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445. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 12 October 1799 ⁠* 

Christ Church. Saturday Oct. 12 99

My dear Cottle

We arrived here on Tuesday night last. our house is to be revolutionized & we are in lodgings. you will direct as formerly Burton near Ringwood. I thank you for supplying my mother with money, I daily expect the remittances which would have arrived by this had I been stationary, & from which I will return you the sum – inclosing at the same time a small note which I shall beg of you thus to apply – in sending me a Joan of Arc [1]  – the arithmetic book mentioned in a former letter [2]  – & dissected maps of the world & its four quarters seperately.

As soon as we get possession & are settled I shall forward the Chatterton work, [3]  bestowing on it considerable care & attention in the notes.

The Anthology [4]  must go to Press as soon as we can get materials. I have about 150 Pages ready, – & my expected contributions from the old contributors not yet arrived. from these I may calculate from 40 to 60 – & Hucks  [5]  has promised me a packet. Coleridge also gives the Christobel [6]  to begin with, {&} about 25 more. What have you done? when the muster is made there will probably be enough, as I purpose writing some few pieces which will amount to about 30 pages expressly for the volume. [7] 

You are settled in Gloucester Street I hear. in the use of exercise I am afraid your present leisure will be unfavourable to your health. you will sit too much. the shop tho it fatigued you must have been of service in this point – you have most corpulent propensities, & must use what exercise you can. how comes on the correction of Alfred [8]  – at a distance I can give you {only} one precept which must be right, do not be afraid of using the pruning knife – & if you can compress two books into one, be assured you will improve them. of all faults prolixity is the most fatal. The witch part of your poem is the best. [9]  imagination is certainly the most powerful faculty of your mind, if you can weave machinery into the books you will enliven them, & this is what they want. ask the opinion of others & see how far they accord with mine.

Thalaba the Destroyer [10]  comes on well. it will have much to recommend it & from the success of the metre, its publication may probably make an era in the history of English poetry. it may possibly be ready to go to Press when the Anthology [11]  is finished.

My brother Tom is again taken prisoner – & now in Ferrol. [12]  captured I suppose by the ships that dodged about to Rochefort – L’Orient – & home again. [13]  this is a worse capture than the last, for then he was in a prize vessel & had only a change of cloaths with him – now all is gone – his cabin furniture – cloaths, everything. we are anxiously expecting news of him. all we now know is by the paper that his vessel is in Ferrol.

This country has been inundated. & very fine was the prospect. the waters had greatly abated, but today the rains are falling again.

Edith desires to be remembered to your Mother & Sisters. join my remembrances to hers – write soon – & believe me

yours as ever

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ Mr Cottle/ Gloucester Street/ Brunswick Square/ Bristol/ Single
Stamped: CHRIST/ CHURCH
Endorsements: 53 (110)/ Southey 99
MS: Beinecke Library, GEN MSS 298, Series I, Box 1, folder 8
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Joan of Arc (1798). BACK

[2] The identity of this book is uncertain, but the description of it in a letter to Cottle, 22 September 1799 (Letter 437) fits William Butler’s (1748–1822), Arithmetical Questions, having, for the most part, a Reference, either to Sacred, Profane, or Natural History, Chronology, Geography, or Commerce (1788; 2nd edn 1795), specifically designed for the instruction of ‘young ladies’. BACK

[3] Southey and Joseph Cottle’s edition of The Works of Thomas Chatterton (1803). BACK

[4] Annual Anthology (1800). BACK

[5] Joseph Hucks (1772–1800), poet and friend of Coleridge. His ‘On viewing the Monastery lately erected at Lulworth’, ‘To a Flower’ and ‘To His Veil’ were included in Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1800), pp. 50–52, 194–195. BACK

[6] The Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1800), opened with Southey’s ‘St Juan Gualberto’ (pp. 1–19). ‘Christabel’ was never finished and remained unpublished until 1816. BACK

[7] Southey did not, in fact, write anything specifically for the Annual Anthology, instead reprinting poems that had either already appeared in the Morning Post or been written much earlier and not previously published. BACK

[8] Joseph Cottle, Alfred, an Epic Poem, in Twenty-Four Books (1800), dealt with the defeat of a Danish invasion by Alfred, the Great (849–899, reigned 871–899; DNB). BACK

[9] In Joseph Cottle, Alfred, an Epic Poem, in Twenty-Four Books (1800), Book 1, lines 135–600, Ivar, one of the leaders of the Danish army, consults a witch. BACK

[10] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[11] Annual Anthology (1800). BACK

[12] It was widely reported in the British Press in early October 1799, e.g. St James’s Chronicle, 5 October 1799, that the brig, Sylph, on which Tom Southey was serving, had been captured and was at the Spanish port of Ferrol. BACK

[13] True Briton, 13 September 1799, had reported that five Spanish ships had managed to avoid the British blockade of the western coast of France and sailed between the ports of Rochefort and Lorient. BACK

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August 2011