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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1742. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 9 February 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Feby. 9. 1810.

My dear Cottle

The year 1810 being come, I write to remind my old friend that there is a covenant between him & me, & that, God willing, we expect this next midsummer to bid you & your sister Mary welcome to Keswick. Heartily – heartily glad shall we be to see you both. It is a long way to come, – but the place is worth the trouble of the journey, & if you went to the worlds end, you would not find a more cordial reception upon the way, nor at the close of the journey.

My goings on are as usually, – as it was in the beginning, so it is now, & so I trust it will be as long as it please God to continue to me the gifts of health & ability. The first volume of my Hist of Brazil would have been publishd two months ago if the Printer had pleased, – but when it may please him to finish it, he knows better than I do [1]  My patience is not exhausted, but my charity towards him is, & I would gladly apply cogent motives to him in the shape of a little wholesome flogging at the carts tail. Kehama [2]  is finished; – a great satisfaction to me on this account, that since I resumed it, it has been wholly written before breakfast, with the exception of the last 100 – or 150 lines which were done at a heat, for the sake of coming in at the end of the race. It x is gone to press & I have corrected the first proof. every body will stare at this poem, & very very few persons will like it, – I think you will be one of the number. It will I doubt not procure for me much immediate abuse & ridicule, & some after reputation. I have begun another poem, of which Pelayo the Spanish founder of the Spanish throne is the hero. [3]  very little is done, – not quite the first section, – but it is to my satisfaction. The metre is regular blank verse. wild measures suit wild subjects, but when the whole interest which is to be excited arises out of human passions {interests} & human sympathies, our blank verse is in my judgement the most dignified form of narration & the best. Of course it is my hope to make this my best poem as a whole, – tho there {are} parts in some of my others which it will is not likely that I shall ever be able to exceed. My hand has not lost its cunning, & it is to be regarded as a proof of improvement rather than otherwise that I write less rapidly than I did fifteen years ago, – being less easily satisfied with myself.

Filthy Mammon has me on the hip, – or I should do more in this way. My feelings concerning the lucre of gain are just what they always were, – only that dearer times & increasing expences make a larger income necessary than sufficed me in former years, – & God be praised my means have always hitherto increased with my wants. The Quarterly Review is a great help to me, – they pay ten guineas per sheet, & for the life of Nelson on which I am now at work twenty. [4]  Last year I got from it about 100 guineas, – & this year shall receive considerably more. But my the most advantageous engagement that has ever occurred to me, is with the Edinburgh Annual Register, – for which I have undertaken the historical part at the price of 400£. If this continues a few years year or two longer, my affairs with Longman will clear themselves & I shall be above the world. Hitherto I have outrun the Constable [5]  with Longman – tho never so as to exceed the value of my share of the current editions in his hands. His language to me has always been ‘draw for what you want,’ – & I verily believe that he has much personal regard for me as he can have for a man whom he personally knows so little.

I anticipate great pleasure in showing you my library, & the prospect from its window. I would say my children too, – if on this subject I were not far too sensible of the uncertainty of human life ever to look before me with confidence. We have three living, & at present, thank God, doing well. One we lost in May last at the age of 15 months, – a lovely little girl.

Tell me now something of your goings on, for it is long since I have heard of you. What have you done? what are you doing? How are your sisters, & how is your excellent good Mother ? How is Robert? It seems like remembering a dream to look back upon the time when I saw him & you daily, & met with faces in your shop, so many of which I shall never behold again. My brother Harry has been marrie[MS cut] almost a year, & is doing well at Durham, whither I take the two Ediths [6]  on their first visit in April next, – if we be all doing well. Tom I think you have a chance of seeing about this time, as he expects to have what he calls a run upon the sod. My younger {brother} is vagabonding. Heaven knows where. The last news of him was that having – been once more provided for (solely for his names-sake) by persons with whom I had no personal acquaintance whatever, with a commission in a Portugueze regiment – taken from the ranks by them, & fitted out for his rank, – he was turning his equipment into money, throwing up this situation, & preparing to be a vagrant again. It is a case of moral insanity, – a species of madness of which both philosophy & charity may acknowledge the existence.

I hope you saw my triumphant vindication of the Baptist Mission in the first number of the Quarterly Review [7]  It is most ungraciously acknowledged in the Methodist Magazine, – whi instead of thanking the unknown author who has set the subject in its proper light to the conviction of persons whom none of their vindications ever would have reachd, – their best praise is that I have xxx not committed any wilful misrepresentations or falshoods. [8]  However I neither want their praise, nor their gratitude, – the good that there is in these sectarians no man will be more ready to acknowledge, – the mischief, no man will be more ready to expose, & as far as in him lies, to counteract.

Tom has found a copy of the American Madoc for me. [9]  A handsome Yankee book in two volumes. It was published in numbers.

Edith desires to be very kindly remembered –

God bless you

Yrs very affectionately

Robert Southey


Notes

* Address: To/ Mr Cottle/ Brunswick Square/ Bristol/ Single
Endorsement: 33 (Robert Southey)/ 179; and Feby 9th 1810
MS: Pforzheimer Collection, New York Public Library, Misc 3574
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 526–529. BACK

[1] . The first volume of The History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[2] The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. BACK

[3] An early idea for what became Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). Pelayo [Pelagius] (d. 737; reigned 718–737) was the founder of the Kingdom of Asturias. He is credited with beginning the Christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsula. BACK

[4] For Southey’s review of John Charnock (1756–1806; DNB), Biographical Memoirs of Lord Viscount Nelson, &c., &c., &c.; with Observations, Critical and Explanatory (1806); James Harrison (d. 1847), The Life of Lord Nelson (1806); T. O. Churchill (fl. 1800–1823), The Life of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronté, &c (1808); and James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) and John McArthur (1755–1840; DNB), The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from his Lordship’s Manuscripts (1809); see Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. It was later expanded into a full-scale Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[5] To ‘outrun the Constable’ was an old phrase that signified getting into debt. BACK

[6] Southey’s wife and daughter. BACK

[7] . For Southey’s ‘Account of the Baptist Missionary Society’, Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. BACK

[8] The Methodist Magazine, 32 (1809), 455. BACK

[9] The edition of Madoc published in Boston, Mass., in 1806. BACK

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August 2013