, ‘Some Southey Letters’, Atlantic
Monthly, 89 (1902), 39-40 [in
 The constant references to
Amsterdam were a private joke between Southey and Mary
 Walter Savage Landor,
Poems by the Author of Gebir
 Walter Savage Landor, Gebir
 Charles Fox
(1749–1809; DNB), artist, poet and
neighbour of Southey in Bristol. Southey had referred to
Fox’s paintings of Norway in ‘To A. S. Cottle’, A. S.
Cottle, Icelandic Poetry, or the Edda of Saemund
translated into English verse (Bristol,
1797), p. xxxvi. BACK
 Unidentified; possibly
a member of the Parker family, kin of the Earls of
Macclesfield, and Staffordshire landowners. BACK