3453. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 17 March 1820

3453. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 17 March 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 17. March 1820

I do not leave home till Wesley [1]  is fairly carried thro the press, because in correcting the proof sheets, it is very necessary to have ones documents at hand. It is about a month since I desired Longman to hurry the printer, (Strahan) [2]  & this he has attempted to do, but with so little effect, that I have not a proof for the last ten days. The whole of the copy is in his hand, except a few notes, which are merely kept back till the text is printed, that I may know how to arrange them. There are, as nearly as I can calculate twelve or thirteen sheets yet to print. If he compleats these in the course of four weeks, by that time, I shall have rid my hands of other work, some of which is hanging heavy upon them. [3]  Of all versifyers I verily belief that I am the most unfit to be employed upon occasional subjects. For I have an insuperable objection dislike to treat commonplace themes in a commonplace way, – & the result x naturally is that I neither satisfy myself – nor any one else.

In the present instance I have made so bold an attempt in metre, & so successful a one in my own judgement, as far as it has gone, that I wish the subject had been different; [4]  – for the subject it is which makes it hang upon hand, I have written 200 lines, wh but this hardly expresses the quantum unless you call to mind that such lines must be estimated by measure as well as by tale. Some three or fourscore xxx more may bring it to an end; – & then perhaps so long a time may have elapsed that it may be thought better to withhold it altogether, rather than come so long after the occasion. This would be no loss, as if it be printed I shall only have my labour for my pains. But if it lies by me, it may acquire value by keeping. I shall finish it as soon as I can, & take council concerning the publication, with perfect indifference as to the result. But I am satisfied with the experiment.

In the course of next week I shall send the first vol. of Brazil to the press. [5] Longman says it will be wanted as soon as it can be printed. The latter part I shall correct at Streatham.

If Wynn should have returned to London before my departure, my only stoppage on the road will be at Ludlow, where I shall remain about three days. It is an awkward place to get at, for there are so many stages to change upon the way.

We have had a death in the house, – an excellent old woman, whom we found here, seventeen years ago, & who to the great comfort of her latter years, attached herself to us, & took as much interest in the children as if they had been of her own blood. Of her little money she has left them five pounds each, – & has made me one of her Executors. We had all of us a great regard for her, – & tho latterly from her great age & growing infirmities, she had become an object of anxiety, we feel her release as a loss to ourselves.

I shall be glad to see the boys, – I expect to find them all greatly altered, but Edward the least. My namesake will be just of a proper age to ride pocko, a feat which Cuthbert has not yet achieved. – At present thank God the children are all well, the young one especially thrives as we could wish, & promises well. He is backward with his feet, but appears to have plenty of strength, & to want nothing but aptitude, which will come in due time.

It is an ill-wind that blows nobody good. But the event which gives you your black cloth, is likely to cost me as much in fees for a new sign manual as it will save you in clothes. [6] 

Love to my Aunt

God bless you



* Address: To/ The Revd. Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: 10 o’Clock/ MR. 20/ 1820 F.Nn; E/ 20 MR 20/ 1820
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 191. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[2] Andrew Strahan (1749–1831; DNB) was MP for various constituencies 1796–1820 and ran a highly successful printing business. BACK

[3] Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[4] George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB) had died on 29 January 1820, thus providing Southey’s subject. The finished poem exceeded 600 lines. BACK

[5] The second edition of the first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819) was published in 1822. BACK

[6] Following George III’s death many people were expected to go into mourning and wear black – no great hardship for clergymen as this was the usual dress for many of them. However, the King’s death put Southey to some expense. The Royal sign-manual is the sovereign’s signature on an order or warrant; the death of George III and accession of George IV meant Southey was required to pay fees for a new court document confirming his appointment as Poet Laureate. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)