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

2298. Robert Southey to John Wilson Croker, [4 September 1813] ⁠* 

Streatham. Saturday afternoon.

My dear Sir

I have just received a letter from Scott. [1]  Its contents were not altogether unexpected, & having half-anticipated such a result I had given the subject {matter} its due consideration.

Twenty years ago when I had a reputation to win it would have been easy for me to furnish odes upon demand on any subject. This is no longer the case. I should go to the task like a school boy, with reluctance & a sense of incapacity for executing it well; & {but} unless I could so perform it as to give credit to the office, certain it is that the office could give none to me.

But if these periodical exhibitions were dispensed with, & I were left to write upon great events, or, to be silent, according as the spirit moved, I should then thankfully accept the office as a mark of honourable distinction, which it would then become.

I write thus to you; not as proposing terms to the Prince, an impropriety of which I should be fully aware, but as to a friend who has more than once shown me acts of kindness which I had no reason to expect, & by whose advice I would be guided.

On Monday I will xxxxxxxxx enquire at the Admiralty if you be at leisure.

Believe me my dear Sir

very truly & respectfully yours

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ John Wilson Croker Esqre/ &c &c &c/ Admiralty
Endorsement: I saw him
MS: Morgan Library, MA 1005
Previously published: L. J. Jennings (ed.), The Croker Papers: The Correspondence and Diaries of the Late Right Honourable John Wilson Croker, 2 vols (London, 1884), I, pp. 50-51 [in part; dated ‘probably September 1813’].
Dating note: dating from content; this letter was written on Saturday 4 September 1813. BACK

[1] Scott’s letter of 1 September [1813], telling Southey that he had declined the Poet Laureateship and instead recommended him to Croker. He also cautioned ‘I am uncertain if you will like it, for the laurel has certainly been tarnished by some of its wearers, and as at present managed, its duties are inconvenient and somewhat liable to ridicule’, H. C. Grierson (ed.), The Letters of Walter Scott, 1787–1832, 12, vols (London, 1932–1937), III, pp. 335–336. BACK

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August 2013