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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 28 May 1817

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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“Neufchatel, Wednesday, May 28. 1817.
“My dear Edith,

“Yesterday we entered Switzerland, and reached this place after a week’s journey from Paris without let, hindrance, accident, or inconvenience of any kind.

“It is with the greatest difficulty that I find time to keep a journal. We rise at five, and have travelled from ten to twelve hours every day, going about twenty miles before breakfast. Hunger would hardly permit us to do anything in the way of writing before dinner, if there were not always something to see while dinner is preparing; and after dinner it requires an effort of heroic virtue to resist the pleasures of wine and conversation, and it becomes almost impossible upon taking the pen in hand to resist sleep. This morning we lay in bed till seven, that we might have the full enjoyment of a whole holiday. I remember at Westminster the chief gratification which a whole holiday on a Sunday afforded, was that of lying abed till breakfast was ready at nine o’clock.

“Our windows are within a stone’s throw of the Lake, and we see the Alps across it. The Lake is like a sea in its colour, its waves, and its voice, of which we are of course within hearing. The Alps, of which we have the whole extent in view, cannot be less than fifty miles distant in the nearest point, directly across the Lake, and Mont Blanc, which is at the extremity on the right, about fourscore. If
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our horizon at Keswick were wide enough, I could sometimes show you the Alps in the clouds. They have precisely the appearance of white cumulated clouds, at the verge of the sky, resting upon the earth, and silvered with sunshine; and from such clouds they are only to be distinguished by their definite outline and permanent forms. It is idle to compare this country with our own; or rather it would be worse than idle to form any comparison for the purpose of depreciating either. Part of our yesterday’s journey* was so like Cumberland, that I could fancy myself within an hour’s walk of home; and this forced upon me such a sense of time and distance, and separation, that the tears were more than once ready to break loose. The mountains through which we passed from Pontarlier to this place rise behind the town, and in that direction the view as to its natural objects might be English. A huge harbour, or, still better, an arm of the sea, with such a sky as I have described, will give you a full idea of the rest.

“We hear dismal stories of famine and distress; but the scene continually recedes as we approach it, nor have we seen any indication of it whatever. From all that I can collect, the bad harvest of last year has acted here as it does in England, and must everywhere; it presses severely upon that class of persons who stood in need of economy before, and who, with economy, had a little to spare for others. There are plenty of beggars throughout France, and

* Across the Jura.

much squalid misery; but the children of the peasantry are as hale, and apparently as well fed, as far as all appearances of flesh and blood may be trusted, as those in our own country. What I have seen of France, about five hundred miles, from Calais to Pontarlier, is, on the whole, less interesting than an equal distance in Great Britain would appear to a foreign traveller; I mean that he would meet with a country more generally beautiful, finer parts, and better towns. But there have been very fine parts upon this journey, with a character and beauty of their own. In Switzerland every step must be interesting, and go in what direction you will it is impossible to go wrong.

“Nothing surprised me more in France than that there should be no middle-aged women among the peasantry; they appear to pass at once from youth to bagged old age, and it is no exaggeration to say that they look like so many living and moving mummies. Fond as they are of finery in youth (for they are then tricked out in all the colours of the rainbow), in old age their dress is as wretched and squalid as their appearance. I see nothing among them of the gaiety of which we have heard so much in former times. Not a single party have we seen dancing throughout the whole journey. The weather, indeed, has been unusually cold, but certainly not such as would check the propensities of a light-heeled generation, if they ever were as fond of a dance as their light-hearted progenitors. I must say, to their credit, that we have uniformly met with civility; not the slightest insult or incivility of any kind has been
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offered to us; and if some extortion has been practised generally at the hotels, it is no more than what is done everywhere, and perhaps more in England than anywhere else.

“God bless you! Give my love to all.

Your affectionate husband,
R. S.”