3578. Robert Southey to John Abraham Heraud, 8 December 1820

3578. Robert Southey to John Abraham Heraud, 8 December 1820⁠* 

Keswick, 8th Dec. 1820.

Dear Sir, – This morning I received your book, [1]  which having lain about ten days at Messrs. Longmans’, performed its journey to Cumberland by the waggon, subject, moreover, to sundry delays by change of conveyance on the way.

I thank you for the volume, and for the honourable manner in which you have mentioned me therein. [2]  On such occasions as this it is a painful task to reply to an author, if a mere acknowledgement of thanks, couched in the language of common courtesy, is all that I can offer, consistently with truth. But it becomes a very gratifying one, when I can with perfect sincerity give commendation and encouragement. Your legend, [3]  though crude in the plan and faulty in composition, as so juvenile a production needs must be, contains the strongest and most unequivocal proofs, not of poetical feeling alone (which may exist without genius), but of genius also. The interest which this alone would have excited concerning you, is much increased by what I gather of your history from some of the smaller poems, and by the tone of moral principle which everywhere prevails. And when I came to your assertion that no duty has ever been neglected by you for the pursuit of poetry, [4]  the main apprehension which I should otherwise have felt for your success in life was removed. Time enough may be found for business and for literature – even by those whose employments are most laborious. I could give you examples of this, but happily you stand in no need of admonition on this score.

Respecting your progress in poetry, and the course of reading by which your mind is to be enriched and strengthened, it is probably in my power to offer you some useful advice, and perhaps to direct you into a shorter and safer path than you would find for yourself. But I must know more of your circumstances, and schemes, and hopes. Write to me, therefore, as fully as you may feel inclined. Though with more employments than you or any person would suppose, I will yet find time to advise you faithfully and frankly. – Meantime, believe me to be truly your well-wisher,



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Edith Heraud, Memoirs of John A. Heraud (London, 1898)
Previously published: Edith Heraud, Memoirs of John A. Heraud (London, 1898), pp. 17–19. BACK

[1] Heraud’s The Legend of St Loy, with Other Poems (1820). BACK

[2] The Legend of St Loy, with Other Poems (London, 1820) was dedicated to the memory of Henry Kirke White and concluded with a ‘Sonnet to Robert Southey, Esq. Poet Laureate’ (p. 223). The latter lauded Southey as a ‘Prolific Mind – spontaneous Muse – bright Star,/ In the pure Heaven of Verse benign and clear!/ Friend of the Dead! who pierced each scattered scroll,/ Preserving to all time the Poet’s name,/ Of that young, resolute, weak, yet ardent soul,/ Which burnt out its own fire, and went in flame/ To be renewed above the dulcet pole –/ Friend of the Dead! – and this shall be thy fame.’ BACK

[3] The title poem of Heraud’s volume, ‘The Legend of St. Loy’ (pp. 3–167). BACK

[4] In ‘On Attaining the Age of Twenty-One’, Heraud had challenged ‘Malice’ self to make appear,/ I have neglected aught of man’s concerns,/ Where man had claim upon me’, The Legend of St Loy, with Other Poems (London, 1820), p. 211. BACK

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