2037. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 13 February 1812 *
Keswick Feby 13. 1812.
You are right honest woman, Senhora, — an awkward sort of compliment to a Lady, it must be confessed, considering what is meant by making an honest woman, — no matter for that. I love you the better for the honesty with which you speak of Sir J Moore & when you have read my Register for 1809 where I have said more of him & as much of him as your heart could desire, you will think me very honest too.  There is a second siege of Zaragoza in that volume,  not less impressive than the first; & there is an attack upon the Burdettite Reformers, written with as much force as any thing which I have ever yet produced,  — for you must know that I am become a great enemy to what is called Parliamentary Reform; — it is a vile twopenny-halfpenny business, holding out nothing but a deceitful economy, & substituting Profit & loss in the place of every thing which has hitherto been considered as great & generous.
I will find out who purchased Ennerdale  as soon as I meet with any person who can tell me; it will probably prove a useless piece of information, for it is not likely the purchasers will be induced to sell, what they have no intention of selling, unless a great price be held out to them.
I give you joy of the Imperials criticism, & of Miss Linwoods tragedy.  Happy Senhora to be so favoured! By way however of making you some amends for what you may have suffered at this tragedy I will tell you that Landor has just published one without his name,  which tho it has little common dramatic interest, & partakes of that obscurity which distinguishes all his verse, is yet a most wonderful production, & has passages in it of exquisite beauty, & of unsurpassable sublimity. Count Julian is the title. The same characters of those of Pelayo, but very differently represented.  Julian is the hero, & very finely is the character conceived. — It does not accord with my plans to give any dignity to Julian I take him, as the scanty historical accounts we have, represent him.
A notion has come into my head for a poem, which if it ripen will get the world staring even more than Kehama has done, or my unborn Quaker-hero will do.  You have had a Mahommedan poem in Thalaba, & a Hindoo one,  this is to be a Heavenly one — that is, the scene is to be in the next world, — I want to see if I cannot make a Heaven of my own, & believe in it into the bargain. Now as it is my firm belief, according to the doctrine of the Bards,  that they who get out of this stage of existence into a better, are out of reach of evil, & that no other change takes place but that of perpetual progression in knowledge & power, — that is, growth without the sense of alteration. it is clear that I can have no story involving any thing like those hopes & fears which are as necessary to narration, almost, as plums to a plum-pudding. But it seems feasible to borrow them from earth, — by making my story human, but taking the point of view of it wholly from heaven, & bringing up the actors there at last, to rejoin those who have gone before them.  The possibility I feel, & have a better map of Heaven in my head than ever Swedenborg had,  tho to be sure it is not quite so definite in all its parts. Now I believe this would not only be a very delightful task but that it would be a very useful one as well, for my Heaven is such a one that whether the reader chose to believe it or not, it would lay hold of him & as much alter his feeling of death & immortality as the Paradise Lost modified his notions of Adam & Eve,  — or to come nearer to the mark, as Shakespeare influences his conceptions of Richard the Third & Henry 5th. 
The evil is Senhora, that occupations multiply upon my hands, — & the hands do not multiply for the occupations. On one hand I am called upon for the Quarterly Review, — on another for the Register,  & — here is Pelayo  on the stocks, — a life of Nelson advertised & only a third part of it written,  — the concluding vol. of Brazil  to be finished if possible this summer, — &c &c. And when one thing is done, there seems to be just as much . . . the Review comes once a quarter, the Register once a year, & I do but breathe from one job, to begin upon another. If I could but . . . that Historiographers birth,  I would drop some of these things, & divide my time between poetry & my own historical pursuits; for such is the perversity of the age that the more reputation I get, the more I am called off to busy myself upon temporary topics.
Farewell. I rejoice to think that your marvellous oak is by this time nearly seasoned, & that I may begin to think of the cabinet. Two shelves I think deep enough to contain a fools-cap quarto, (the depth of this half sheet is amply sufficient) & two drawers below. Something in this way, if you can understand my drawing;  — or if it will look better to have no drawers below the Doors, then a third shelf within — I do not mean three shelves, but two besides the ground floor. but you are the Queen of the Kickmanjiggers — Queen said I? — yea verily the Empress — Autocratrix — or Grand-Senhora, — which I take it is the highest title you could have, were you a Turk. So do you exercise your own taste.
God bless you.
* Address: To/ Miss Barker
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 385–389
 Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 56–108. Mary Barker had been reading the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 421–441, 306–321, on Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB) and the first siege of Zaragoza (1808). BACK
 Possibly the composer and author Mary Linwood (c. 1783–1850s?), rather than her aunt, Mary Linwood (1755–1845; DNB), whose copies in needlework of one hundred pictures of old and modern masters were exhibited in London from 1798–1841. The younger Mary Linwood published Leicestershire Tales (1808) and a long poem, The Anglo-Cambrian (1818). BACK