3543. Robert Southey to [Bernard Barton], 25 October 1820

3543. Robert Southey to [Bernard Barton], 25 October 1820 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

I must be very unreasonable were I to feel otherwise than gratified & obliged by a dedication from one in whose poems there is so much to approve & admire. [1]  I thank you for this mark of kindness, & assure you that it is taken as it is meant.

It has accidentally come to my knowledge that a brother of yours is married to the daughter of my worthy & respected friend Mr Woodruffe Smith. [2]  When you have an opportunity, it would oblige me if you would recall me to her remembrance by assuring her that I have not forgotten the kindness which I so often experienced at her fathers house.

Perhaps you may consider it an interesting piece of literary news to be informed that, among my various employments, one is that of collecting & arranging materials for the Life of George Fox [3]  & the Rise & Progress of the Quakers. You know enough of my writings to understand that the consideration of whom I may please or displease would never make me turn aside from what I believed to be the right line. I shall write fairly & freely, in the spirit of Christian charity. My personal feelings are those of respect toward the Society (such as it has been since its first effervescence was spent) & of good will because of many of its members whom I have known & esteemed. Its history I shall relate with scrupulous fidelity, & discuss its tenets with no unfavourable or unfriendly bias, neither dissembling my own opinion when it accords, nor when it differs with them. And perhaps I may expose myself to more censure from others on account of the agreement, than from them because of the difference. But the one neither the one result nor the other will in the slightest degree influence me: my object being to compose with all diligence & all possible impartiality an important portion of not of Ecclesiastical History alone, but of the History of human opinions.

I will only add that in this work I shall have the opportunity which I wish for, of bearing my testimony to the merit of your poems.

Believe me my dear Sir

yrs truly

Robert Southey

Keswick. 25 Oct. 1820.


* MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 210–211. BACK

[1] Bernard Barton’s A Day in Autumn; a Poem (London, 1820) carried an epigraph from Southey: ‘It was a day that sent into the heart/ A summer feeling’, from Madoc (1805), Part One, Book 13, lines 67–68; and an extended Dedication to ‘Robert Southey, Esq.’, pp. v–vii. BACK

[2] Bernard Barton’s half-brother, the economist John Barton (1789–1852; DNB), was married to Ann Woodruffe Smith (d. 1822). The Smiths were friends of Grosvenor Bedford’s family; Southey had visited them at Stockwell Park. BACK

[3] George Fox (1624–1691; DNB), founder of Quakerism. Southey did not write this book. BACK

People mentioned

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)