1835 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Lisle Bowles

Robert Southey to Katherine Southey, 16 November 1835; Life and Correspondence (1849-50) 6:314-15.



Look at the history of Bremhill, and you will see Bowles's parsonage; it is near the fine old church, and as there are not many better livings, there are few more pleasantly situated. The garden is ornamented in his way, with a jet-fountain, something like a hermitage, an obelisk, a cross, and some inscriptions. Two swans, who answer to the names of Snowdrop and Lily, have a pond to themselves, and if they are not duly fed there at the usual time, up they march to the breakfast room window. Mrs. Bowles has also a pet hawk called Peter, a name which has been borne by two of his predecessors. The view from the back of the house extends over a rich country, to the distant downs, and the white horse may be seen distinctly by better eyes than mine, without the aid of a glass....

Much as I had heard of Bowles's peculiarities, I should very imperfectly have understood his character if I had not passed some time under his roof. He has indulged his natural timidity to a degree little short of insanity, yet he sees how ridiculous it makes him, and laughs himself at follies which nevertheless he is continually repeating. He is literally afraid of every thing. His oddity, his untidyness, his simplicity, his benevolence, his fears, and his good-nature, make him one of the most entertaining and extraordinary characters I ever met with. He is in his seventy-third year, and for that age is certainly a fine old man, in full possession of all his faculties, though so afraid of being deaf, when a slight cold affects his hearing, that he puts a watch to his ear twenty times in the course of the day. Our reception was as hospitable as possible, Mrs. Bowles was as kind as himself, and every thing was done to make us comfortable....