1840. Robert Southey to Charles Lloyd, Senior, [fragment], 14 December 1810 

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

1840. Robert Southey to Charles Lloyd, Senior, [fragment], 14 December 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick, December 14, 1810.

Dear Sir,

I ought long ago to have thanked you for your little volume. [1]  Without comparing the versification to Pope’s [2]  in point of high finishing, I can truly say that I think it a versification of a better kind – flowing more naturally, less monotonous and therefore less wearying. Charles I perceive has marked several passages in my copy as imperfect rhymes, – I cannot consider them as blemishes; it is from the French that our critics have learnt to condemn them, and a comparison of their theory of verse with that of other countries would prove that the objection proceeds rather from obtuseness of ear than from delicacy. The only thing I should object to in your lines is when you occasionally pronounce what use has made a mute syllable, for instance:

Not unobserved by the noble maid.

There is a license which of late years I have never allowed myself.

I hope you will find leisure to complete what you have begun. [3]  The Odyssey is a delightful poem, and the most delightful parts of it are yet to come. And tho’ there is a richness and fulness in the Greek hexameter which no English metre can imitate (and least of all the couplet, which I hold to be the very worst possible metre for narration) yet your version represents Homer more faithfully than either Pope or Cowper: [4]  the stiffness of the latter is as unlike the original, as the finery of the former. . . .

Believe me Sir,

Yrs. with true respect,

ROBERT SOUTHEY.


Notes

* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from E. V. Lucas, Charles Lamb and the Lloyds (1898)
Previously published: E. V. Lucas, Charles Lamb and the Lloyds (London, 1898), pp. 220–221 [in part]. BACK

[1] Charles Lloyd [Senior], A Translation of the First Seven Books of the Odyssey of Homer (1810). BACK

[2] Alexander Pope’s (1688–1744; DNB) influential verse translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey; Southey owned a seven-volume edition of 1794, no. 1355 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[3] Lloyd’s translation was completed, but not published. BACK

[4] William Cowper’s (1731–1800; DNB) translation of Homer; Southey owned a two-volume edition of 1794, no. 1354 in the sale catalogue of his library, and a four-volume edition of 1802, no. 1356 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013