3262. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 11 March 1819
3262. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 11 March 1819 *
My dear Scott
My conscience will not let me direct a letter to your care,  without directing me to yourself by the same post.
A great event has happened to me within this fortnight, – the birth of a child, – after an interval of nearly seven years,  – & that child a son. This was a chance to which I looked rather with dread than with hope, after the loss having seen the flower of my earthly hopes & happiness cut down. But it is well that these things our not in our own disposal. And without building upon so frail a tenure as an infants life, or indulging in any vain dreams of what may be; I am thankful for him, now that he is come.
You would have heard from me ere long, even if Mr Ticknor had not given a spur to my tardy intentions. I should soon have written to say that you will shortly receive the concluding volume of my History of Brazil, – for I am now drawing fast toward the close of that long labour.  This volume has less of the kite & crow warfare than its predecessors, & is rich in information of various kinds which never has never till now come before the public in any shape. Indeed when I think of the materials from which is has been composed, & how compleatly during great part of my course I have been without either chart or pilot to direct me, I look back with wonder upon what I have accomplished. – I go to London in about seven weeks from this time, & as soon as I return the peninsular war will be sent to press.
In the course of the summer also I shall have to send you my Life of Wesley, – of which one volume is printed, & the other in the press.  I am taking great pains & great pleasure also in this work, which is indeed a history of the Rise & Progress of Methodism, & contains oddities of all kinds, & facts from which a psychologist may learn more than from all the metaphysical treatises that ever spoilt white paper.
Our successors (for you & I are now old enough in authorship to use this term) are falling into the same faults as the Roman poets after the Augustan age, & the Italians after the golden season of their poetry.  They are overlabouring their productions, & overloading them with ornament, so that all parts are equally prominent, every where glare & glitter, & no keeping, & no repose. Henry Milman has spoilt his Samor  in this way. It is full of power & of beauty, – but too full of them. There is another striking example in a little volume called Night,  where some of the most uncouth stories imaginable are told with in a strain of continued tip-toe effort, & you are vexed to see such uncommon talents so oddly applied, & such Herculean xx xxx strength wasted in preposterous exertions. The authors name is Elliott, a self-taught man, in business (the iron-trade I believe) at Rotherham. He sends play after play to the London theatres, & has always that sort of refusal, which gives him encouragement to try another.  Sheridan said of one of them that it was “a comical tragedy’  – but he did not know any man who could have written such a one.’ I have given him good advice, which he takes as it is meant, – & something may come of him yet. 
It was reported that you were about to bring forth a play,  & I was greatly in hopes it might be true; – for I am verily persuaded that in this course you might <would> run as brilliant a career as you have already done in narrative both in prose & rhyme, – for as for believing that you have a double in the field, – not I! Those same powers would be equally certain of success in the drama, & were you to give them a dramatic direction, & reign for a third seven years upon the stage, you would stand alone in literary history. Indeed already I believe that no man ever afforded so much pleasure delight to so great a xxxxxxx number of his contemporaries, in this, or in any other country.
God bless you my dear Scott. Remember me to Mrs S. & your daughter,  & believe me
ever yours affectionately
Keswick. 11 March. 1819.
* Address: To/ Walter Scott Esqre/ Abbotsford/ Melrose/
Stamped: Keswick/ 298
Endorsement: Southey/ 11 March 1819
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3890. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 337–339. BACK
 Isabel Southey was born on 2 November 1812 and Charles Cuthbert Southey on 24 February 1819. BACK
 Roman poets following the reign of Augustus (63 BC–AD 14; Emperor of Rome 27 BC–AD 14); and Italian poets after the time of Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321). BACK
 Elliott later claimed to have had five plays rejected: John Watkins, Life, Poetry, and Letters of Ebenezer Elliott, the Corn-Law Rhymer: With an Abstract of His Politics (London, 1850), p. 232. BACK
 Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816; DNB), manager and owner of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Elliott had possibly quoted Sheridan’s observation in a letter to Southey. Elliott may have recalled this idea when in 1844 he described ‘Taurassdes’, one of his rejected plays, as ‘a comical joke for a tragedy’, John Watkins, Life, Poetry, and Letters of Ebenezer Elliott, the Corn-Law Rhymer: With an Abstract of His Politics (London, 1850), p. 233. BACK
 Scott had yielded to the entreaties of his friend, the actor Daniel Terry (1789–1829; DNB), and written a play, ‘The Doom of Devorgil’, in 1818. Though packed with action it required supernatural effects that could not be staged, and it remained unpublished until 1830. BACK