LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Henry Southey, 6 June 1813

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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“Keswick, June 6. 1813.
“My dear Harry,

“Do you want to make your fortune in the philosophical world? If so, you may thank Owen Lloyd for the happiest opportunity that was ever put into an aspirant’s hands. You must have heard the vulgar notion that a horsehair, plucked out by the root and put in water, becomes alive in a few days. The boys at Brathay repeatedly told their mother it was true, that they had tried it themselves and seen it tried. Her reply was, show it me and I will believe it. While we were there last week in came Owen with two of these creatures in a bottle. Wordsworth was there; and to our utter and unutterable astonishment did the boys, to convince us that these long thin black worms were their own manufactory by the old receipt, lay hold of them by the middle while they writhed like eels, and stripping them with their nails down on each side, actually lay bare the horsehair in the middle, which seemed to serve as the backbone of the creature, or the substratum of the living matter which had collected round it.

Wordsworth and I should both have supposed that it was a collection of animalculæ round the hair
(which, however, would only be changing the nature of the wonder), if we could any way have accounted for the motion upon this theory; but the motion was that of a snake. We could perceive no head; but something very like the root of the hair. And for want of glasses, could distinguish no parts. The creature, or whatever else you may please to call it, is black or dark brown, and about the girth of a fiddle string. As soon as you have read this draw upon your horse’s tail and mane for half a dozen hairs; be sure they have roots to them; bottle them separately in water, and when they are alive and kicking, call in
Gooch, and make the fact known to the philosophical world.* Never in my life was I so astonished as at seeing, what even in the act of seeing I could scarcely believe, and now almost doubt. If you verify the experiment, as Owen and all his brethren will swear must be the case, you will be able to throw some light upon the origin of your friend the tapeworm, and his diabolical family.

“No doubt you will laugh and disbelieve this, and half suspect that I am jesting. But indeed I have only told you the fact as it occurred; and you will at once see its whole importance in philosophy, and the use which you and Gooch may derive from it, coming forth with a series of experiments, and with

* “The Cyclopædia says that the Gordius Aquaticus is vulgarly supposed to be animated horsehair; the print of the creature represents it as much smaller than Owen Lloyd’s manufactory, which is as large as the other Gordii upon the same plate, and very like them. But I distinctly saw the hair when the accretion was stripped off with the nail.”—R. S. to J. R., August 2. 1813.

such deductions as your greyhound sight and his beagle scent will soon start and pursue.

“And if the horse’s hair succeeds, Sir Domine, by parallel reasoning you know, try one of your own.

R. S.”