3242. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont [fragment], 8 February 1819

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, Part Six

3242. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont [fragment], 8 February 1819 ⁠* 

Keswick, 8th Feby. 1819.

Dear Sir George, -

…. notwithstanding the marvellous mildness of the season. Marvellous it may well be called. The summits of the mountains were free of snow till the last week in January; what had fallen before that time had never remained twelve hours. The valley has only been whitened once, and then only inch-deep, and for half a day, and the ground has never been hard frozen. We had a greater variety of flowers at Christmas than April in all likelihood will supply.

You are going to Switzerland, I hear, and though we shall miss you in the autumn, I am glad that you have determined upon an excursion which will give you so much pleasure, and concerning which I shall have so much pleasure in talking with you. Whatever route you may take, I hope you will not omit the ride from Meiringhen to Sarnen, the lake and valley of Lungern being (Interlaken perhaps alone excepted) the loveliest scene which I remember in the country. And the little valleys which you cross in passing the Brunig are the very perfection of pastoral scenery. But I am particularly desirous that you should see the Flying Tree,—the most astonishing thing that I have ever seen, or ever expect to see. [1]  I have very much repented that we did not remain a day for the purpose of seeing the scaffolding both in the mountain where it begins, and at the river where it terminates. It is about two miles from Sarnen, on the way to Alpnach. Let me also recommend to you our Unterseen guide, Hans Roth, [2]  for whose good-nature and good qualities Nash will vouch, and whose honest countenance will recommend itself. He was ten days in our company, and we were so attached to him that we were quite sorry when the time of parting came.

I fear you will see our country with altered eyes when you return to it, though I can perfectly understand why it is in some respects more suited to a painter’s purposes. But Switzerland excels as much in beauty as in grandeur. I do not envy the magnitude of its mountains, for which far too great a price is paid, in the perpetual insecurity which they occasion (to say nothing of the foul waters which they produce), but there is a beauty in the softer scenery which may well be envied, and in the Alpine valleys a charm altogether peculiar. I am now remembering more particularly those which lie between Martigny and Chamouny.

Wordsworth may be congratulated upon coming off so well in the Magazine. [3]  The print is not so good as the drawing in my possession, because it does not so well represent his capacious forehead; but on the whole it is a respectable likeness, and would be thought excellent by those who are not intimate with his face. I have figured twice in the Magazines with much worse fortune: once they made me like a Calvinist preacher, and once like a writing-master. [4] 

I am drawing near the close of a long and most arduous labour. Five or six weeks hence I hope to finish my History of Brazil, which has been ten whole years in mind, though not in hand. [5]  I believe no History was ever before compiled with such unweariable diligence from scattered documents. It has been the great work and the great pleasure of my life.

Remember us most kindly to Lady Beaumont. The girls [6]  (who are sorely disappointed at the news of your intended travels) desire particularly that I will not omit to mention them. We are all tolerably well, but wishing anxiously that the next three or four weeks were over. [7] —Believe me, Sir George, very truly, your obliged and obedient

ROBERT SOUTHEY.


Notes

* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from William Knight (ed.), Memorials of Coleorton, 2 vols (London, 1887)
Previously published: William Knight (ed.), Memorials of Coleorton: Being Letters from Coleridge, Wordsworth and his Sister, Southey, and Sir Walter Scott to Sir George and Lady Beaumont of Coleorton, Leicestershire, 1803 to 1834, 2 vols (London, 1887), II, pp. 184–187. BACK

[1] On his continental tour of 1817, Southey had reached Alpnach in Switzerland on 11 July 1817. There he saw the eight-miles-long ‘Slide of Alpnach’, erected to convey logged spruce trees from the mountainside to the lake below. The trough, a feat of engineering supported on a timber frame over several ravines, was so angled as to transport the tree trunks from forest to shore in no more than six minutes. BACK

[2] Hans Roth (dates unknown) had acted as a guide to Southey, Senhouse and Nash on their walking tour in central Switzerland. BACK

[3] A portrait of Wordsworth, painted in 1817 by Richard Carruthers (1792–1876), and engraved by Henry Meyer (1782/3–1847; DNB), had appeared in the New Monthly Magazine, 11 (February 1819), between pp. iv and 1. BACK

[4] An engraving of Southey had appeared in the New Monthly Magazine, 1 (January–July 1814), Frontispiece (the ‘Calvinist preacher’); a second had appeared in the European Magazine, 66 (July 1814), [3] (the ‘writing-master’). BACK

[5] History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[6] Southey’s daughters, Edith May, Bertha, Kate and Isabel, and his niece Sara Coleridge. BACK

[7] Charles Cuthbert Southey was born on 24 February 1819. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)