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

2020. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 21 January 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany. 21. 1812.

My dear friend

Your last letter troubled both my sleep & my waking thoughts, for tho I had heard of your losses I had no notion of their extent. [1] 

There is likely to be a place at the Museum vacated by the resignation of Douce. The thing I believe is not yet known. The presentation is in the vested in the Speaker, the AB. of Canterbury & the Ld Chancellor. [2]  Thro Rickman I think the first may be secured, & possibly I could get at the second thro two channels, – but I am not without fear that your mortal heresies may stand in the way. However the trial may be made. Tell me if such a situation would be conformable to your inclinations, – & I will immediately set to work. That Douce had the intention two months ago I know, & the situation has been represented to me as worth 400 £ a year. But if he should have changed his mind vacancies are not infrequently occurring, & it is well to have an eye upon them.

Cannot your literary employments be made more productive? The Monthly [3]  when you were formerly connected with it paid better than the other Reviews, – it is now I believe much behind the quarterly ones in this respect. Your political opinions square sufficiently with the Edinburghers, [4]  – your heresies would be inadmissable there, for their esoteric criticism is perfectly orthodox in its professions. But should you object to assist the Quarterly in any of those xx topics which have no connection with party or sectarian feelings? I should be sorry to see the weight of your talents thrown into Jefferys scale.

You once talked of arranging & collecting your scattered writings; – make this your amusement, – & while the volumes are printing let your friends make out a list which will take off the whole impression without its passing thro a booksellers hands. Your assent to this is all that would be needed, & this, I think, you ought not to refuse. The task is one which you owe to yourself, for unless you do this others will one day fasten upon your remains, & pilfer {the} reputation which you throw away. The manner ought not to be objectionable, – it leave that wholly to others, & the result will be that the whole of the booksellers profit will be saved, – amounting to more than a fourth of the gross product of the whole impression. [5] 

You have formerly talked of writing the history of the Hanse Towns. [6]  Should you seriously think of prosecuting this design, my Uncle has a volume which may be serviceable to you. It contains – Notitia Majorum, – Plurimas Lubecensium aliorum q clarorum virorum, de Ecclesia, Republica et Literis egregie meritorum vitas, &c comprehendens quam filiis impertit Jacobus a Melle. Lipsiæ. 1707. [7]  – Another work by the same Lubec Pastor, entitled De Itineribus Lubecensium Sacris, seu de Religiosis & votives eorum Peregrinationibus vulgo Wallfarthen quas olim devotionis ergo ad Loca sacra susceperunt. – Lubecæ, 1711. [8]  – Petri Vincentii de Origine, Incrementis et Laudibus Lubecæ Elegia – &c – 1755. [9]  – and finally Historia Lubecensis Recentior ab anno 1300, ad annum 1400 [10]  – by the aforsesaid Jacobus a Meller as his name is here written Jenæ 1679. – The collection was made at Lubec for a Frenchman of great book-learning at Lisbon, the Abbe Garnier, [11]  & xxxx the four tracts form but a moderately sized volume, they must contain something to your purpose, & probably they are not easily to be found. Shall I send it you? I can take the opportunity of x a booksellers parcel to London, & direct it either to Richard Taylors [12]  care or in any other way that you may appoint.

Of all topics that of consolation is the most difficult to handle well. You ought to be a happy man, because you have done your duty & [MS torn] nothing wherewith to reproach yourself; – & being a single one, & likely from long habits xxx to have remained so under any circumstances, no change of circumstances as respecting yourself ought to grieve afflict you deeply. A single man may look with indifference upon all that xxxx xxxxxxxx does not vitally affect him. But you are rich in friends, – rich in talents, rich in acquirements, rich in good works. And if I thought it possible that you could ever feel a reasonable anxiety respecting the means of comfortable subsistence, while there are so many men in the world who love you, & are beholden to you, I should think far worse of human nature than my own experience teaches me to do. – Were it needful, I would tell you & press upon you, that a man who has ever been so ready to give, is bound in his turn to receive.

God bless you Wm Taylor! Remember me I pray to your Mother; [13]  I fear your greatest grief is to know that she grieves for your sake. But you have yet I trust long years of happiness before you.

yrs very affectionately

R Southey.


* Address: To/ Wm Taylor Junr Esqr/ Norwich
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: Ansd 10 February
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4869
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 369–373 [misdated 12 January 1812]. BACK

[1] Taylor’s letter of 10 December 1811, J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 349–353, described how a series of failed investments by his father had annihilated ‘between three and four thousand pounds. We cannot subsist, in our contracted shape, on the interest of what remains. The capital will last our joint lives; but I shall be abandoned at once to solitarity and penury. To what can I look forwards but to a voluntary interment in the same grave with my parents?’ (350–351). On receipt of Taylor’s letter, Southey immediately began to plan how to relieve his distress; see Southey to Robert Gooch, 15 December 1811, Letter 1999. BACK

[2] Francis Douce (1757–1834; DNB) had resigned as Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum in April 1811. The post was in the gift of the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Speaker and the Lord Chancellor. Southey had earlier refused to apply for the vacancy; see Southey to John Rickman, [c. November 1811], Letter 1991. BACK

[3] The Monthly Review, for which Taylor was a salaried reviewer 1793–1799. He started writing for the magazine again in 1808. BACK

[4] The Edinburgh Review, a Whig quarterly journal, founded in 1802. BACK

[5] Taylor replied, 10 February 1812, J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 373–375: ‘I have anticipated your advice, and have already begun to collect and publish my writings’ (374). He began with English Synonyms Discriminated (1813). BACK

[6] A proposed work on the coastal cities and towns that formed part of the Northern European Hanseatic League, a trading monopoly active between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. Taylor replied, J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, p. 375: ‘About the Hanse Towns I have no present scheme’. BACK

[7] Jacob von Melle (1659–1743), Lutheran theologian, author and polymath, who published widely on his native city, Lübeck. Notitia Majorum, Plurimas Lubecensium aliorumque Clarorum Virorum de Ecclesia, Republica et Literis Egregie Meritorum Vitas, ab aliquot Saeculis Repetitas et Documentis Authenticis Illustratas, Comprehendens, quam Filiis Impertit Jacobus a Melle (1707). BACK

[8] Jacob von Melle (1659–1743), De Itineribus Lubecensium Sacris, seu de Religiosis & Votives eorum Peregrinationibus Vulgo ‘Wallfarthen’ quas olim Devotionis ergo ad Loca Sacra Susceperunt (1711). BACK

[9] A 1755 edition of Peter Vincent (1519–1581), De Origine, Incrementis et Laudibus Lubecæ Elegia (1552). BACK

[10] Jacob von Melle (1659–1743), Historia Lubecensis Recentior ab anno 1300, ad annum 1400 (1679). BACK

[11] Charles-Francois, Abbé Garnier (1722–1804), had been chaplain to the French factory at Lisbon. He was a noted collector of books, manuscripts, coins and medals. Some of his collection was auctioned in London on 10 June 1807. BACK

[12] The printer, naturalist and Unitarian, Richard Taylor (1781–1858; DNB). Born in Norwich, he had moved to London in 1797 to serve his apprenticeship and remained there. He was a fellow of the Linnean Society, Society of Antiquaries, Royal Astronomical Society, and the Philological Society. BACK

[13] Sarah Taylor, nee Wright (1735/6–1812). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013