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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1322. Robert Southey to Neville White, 13 May 1807 ⁠* 

May 13. 1807.

My dear Sir,

You will have wondered at the length of time that your letter has remained unnoticed; the fact is, that it has only this evening reached me.

By all means make the omission which you propose. I perfectly feel the justice of your remarks; do, I beseech you, correct and alter as freely as if the writing were your own. [1]  With respect to Mr. Blanchard, it may be said, instead of ‘Poor Henry,’ &c., ‘in consequence of which Henry was removed’. The sentence about tyranny may be omitted, for what follows, if I rightly remember it, will be sufficiently connected. If any better mode of alteration occur to you, use it without thinking of this. It would give me serious pain if a single sentence were left which could in any possible way produce a bad effect. The sum which you allowed your brother should be particularized. Were you the ostensible editor, I would not urge this, but I request that I may be permitted to do it, not merely because this sort of minute accuracy should always be observed when possible, but for the higher motives of doing justice to one who, from little, contributed what of that little must have been so much, and of holding up a good and virtuous example to the world.

You have, indeed, had a painful task in transcribing the Letters of Henry. I do not rely upon my own judgment of the saleableness of books; but it is certain that those which circulate among the religious public have the largest sale, and if these volumes succeed in that direction, their produce may be far more considerable than you can imagine. The manner in which I have been compelled, conscientiously, to express my own dissent from his views of Christianity, cannot possibly impede their success. [2]  I should have felt guilty of hypocrisy had I suffered it to be supposed that my opinions accorded with them, which would else necessarily have been the case. There are many divisions and subdivisions of the public, and among many of them these works ought to be well received; they who are best able to appreciate human excellence will value them most.

Mr. Lofft has sent me Mrs. L’s Ode, [3]  which is much better than I expected, and will very generally be admired. He does not think the Greek poems in a state sufficiently finished for publication; they are all fragments, and bear all the marks of Henry’s wonderful powers, but correctness is in these things what is most looked to, and they had not been corrected. About the ‘Melancholy Hours,’ I replied in my last: my reason for not at first inserting them was trifling, and I am very desirous of following your wishes in everything. [4] 

I did not insert the Countess of Derby’s letter. [5]  She will probably be better pleased with the way in which it is mentioned, than if it had been inserted; neither have I included the lines to her, partly from a fault (a grammatical one, I think,) in one of the lines, and partly because she did not quite deserve the compliment which they contained. Of the letter on chronology, only the extract is to be copied; it is a very able one, but the information which it contains (though excellent for an elementary book) would, I think, not be well placed here. State if you think otherwise. Copy the whole. The ‘Song on Melody’ is among the poems.

These fresh letters, with the ‘Christian Observers,’ [6]  I will enclose in a parcel which I shall have occasion to send to Messrs. Longman and Co. by Monday’s carrier. They are on the point of publishing a small edition of my last and best poem. [7]  I shall desire them, when it appears, to send you a copy; accept it as a mark of my respect for one who has been so good and affectionate a brother.

Yours very truly,

Robert Southey


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856)
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 6–8. BACK

[1] Southey refers to edits for his Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham, 2 vols (London, 1807). BACK

[2] See The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham, 2 vols (London, 1807), I, p. 58. BACK

[3] Capel Lofft (1751–1824; DNB), Whig landed gentleman, lawyer and poet. Lofft was the patron and editor of Robert Bloomfield, Kirke White and a number of other writers from poor backgrounds. His second wife, Sarah Watson Finch, a magazine poet published in The Monthly Mirror and The Morning Chronicle, contributed an Ode to the Remains. BACK

[4] The prose pieces ‘Melancholy Hours’ appear in the second volume. For Southey’s previous letter to Neville White, see Southey to Neville White, 3 February 1807, Letter 1271. BACK

[5] Southey revealed in his introductory memoir to Remains that Kirke White had sent the manuscript of his volume of poems to Elizabeth Farren, Countess of Derby (c. 1759–1829), hoping that he might be allowed to dedicate it to her; she politely declined but encouraged him and subscribed to the publication; see The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham, 2 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. 15–16. BACK

[6] The Christian Observer was an evangelical magazine taken by Kirke White and recommended by him to his brother Neville. BACK

[7] A duodecimo edition of Madoc. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013