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836. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 8 September [1803] ⁠* 

Thursday. Sept 8. Keswick

Dear Danvers

My first letter is to you – to give you the earliest notice of our safe arrival. We staid five days with Miss BarkerEdith could nowhere have been so comfortable. Miss B. is really attached to us, & I know few persons & scarcely any women who possess so much good sense & good humour. yesterday we reached this place. I feel more pain at the sight of little Sara  [1]  than I had apprehended. Coleridge had written much of her fine countenance to me. she is indeed a fine child – but not such as her whom we have lost. her age – her little voice sting me to recollections that I must blunt & wear out, for they are not avoidable. I am as chearful as those about {me} could wish – for that is to be commanded – but my sleep is harrassed by dreams – & the moment I cease to be actively employed either in reading or conversation I feel that I am not happy enough to be idle. So common an affliction ought not to so weigh me down – yet she was not a common child & when I look at other children that thought will recur, & when I am alone in spite of sore eyes I cannot forbear from making them still sorer.

Coleridge is still in Scotland, he is expected for three weeks unless he be taken ill, which is very probable.

This morning must be a time for letter-writing. that task once overgot (as they say in Staffordshire) I shall fall to my usual employments. In the disturbance of our departure I forgot to beg King to write after me & tell me of his wife [2]  – this was remiss – & I am anxious to hear of her. tell him I will write to him in my second batch. this will serve to let him know that we are safe among the mountains, & perhaps he will answer the enquiry which I make thro you.

An army of letters had arrived here before me. the ugly one by way of Bristol was from Edward. another was a letter of condolence from Longman! a very curious letter, so characteristic of a very simple but good hearted man – that, tho I could not {but} smile at his simpleness I shall always like him the better for it.

It is now two years since we left this place, & in that time the old Mountains & their Lakes, have not changed as I have done. there is something aweful in the unchangeableness & duration of these then things of Nature to one who has so lately felt the instability of human existence. I shall be the better for dwelling among them at least the poet-part of me, which is the best part, will be fed & fostered, whatever may become of what St Francisco [3]  calls the Brother Beast. With very straight-forward intentions my path of life has had so many short-turns in it, that I despair of ever seeing the way plain before me – but as far as my dim eyes can see, I believe I shall stay here & give up my main mind first to the completion of Madoc, [4]  thereby to raise money for going abroad to compleat my History, [5]  which will jog on cheek by jowl with the Poem, & be in sufficient forwardness by the time that is printed.

Mrs Coleridge is in high health. every time I see her she seems improved. Hartley the same unique animal. Derwent & the young one are very fine children but no ways remarkable. it is my [MS torn]f that where God Almighty has actually given genius it may be seen in the earliest dawnings of infant-reason. that if a child does not look quicker than other children at six months xxxx there will never be any manifest natural superiority. – Remember me to my Bristol friends. thank Hort [6]  for housing so much lumber. & [MS torn] you meet John Morgan tell him you have heard from me. I feel very much obliged both to him & his wife for their-late-even affectionate attentions.

My next will be to Rex. let me hear from you. I am afraid such a load of my poor folios will inconvenience you – yet you cannot be so inconvenienced by their company as I am by the want of them. Edith bore the journey well. she appeared tolerably well by day but can get no sleep. God knows when she will recover her loss, her feelings are all so deep & lasting.

poor Cupid [7]  – I should have liked to enquire for him –

God bless you.

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ 4. Orchard Street/ Bristol./ Single
Postmark: SEP 12/ 1803
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 324-326. BACK

[1] Sara Coleridge was born 23 December 1802 and so was three months younger than Margaret Southey. BACK

[2] John King had married Emmeline Edgeworth (1770-1847) in 1802. She had just given birth to a daughter, Zoe King (1803-1881). BACK

[3] St Francis of Assisi (1181/2-1226). He called the body ‘Brother Beast’. BACK

[4] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[5] Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[6] William Jillard Hort (1764-1849), Unitarian Minister and writer. BACK

[7] Charles Danvers’s dog. BACK

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August 2011