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

2410. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, [after 27 April 1814]⁠* 

My dear Cottle

You may imagine with what feelings I have read your correspondence with C.  [1]  Shocking as his letters are perhaps the most mournful thing which they discover is that xx while acknowledging the guilt of the habit, he imputes it still to morbid bodily causes, whereas after every possible allowance is made for these, every person who has witnessed his habits, knows that for the greater & infinitely the greater part, – inclination & indulgence are the motives. Xx It seems dreadful to say this with his expressions before me, but it is so & I know it to be so, from my own observations & that of all who with whom he has lived. The Morgans [2]  with great difficulty & perseverance did break him of the habit, at a time when his ordinary consumption of laudanum was from two quarts a week to a pint a day. He suffered dreadfully during the xxx first abstinence so much so as to say it was better to die than to endure his present feelings. Mrs Morgan resolutely replied it was indeed better that he should die, than that he should continue to live as he had been living. It angered him at the time, but the effort was persevered in. To what then was the relapse owing? I believe to this cause, – that no use was made of recovered health & spirits, – that time past on in idleness, till the lapse of time brought with it a sense of neglected duties, & then xxxx relief was again sought for a self accusing mind, in bodily feelings which when the stimulus ceased to act, added only to the load of self accusation. This Cottle is an insanity of that species which none but the Souls physician can cure. Unquestionably restraint would do for him as much as it did when the Morgans tried it, but I do not see the slightest reason for thinking it would be more permanent. – This too I ought to say, that all the medical men to whom C. has made his confession, have uniformly ascribed the evil not to bodily ailments, but to indulgence.

The restraint which would effectually cure him is that which no person can impose upon him. Could he be compelled to a certain quantity of labour for his family every day, – the pleasure of having done it would make his heart glad, & the sane mind would make the body sane. I see nothing so advisable for him as that he should come here. My advice would be that he should go to {visit} Poole for two or three weeks to freshen himself, & recover spirits, which new scenes never fail to give him. While there he may consult his friends at Birmingham & Liverpool on the fitness of lecturing at those places, at each of which he has friends, & would I should think beyond all doubt, be succesful. He must be very unfortunate if he did not raise from 50 to 100£ at the two! But whether he can do this or not, here it is that he ought to be. He knows in what manner he will be received – by his children with joy, – by his wife, not with tears if she can controul them, – certainly not with reproaches, – by me only with encouragements. He has sources of direct emolument open to him in the Courier, [3]  & in the Eclectic Review, [4]  – these for his immediate wants, & for every thing else his pen is more rapid than mine, & would be paid as well. – If you agree with me, you had better write to Poole, that he may press him to make a visit, which I know he has promised. His great object should be to get out a play, & appropriate the whole produce to xxxx supporting Hartley at College. Three months pleasurable exertion would effect this. Of some such fit {of} industry I by no means despair. Of any thing more than fits I am afraid I do. But this of course I shall never say to him; – from me he shall never hear any thing but chearful encouragement, & the language of hope.

You ask me if you did wrong in writing to him such a letter. A man with your feelings & principles my dear Cottle never does wrong. There are parts which I should {would} have {been} expunged had I been at your elbow, – but in all & every part it is strictly applicable.

I hope your next will tell me that he is going to Stowey. Edith desires her kindest love to you & her sisters. [5]  I have communicated none of your letters to Mrs C. Any other woman would have broken her heart ere this, & happily as she has been constituted for her situation, her spirits & health are beginning to sink under it.

God bless you

Yrs most affectionately

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ Mr Cottle/ Brunswick Square/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: Ap 14 1814; 79; 218
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 97–98 [dated April 1814]; Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847), pp. 373–375 [in part; dated April 1814].
Dating note: though endorsed by Cottle as ‘Ap 14 1814’ this letter contains Southey’s response to Cottle’s letter of 27 April 1814. BACK

[1] Cottle had written to Coleridge on 25 April 1814, urging him to renounce opium and return to Keswick in order to provide for his family (Cottle, Early Recollections: Chiefly Relating to the Late Samuel Taylor Coleridge, During His Long Residence in Bristol, 2 vols (London, 1837), II, pp. 150–155). Coleridge had responded the next day, outlining his addiction and suggesting he put himself under the care of Edward Long Fox (1760–1834), who ran a private asylum (E. L. Griggs (ed.), The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956–1971), III, pp. 476–478). A further anguished note from Coleridge followed on 26 April (Ibid., III, pp. 478). On 27 April, Cottle sent a copy of the correspondence to Southey, seeking his opinion (Lynda Pratt, ‘The “sad habits” of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Unpublished Letters from Joseph Cottle to Robert Southey, 1813–1817’, Review of English Studies, 55 (2004), 82–83). BACK

[3] Coleridge’s most recent article in the Courier had appeared on 4 January 1814. He did not resume writing for them until 20 September 1814. BACK

[4] Southey’s friend Josiah Conder had become proprietor of the Electic Review in 1813. Southey assured Cottle on 17 April 1814 (Letter 2403), that the Electic was ‘urgently desirous’ of Coleridge’s ‘assistance’. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013