1767. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 1 April 1810

1767. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 1 April 1810 ⁠* 

My dear friend

How a letter for me should happen to be directed to Norwich is more than my utmost ingenuity can explain. [1]  Perhaps it may be designed for Harry. Redirect it to Keswick & the mystery will then be explained. I am sorry it should have led you to the coaches to welcome me, – my movements are never sudden, – & certainly I should never make for Norwich without first ascertaining whether you were there.

If business had not continually been pressing & accumulating upon me I should have written to tell you of my goings on. You may perhaps before this reaches you, have received some x a specimen of them, in the shape of my first volume of Brazil, [2]  – which if it had so pleased the printer you might have had three months ago. Kehama [3]  will follow it early in the summer, – the 18th proof is now lying on my table; your original objection to the story will not be removed, – the book of Apocalypse itself not being more remote from all ordinary sympathies, – but I think you will approve the manner in which I have given to rhyme the freedom & force of blank-verse.

The Prospectus of the Register [4]  is not mine, & was written before I had any connection with the work, & bears with it no marks of my manufactory. The person originally chosen for the Annalist was somehow connected with Ministry, – & thence the boast in the Prospectus of materials not generally accessible. I have reason to imagine it was young Rose, [5]  – do not however mention this. Whoever he was his first chapter was completely in the spirit of Pitt-politicks. [6]  – Luckily for Ballantyne it happened to be dull also, – not less thro the nature of the materials than by the fault of the artificer. This accident drove them to me in despair, – & thus it happens that a work which will have a circulation unexampled for things of this kind, xxxx xxxxx <is to carry> abroad my opinions instead of those of the treasury. I am at present waiting for some Portugueze documents which I fear will arrive too late for immediate use; – this month will compleat my work the booksellers are delighted with it, – I myself, satisfied.

Both Burdett & Lethbridge [7]  have acted imprudently in P compelling Parliament to pronounce a decided opinion upon a subject better left in obscurity. All things appear to me tending to revolution in this country, – yet they who wish for such a crisis are only such men as Wardle’s [8]  penny & two penny subscribers, with some few adventurers of a higher class, – & it is the want of talent & want of principle in the parliament which will bring it about. If you ask me which I despise the most the Ins or the Outs, I cannot reply to the question, believing both to be equally weak & equally profligate. All I am anxious for is to keep the peace-party out, & Pitt himself (I was about to say the Devil, but this is from me a still stronger expression) – should have my support xxx were he living, against any ministry who would abandon Spain, & treat with Bonaparte.

Your theological speculations I disapprove chiefly because I cannot think any market would be found for them. [9]  Were you to begin some quiet continuous task of history, you would insensibly be led on, by the pleasure of the pursuit. Time is stealing on us, the grey hairs begin to thicken on my head, – more years have past over yours, – & it gives me a feeling which if not exactly the heart-ache is something akin to it, when I think what literary fortunes will hereafter be made upon your spoils, – thoughts & illustrations pillaged, & systems extracted, – while the bibliographer who may chance to discover the real author, & comes <forward to> vindicate his claim, must be content with a place in some magazine or compilation of anecdotes, for an article with William Taylor for its heading.

I go to Durham in May, to London towards the close of autumn. my Uncle (now a married man) is settled at Streatham, – a living which the D of Bedford [10]  has given him. I go therefore to make acquaintance with a new aunt, & lay the foundation of a friendship with my new cousin upon the basis of sugar-plumbs & barley sugar. – I am sorry to hear Dr Sayers is tormented by such a complaint. Which are his articles in the Quarterly? [11]  remember me to him, & – to your father & mother, [12]  – in whose lengthend life I rejoice for this reason among others that it promises length of days to you. –

God bless you


April 1. 1810.

Send me your books thro Longman.


* Address: To/ Wm Taylor Junr Esqr/ Surrey Street/ Norwich
Endorsement: Ansd 1 June
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4865. 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), II, pp. 289–292. BACK

[1] J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, p. 285. BACK

[2] History of Brazil, published in three volumes 1810–1819. BACK

[3] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[4] The ‘Prospectus’ to the Edinburgh Annual Register. When the first issue of the Register appeared in 1810 an ‘Advertisement’ apologised for the delay in publication and deviations from the content announced in the ‘Prospectus’. Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), [i]–iii. BACK

[5] Either the poet and translator William Steward Rose (1775–1843; DNB) or his brother, the diplomatist George Henry Rose (1770–1855; DNB). Their father was the Pittite loyalist MP George Rose (1744–1818; DNB). BACK

[6] Loyalty to the policies of William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806. BACK

[7] Thomas Buckler Lethbridge (1778–1849), MP for Somerset, 1806–1812, 1826–1830. Acting on the instigation of the government, he asked the Commons to pronounce on whether Burdett had breached parliamentary privilege by denouncing the House’s decision to exclude reporters during its debates on the disastrous Walcheren expedition of 1809. Burdett particularly condemned the Commons’s decision to imprison the radical John Gale Jones (1769–1838; DNB) for his criticism of its proceedings over the Walcheren debates. Burdett was imprisoned 9 April–21 June 1810. BACK

[8] Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle (c. 1761–1833; DNB), MP for Okehampton 1807–1812, had played a central role in exposing Frederick, Duke of York (1763–1827; DNB) and Mary Anne Clarke’s (1776?–1852; DNB) alleged involvement in office trafficking. However, his own reputation was quickly sullied by counter-allegations from Clarke, alleging corruption and conspiracy. He was the author of The Trial of Colonel Wardle (1809). BACK

[9] Taylor was proposing to publish ‘all my past and present theological speculations about the origin of Christianity and the life of Christ’, J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, p. 287. BACK

[10] John Russell, 6th duke of Bedford (1766–1839; DNB), a former Foxite radical Whig, he had held office in 1806–1807 as Irish viceroy and advocated the conciliation of Catholics. By 1810 he had largely retired from political life. BACK

[11] Sayers contributed three articles: Quarterly Review, 2 (August, 1809), 187–203, on Thomas Fanshaw Middleton (1769–1822; DNB), The Doctrine of the Greek Article, applied to Criticism and the Illustration of the New Testament (1808); Ibid., 3 (February 1810), 43–50, on Sir Brooke Boothby, 7th Baronet (1744–1824; DNB), Fables and Satires, with a Preface on the Aesopian Fable (1809); Ibid., 4 (November 1810), 474–480, on John Britton (1771–1857; DNB), Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain (1807–1814). BACK

[12] William Taylor (1731/2–1819), Norwich merchant; and his wife, Sarah née Wright (1735/6–1812). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Norwich (mentioned 2 times)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)