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348. Robert Southey to George Dyer, 18 September [1798] ⁠* 

Tuesday. Sep. 18.

My dear Sir

I am very sorry that your Letter should have remained so long unacknowledged. the fact is I have been visiting in Herefordshire & Worcestershire, & amid company, journeying & some employments that follow me every where, I recollected not my unanswered letters at home.

Your proposals are hanging in Cottles shop. [1]  it is unlucky that most of my friends here are yours also; however I mentioned your proposed volumes to some of them who might not perhaps have otherwise known your intention. We will do what we can, if not what we wish. your list has some 8 or 10 names – & it will be some advantage to have a country bookseller in Cottle who will feel a friendly interest in assisting the work.

I am sorry, in considering only my own gratif{ic}ation that your essays are to be delayed. [2]  whenever you take the subject of metre into consideration I shall beg you to weigh the merits of some regular blank stanzas in which I think I have been succesful, & which you perhaps may have seen in the Morning Post without suspecting their author. four lines seem to me the best length for a lyric stanza. I have disposed them thus differently in different odes. you know the Ode to evening [3]  is consist of 10.10.6.6. 10.6.6.10. —. 8.6.6.10. —. 8.8.10.6. — 6.6.10.6. — 6.10.10.6. — 8.6.10.6. —.

In such metres neither the lines or stanzas must run into each other, & the regular harmony must be as perceptible to the ear as to the eye. I have yet other arrangements to try. these odes [4]  (for you see I am again ode-writing) form part of a very extensive work in which I have made some progress. [5]  & will not appear in the volume with the Vision, now going to press. [6] 

If my figure-schemes are not sufficiently comprehensible, tell me so, & I will send a specimen of each. you would perhaps find them useful in your essay on metre, for tho as yet unique, I think they will not always be so

Have you seen a volume of Lyrical Ballads &c? no authors name – but by Coleridge & Wordsworth. [7] 

Allen has written to me from Portugal. he requests me to call on you, & express his sincere thankfulness & attachment. on he also wants some account, which you probably can give me for him, of the expence of taking graduating as M.B. at Cambridge [8]  – as he is of sufficient standing to take that degree there; could get a transfer from Oxford, & would then have the chance of a higher situation with x 25 Shillings a day, in the army.

You perhaps know that Coleridge & Wordsworth are going, or gone, to Germany. [9] 

Edith is much better, she desires to be remembered to you.

I did not see your friend Miss Greenly [10]  in Herefordshire. you have I suppose seen my asinine honours in the Anti Jacobine Magazine. [11] 

God bless you.

yrs very truly

Robert Southey

I hope to see you in November, when I shall be for some few days in town.


Notes

* Address: To/ George Dyer/ 6. Cliffords Inn/ Fleet Street. / London/ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: B/ SE/ 20/ 98
MS: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Previously published: A Catalogue of the Collection of Autographs Formed by Ferdinand Julius Dreer, 2 vols (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1890–1893), II, p. 126. BACK

[1] George Dyer was at this time seeking to publish a three-volume edition of his ‘Poetical Works’, if he could gather enough subscribers. He was not successful. BACK

[2] Dyer’s proposed ‘Poetical Works’ would have included ‘Critical Essays, on different Branches of Poetry and Criticism, illustrated from ancient and modern Authors’. BACK

[3] William Collins (1721–1759; DNB), ‘Ode to Evening’ (1746). BACK

[4] Southey’s recent contributions to the Morning Post included ‘Ode. The Delivery of Holland’, 18 July 1798’; ‘Ode. The Spanish Armada’, 26 July 1798; ‘Ode. The Martins’, 7 August 1798; and ‘Ode: The Death of Wallace’, 7 September 1798. BACK

[5] The ‘Kalendar’, a sequence modelled on Ovid’s (43 BC–AD 17) Fasti, was never completed. BACK

[6] Poems (1799), which included the ‘Vision of the Maid of Orleans’. BACK

[7] Lyrical Ballads, With a Few Other Poems (1798). BACK

[8] George Dyer had studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, taking his BA in 1778, so he might be expected to have some knowledge of the costs of graduating from the university. BACK

[9] Wordsworth and Coleridge left for Germany on 16 September 1798. Wordsworth returned in late April 1799 and Coleridge in July 1799. BACK

[10] Possibly Elizabeth Greenly (1771–1839), daughter and heiress of William Greenly of Titley Court in Herefordshire. In 1811 she married Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin (1759–1839, DNB). BACK

[11] Southey had been caricatured as an ass in James Gillray (1757–1815; DNB), ‘The New Morality’, Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine, 1 (1798), between 114 and 115. BACK

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August 2011