3500. Robert Southey to Benjamin Robert Haydon, [28 June 1820]

3500. Robert Southey to Benjamin Robert Haydon, [28 June 1820]⁠* 

Dear Sir

Among the things which I have left undone during my restless life in this part of the world, there is no one which vexes me so such as the neglect of which I must needs seem guilty towards you. But when you hear that I have been residing sometimes at Streatham, sometimes at Richmond, that I have been at Cambridge, at Oxford – at Tunbridge, & that during the last ten weeks I have never slept more than three nights successively in the same bed – you may be the more disposed to excuse me.

I have seen your great picture, [1]  – one of the very few things which I found time to see, & of those few it was the first. I missed the traditional countenance; in every other point it fully equalled my high expectations, in that. I am told by others that repeated visits would have reconciled me to the change [2] 

My endeavour in behalf of historic painting is likely soon to find its way to the light. I have reason to believe that it will appear in the next number [3] 

I leave this abominable city to night, in the mail coach. Farewell Sir, – forgive me for delaying what I always intended to do, till it was too late, & believe me to be with great & true respect

yrs faithfully

Robert Southey

Wednesday Afternoon.

My hand shakes so with heat & the fatigue of packing, that I fear this will hardly be legible.


* Address: B. C. Haydon Esqre/ St Johns Place/ Lisson Grove. North
Stamped: Unpaid/ Marybne
Postmark: 7 o’Clock/ 28 JU/ 1820 Nn
Endorsement: 1820
MS: Houghton Library, fMS Eng 1331.1 (67). ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Benjamin Robert Haydon: Correspondence and Table-Talk. With a Memoir by his son Frederick Wordsworth Haydon, 2 vols (London, 1876), I, p. 345.
Dating note: The letter was written in London on Wednesday, 28 June 1820, the same day it was posted and postmarked. Its hasty composition is reflected in numerous authorial mistakes in spelling and sense. BACK

[1] Haydon’s magnum opus, ‘Christ’s Entry Into Jerusalem’, first exhibited at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, in 1820 and now at Mount St Mary’s Seminary, Cincinnati. It included a portrait of Wordsworth. BACK

[2] While Haydon’s painting was widely admired, he was concerned about how viewers would receive his depiction of Christ’s face, which was pale, troubled and decidedly contemporary, rather than a traditional representation. BACK

[3] Southey’s review of Benjamin Haydon, New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818) appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 1 time)