2508. Robert Southey to James Hogg, 1 December 1814 *
Keswick. Dec. 1. 1814.
Thank you for your books. I will not say that the Queen’s Wake  has exceeded my expectations, because I have ever expected great things from you, since in 1805 I heard Walter Scott by his own fireside at Ashiestiel repeat Gilmanscleuch.  When he came to that line ‘I ga’e him a my goud father’ – the look & the tone with which he gave it were not needed to make it go thro me. But the Wake has equalled all xxx that I expected. The improvements in the new edition are very great, & <they are> in the two poems which were most deserving of improvement, as being the most impressive & the most original. Each is excellent in its way, but Kilmeny  is of the highest character: The Witch of Fife  is a rich work of fancy, – Kilmeny a fine one of imagination, – which is a higher & rarer gift. These poems have given general pleasure throughout the house; my eldest girl often comes out with a stanza or two of the Witch, – but she wishes sometimes that you always wrote in English. – The Spy  I shall go thro more at leisure.
I like your praise both of myself & my poem because it is comes from a good quarter. You saw me where & how a man is best seen, at home, & in his every day, wear & tear, mind & manners: I have no holy day suit, & never seek to shine; such at <as it> is, my light is always burning. – Much <Somewhat> of my character you may find in Chaucers Clerk of Oxenford, & the concluding line of that description might be written as the fittest motto under my portrait ‘Gladly would he learn & gladly teach.’  I have sinned enough to make me humble in myself & indulgent toward others. I have suffered enough to find in religion not merely consolation, but hope & joy. & I have seen enough to be contented in, & thankful for, the state of life in which it has pleased God to place me.
We hoped to have seen you on your way back from Ellory.  I believe you did not get the Ballad of the Devil & the Bishop  which Hartley transcribed for you. I am reprinting my miscellaneous poems collected into three volumes, – & as your projected publication  will have the start of it greatly, for the first volume is not nearly thro the press, – & there is a corrected copy of the ballad, with its introduction, in Ballantynes hands, which you can make use <of> before it will be wanted in its place.
You ask me why I am not intimate with Wilson. There is a sufficient reason in the distance between our respective abodes. I seldom go even to Wordsworths or Lloyds, – & Ellory is far enough from either of their houses to make a visit the main business of a day. So it happens that except dining in his company once at Lloyds many years ago, & breakfasting with him here not long afterwards, I have barely exchanged saluations with him once or twice when we met upon the road. Perhaps however I might have sought him had it not been for his passion for cockfighting. But this is a thing which I regard with abhorrence.
Would that Roderick  were in your hands for reviewing. I should desire no fairer nor more competent critic. But it is of little consequence what friends or enemies may do for it now; it will find its due place in time, which is slow but sure in its decisions. From the nature of my studies I may almost be said to live in the past; it is to the future that I look on for my reward, & it would be difficult to make any person who is not thoroughly intimate with me, understand how compleatly indifferent I am to the praise or censure of the present generation, farther than as it may affect my xxxxx means of subsistence, which thank God it can no longer effectually do. There was a time when I was materially injured by unjust criticism; but even then I despised it, from a confidence in myself, & a natural buoyancy of spirit. It cannot injure me now, – but I cannot hold it in more thorough contempt.
Come & visit me when the warm weather returns. You can go nowhere where you will be more sincerely welcomed –
And may God bless you
I specify your person on the cover, for want of a fuller direction – this no doubt will reach you – 
* Address: To/ Mr James Hogg/ (The Ettrick Shepherd.)/ Edinburgh./
Postmark: [partial] 3 DEC/ 1814
Watermark: J DICKINSON & CO/ 1811
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 2245. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Mary Garden, Memorials of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd (Paisley, 1844), pp. 73–77. BACK
 Hogg’s ballad ‘Gilmanscleugh’, published in his The Mountain Bard; Consisting of Ballads and Songs, Founded on Facts and Legendary Tales (Edinburgh, 1807), pp. 35–49. The line Southey quotes appears on p. 48. BACK