255. Robert Southey to John May, 10 September 1797

255. Robert Southey to John May, 10 September 1797 ⁠* 

Sunday. Sept. 10. 1797.

My dear friend

You will be somewhat surprized to hear that we are about to remove from Burton, & take up our abode with my Mother for the residue of my reprieve from London. for this I had a strong motive independant of my Mothers wish, & the inclination I feel to be near a few Bristol friends. I want access to books which I can neither buy or borrow, & which are almost necessary to elucidate my second edition. Lloyd accompanies us. he will be a boarder at my mothers. But I shall leave Burton with regret. I begin to take root here, — novelty is to me less a source of delight, than the kind of friendship which I contract with scenery that has interested me repeatedly, & awakened those emotions which defy expression, & which are almost too subtle for Remembrance to retain.

I almost wish that I believed tho in the local divinities of the Pagans — but without becoming a pagan or a fool. we may allow Imagination to people the air with intelligent spirits, & animate every herb with sensation, for wherever there is the possibility of happiness, infinite Power & infinite Benevolence will produce it. the belief of a creating Intelligence is to me a feeling like that of my own existence, an intuitive truth: it were as easy to open my eyes & not see, as to meditate upon this subject & not believe. I know not whether you can follow associations that appear so unconnected upon paper but the recollection of scenery that I love recalls to me those theistic feelings which the beauties of Nature are best fitted to awaken. the hill & the grove would be to me holier places than the temple of Solomon; man cannot pile up the quarried rock with mxxx xxxx to equal its original grandeur, & the cedar of Lebanon loses all its beauties when hewn into a beam.

My mother is much better since her arrival here. it is somewhat hard that they who wish only for quietness in the world, cannot attain to it. Anxieties warp the mind as well as destroy the health, & too frequently misery in this world seems only to render the soul less fit for another.

I ought to congratulate you upon the addition to your family. I should do it with more pleasure were it tx on your own account, for tho the wise man, in a period like this, would perhaps keep himself wholly without a tie, I do not wish either myself or my friends that cold wisdom. I have no idea of single blessedness. if a man goes thro life without meeting one with whom he could be happy, I should think strangely ill of him — he wants the capability of happiness — & if he has not the pumpkin-head, must have the pippin-heart. young men are sad cattle now — & when I reflect how they are educated it appears wonderful that they are not worse. young women are somewhat better — that is they are more to be despised than detested. domestic happiness is a rare jewel — & thank God I have found it.

Lloyd & my brother set off for the Isle of Wight the morning after you left us. we think of removing about Thursday next. Edith accompanies Tom & my Mother, I & Lloyd shall walk — & we mean to make a pilgrimage to Stonehenge on the way. direct your next to 8. Westgate Buildings Bath. I have laboured hard at revising Joan of Arc since you were here, & with success I think. Froissart [1]  will give me the information I want for the costume of dress — banquets &c, & my notes will assume a learned appearance.

God bless you.

yrs truly

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ John May Esqr/ 4. Bedford Square/ London
Postmark: ASE/ 11/ 97
Watermarks: Crown and anchor/ 1796
Endorsements: 1797 No. 8/ Robert Southey/ Burton 10 Septr:/ recd: 11 do/ ansd: 27 do
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng Lett. d. 111. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections From the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 44–45. BACK

[1] Jean Froissart (c. 1337–c. 1410), Le Premier (-Quart) Volume De Messire Jehan Froissart Lequel Traicte de Choses Vingts de Memoire Advenues Tant es Pays de France, Angleterre, Flandres, Espaigne que Escoce, ets Aus Tres Lieux Circonvoisins (1530), which Southey used for the second edition of Joan of Arc (1798). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 2 times)