The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

143. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle [fragment], [late November 1795] ⁠* 

Falmouth, 1795.

My dear Friend,

I have learnt from Lovel the news from Bristol, public as well as private, [1]  and both of an interesting nature. My marriage is become public. You know my only motive for wishing it otherwise, and must know that its publicity can give me no concern. [2]  I have done my duty. Perhaps you may hardly think my motives for marrying at that time sufficiently [3]  strong. One, and that to me of great weight, I believe was never [4]  mentioned to you. There might have arisen feelings of an unpleasant nature, at the idea of receiving support from one not legally a husband; and (do not show this to Edith) should I perish by shipwreck, or any other casualty, I have relations whose prejudices would then yield to the anguish of affection, and who would love, cherish, [5]  and yield all possible consolation to my widow. Of such an evil there is but a possibility: but against possibility it was my duty to guard........ [6] 


Yours sincerely,

Robert Southey.


* MS: MS untraced; the text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, p. 258.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, p. 258 [in part, with an indication that the last part of the letter has been omitted]. Also published in part and with minor variants in Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847), p. 190; variants in this version have been recorded in the footnotes, but variants in capitalisation, spelling and punctuation have not been noted. Cuthbert Southey’s text has been chosen as copy-text on the grounds that he is — marginally — more reliable as an editor than Cottle.
Dating note: Southey was in Falmouth at the end of November 1795, waiting to set sail for Portugal. He departed c. 1 December, so the letter must have been written by that time. BACK

[1] public ... private: ‘public and private’, Reminiscences. BACK

[2] You know ... concern: ‘You know that its publicity can give me no concern’, Reminiscences. BACK

[3] time sufficiently: ‘time not sufficiently’, Reminiscences. BACK

[4] never: ‘not’, Reminiscences. BACK

[5] cherish: ‘and cherish’, Reminiscences. BACK

[6] ...: Reminiscences does not indicate that the remainder of the letter is not printed. BACK

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March 2009