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

215. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, [before 6 May – 6 May 1797] ⁠* 

My dear Cottle

I write to you upon the subject of the vignettes again, because it has been recommended from many quarters, & by those who know how books sell. they tell me that ornaments of this kind accelerate the sale of a book; & as far as my own observations go — I may say my own xxxxxx x xxxxx feelings — they agree with the remark. I have been calculating what the surplus would be to expend in prints, if the book were sold at six shillings — & I find the 500 nine pences amount to £18–17–0. now two vignettes & the Gaspar Poussin [1]  would be enough. I am told the vignettes for Cookes such as Cookes [2]  — may be had for five guineas each; & the engravings of the landscape will then come within the sum allotted. the point is — will it accelerate the sale? — think you upon this — & let me speedily know the result of your thoughts — that — if they incline toward tickling the public eye — I may see something about it personally. we leave town in a fortnight. but I have now access to {the} artists thro Opie. [3] 

Opie is indeed a very extraordinary man. I have now twice seen him. without any thing of politeness, his manners are pleasing, tho their freedom is out of the common; & his conversation, tho in a half-uttered half-Cornish half-croak, is interesting. perhaps there {is a} strange contrast between his genius, which is not confined to painting, & the vulgarity of his appearance — perhaps of his manners & language sometimes. you will however easily conceive that a man who can paint like Opie must display the same taste on other subjects. he is very fond of Spenser — no author furnishes so many pictures he says — You may have seen his Britomart delivering Amoret. he has begun a picture from Spenser which he says himself thinks his best design — but it has remaind untouchd for three years. the outline is wonderfully fine. it is the delivery of Serena from the Salvages by Calepine. you will find the story in the sixth book of the Faery Queen somewhere about the 7th or 8th Canto. [4]  the subject has often struck me as fit for the painter.

I saw Dr Gregory {Dr Gregory} [5]  to day. a very brawn looking man — of most episcopal pinguitude — & full moon cheeks. there is much tallow in him. I like his wife. [6]  & perhaps like him too — but his Xtianity is of an intolerant order — & he affects a solemnity when talking of it which savours of the high priest. when he comes before the Physiognomical Tribunal, we must melt him down: — he is too portly. — I sup with him on Sunday next.

Saturday noon.

— I left my letter unfinished — in case I might hear from you by this days post. but the hour is gone by.

Will you be good enough to send me the plan & rules of one of your reading societies for Mr Peacock?

I have made many enquiries for the Pucelle of Chapelain [7]  — but still in vain. this is very unfortunate — as I can begin no systematic alteration of Joan of Arc till I see what he has done. you know likewise my intention of giving an analysis of his work. about the ninth book I am puzzled by opposite opinions — so probably it will remain —

I shall expect to hear from you soon about the prints. am I ever to expect the parcel?

farewell. you will hear from me again before we leave town. the spring comes on rapidly — & I repine at every day we lose. but the state of hope — unalloyed by fear — is a pleasant one,

God bless you.

yrs truly

Robert Southey.

I wrote to Joseph Lovell by this days post. he is a very extraordinary character.


Notes

* Address: Mr Cottle/ High Street/ Bristol
Postmark: MA/ 6/ 1797
Endorsement: 79) 27
MS: Boston Public Library, MS Ch.H.6.40; a partial transcript in the hand of James Hughes Anderdon is in the Royal Academy of Arts, London, Anderdon Catalogues 10/105
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp, 129–31; Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey, pp. 211–212 [in part]. BACK

[1] The French-Italian painter Gaspard Dughet (1615–1675), who assumed the surname Poussin when he was adopted as the heir of Nicholas Poussin (1594–1665). Southey is possibly referring to Poussin’s The Cascade. BACK

[2] Probably a member (or members) of the Cooke family, London-based engravers, artists and publishers. BACK

[3] John Opie (1761–1807; DNB), Cornish-born artist, who specialised in portraiture and history painting. BACK

[4] John Opie, The Freeing of Amoret, commissioned for Thomas Macklin’s (1752/3–1800; DNB) ‘Poets Gallery’, and another unknown work inspired by Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599; DNB). BACK

[5] {Dr Gregory}: Inserted in another hand. Dr George Gregory (1754–1808; DNB), Church of England clergyman and author; his writings included a life of Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB), published in 1789. BACK

[6] Gregory had married a Miss Nunes (dates unknown), daughter of a Liverpool merchant. BACK

[7] An account of Jean Chapelain’s (1595–1674) epic poem La Pucelle ou la France Délivrée was included in the second edition of Southey’s Joan of Arc, published in 1798. BACK

Published @ RC

March 2009