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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Early Life: II

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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Letter II.
Tuesday, August 1st, 1820.

Mrs. Hill, my grandmother, was, at the time of which I am now writing, a widow; her maiden name was Bradford. I know nothing more of her father than that he was a Herefordshire man, and must have been of respectable property and connections, as appears by his having married into one of the best families in the county, and sending a son to college. His wife’s name was Mrs. Margaret Croft.—I have it written in gold letters, with the date 1704, in a copy of Nelson’s Festivals and Fasts, which descended as a favourite devotional book to my mother. They had three children; Herbert, so named after the Croft family,—another son (William, I think, by name), who was deaf and dumb, and just lived to grow up,—and my grandmother Margaret.

My grandmother was very handsome: little Georgiana Hill, my uncle says, reminds him strongly of her; and I remember her enough to recognise a likeness in the shape of the face, and in the large, full, clear, bright brown eyes. Her first husband, Mr. Tyler, was of a good family in Herefordshire, nearly related I know he was, and nephew, I think, to one of that name who was Bishop of Hereford. He lived at Pembridge. The seat of the family was at
Dilwyn, where his elder brother lived, who either was not married, or left no issue. I have hardly heard any thing of him, except that on his wedding day he sung a song after dinner, which could not be thought very complimentary to his bride; for, though it began by saying,
“Ye gods who gave to me a wife
Out of your grace and favour,
To be the comfort of my life,
And I was glad to have her,”
(thus much I remember of the rhymes,) it ended with saying that, whenever they might think fit, he was ready to resign her. It happened, however, that the resignation was to be on the wife’s part. He died in the prime of life, leaving four children, Elizabeth, John, William, and Edward; and his widow, after no very long interval, married Edward Hill of Bedminster, in the county of Somersetshire, near Bristol, and was transplanted with her children to that place.

Edward Hill was the seventh in succession of that name. His fathers had lived and died respectably and contentedly upon their own lands in the beautiful vale of Ashton, the place of all others which I remember with most feeling. You see it from Clifton, on the other side of the river Avon; Warton has well characterized it in one of his odes as Ashton’s elmy Vale. The Hills are called gentlemen upon their tombstones in Ashton churchyard, where my father, two of my brothers, my three sisters, and my poor dear cousin Margaret, are deposited with them. Edward Hill, the seventh, was a lawyer and a widower;
he had two children by his first marriage, a son, Edward the eighth, and a daughter, old enough I believe at the time of his second marriage for the daughter to be married, and the son very soon to hold a commission in the marines. He was a fine handsome man, of considerable talents, and of a convivial temper. I have heard him spoken of with admiration by persons who were intimate with him in their youth. He could make verses, too, after the fashion of that age. I have somewhere a poem of his, in his own writing, which came to my mother after her mother’s death, and, in like manner, descended into my possession: it is not therefore without a mournful feeling that I recall to mind the time when it was first shown me, and the amusement which it then afforded me. It was a love poem, addressed to my grandmother during the days of courtship; it intimated some jealousy of a rival, who was called Strephon, and there was a note at the bottom of the page upon this name, explaining that it meant “the young Justice.”

William Tyler, the second brother, was a remarkable person. Owing to some defect in his faculties, so anomalous in its kind that I never heard of a similar case, he could never be taught to read; the letters he could tell separately, but was utterly incapable of combining them, and taking in their meaning by the eye. He could write, and copy in a fair hand any thing that was set before him, whether in writing or in print; but it was done letter by letter without understanding a single word. As to self-government he was entirely incompetent, so much so that I think
he could hardly be considered responsible as a moral being for his actions; yet he had an excellent memory, an observing eye, and a sort of half-saved shrewdness which would have qualified him, had he been born two centuries earlier, to have worn motley, and figured with a cap and bells and a bauble in some baron’s hall. Never did I meet with any man so stored with old saws and anecdotes gathered up in the narrow sphere wherein he moved. I still remember many of them, though he has been dead more than thirty years. The motto to
Kehama*, as the Greek reference, when the abbreviations are rightly understood, may show, is one of my uncle William’s sayings. When it was found impossible to make any thing of him by education, he was left to himself, and passed more time in the kitchen than in the parlour, because he stood in fear of his step-father. There he learnt to chew tobacco and to drink.

Strange creature as he was, I think of him very often, often speak of him, quote some of his odd apt sayings, and have that sort of feeling for his memory, that he is one of the persons whom I should wish to meet in the world to come.

The man of whom he learnt the use, or rather the abuse, of tobacco, was a sottish servant, as ignorant as a savage of everything which he ought to have known; that is to say of everything which ought to have been taught him. My mother, when a very little girl, reproved him once for swearing. “For shame, Thomas,” she said, “you should not say such

* I have heard my father say, that this proverb was rendered into Greek by Mr. Coleridge.—Ed.

naughty words! for shame! say your prayers, Thomas!” “No, Missey!” said the poor wretch, “I sha’n’t; I sha’n’t say my prayers. I never said my prayers in all my life, Missey; and I sha’n’t begin now.” My uncle William (the Squire he was called in the family) provoked him dangerously once. He was dozing beside the fire, with his hat on, which, as is still the custom among the peasantry (here in Cumberland at least), he always wore in the house. You, perhaps, are not enough acquainted with the mode of chewing tobacco, to know that in vulgar life a quid commonly goes through two editions; and that after it has been done with, it is taken out of the mouth, and reserved for a second regale. My uncle William, who had learnt the whole process from Thomas, and always faithfully observed it, used to call it, in its intermediate state, an old soldier. A sailor deposits, or, if there be such a word (and if there is not, there ought to be), re-posits it in his tobacco-box. I have heard my brother
Tom say, that this practice occasioned a great dislike in the navy to the one and two pound notes; for when the men were paid in paper, the tobacco-box served them for purse or pocket-book in lack of any thing better, and notes were often rendered illegible by the deep stain of a wet quid. Thomas’s place for an old soldier between two campaigns, while he was napping and enjoying the narcotic effects of the first mastication, was the brim of his hat; from whence the Squire on this occasion stole the veteran quid, and substituted in its place a dead mouse just taken from the trap. Presently the sleeper, half-wakening without un-
closing his eyes, and half-stupefied, put up his hand, and, taking the mouse with a finger and thumb, in which the discriminating sense of touch had been blunted by coarse work and unclean habits, opened his mouth to receive it, and, with a slow sleepy tongue, endeavoured to accommodate it to its usual station, between the double teeth and the cheek. Happening to put it in headforemost, the hind legs and the tail hung out, and a minute or more was spent in vain endeavours to lick these appendages in, before he perceived, in the substance, consistence, and taste, something altogether unlike tobacco. Roused at the same time by a laugh which could no longer be suppressed, and discovering the trick which had been played, he started up in a furious rage, and, seizing the poker, would have demolished the Squire for this practical jest, if he had not provided a retreat by having the doors open, and taking shelter where Thomas could not, or dared not, follow him.

Enough of Uncle William for the present. Edward, the remaining brother of the Tyler side, was a youth who, if he had been properly brought up, and brought forward in a manner suitable to his birth and connections, might have made a figure in life, and have done honour to himself and his family. He had a fine person, a good understanding, and a sweet temper, which made him too easily contented with any situation and any company into which he was thrown. My grandfather has much to answer for on his account. Except sending him to a common day-school, kept by a very uncommon sort of man,
(of whom more hereafter) he left him to himself, and let him grow and run to seed in idleness.

My grandfather would have acquired considerable property, if he had not been cut off by an acute disorder. He had undertaken to recover some disputed rights for the church of which he was a parishioner, at his own risk and expense, on condition of receiving the additional tythes which might be eventually recovered during a certain number of years, or of being remunerated out of them in proportion to the cost and hazard and trouble of the adventure. The points were obstinately contested; but he carried them all, and died almost immediately afterwards, in the year 1765, aged sixty.