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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

212. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 26 April 1797 ⁠* 

Wednesday evening. 26th April. 1797.

Remember us to Gilbert. [1] 


On receiving your letter (Thursday last) I went to the Swan, found the box there & requested the Master to send it as soon as possible. which he promised. that day & the next I vainly expected it, & on the Saturday Mr Peacock sent his man for it. what a vice is the want of punctuality, & what a curse is expectation! the waggoner reminded me of this reflection, & this reflection reminded me of Rosser — & where are Charles Fox [2]  & his family? — Place the saddle on the right horse. it was Mrs Peacock who bargained with me for the lodgings.

I have finished Necker [3]  this morning — & return again to my regular train of occupations. Would that digging potatoes were among them! — & if I live some dozen years Cottle you shall eat potatoes of my digging. but I must think now of the present.

Some Mr T Park [4]  sent me a volume of his poems last week, with a note; its praises too gross for one whos is no fowl-feeder. I read his book it was not above mediocrity; he seems very fond of poetry, & even to a superstitious reverence for Thomsons old table & that xxxxx Miss Sewards [5]  manuscripts which he “rescued” from the printers. [6]  I called on him to thank him & was not sorry to find that he was not at home. But the next day a note arrives with more praise — he wishes my personal acquaintance & “trusts I shall excuse the frankness that avows that it would gratify his feelings to receive a copy of Joan of Arc from the Author.” now I thought this, to speak tenderly, not very modest. but there is a something in my nature which prevents me from even silently showing {displaying} my sentiments, if that display can give pain — & so I answered his note — & am going to send him the book. He writes sonnets to Miss Seward [7]  & Mr Hayley.  [8]  — enough to stamp him blockhead. I suppose he will call — & you shall hear more of him.

When the Bodderation comes, Carlisle & I have resolved instead of your a Revolutionary Tribunals to erect a Physiognomical one; & as transportation is to be the punishment instead of guillotining — to put the whole navy in requisition to carry off all ill-looking fellows — & then we may walk London Streets without being jostled. You are to be one of the Jury. & we must get some good Limner to take down the evidence. Witnesses xx will be needless — the features of a mans face will rise up in judgment against him. — & the very voice that pleads “not guilty” will sometimes be enough to convict the raven-toned criminal.

I think of splitting my Letters [9]  into two volumes — but whether I told you on what plan or no, I cannot recollect. I see them in several shops here. Danvers tells me you mean to cease your doing business {with} Hazard; [10]  certainly H told you huge lies.

T. Park wanted Coleridges Poems [11]  in vain. What news of a second edition? I supped with Flower [12]  (of Cambridge) lately with Mr Peacock, & never saw so much coarse strength in a countenance. his spirits seem heavily depressed by the death of the young man whom he had adopted. [13]  he repeated an epigram to me upon the dollars which perhaps you may not have seen.

To make Spanish Dollars ’mongst Englishmen pass
Stamp the head of a fool on the neck of an ass.

this has a coarse strength too — better perhaps than a point.

By Mr Peacocks desire I am going to get some papers printed with a list of my books, to hang up in the country Booksellers shops, as a cheap & permanent kind of advertisement. he wants some vignettes to a second edition of the Poems & the book to be six shillings. Alas! how tedious it is to plan books upon paper. half an hours conversation would say more than half a days writing. plague on Space. how I envy the Monster who dwells beyond it in the Adamant River! but you are not yet initiated into the mysteries of the Butler [14]  & I must not spoil his grand mythology by committing it to paper. How have you hurt your hand? — I set out with Mr Peacock this day week to reconnoitre; Danvers will not meet us as we hoped; We are very sorry for this — besides yourself, I look upon him & George Burnett as my only correspondents. George has commenced preacher. Danvers tells me you have written to Herbert Croft; [15]  give me some account of your letter. let me hear from you before I go — & tell me how you all are, & what is going on in the little world of Bristol. God bless you — remember me us to your sisters &c. — & remember me particularly to William Reid [16]  when you see him.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey


Notes

* Address: For/ Mr Cottle/ High Street/ Bristol
Stamped: [partial] Street
Postmark: AP/ 27/ 97
Endorsements: Southey/ April/ 1797; (76) 25
MS: Cornell University Library
Previously published: Leslie N. Broughton (ed.), Some Letters of the Wordsworth Family, Now First Published with a Few Unpublished Letters of Coleridge, Southey and Others (Ithaca, NY, 1942), pp. 114–115; Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847), pp. 209–210 [in part]. BACK

[1] Remember ... Gilbert: Added as a postscript, written upside down, on fol. 1 r. BACK

[2] The Bristol-based author Charles Fox (1740?–1809; DNB). BACK

[3] Southey translated the second volume of On the French Revolution. By M. Necker (1797). BACK

[4] Thomas Park (1758/9–1834; DNB), antiquary and bibliographer. BACK

[5] The poet Anna Seward (1742–1809; DNB). BACK

[6] Thomas Park’s Sonnets, and Other Small Poems (London, 1797) contained an inscription ‘For a Table which was Formerly Used as a Writing-Desk by Thomson the Poet’ (p. 71) and a sonnet ‘Written in a Manuscript Copy of Miss Seward’s Poems, After Having Rescued it from the Printing-House’ (p. 33). BACK

[7] Thomas Park, Sonnets, and Other Small Poems (London, 1797), pp. 6 and 33. BACK

[8] Thomas Park’s sonnet to William Hayley (1745–1820; DNB) appeared in his Sonnets, and Other Small Poems (London, 1797), p. 25. BACK

[9] Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal was published in January–February 1797. BACK

[10] Probably Samuel Hazard (d. 1806), a Bath-based printer, bookseller and publisher. BACK

[11] A second edition of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Poems on Various Subjects (1796) was published in 1797. BACK

[12] Benjamin Flower (1755–1829; DNB), writer and publisher of the radical newspaper the Cambridge Intelligencer. BACK

[13] The name of Flower’s adopted son is not recorded. BACK

[14] Samuel Butler (c. 1613–1680; DNB), Hudibras (1662–1678). BACK

[15] Herbert Croft, 5th Baronet (1751–1816; DNB), writer and lexicographer. Southey and Joseph Cottle both disapproved of his exploitation of manuscripts obtained from members of Thomas Chatterton’s (1752–1770; DNB) family. Cottle had written to Croft, informing him that if he did not financially recompense Chatterton’s sister, Mary Newton (1749–1804; DNB), his misconduct would be exposed. See Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847), p. 145. BACK

[16] William Reid (dates unknown), a Bristol insurance broker and acquaintance of Southey’s. BACK

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March 2009