3677. Robert Southey to Neville White [fragment], 25 April 1821

3677. Robert Southey to Neville White [fragment], 25 April 1821 ⁠* 

Keswick, April 25. 1821.

My dear Neville,

I heartily give you joy of your dear wife’s safe deliverance, and of the birth of your first child, [1]  – an event which, of all others in the course of human life, produces the deepest and most permanent impression.

Who hath not proved it, ill can estimate
The feeling of that stirring hour, – the weight
Of that new sense; the thoughtful, pensive bliss.
In all the changes of our changeful state,
Even from the cradle to the grave, I wis
The heart doth undergo no change so great as this. [2] 

So I have written in that poem which will be the next that I hope to send you; but I transcribe the lines here because you will feel their truth at this time. Parental love, however, is of slower growth in a father’s than in a mother’s heart: the child, at its birth, continues, as it were, to be a part of its mother’s life; but, upon the father’s heart it is a graft, and some little time elapses before he feels that it has united and is become inseparable. God bless the babe and its parents, and spare it and them, each for the other’s sake, amen!

Tilbrook wrote to tell me his disapprobation of my hexameters. [3]  His reasons were founded upon some musical theory, which I did not understand farther than to perceive that it was not applicable. His opinion is the only unfavourable one that has reached me; that of my friend Wynn, from whom I expected the most decided displeasure, was, that he ‘disliked them less than he expected.’ [4]  Women, as far as I can learn, feel and like the metre universally, without attempting to understand its construction. My brethren of the art approve it, [5]  and those whom I acknowledge for my peers are decidedly in its favour. [6]  Many persons have thanked me for that part of the preface in which Lord Byron and his infamous works are alluded to. [7] 

I am going on steadily with many things, the foremost of which is the History of the War. [8]  The first volume will be printed in the course of September next. Whether it will be published before the other two, depends upon the booksellers, and is a matter in which I have no concern. I am proceeding also with my Dialogues, and with the Book of the Church, [9]  – two works by which I shall deserve well of posterity, whatever treatment they may provoke now from the bigoted, the irreligious, and the factious. But you know how perfectly regardless I am of obloquy and insult. Your brother Henry gave me that kind of praise which is thoroughly gratifying, because I know that I deserve it, when he described me as fearlessly pursuing that course which my own sense of propriety points out, without reference to the humour of the public. [10] 

In the last Quarterly Review you would recognise me in the account of Huntington. [11]  I am preparing a life of Oliver Cromwell for the next …  [12] 

Believe me, my dear Neville,

Yours most affectionately,



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), V, pp. 76–78 [in part]. BACK

[1] Neville White had married Charlotte Sewell (1799–1873) in 1820. Their first child, Henry Kirke White (1821–1849), named after his deceased uncle, the poet, had just been born. The second Henry Kirke White was a life-long invalid. BACK

[2] A Tale of Paraguay (1825), Canto 1, stanza 30, lines 4–9. BACK

[3] Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821) was written in hexameters. BACK

[4] Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 23 March 1821, Letter 3657. BACK

[5] For example, John Heraud and Ebenezer Elliott; see Southey to John Heraud, 15 March 1821, Letter 3653, and Southey to Ebenezer Elliott, 25 March 1821, Letter 3658. BACK

[6] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1820, Letter 3587, for his account of the approval of hexameters by Wordsworth, and Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 April 1821, Letter 3662, for Landor’s views. BACK

[7] A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), ‘Preface’, pp. xvii–xxii, where Southey denounced ‘the Satanic school’ of poetry without naming any one poet. This was a response to the first two cantos of Byron’s Don Juan (1819), which had been published by Murray. The coruscating and hilarious ‘Dedication’, which attacked Southey and others, had been suppressed (and was not published until 1833), but Southey knew of its existence. BACK

[8] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[9] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829) and The Book of the Church (1824). BACK

[10] Henry Kirke White, ‘Melancholy Hours, No. X’, The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham, 2 vols (London, 1807) p. 286. BACK

[11] Southey’s review of The Works of the Reverend William Huntington, S. S. Minister of the Gospel, at Providence Chapel, Gray’s Inn Lane, Completed to the Close of the Year 1806 (1811) appeared in Quarterly Review, 24 (January 1821), 462–510, published 6 April 1821. BACK

[12] ‘Life of Cromwell’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 279–347. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)