2556. Robert Southey to Neville White, 16 February 1815

2556. Robert Southey to Neville White, 16 February 1815 ⁠* 

Keswick, Feb. 16. 1815.

My dear Neville,

Since you heard from me, I have scarcely seen a face but those of my own family, nor been farther from home than Friars’ Crag, except one fine day, which tempted me to Lord William Gordon’s. [1]  The weeks and months pass by as rapidly as an ebb tide. The older we grow the more we feel this. The hour-glass runs always at the same rate; but when the sands are more than half spent, it is then only that we perceive how rapidly they are running out. I have been close at the desk this winter. The Quarterly takes up a heavy portion of my time. You would see in the last number two articles of mine – one upon the History of English Poetry, [2]  the other upon Forbes’s Travels, [3]  both deplorably injured by mutilation. The next number will have a pretty full abstract of Lewis and Clarke’s Travels. [4]  All these things cost me more time than they would any other person, for upon every subject, I endeavour to read all such books relating to it, as I had before left unread.

I know not that there is anything farther to tell you of myself, unless it be, that I have written the first book of Oliver Newman, and that it is in irregular rhymes. [5]  We are all, thank God, tolerably well. Herbert goes on stoutly with his Greek, and last week he began to learn German, which I shall acquire myself in the process of teaching him.

How is James going on? This I am anxious to hear. The Income Tax [6]  was laid on with great injustice; it is taken off, not because it pressed with a cruel weight upon those of small fortune, but because it took in a proper proportion from the great landholders and capitalists, who cannot be got at in an equal degree by any other manner. For instance, Lord –  [7]  pays probably 10,000l. a year to this tax. Nothing that can be substantiated for it can by possibility take from him a tenth part of that sum. The tax ought not to be continued; but I would have given it one year longer, that Government might have been enabled, with as much facility as possible, to wind up the accounts of a long war, unexampled alike in its duration, importance, and expense. Not to have done this will lower the English people in the eyes of other nations; but of all people under Heaven who have any country to boast of, we are the least patriotic.

Believe me, my dear Neville,

Very affectionately yours,

Robert Southey


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 102–103. BACK

[1] Lord William Gordon (1744–1823), son of Cosmo George Gordon, 3rd Duke of Gordon (1720–1752). He owned the Waterend estate on the west side of Derwentwater. BACK

[2] Alexander Chalmers (1759–1834; DNB), The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper (1810), Quarterly Review, 11 (July 1814), 480–504; and Quarterly Review, 12 (October 1814), 60–90. BACK

[3] James Forbes (1749–1819; DNB), Oriental Memoirs (1813), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 12 (October 1814), 180–227. BACK

[4] Meriweather Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clark (1770–1838), Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean (1814), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 317–368. BACK

[5] Southey’s posthumously published, and unfinished, ‘Oliver Newman’. BACK

[6] The Government had made an announcement in the House of Commons on 9 February 1815 that income tax would be abolished. In fact, the renewed war with France in 1815 meant the war-time income tax was not finally ended until 1816. BACK

[7] Compare with Southey to Thomas Southey, 12 February 1815, Letter 2554, where it is clear that Southey means Lord Lonsdale. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)