Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

204. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 13 March 1797 ⁠* 

March 13th. 1797 Monday

I have not yet seen Hunter, the Murderer of Saint Pierre. [1]  tis fortunate that I called him so — for it reminds me of what I had to say. some Perry, a proprietor of the Courier, [2]  will convey a Joan of Arc to France for me, (& I am to send him one for his trouble) which he will send over to his friend likewise. this is managed by Phillips, [3]  who will take me to Perry; & I am in hopes it will be means of making the book known in that better country. in consequence, when I wrote to Robinson for Peacocks books (for I could not see him when I called, & when George Dyer spoke to him for me he said he could not send them without an order from you; I therefore enclosed him your letter desiring me to apply to him, by the penny post. this was sent Saturday.) at the same time I sent for 3 Joan of Arc — wanting one here, & desired 18 Letters, [4]  to send 4 to Lisbon by Robert Allen, & keep the other two for occasional calls. the London Booksellers however are unpleasant men — purse-proud — & I believe inclined to look upon authors as a needy & dependant race — there is as much trouble in seeing one as there would be in finding access to a prime minister. when I called Robinson was busy — & could not be seen till three o clock. I will therefore thank you to send me six of each with the parcel. (directed here. 20. Prospect Place. Newington Butts.)

Perhaps you will be surprized to hear that of all the Lions or Literati that I have seen here, there is not {one} whose countenance has not some unpleasant trait. Mary Imlay’s is the best — infinitely the best. the only fault in it is an expression somewhat similar to what the prints of Horne Tooke [5]  display; — an expression indicating superiority, not haughtiness — not conceit — not sarcasm in Mary Imlay — but still it is unpleasant. her eyes are light brown, & tho the lid of one of them is affected by a slight paralysis they are the most meaning I ever saw. her complection is dark, sun-burnt, & her skin a little cracked — for she is near forty, & Affliction has borne harder upon her than years. but her manners are the most pleasing I ever witnessed — they display warm feelings & strong understanding, & the knowledge she has acquired of men & manners ornaments, not disguises, her own character. I have given an unreserved opinion of Mrs Barbauld [6]  when I wrote to Charles Danvers.

When I was with George Dyer one morning last week Mary Hayes [7]  & Miss Christall [8]  entered, & the ceremony of introduction followed Mary Hayes writes in the M. Magazine under the signature M.H. & sometimes writes nonsense about Helvetius there. [9]  she has lately published a novel — Emma Courtney [10]  — a book much praised & much abused; I have not seen it myself. but the severe censures passed upon it by persons of narrow mind, have made be curious, & convinced me that it is at least an uncommon work. Mary Hays is an agreable woman — & a Godwinite. now if you will read Godwins book [11]  with attention, we will then determine between us xxx xxxx in what light to consider that sectarian title. as for Godwin himself, he has large noble eyes, & a nose — oh most abominable nose! language is not vituperative enough to express the effect of its downward elongation. he loves London — literary society, & talks nonsense about the collision of mind, & Mary Hays echos him.

But Miss Christall. have you seen her Poems? [12]  — a fine, artless sensible girl, now Cottle that word sensible must not be construed here in its dictionary acceptation. ask a Frenchman what it means & he will understand it, tho perhaps {he can by} no circumlocution xxxx define its explain its French meaning. her heart is alive. she loves Poetry — she loves retirement — she loves the country. her verses are very incorrect, & the Literary Circle say she has no genius. but she has Genius, Joseph Cottle! or there is no truth in physiognomy. Gilbert Wakefield [13]  came in while we I was disputing with Mary Hays upon the moral effects of Towns. he has a most Critic-like voice — as if he had snarled himself hoarse.

You see I like the Women better than the Men. indeed they are better animals in general — perhaps because more is left to Nature in their education. nature is very good — but God knows there is very little of it left!

Remember me to Robert. I wish you were within a mornings walk — but I am always persecuted by Time & Space. Robert Southey & Law & Poetry make up an odd kind of tri-union. we jog on easily together, & I advance with sufficient rapidity in Blackstone [14]  & Madoc. I hope to finish my Poem & begin my practise in about two years.

God bless you.

Ediths love. she is finishing a letter to your sister.

Yrs affectionately

R Southey.

let Danvers know you are about to send me a parcel — that he may write. & keep one of the fine copies for him.

I have no place for my books here — our apartments are small & dear. we must remove. of course my poor books must still intrude upon you for lodging.

Of Chattertons Sister [15]  I must say something. Losh talked with me upon the subject. (he is an admirable man) We must one day collect all Chattertons works whereever scattered, — publish by subscription for her benefit. [16]  as soon as the Times will afford any likelihood of success. I will undertake any trouble of editing — collecting — prefacing &c — gladly, if no better person can be found — I mean more able to assist the work by his name & connections. more hereafter of this.


Notes

* Address: For/ Mr Cottle/ High Street/ Bristol/ Single [A note is inserted near the address, possibly in another hand (perhaps Cottle’s): ‘cancel 39 is not in Ld Carysforts copy/ Rob. has sent the books. with a civil note’.]
Stamped: [partial] BRI/ Westminster
Postmark: [partial] FMR/ 16[?]/ 97
Endorsements: Southey/ March 1797; 21 (71)
MS: Bristol Reference Library, B20870
Previously published: Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847), pp. 203–204 [in part]; Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 305–307 [in part]. BACK

[1] Henry Hunter (1741–1802; DNB) had published a translation of Jacques-Henri Bernadin de St Pierre’s (1737–1814) Études de la Nature in 1796. BACK

[2] Southey could be mistaken here; James Perry (1756–1821; DNB) was a proprietor of the Morning Chronicle. BACK

[3] Sir Richard Phillips (1767–1840; DNB), author, publisher and proprietor of the Monthly Magazine. BACK

[4] Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797). BACK

[5] John Horne Tooke (1736–1812; DNB), radical and philologist. BACK

[6] Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743–1825; DNB), poet and essayist. BACK

[7] The writer Mary Hays (1759–1843; DNB). BACK

[8] The poet Anne Batten Cristall (c. 1769–1848; DNB). BACK

[9] Hays’s article on Helvetius appeared in the Monthly Magazine in June 1796. Southey’s reply was published in the Monthly Magazine in September 1796 under the signature ‘S.R.’(see Letter 172). BACK

[10] Mary Hays, Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796). BACK

[11] Probably William Godwin’s An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793). BACK

[12] Ann Batten Cristall, Poetical Sketches (1795). BACK

[13] Gilbert Wakefield (1756–1801; DNB), biblical scholar and political controversialist. BACK

[14] William Blackstone (1723–1780; DNB), Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769). BACK

[15] Thomas Chatterton’s (1752–1770; DNB) sister, Mary Newton (1749–1804; DNB). BACK

[16] The edition, co-edited by Southey and Joseph Cottle, appeared as The Works of Thomas Chatterton (1803). BACK

About this Page

Published @ RC

March 2009