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...
60. Robert Bloomfield to Capel Lofft, 26 October *
With expedition equal to your own, but with much less warmth, I humbly beg to reply. It is an irksome task that I am oblidged to justify Mr Hood against your groundless suspicions. But however I may sink in your estimation I shall retain justice enough to declare that I have not spoken to Mr Hood during the last 3 weeks, and never yet heard one word from him on the subject of the present notes. Thus much is due to him from me, and shall fearlessly be paid as the declaration of truth. Now then, Sir, I am willing to take all your displeasure on myself. I am aware of the difficulty of making the quartos differ from the pocket size, but I was not aware that the mention of any subject connected with the work in hand, in the channel of an intimate correspondence, would subject me to the hazard of being discarded by Mr Lofft. I have reason to rely on his judgment, and allways did; the concurrence of the public in his judgment of the Farmer's Boy taught me to rely on it. Does it then follow, that, if I learn that a dislike subsists in many minds to have my little pieces prejudged, as they call it, that I am forbidden to say so? I never objected to your praise, to my shame I speak it; I never objected personally to any applause which anything of mine might draw from you. I only ventured to mention that previous praise did not please the readers, and that I thought myself implicated in it. Mr Hoods name was not mentioned. The animosity between you and Mr Hood has proved always, as I said it would, my severest trouble. It blocks up the field of fair discussion, stops my mouth on all occasions where habits of intimacy would prompt me to tell what I thought, and what I think. The nauseous task of telling who said that, and who said this, I never will descend to. I have satisfied my own conscience in endeavouring to state to Mr. Lofft what I think concerns us both. I have no personal objection to the notes, I never had. But if the disapprobation of even a small portion of readers could be avoided, I repeat it, I did not think I was wrong in mentioning it, though I felt that reluctance which I did. I did not excludeMr. Lofft from writing any critique, or appendix, or whatever he pleased; I said I should like to write something myself by way of preface. What was the reply? 'It is very proper that you should.' I then thought that Mr Lofft would have done the same in his own way, and when the proof of the preface was returned without, I was disappointed that he had not, and wished that I had said expressly that the proofs had been revised by him. So much for excluding Mr. Lofft from my poor publication.
If I felt that I deserved these severe censures, I should be miserable; as I know that I do not, my mind shall be easy come what will. To write my thoughts I see is impossible without lessening that high opinion which has been professed for me. I have been extravagantly applauded; few men have had a severer trial. My Modesty have been extoll'd; my insolence shall not take place of it in any ones mind, unless what I now write be so termd. I feel my situation to be novel; the world looks at me in that light. I am extreemly anxious on that account. I do not pretend to know how strong a negative in any case my author's prerogative ought to give me. I have formerly used it with much greater chance of offending (as I thought) than I did now. Now, I only suggested; formerly I dictated (in the 'imagination'),  and still I was not given up. If Mr Lofft and I could change places we might feel each other's convictions stronger; and I assure Mr Lofft that he might safely enter upon the trial, and would have to endure no compunctions, no remorse for the sin of ingratitude, no consciousness of having forfeited one tittle of the character voluntarily given him by those who have a right to watch over the peculiarities of his mind, and the dawnings of his ambition, lighted and fann'd by themselves.
With these sentiments, never in my life thinking higher of my own purity of principle, I beg to be, sir, with all due and unabated respect,
If the Duke of Grafton calls at Troston, and my name should be mentioned, it may be more than I deserve. But if I had made any private communication I should indeed be that scoundrel which I am becoming in Mr. Lofft's account.
If the trouble given by the revisal of my publication has robbed Mr Lofft of one pleasure, it will cast a gloom over that train of thinking in my mind; but I shall never be ungrateful.