1186.1. Robert Southey to Robert Bill, 24 May 1806

1186.1. Robert Southey to Robert Bill, 24 May 1806 ⁠* 


Your letter has travelled from one end of England to the other in search of me, & has been a fortnight on the road. This will account for the delay of an acknowledgement on my part, which you will perhaps have expected.

No approbation is more grateful to me than that of young readers, because they judge as they feel, & their feelings are not influenced by any preconceived articles of critical faith, which are as likely to be wrong as right. They are not judges of the workmanship of poetry, but not infrequently the best <judges> of its materials.

Of the pieces which you notice as your favourites two will stand the test of your elder judgement. Elinor  [1]  will not: the whole feeling of the poem is natural but not naturally conveyed; there is an impropriety in the form of the piece; it should have been a picture, not a speech; I should have described the feelings of a person so situated, not have made her utter them to the winds. The Monologue is an absurd form of poem, because it represents <persons> as talking to themselves, which they never do; the Monodrama is not, as it leads to action, & implies spectators.

Should you at any time travel this way I shall be glad to shake you by the hand


Robert Southey.

Keswick. Cumberland.   May 24. 1806.


* Address: To/ Mr Robert Bill/ at Dr Davies’s/ Macclesfield School/ Cheshire
Stamped: [partial] KESWICK/ 8
MS: Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries. ALS; 2p. (c).
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Botany-Bay eclogue ‘Elinor’, first published in Morning Chronicle, 18 September 1794; published in a revised version in Poems (1797) and in subsequent editions of that collection. The other two pieces singled out by Bill are unidentified as his letter does not survive. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)