537. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle [fragment], [8] July 1800 ⁠* 

Portugal, Cintra, July, 1800.

My dear Cottle,

I write at a five minutes’ notice. The unforeseen and unlucky departure of my only friend gives me occasion for this letter, and opportunity to send it. It is Miss Barker Congreve. [1]  She is a woman of uncommon talents, with whom we have been wandering over these magnificent mountains, till she made the greatest enjoyment of the place. I feel a heavier depression of spirits at losing her than I have known since Tom. left me at Liskard.

We are at Cintra: I am well and active, in better health than I have long known, and till to-day, in uninterrupted gaiety at heart. I am finishing the eleventh book of ‘Thalaba,’ [2]  and shall certainly have written the last before this reaches you. My Bristol friends have neglected me. Danvers has not written, and Edith is without a line from either of her sisters.

My desk is full of materials for the literary history [3]  which will require only the labour of arrangement and translation, on my return. I shall have the knowledge for the great work; and my miscellaneous notes will certainly swell into a volume of much odd and curious matter. Pray write to me. You know not how I hunger and thirst for Bristol news. I long to be among you. If I could bring this climate to Bristol, it would make me a new being: but I am in utter solitude of all rational society; in a state of mental famine, save that I feed on rocks and woods, and the richest banquet nature can possibly offer to her worshippers. God bless you.

Abuse Danvers for me. Remember me to Davy, and all friendly inquirers.

Yours affectionately,

Robert Southey.

P. S.– * * * The zeal of the Methodists and their itinerant preachers, has reprieved for half a century the system; but you must be aware, that sooner or later, the Church of England will absorb all those sects that differ only in discipline. The comfortable latitude that takes in the Calvinist and the Arminian, must triumph. The Catholic system will perhaps, last the longest; and bids fair to continue as a political establishment, when all its professors shall laugh at its absurdity. Destroy its monastic orders, and marry the priests, and the rest is a pretty puppet-show, with the idols, and the incense, and the polytheism, and the pomp of paganism. God bless you.

R. S.


Notes

* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847)
Previously published: Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847), pp. 224–225.
Dating note: This letter was probably sent with Mary Barker, when she left Portugal; see Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 8 July [1800], Letter 536. BACK

[1] Congreve, the village in Staffordshire where Mary Barker was living. BACK

[2] The Islamic romance Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[3] Southey was planning a ‘literary history’ of Portugal and Spain. It was never completed. BACK

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August 2011