2508. Robert Southey to James Hogg, 1 December 1814
2508. Robert Southey to James Hogg, 1 December 1814 *
Keswick. Dec. 1. 1814.
Thank you for your books. I will not say that the Queen’s Wake  has exceeded my expectations, because I have ever expected great things from you, since in 1805 I heard Walter Scott by his own fireside at Ashiestiel repeat Gilmanscleuch.  When he came to that line ‘I ga’e him a my goud father’ – the look & the tone with which he gave it were not needed to make it go thro me. But the Wake has equalled all xxx that I expected. The improvements in the new edition are very great, & <they are> in the two poems which were most deserving of improvement, as being the most impressive & the most original. Each is excellent in its way, but Kilmeny  is of the highest character: The Witch of Fife  is a rich work of fancy, – Kilmeny a fine one of imagination, – which is a higher & rarer gift. These poems have given general pleasure throughout the house; my eldest girl often comes out with a stanza or two of the Witch, – but she wishes sometimes that you always wrote in English. – The Spy  I shall go thro more at leisure.
I like your praise both of myself & my poem because it is comes from a good quarter. You saw me where & how a man is best seen, at home, & in his every day, wear & tear, mind & manners: I have no holy day suit, & never seek to shine; such at <as it> is, my light is always burning. – Much <Somewhat> of my character you may find in Chaucers Clerk of Oxenford, & the concluding line of that description might be written as the fittest motto under my portrait ‘Gladly would he learn & gladly teach.’  I have sinned enough to make me humble in myself & indulgent toward others. I have suffered enough to find in religion not merely consolation, but hope & joy. & I have seen enough to be contented in, & thankful for, the state of life in which it has pleased God to place me.
We hoped to have seen you on your way back from Ellory.  I believe you did not get the Ballad of the Devil & the Bishop  which Hartley transcribed for you. I am reprinting my miscellaneous poems collected into three volumes, – & as your projected publication  will have the start of it greatly, for the first volume is not nearly thro the press, – & there is a corrected copy of the ballad, with its introduction, in Ballantynes hands, which you can make use <of> before it will be wanted in its place.
You ask me why I am not intimate with Wilson. There is a sufficient reason in the distance between our respective abodes. I seldom go even to Wordsworths or Lloyds, – & Ellory is far enough from either of their houses to make a visit the main business of a day. So it happens that except dining in his company once at Lloyds many years ago, & breakfasting with him here not long afterwards, I have barely exchanged saluations with him once or twice when we met upon the road. Perhaps however I might have sought him had it not been for his passion for cockfighting. But this is a thing which I regard with abhorrence.
Would that Roderick  were in your hands for reviewing. I should desire no fairer nor more competent critic. But it is of little consequence what friends or enemies may do for it now; it will find its due place in time, which is slow but sure in its decisions. From the nature of my studies I may almost be said to live in the past; it is to the future that I look on for my reward, & it would be difficult to make any person who is not thoroughly intimate with me, understand how compleatly indifferent I am to the praise or censure of the present generation, farther than as it may affect my xxxxx means of subsistence, which thank God it can no longer effectually do. There was a time when I was materially injured by unjust criticism; but even then I despised it, from a confidence in myself, & a natural buoyancy of spirit. It cannot injure me now, – but I cannot hold it in more thorough contempt.
Come & visit me when the warm weather returns. You can go nowhere where you will be more sincerely welcomed –
And may God bless you
I specify your person on the cover, for want of a fuller direction – this no doubt will reach you – 
* Address: To/ Mr James Hogg/ (The Ettrick Shepherd.)/ Edinburgh./
Postmark: [partial] 3 DEC/ 1814
Watermark: J DICKINSON & CO/ 1811
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 2245. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Mary Garden, Memorials of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd (Paisley, 1844), pp. 73–77. BACK
 James Hogg, The Queen’s Wake: A Legendary Poem (1813). The copy in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, no. 1344, is described as ‘Presentation Copy from the author’. BACK
 Hogg’s ballad ‘Gilmanscleugh’, published in his The Mountain Bard; Consisting of Ballads and Songs, Founded on Facts and Legendary Tales (Edinburgh, 1807), pp. 35–49. The line Southey quotes appears on p. 48. BACK
 ‘The Witch of Fife’, in Hogg’s The Queen’s Wake: A Legendary Poem (Edinburgh, 1813), pp. 70–95. BACK
 Hogg had edited (and often written) a weekly magazine called The Spy, 1 September 1810–24 August 1811. BACK
 ‘A True Ballad of St Antidius, the Pope, and the Devil’, Minor Poems, 3 vols (London, 1815), III, pp. 171–180; first published as ‘A True Ballad of a Pope’, Morning Post, 4 February 1803. BACK