2155. Robert Southey to James Montgomery, 7 October 1812
2155. Robert Southey to James Montgomery, 7 October 1812 *
Keswick. Oct 7. 1812.
My dear Montgomery
You have here the second book of Pelayo, or as I must learn to call it, Roderick, the Last of the Goths.  I have more pleasure in thus transcribing it for you than I shall have in throwing it before the world, for tho I cast my bread upon the waters in full assurance that it will be found after many days, it is with a feeling something like what I should have in setting acorns. In all these prospects the churchyard enters into the foreground. There is another thought connected with publication which tends as much to humiliation as it may seem to savour of pride – of the thousands who will read my poem, some for the pleasure of finding fault with it, but far very far more undoubtedly for the pleasure which it will give them, – how very few are there who will really be at competent to appreciate it, – & how frequently have I had occasion to remember the point of Yriarte’s fable ‘Bad is the censure of the wise – The blockheads praise is worse”.  But in sending to you what has been produced with passion, & elaborated with thought, I know that you will recognize whatever is true to nature, & that thus I shall have my reward. – The figure of Spain may require a note to point out what a Spanish reader would instantly perceive, – the badge of the military orders, the castles & lions of Leon & Castille & Leon, & the sword of my Cid. 
Your Peak Mountains  make me wish repine that you did not come to me to find where you would have found subjects as much superior in beauty <loveliness> as in grandeur. You have managed a very difficult stanza with great skill. The last two last lines are both equal to one alexandrine, – therefore objectionable. You have been aware of this, & so managed your xxx accents that they very seldom read as one. Xxx xxxx alexandrine is so exquisitely harmonious. The poem is in own your true strain, – it has the passion, the melancholy & the religious ardour which are the elements of all your poetry. One of these elements, delightful as it is in such combination, I would banish from you, if I knew of any charm which like Tobits fumigation could chase away dark spirits.  Oh that I could impart to you a portion of that animal chearfulness which I would not exchange for the richest earthly inheritance! For me, when those whom I love cause me no xxx anxiety, – the sky lark in a summer morning is not more joyous than I am, & if I had wings on my shoulders I should be up with him in the sunshine, carolling for pure joy.
But you must see how far how our mountains overstop the Derbyshire hills. – The leaves are now beginning to fall – come to me Montgomery as soon as they reappear, – in the sweetest season of the year, when opening flowers & lengthening days hold out to us every day the hope of a lovelier morrow. I am a bondsman from this time till the end of April, & must work get thro in the intermediate time more work than I like to think of; – thro it however, if no misfortune impede or prev prevent me, I shall get willingly & well, for I know not what it is to be weary of employment. Come to me as soon as my holydays begin. You will find none of the exhausting hurry of London, – but quiet, as well as congenial society, within doors, & without every thing that can elevate the imagination & soothe the heart.
I heard of you in London, from Miss Betham, who saw you at Mrs Montagues. Miss B. is one for whom I have a great regard, she has nervous manners which appear strange to those who do not know her, & are very painful to herself, – but she has great feeling & great goodness, – & is truly an excellent woman – with the heart of a child. –– Thank you for enquiring about the Missionary Reports.  If there are only the two first numbers out of print I will send to London for the rest, & have a few blank leaves placed at the beginning in which to write an abstract of what is deficient, whenever I can meet with the beginning xxx borrow a perfect copy.
My next poem  will have something to do with Missionaries, – xx it will relate to the time & country of Eliot, the apostle of the N American Indians, & the man who translated the bible into the most barbarous language that was ever yet reduced to grammatical rules.  The chief personage is to be a Quaker, & the story will hinge upon the best principles of Quaker-philosophy, – if those words may be allowed to exist in combination. The object is to represent a man <acting> under the most trying circumstances, in that manner which he feels & believes to be right, regardless of consequences & in my story this principle of action which proves as instrumental at last to the preservation of the individual as it would be to the happiness of the whole community if ‘the Kingdom’ were “come.”
Do not let your poem  languish longer. I who want spurring myself, would fain spur you on to a quicker progress. I advance in these things with a pace so slow & so unlike the ardour of former times, that I should suspect more change of temperament, & loss of activity than eight & thirty years ought to bring with them, if I did not find or fancy a solution in the quantity of prose labour which falls to my lot. Time has been when I have written 50, 80 or 100 lines before breakfast, – & I remember to have composed 1200 (many of them among the best I ever did produce) in one week.  A riper judgement has had so px occasioned this change, – still time may have had some share in it. I do not now love autumn as well as spring, nor the setting sun like the life & beauty of the morning.
– God bless you.
* Address: To/ Mr James Montgomery/ Sheffield
Stamped: [partial] KESWICK
MS: Beinecke Library, GEN MSS 298, Series I, Box 1, folder 19. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Holland and James Everett, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of James Montgomery, 7 vols (London, 1854–1856), II, pp. 362–364 [in part]. BACK
 Tomas de Iriarte y Oropesa (1750–1791), ‘El Burro Flautista’, Fabulas Literarias (Madrid, 1782), pp. 19–20. Southey had published his own translation, Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (Bristol, 1797), pp. 50–51. BACK
 Possibly the book that Southey had transcribed for Montgomery was illustrated with a ‘figure of Spain’, including a depiction of the sword of the legendary hero Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (1043–1099). He was the central figure in Southey’s translation, The Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK
 Montgomery’s ‘The Peak Mountains’, ‘written at Buxton, in August, 1812’. It was included in Montgomery’s The World before the Flood (London, 1813), pp. 203–212. BACK
 In the apocryphal Book of Tobit, 6: 16–17, Tobit was advised by an angel to use smoke from the burnt heart and liver of a dead fish to drive away demons. BACK
 Southey had asked Montgomery to purchase, if possible, ‘the two first old volumes’ of the Periodical Accounts of Moravian missionary activity, published quarterly from 1790; see Southey to James Montgomery, 26 March 1812, Letter 2066. BACK
 The minister and missionary John Eliot (1604–1690; DNB), famed for his four decades of missionary work as the ‘Apostle to the Indians’ of eastern Massachusetts. His labours included translating Christian texts into the Algonquian language of the region. BACK
 Probably Montgomery’s The World Before the Flood (1813); see Robert Southey to James Montgomery, 2 January 1812 (Letter 2011) and 26 March 1812 (Letter 2066). BACK
 The remainder of the letter is a version of the second book of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK