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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1453. Robert Southey to Neville White, 30 April 1808 ⁠* 

Keswick, April 30. 1808.

My dear Neville,

That part of your letter which relates to Mr. Wilberforce requires an immediate answer; for, by this time, you must have received my parcel, and no time ought to be lost in getting the new edition through the press. Undoubtedly, if Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Simeon desire to have their names withdrawn, [1]  they must be. At the same time, I cannot but say that it appears to me a very idle request on their parts; for, admitting that there was any good reason for keeping the thing secret, that which has been printed in 750 books, and read by ten times as many readers, copied into magazines and reviews, and by their means circulated through all the reading populations of Great Britain, must be already as well known as it can be. They may object to letting their light shine before men, but when the candle has been set up and looked at, if they choose to have it blown out, it is my opinion that the smell of the snuff will attract more notice than the light would have done.

But the sum which Henry received from these gentlemen must not be vaguely stated, – that is an essential matter of fact; it is of consequence that the precise nature and amount of his resources should be reported, and I do not think any valid reason can be assigned, on the part of his patrons, for pressing this omission upon me. The public would be deceived by the omission, and certainly suspect that the aid which he received was more, unless they are told how little it was.

As little can I consent to leaving out that passage which expresses Henry’s intention of becoming a dissenting minister, if he could find no means of ordination in the establishment. It is not possible that the sale of the book can be affected by it in the slightest degree. Had I overlooked the fact, I should have deserved censure for negligence; did I expunge it now, I should be liable to a heavier charge.

I feel myself much indebted to you for your prompt vindication against the ‘Christian Observer’s’ suspicions, and shall much like to see your letter. [2]  For their animadversions I have not the same curiosity; it is satisfactory to know that they speak well of the book, and I have no desire to know more.

Yours affectionately,

Robert Southey.


Notes

* 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. 61–62. BACK

[1] William Wilberforce and Charles Simeon (1759–1836; DNB) had been recorded in The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham (1807), as having contributed £20 and £30 per annum respectively to Henry Kirke White’s education. Now they were requesting that this information should be omitted from the second edition. BACK

[2] A review in the Christian Observer, 7 (March 1808), 190–195, suspected Southey, as a radical unsympathetic to evangelical Christianity, of excluding from the Remains papers of Kirke White’s concerning religion. BACK

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August 2013