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...
59. Capel Lofft to Robert Bloomfield, 24 October 1801*
Sat. 24 Oct: 1801
I received your letter and I own having this moment received it, I am much hurt by it.
I think there will be the height of absurdity in having the notes to the octavos and quartos in a different form from those to the pocket vol. I imagine all this is from Mr Hood, who, having done me a gross insult & shameful injustice in the matter of the Homer, wishes, as you may in time learn is usual, to exclude my name from every part of your works and to make you believe my judgment of approbation is greatly to be dreaded. I wish I had known your mind in time. I would not have given my mind the trouble often very distressing of calling off its attention from yet far nearer objects of its concern to write notes on your poems excellent as those poems are, and much as I have regarded and am disposed to regard their author.
I think I am as much at liberty to express my opinion of your poems as the reviewers or any other person.
However say if you please, and in any terms you please at the end of the vol, that you disapprove my having done so; only do not forget to say that you never hinted this disapprobation to me till all were printed.
There could hardly I think be an instance of more concentrated criticism, nor a more simple unexceptionable shape in which to offer it. What I said of Mr Fox I said less for the sake of Mr Fox than for the sake of my country and posterity and mankind. If it may lead any portion of the public to learn Better to distinguish than hitherto Between those who have plunged us into such a war and so long kept us in it and those who would have prevented our ever rushing into that direful whirlpool I have my chief object.
I will certainly not alter the form of the notes. I was excluded from any other part in this volume by your own express desire. I think I may say in future that it is not likely that I should thus strangely offend. I do not mean to write either note or essay to any future edition of any poems you may publish in my Life-time. I assure I can very ill spare the time short as the notes are. To have taken so avowed a part in the first publication and none except that of corrector of the press and occasional emendator in this would I think have had a strange and undesirable appearance for you and for the poems: as if I had changed my mind as to you or them or both. Mind, I could not well take any part that was more modest, or offer an opinion in fewer words. You, and you say your friends in general, are, or will be, dissatisfied with them and dislike my occupying even so small a space in your works and so unobtrusive a station as the bottom of the page. I believe you will find me assuredly resolved not to occupy any space at all in them in future; only if I must not say what I think of you it would have been as well if you, in your preface, had not said what you think of me. In future if I am to be silent as to your praise in your publications I would request you to be so as to mine reciprocally.
But I hope it was not about such a matter as this that the Duke of Grafton told me by Mr. Rogers that he meant to call at Troston. I heard by Mr. Rogers what I was glad to hear as it concurs with my own sentiments, that 'The Miller's Maid' was a particular favourite with Mr Fox.
Suppose you did read my praise of your poems in the proofs and did not strike it out. What then? Did not you send me your praise of me to read in your preface in the proof? If you thought it wrong that a man should revise a proof in which a friend has said something in his praise you should not have sent such a proof to me. I am ready at all times to do what essential services I can, but such punctilios I do not like nor expect from a man of genius.
I remain yours sincerely,
Address: Mr. Bloomfield / near the Shepherd and Shepherdess / Old City Road / London