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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1210. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 11 August 1806 ⁠* 

Keswick. Aug. 11. 1806.

My dear Cottle

I have been looking at every part of your {last} letter with satisfaction – except the date of it, – & at that I will look no more.

Let me first thank you for your Selections, [1]  – they reached me soon after your letter. the new edition of the Psalms has not yet found its way to me. [2]  Longman is forgetful – & has doubtless forgotten it. for parcels frequently come to me from that quarter.

Madoc has not made my fortune. [3]  By the state of my account in May last, that is twelvemonth after its publication, there was a balance due to me of £3.17.1. About 180 then remained to be sold, each of which will give me 15/. But the sale will be something slower than distillation thro a filtering stone. We mean to print a small edition in two volumes without delay – & without alteration, that the quarto may not lose its value. [4]  Of the many reviewals of the poem I have only seen the Edinburgh, Monthly & Annual. [5]  The first was written by Jeffray, who knows about as much about poetry as Gog [6]  in guildhall: when Wyndham [7]  read his criticism he said I see plainly that the Critic does not understand poetry & that the author does – & he bought the book in consequence. I sent a copy to Mr Fox, [8]  & Lady Holland told me that it was the rule at St Annes Hill to read after supper {aloud} till eleven & then retire, but that when they were reading Madoc they often heard the clock strike twelve. In short I have had as much praise as my heart could desire – but not quite so much of the more solid sort of remuneration. The Critical (which I have not seen) was written by Le Grice, [9]  whose name you may remember as a schoolfellow of Coleridges, & who took that method of indulging an old envy against him by abusing me. Wm Taylor wrote the Annual. [10]  One in the General which also I have not seen is by Sharon Turner – with whom I am intimate. [11]  Heaven knows who emptied his gall bladder upon me in the gall Monthly – but so it is that being known as I am, whatever appears in the shape of public criticism is sure to come either from friend or foe. [12] 

I am preparing for the press the Chronicle of the Cid [13]  – a very curious monument of old Spanish manners & history – which will make two little volumes, to the great delight of about as many readers as may suffice to take off one edition of 750. My long delayed Specimens are in a way of completion [14]  – which reminds me of something I had to say to you upon this subject. 1st I remember hearing your good mother mention an odd man by name Churchey [15]  who published a most corpulent quarto. Can you tell me whe in what year he died – & can you tell me any thing concerning him, fit to say in the little biographical sketches which I prefix & which fill from one line in small type to two crown octavo pages at the very longest? – 2ndly Poor Amos’s name whe xx {is} in the list. [16]  when was he born? & will you say of his life what you wish to be said – to which I will merely add one sentence of respectful & regretful remembrances. The sooner you xxx xxx reply to this the better.

You suggest to me three epic subjects – all of them striking – but each liable to the same objection that no entire & worthy interest can be attached to the conquering interest in either. 1. William of Normandy is less a hero than Harold [17]  – the true light in which that part of our history should be regarded was shown me by Wm Taylor. The country was not thoroughly converted – Harold favoured the Pagans, & the Normans were helped by the Priests. 2. Alaric is the chief personage of a French poem by Scudery which is notoriously worthless. [18]  The capture of Rome is in itself an event so striking that it almost palsies ones feelings, – but nothing resulted which could give a worthy purport of to the Poem. In this point Theoderick is a better hero. [19]  However the indispensable requisite in a subject for me is that that the end – the ultimate end – must be worthy of the means. 3. The expulsion of the Moriscoes [20]  – this is a dreadful history –, which I will never torture myself by perusing a second time. Besides I am convinced – in opposition to the common opinion – that the Spaniards did wisely in the act of expelling them, tho most wickedly in the way of doing it. – One word more about literature & then to other matters – how goes on the Conquest of Cambria? [21]  & what are you about?

Tom arrived here a few days ago – being just returned (thank God) from the West Indies. He desires to be remembered to you. Poor fellow he has had more yellow fever than prize money, – but it is no little blessing that he is returned safe & sound. My brother Harry is now Dr Southey. he graduated in June last, will winter in London, & in the spring accompany me to Lisbon, whither I & mine remove, it being my intention to remain there till my business in the country is done. [22]  My little girl is now two years & a quarter old – a delightful playfellow, of whom I am somewhat more fond than is fitting, – & this fondness I think will not be diminished when another arrives, – for another I very shortly expect. [23]  Edith is in excellent health & grown fat. I myself the same Barebones as ever, first cousin to an Anatomy, but with my usual good health & steady good spirits, neither in habits nor any thing else differing from what I was, except that if my upper story is not better furnished, a great deal of good furniture is thrown away.

Coleridge has been daily expected since May the first of May last year. [24]  The last accounts were dated in the May of this, he was then at Leghorn [25]  about to embark for England. – In the last Annual I have a considerable share, having written more than a sixth part of the volume [26]  – but I review no more, unless it be for some particular purpose – that is – unless the it be some book with the subject of which I am either particularly interested, or well acquainted. In spite of the slow sale of Madoc I cannot but think that it may answer as well for the years ways & means to finish the Curse of Kehama, & sell the first edition, as to employ the same time in criticising other peoples books. [27]  – Now tell you me in return as much of yourself – tell me too of your sisters – & your mother – to whom you will remember Edith & myself as old friends xxx {now} – tho at this dismal distance. And do not let my long silence furnish you with a bad example; – if you need an inducement to write soon I will give you one by requesting an early answer to the queries respecting my Specimens. – If you ever see Miss Petrie [28]  I pray you remember us to her very kindly –

God bless you

R Southey.


* Address: To/ Mr Cottle/ Portland Square/ Bristol/ Single
Postmark: [partial, illegible] E/ 14/ 1806
Endorsment: 175/ 73
MS: Hispanic Society of America, New York
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.) Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 51–53; Catalogue of the Collection of Autograph Letters and Historical Documents Formed Between 1865 and 1882 by Alfred Morrison, 6 vols (London, 1883–1892), VI, pp. 159–161. BACK

[1] Joseph Cottle, A Selection of Poems Designed Chiefly for Schools and Young Persons (1804). BACK

[2] Cottle’s second edition of A New Version of the Psalms of David was published in 1805. BACK

[3] Southey’s poem Madoc was published in 1805. BACK

[4] The second edition of Madoc was published in 1807 with little alteration. BACK

[5] Francis Jeffrey reviewed Madoc in the Edinburgh Review, 7 (October 1805), 1–29; John Ferriar’s (1761–1815; DNB) review appeared in the Monthly Review, 48 (October 1805), 113–122; William Taylor’s review appeared in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 604–613. BACK

[6] Gog and Magog were a pair of legendary giants, who, according to London legend, were captured and chained to the gates of the palace of the mythical first king of Britain, on the site of which the Guildhall stands. Carvings of the giants are kept at the Guildhall and used in the Lord Mayor’s show each year. BACK

[7] William Windham (1750–1810; DNB), Secretary for War and the Colonies, 1806–1807. BACK

[8] Southey sent a copy of Madoc to Charles James Fox. The Whig politician, had, from 1797, largely given up attending parliament and devoted himself to his love of classical and pastoral literature. BACK

[9] Madoc was negatively reviewed in the Critical Review, ns 7 (1806), 72–83, by Charles Valentine Le Grice (1773–1858). BACK

[10] William Taylor’s review appeared in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 604–613. BACK

[11] Turner, review of Madoc, General Review of British and Foreign Literature, 1 (June 1806), 505–526. BACK

[12] John Ferriar’s (1761–1815; DNB) review appeared in the Monthly Review, 48 (October 1805), 113–122. BACK

[13] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid was published in 1808. BACK

[14] Southey’s and Bedford’s jointly edited anthology, Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[15] Walter Churchey (1747–1805; DNB), Welsh poet who published Poems and Imitations of the British Poets in 1789. He is not included in Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[16] Amos Simon Cottle, author of Icelandic Poetry, or, The Edda of Saemund, Translated into English Verse (1797) which included a dedicatory poem by Southey. Cottle’s work was not included in Specimens of the Later English Poets. BACK

[17] William I (c.1028–1087; DNB), also known as William the Conqueror, defeated Harold Godwinson (Harold II) (c. 1022–1066; DNB) at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, to claim the throne of England. BACK

[18] Georges de Scudéry (1601–1667), French novelist, dramatist and poet who wrote an epic poem Alaric ou Rome Vaincue (Alaric or the Conquest of Rome) in 1654. BACK

[19] Theodoric the Great (454–526) was king of the Ostrogoths (471–526), ruler of Italy (493–526), regent of the Visigoths (511–526), and a viceroy of the Eastern Roman Empire. He seized the western Roman empire from another Gothic ruler. BACK

[20] In 1609 King Philip III of Spain (1578–1621) decreed the expulsion of the Moriscos. They were the descendants of the Muslim population that converted to Christianity under threat of exile in 1502. Between 1609 and 1614, the Spanish government systematically forced the Moriscos to leave Spain for North Africa. BACK

[21] Joseph Cottle published his epic The Fall of Cambria in 1808. BACK

[22] Southey’s projected visit to Portugal never took place. BACK

[23] Herbert, the Southeys’ first son, was born on 11 October 1806. BACK

[24] Coleridge was in the process of returning from Malta via the continent and reached England in August 1806. BACK

[25] Livorno, a seaport in Tuscany, Italy. BACK

[26] Southey reviewed in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806): James Bruce (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768–73 (2nd edn, 1804–1805), 2–16; Thomas Lindley (dates unknown), Narrative of a Voyage to Brazil; ... with General Sketches of the Country ..., and a Description of the City and Provinces of St. Salvadore and Porto Seguro (1805), 27–32; Joseph Skinner (dates unknown), The Present State of Peru, Comprising its Geography, Topography, Natural History, Mineralogy, Commerce, the Customs and Manners of its Inhabitants; Embellished by ... Engravings of Costumes (1805), 49–60; John Griffiths (dates unknown), Travels in Europe, Asia Minor and Arabia (1805), 67–77; James Stanier Clarke (1765?–1834; DNB), Naufragia, or, Historical Memoirs of Shipwrecks (Vol. 1; 1805), 99–100; Charles François Dominique de Villers (1765–1815), An Essay on the Spirit and Influence of the Reformation of Luther (1805), trans. B Lambert (dates unknown), 177–187; William Roscoe, The Life of Pope Leo X, Son of Lorenzo de Medici (1805), 449–467; Arthur Cayley (1776–1848), The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh (1805), 477–483; Dieudonné Thiébault (1733–1807), Original Anecdotes of Frederic the Second, King of Prussia, and of his Family, his Court, his Ministers, his Academies, and his Literary Friends: Collected During a Familiar Intercourse of Twenty Years with that Prince (1805), 488–495; William Parr Greswell (bap. 1765–1854; DNB), Memoirs of Angelus Politianus, Joannes Picus of Mirandula, Actius Sincerus Sannazarius, Petrus Bembus, Hieronymus Fracastorius, Marcus Antonius Flaminius, and the Amalthei: Translations from their Poetical Works: and Notes and Observations Concerning Other Literary Characters of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (1805), 509–515; George Ellis, Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances (1805), 536–544; Henry John Todd (bap. 1763–1845; DNB), The Works of Edmund Spenser (1805), 544–555; William Lisle Bowles, The Spirit of Discovery (1804), 568–573; William Hayley (1745–1820; DNB), Ballads; Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals, with Prints, Designed and Engraved by William Blake (1805), 575–576; John Hoppner (1758–1810), Oriental Tales: Translated into English Verse (1805), 576–578; Francis Burroughs (dates unknown), A Poetical Epistle to James Barry Esq. (1805), 578–579; Vincenzo Monti (1754–1828), Penance of Hugo: A Vision (1805), trans. Henry Boyd (1748/9–1832; DNB), 581–588; James Grahame (1765–1811; DNB), The Sabbath (1805), 588–591; Sir Martin Archer Shee (1769–1850; DNB), Rhymes on Art, or, The Remonstrance of a Painter (1805), 592–596; Samuel Whitchurch, (dates unknown), Hispaniola, a Poem (1804), 596–597; Matthew Rolleston (dates unknown), The Anti-Corsican, A Poem (1805), 597–598; Charles Grant, Baron Glenelg (1778–1866; DNB), Poem on the Restoration of Learning in the East (1805), 598; Edward Coxe (dates unknown), Miscellaneous Poetry (1805), 598–600; Malcolm Laing (1762–1818; DNB), The Poems of Ossian, Containing the Poetical Works of James Macpherson in Prose and Verse, with Notes and Illustrations (1805), 615–620; Archibald Macdonald (1739–1814; DNB), Some of Ossian’s Lesser Poems Rendered into Verse [from Macpherson]; with a Preliminary Discourse, in Answer to Mr. Laing’s Critical and Historical Dissertation on the Antiquity of Ossian’s Poems (1805), 620; Philip Massinger (1583–1640; DNB), Plays (1805), ed. William Gifford, 625–634; Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), Nathan the Wise; a Dramatic Poem in Five Acts (1805), trans. William Taylor, 634–639; John Collett (dates unknown), Sacred Dramas: Intended Chiefly for Young Persons (1805), 639; Henry Mackenzie (1745–1831; DNB), Report of the Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland, Appointed to Inquire into the Nature and Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian (1805), 679–699; Hannah More, Hints Towards Forming the Character of a Young Princess (1805), 708–713; Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838), Improvements in Education as it Respects the Industrious Classes of the Community (3rd edn, 1805), 732–736; Samuel Jackson Pratt [pseud. Courtney Melmoth] (1749–1814; DNB), Harvest-home: Consisting of Supplementary Gleanings, Original Dramas and Poems, Contributions of Literary Friends and Select Re-publications (1805), 736–738; William Henry Ireland (1775–1835; DNB), The Confessions of William Henry Ireland Containing the Particulars of his Fabrication of the Shakespeare Manuscripts (1805), 743–745. BACK

[27] Southey’s poem, The Curse of Kehama was published in 1810. BACK

[28] Miss Petre (or Petrie; first name and dates unknown) and her sister became friends of the Southeys in Portugal. It is possible they were relatives of Martin Petrie (d. 1805), Commissary General in the British Army. BACK

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August 2013