460. Robert Southey to William Taylor [fragment], 8 December 1799 *
Kingsdown Parade, Bristol,
Sunday, Dec. 8th, 1799.
My dear Friend,
Do not from my long silence suspect me of negligence. I have been ill–so reduced by a nervous fever as neither to read nor write. On recovery I repaired to Bristol, to seek relief for a worse complaint. My heart is affected, nervously I hope; but pain there, and frequent irregularity in pulsation, convinced me that I ought not to delay obtaining able advice.
My hexameters come to you in a ragged state. I meant to have corrected them with care; but as they are, they may serve as a specimen of what I can do in this way, and it would be foolish to wait till I have leisure for correcting. These liberties I have allowed myself– sometimes a superfluous short syllable at the beginning–sometimes the pyrrhic–sometimes the amphimacer. These licences must of course be sparing; and what you will meet with would probably have been altered in correction.
[Here follow 109 hexameter lines from the intended poem on Mohammed,  mentioned in the letter of the 1st September.]
Remember, these are apprenticeship lines; but I think that now I can wield the metre, and that it makes a magnificent mouthful of sound.
Thank you for your offer to house Harry; we however wish once more to see him, and not quite to abandon him in a land of strangers. I wish he were old enough to be placed as pupil at the wonder-working Pneumatic Institution.  You visited Bristol too soon, before our luminary had arisen. Davy is a miraculous young man, but his health is injured. Beddoes even apprehends consumption. At present he is in London, and when he returns I hope my residence here will draw him a little from perpetual experiments and the noisome fumes of the laboratory.
Don’t be daunted by the nonsense and unintelligibility of ‘Gebir’  from going through it; it looked to me like a Norwich-printed book, but that you would have known. Your townsman’s ‘Cupid and Psyche’ is well done.  Where can I find a sketch of the idolatry of the Poles? I want to make an ode on the sacrifice of their Queen Venda. 
* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843)
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, pp. 309–310 [in part]. BACK
 Coleridge and Southey’s plan for a jointly-written poem in hexameters on Muhammad (570–632), the Prophet of Islam, did not make much progress; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 18–20. A fragment by Southey was published posthumously in Oliver Newman: a New-England Tale (London, 1845), pp. 113–116; and 14 lines by Coleridge in The Poetical Works of S. T. Coleridge, 3 vols (London, 1834), II, p. 68. BACK