3467. Robert Southey to Neville White, 15 April 1820

3467. Robert Southey to Neville White, 15 April 1820⁠* 

Keswick, April 15. 1820.

My dear Neville,

My movements toward Norfolk must depend in some degree upon the time when Sir H. Bunbury and Major Moore can receive me. [1]  I shall write to them from London, and propose to be with him in the last week of May, or the first of June, which will allow me either to come from his house to Cambridge at your time, or to visit Cambridge first, and then proceed to him. [2]  At all events, I will be with you at Norwich, though it can only be for a couple of days; and it is my full intention, if possible, to see you at Cambridge also. I leave home on Monday, and shall be ten days on the road to town. You shall hear from thence as soon as my movements can be fixed.

Remember me to Tillbrook and Chauncey Townsend. Tell the latter that at present I have no time to write to him; but that I hope to see him in the last week of May, and that if he is in London before that time, he will find me in Q. Ann Street.

One word of advice before I conclude. I was always apprehensive that you would injure your health by too much and too anxious an attention to your studies. Take heed, or rather take warning, for the future. The immediate object is effected. You have obtained your ordination; [3]  and now remember, that to become a critical scholar requires the labour of half a life. Do not aim, therefore, at what is impossible. Your object is to be a useful clergyman, not a learned one; to undertake the cure of souls, not to engage in polemical service, or nice disquisitions in philology. There is a body of Divinity in our own language, such as I verily believe is not to be paralleled in any other. Study there and drink of the Scriptures, and be content with as small a quantity of Greek and Latin as will suffice to carry you through the academical forms. Your first duty is to take care of your health, and you need not be told that anxiety is a slow, sure poison.

God bless you.

Yours affectionately,



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856)
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 191–192. BACK

[1] Southey intended to visit Bunbury and Moor to consult materials relating to his History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[2] White had taken the decision to give up his work in the hosiery trade and pursue a clerical career. He enrolled at Peterhouse, Cambridge, on 26 June 1819 to study for a Bachelor of Divinity degree as a ‘ten-year man’, i.e. a part-time, mature student (he graduated in 1829). BACK

[3] White had been concerned about his ordination examination, which required knowledge of Greek, Latin, works of divinity and the Bible. He duly passed and was ordained as a Deacon on 12 December 1819, becoming a Curate at St Edmund the King, Norwich. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)