867. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 11 December 1803 *
My dear friend
I have delayed writing to you far overlong. & somewhat ungratefully after all the trouble you have taken, the services you have rendered & the kindnesses you have bestowed upon Harry. I was vexed at his removal  – sadly vexed that his own conduct should have rendered inevitable a step which I knew would produce considerable uneasiness & embarrasment to my Uncle as well as myself. There is a want of feeling in his conduct which I cannot easily pardon, for he knew how difficultly I live, & how his Uncle has always been beggared by his family. but it was always in his nature – & I fear will never get out of it. he writes now as if he felt his situation & of course I say nothing to him of the past – nor shall I think of it except only as it does make me fearful for the future. – Meantime a far worse business has taken place with respect to my younger brother. I placed him in the navy, by his own choice & against my opinion & advice. his mad Aunt has persuaded him to leave him it, & he after most inexcusably taking this step has quarrelled with her, got into some gentlemans  house at Exeter, & there is buying clothes, a fowling piece &c, & drawing upon me for payment – in short actually commencing swindler at fifteen. Bills to the amount of twenty pounds have been sent down to me here – which I have of course protested. that business he & his Aunt & his new friend may settle as they can. I am endeavouring to get him into the navy again if possible, − & if not to send him in some merchantship some long voyage – for if he do not take the sea, he will become a sharper unless he should happily turn strolling player – which would now be the best thing that could happen.
I am fitting Madoc  for publication – hoping by its profit to clear off a debt which I owe May almost wholly on Harrys account. May is an excellent good man & has as sincere a respect for me as I have for him. I am disposed to try whether or no it be practicable to publish it on my own account by subscription, & thus have the whole profits myself – which the booksellers will else share – but I will try this without publishing my intention, <at first,> because a public failure would be lessen unpleasant & perhaps lessen the marketable value of the ware when I should be obliged to carry it to a chapman. If you can get me a few names I am sure you will. a quarto for a guinea – the money on delivery of the book. I shall print it next winter – & then having built my monument – if it were not for this history of mine  – I should feel & think that my work was done.
We are fixed here for some time – indeed I trust till we fix decidedly. Will you be our guest in the summer? you will see Coleridge (who much desires to see you) & Wordsworth, − & if Harry should not come here to meet you, & you should like to advance to Edinburgh I will accompany you there. It is a long way truly – but the place deserves a second visit, & would reclaim you from some of your Netherlandish heresies.
The Iris  is not only a very interesting paper, but is now the only interesting one. Your ballad of the Old Woman  had some excellent parts in it. the conception has far more power of fancy than mine, mine  indeed is the mere narration of the ‘true story.’ but your language wants ease & perspicuity, & there is a mixture of the ludicrous & the shocking, which instead of amalgamating into the grotesque has curdled – each remaining seperate & yet polluted. Still it is a fine poem, & most evidently the work of an extraordinary man. I regret that the poor Anthology  is discontinued, for it would have given me great pleasure to have seen it in those types & on that paper.
Coleridge is going into Devonshire to winter for his health. I know not when any of his works will appear – & tremble lest an untimely death should leave me the task of putting together the fragments of his materials – which in sober truth I do believe would be a <more> serious loss to the world of literature than it ever sufferd from the wreck of antient science.
God bless you –
yrs very affectionately
Robert Southey.Sunday. Dec 11. 1803.
* Address: To/ Wm Taylor Junr/ Surry Street/
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: Ansd 5
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4841. ALS; 4p.
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. 474-476 [in part]. BACK