3496. Robert Southey to John Taylor Coleridge, [c. 20 June 1820]

3496. Robert Southey to John Taylor Coleridge, [c. 20 June 1820]⁠* 

My dear Sir

Immediately upon receiving your communication [1]  I went to Wordsworth, & if Hartley would have seen the manner in which such persons as Mr & Mrs W. were affected by the news his conduct, if any thing could reform him, one would think it would be the shame & contrition which he must have felt.

The case is altogether hopeless, – there is no possibility of doing any good, or interfering in any way. If the per girl to whom he has attached himself  [2]  is infatuated enough to marry him, he, I dare say will make it an excuse & a reason for marriage, that it covers the disgrace of this sort of expulsion, – it will do this, but according to all human foresight it will compleat his ruin. He will trust to his pen & his wits for a livelihood, his habits will stick to him, & he will flounder on thro degradation & misery to perdition.

I had not the slightest suspicion of his propensities to sottishness, or to low company. But from the turn & temper of his mind I had long since ceased to augur well of him.

Xxx All that Keble says upon the subject is full of kindness & right feeling; – & would make me think more highly of the writer than I did before, if that had been easy.

Yrs faithfully

Robert Southey.

Tuesday Noon.

Hartley must have known all this when I saw him, – yet he appeared in good spirits when we dined together, & told me with apparent unconcern that he was soon going to Keswick. [3] 


* Endorsement: 1820/ June 20th/ R. Southey. London.
MS: British Library, Add MS 47553. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: W. Braekman, ‘Letters by Robert Southey to Sir John Taylor Coleridge’, Studia Germanica Gandensia, 6 (1964), 114. BACK

[1] John Taylor Coleridge had been told by the clergyman and poet John Keble (1792–1866; DNB) that his cousin, Hartley Coleridge, had lost his Fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford, on 30 May 1820, the end of his probationary year, on the grounds of intemperance. John Taylor Coleridge had then forwarded Keble’s letter to Southey, who had to break the news to Hartley’s mother and friends in the Lakes. BACK

[2] One of the stories surrounding Hartley’s rejection by Oriel was that he had formed a relationship with an unsuitable young woman from a lower social class. BACK

[3] Southey had dined with Hartley Coleridge on 13 June 1820, during his visit to Oxford to receive an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law at the University. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)