1866. Robert Southey to Ebenezer Elliott, 7 February 1811 *
Keswick. Feby. 7. 1811.
I will willingly find fault with your play  when you can find means of sending it me. – that is, I will gladly, if it be in my power, point out in what manner it may be fitted for representation, should it require alteration & appear capable of being so altered. Of managers & green rooms I know nothing. Old Cumberland  once said to me in his characteristic way – “whatever you do Sir, never write a play! the torments of the damned are nothing to it.” – I myself suspect that if a man suffers any thing like purgatory from <in> a green room, it must be his own fault. I would send my play then, – if it were accepted, they might mutilate it as they pleased, – because the actors (generally speaking) must be the best judge of what will tell on the stage, – & because the author can always restore the piece to its original state when he prints it.
I am sorry you should have suspected any thing like a reproach upon female “single-blessedness’ in women, – in what is said of Lorrinite. Nothing could be farther from my thoughts. The passage has nothing beyond in an individual reference to the Witch herself, therein described as a ‘cankerd rose’.  You may find abundant proofs in my writings, – & would require none if you knew me, – that no man can be more innocent of such opinions as you seem to have suspected, – So far <am I> from not regarding continence as a virtue.
Those unaccountable clinks, as you call them, in the middle of the lines, are as you must have seen too frequent to be accidental.  I went upon the system of rhyming to the ear, regardless of the [MS obscured] have throughout the poem availed myself of the power which this gave me. The verse was no bondage to me. If I do not greatly deceive myself it unites the advantages of rhyme with the strength & freedom of blank verse – in a manner peculiar to itself. – As far as I can judge (which is of course must be from very imperfect & partial means) the story seems not to have shocked people as much as I expected; Scott tells me he has reviewed it for the next Quarterly  – this will have some effect upon its sale & immediate estimation, but that it should become popular is impossible. Many years must elapse before the opinion of the few can become the law of the many.
I have fallen in love with the American subject which did not strike your fancy – & have half moulded it into a story of which a primitive Quaker is the hero, – a curious character you will say for heroic poetry, – certainly an original one. 
If you ever think upon political subjects I beseech you read Capt Pasleys Essay on Military Policy, – a book which ought to be not only in the hands but in the heart of every Englishman. 
yrs very truly
– Respecting Jornandes  I said nothing more than I meant. The accounts of those times are so short & unsatisfactory, that it could not possibly be the employment of more than half an hour to translate every thing relating to this point of history in that author, – if he were at hand. Nothing (I am sure) would be to be found but the naked fact without detail of circumstances
* Address: To/ Mr E. Elliott Junr/
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Morgan Library, MA 63. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 297–298. BACK
 Elliott had interpreted the following description of the enchantress Lorrinite as an attack upon unmarried women: ‘She was a woman whose unlovely youth,/ Even like a cankered rose, which none will cull,/ Had withered on the stalk; her heart was full/ Of passions which had found no natural scope,/ Feelings which there had grown but ripened not;/ Desires unsatisfied, abortive hope/ Repinings which provoke vindictive thought,/ Those restless elements for ever wrought,/ Fermenting in her with perpetual stir,/ And thus her spirit to all evil mov’d’, The Curse of Kehama (1810), Book 11, lines 27–36. BACK
 The poem was ‘Oliver Newman’, left incomplete at Southey’s death. For Elliott’s proposed poem on an American subject, see Southey to Ebenezer Elliott, 5 June 1810 (Letter 1783), and 1 August 1810 (Letter 1796). BACK
 Jornandes (c. mid 6th century), a Roman bureaucrat who wrote two Latin histories: De Getarum (Gothorum) Origine et Rebus Gestis (c. 551) and De Regnorum ac Temporum Successione (c. 551–552) . Both were widely used by later historians. Elliott had expressed interest in writing an epic poem that drew on events described by Jornandes, possibly the death of Decius (201–251; Emperor of Rome 249–251) in battle with the Goths. For Southey’s advice see Southey to Ebenezer Elliott, 7 October 1810, Letter 1813. BACK