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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1691. Robert Southey to Neville White, 10 October 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick, October 10. 1809.

My dear Neville,

Thank you for the books; they arrived yesterday, and I have gone through about three-fourths of Dr. Collyer’s lectures. [1]  I have more respect for the Independents than for any other body of Christians, the Quakers excepted.        .        .        .        .        .        .         Their English history is without a blot. Their American has, unhappily, some bloody ones, which you will see noticed in the next number of the Quarterly, if my reviewal of Holmes’s American Annals should appear there in an unmutilated state. [2]  Dr. Collyer’s is, certainly, an able book; yet he is better calculated to produce effect from the pulpit than in the study. Those parts of his Lectures which are most ornamental and, doubtless, the most popular in delivery, are usually extraneous to the main subject in hand. All his congregations would fairly say ‘What a fine discourse!’ to every sermon; but, when the whole are read collectively, they do not exhibit that clear and connected view of prophecy which is what he should have aimed at. There is, perhaps, hardly any subject which requires so much erudition, and so constant an exertion of sound judgment. The Doctor’s learning is not extensive; he quotes from books of little authority, and never refers to those which are of most importance. Indeed, he does not appear to know what the Germans have done in Biblical criticism.

.        .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .         It has occurred to me that it would add to the interest of the Remains, [3]  if the name under the portrait were made a fac-simile of Henry’s handwriting. Since I wrote to you, I fell in with Dr. Milner, the Dean of Carlisle, [4]  who talked to me about Henry; how little he had known of him, and how much he regretted that he should not have known him more. I told him what you were doing with James, expressing a hope that he might find friends at Cambridge, for his brother’s sake as well as his own, which he thought would certainly be the case.

.        .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .         We thank you for Miss Smith’s book, a very, very interesting one. [5]  There are better translations of some of Klopstock’s odes in the Monthly Magazine, where, also, is to be found a full account of the Messiah, with extracts translated by my very able and excellent friend, William Taylor, of Norwich. [6]  Coleridge and Wordsworth visited Klopstock in the year 1797: he wore a great wig. Klopstock in a wig, they said, was something like Mr. Milton. His Life will always retain its interest; his fame as a poet will not be lasting.        .         .         .         .         .          In Germany, his day of reputation is already passing away. There is no other country where the principle of criticism is so well understood. But one loves Klopstock as well as if he had been really the poet that his admirers believe him to be; and his wife was as much an angel as she could be while on earth.        .        .         .

God bless you!

R. S.


Notes

* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 256–258 [in part]. BACK

[1] William Bengo Collyer (1782–1854; DNB), congregational minister and religious writer, who published Lectures on Scripture Prophecy (1809). BACK

[2] Southey reviewed Abiel Holmes (1763–1837), American Annals; or, a Chronological History of America, from its Discovery in 1492 to 1806 in the Quarterly Review, 2 (November 1809), 319–337. BACK

[3] The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham (1807), which were edited by Southey. The portrait appeared in the Remains without a facsimile of Henry’s signature. BACK

[4] Isaac Milner (1750–1820; DNB): mathematician, natural philosopher and evangelical Dean of Carlisle. As the President of Queen’s College Cambridge, he held great influence and was responsible for ending the career of the radical pamphleteer, William Frend (1757–1841; DNB) in 1793. BACK

[5] Elizabeth Smith of Burnhall (1776–1806), Memoirs of Frederick and Margaret Klopstock. Translated from the German by the Author of ‘Fragments in Prose and Verse’ (1808). BACK

[6] Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803), whose poems included odes and the epic Der Messias (1748–1773). Klopstock’s ‘Sacred Music. An Ode’ was published in the Monthly Magazine, 2 (July 1796), 489–490. ‘Recovery. An Ode’ was published in the Monthly Magazine, 7 (January 1799), 43; ‘Zuric-Lake. An Ode’ appeared in the Monthly Magazine, 8 (November 1799), 806. BACK

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August 2013