Part Four, covering the period 1810-1815, was a crucial one for Southey’s career and reputation. It has, however, never before been fully documented or fully understood. By 1810 he was established in Keswick...
46. Capel Lofft to Thomas Hill, 29 November 1800*
29 Nov: 1800
I have this Evening received your obliging Letter and though it is very late answer it I must.
I will observe that at all Events I think there ought to be no serious misunderstanding Between Mr Bloomfield & Mr Hood: because I conceive Mr Bloomfield no way blameable. He has acted in this as throughout by my opinion & advice meaning to fulfil conscientiously whatever by the nature of the agreement fairly construed he might but wishing to know what that fair construction is.
I am persuaded that Mr Bloomfield will be as inclined as I to consider himself as bound by whatever you acting for him at my request understood at the time of making it to be the meaning of the Agreement.
But certainly I must say, and I do not expect that any of my professional acquaintance will differ from me, that I can not for the sake of Authors & for the sake of the Public and of the Laws & [illegible word] of Litterary Property subscribe to this broad Position that a Publisher of course by undertaking to bring out a first Edition of a work at his own risque and to divide the Profits if it should be successful with the Author, becomes of course a Proprietor of a Moiety of the Copy-Right. & this I can never admit at least till I see some such authority for it as I have never yet seen or heard or expect to see, to be a consequence flowing of itself from such an Agreement. And I see great mischief to Litterature and so much more important than the pecuniary interests of Authors if such a construction should prevail.
And I must say that from my recollection of the various letters of Mr Hood in which a wish has been expressed that Mr Bloomfield should sell his Copy-right to either Mr Hood or to some other Purchaser I did and do consider myself as wholly without any reason for imagining that Mr Hood thought a Moiety or any part of the Copy-right to be in him.
It rests therefore with me at present solely upon the sense in which you meant to contract for Mr Bloomfield at the time of the agreement to publish the First Edition but I should be very sorry however this case may stand in its special circumstances or a ground till this moment totally unknown to me that I should be thought to have given my assent to a Proposition of such dangerous and, as I think unfound'd latitude as this that where Booksellers publish a first Edition at their own risque to divide the net profits with the Author if it succeeds that they become thereby Proprietors of a Moiety of the Copy-Right.
On the contrary I do not consider such an Agreement as extending in itself beyond the impression of that first Edition.
I remain Dear Sir with great Regard yours very sincerely
I shall be glad to see a Copy if there be one in which it has been decided or even asserted by Counsel, that Booksellers by publishing a first Edition at their own risque on the terms of dividing the net profits with the Author become by implication part & equal Proprietors with the Author in the Copy Right.