1232. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 2 November 1806

1232. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle [fragment], 2 November 1806 ⁠* 

[MS missing]

pledge myself one day to demonstrate, if G[MS missing] what I have long proposed, that it is Manicheism [1]  stript of all that is beautiful & all that is reasonable. You are mistaken if you suppose that I have not seriously examined the subject. There are few subjects which I have studied [MS cut]

The history of your various occupations interested me exceedingly – I read with more pleasure & more pain than I can express the account of yr life, so inoffensive, so industrious, & let me add so truly honourable, – You know Cottle that I am no flatterer, – but I will say this – that I had far xxx rather such a record as this which you have given of yourself should descend of me to posterity, than <to> be the subjects of as many volumes as Caesar or Bonaparte. Do not however neglect any means of bettering your condition which may be in your power. what are luxuries to others may unfortunately be called necessaries for you. If your varnish answers well quack it manfully by advertisements, & get a London agent, – it may be a fortune for you. [2] 

I have good news to tell you of myself – that I am the father of a little boy, now three weeks old, & as thriving as we could wish – Edith well also. We christen him Herbert, a name which I hope will not stick in your throat when you remember it is my Uncles – No he gets it from the Crofts, his grandmother being one. [3] 

You will have perceived that I have been writing in the dark, – & if you look close enough may see that I am not using pen & ink, – but a very excellent contrivance called the double writer, [4]  which is liable to no other inconvenience than that of the paper shifting, – as I see this has done in the last page. Wynn sent me the apparatus.

Coleridge is returned at last. considerably fatter – indeed absolutely grown fat. He goes shortly to London to give Lectures at the Royal Institution upon the Principles common to the fine Arts. [5]  – I go on as usual, writing as indefatigably in my calling as yourself & with as good a will, & as ill paid for it as any poor author need be. One would think we authors were the literal descendents of Scribes of old, & were paying the price of their iniquities. You will see me in the first number of the Athenaeum when it appears. [6]  – Can you send me the account of Churchey? [7]  – no matter how little – I remember your mother related something singular of him – To that good mother of yours & to your sisters remember Edith & me very kindly as old friends who never forget old times – Perhaps I shall see you in the spring, – but write to me meantimes – for I love these outward & visible signs of good will.

God bless you


Nov. 2. 1806.


* Address: To/ Mr Cottle/ Brunswick Square/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [illegible]
MS: Cornell Cottle Album. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] In March, Southey had been reading Isaac de Beausobre (1659–1738), Histoire Critique de Manichée et du Manichéisme (1734–1739). Southey’s copy of this work was no. 185 in the sale catalogue of his library. Writing to Charles Danvers in September, Southey had complained that Cottle had ‘filled half a sheet of fools cap (aptly so employed) with wishes that I might yet become a disciple of Jesus & not be condemned with the world, exhortations to the love of God, & hopes that I may yet obtain in common with himself an inheritance among the Saints in light, & an introduction in a better world to the Society of just men made perfect’; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 19 September 1806 (Letter 1217) and Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 2 January 1807 (Letter 1255). The missing part of the letter contained Southey’s response to this. BACK

[2] Cottle had begun making his own varnish for the preservation of oil paintings. Although it never became a commercial success, he was still producing it in the 1840s. BACK

[3] A landowning family whose seat, Croft castle, is on the border of Herefordshire and Shropshire, where Hill owned land and held church livings. The name Herbert ran in the family: Herbert Croft (c.1565–1629; DNB) restored the family’s wealth; his third son Herbert (1603–1691; DNB), became Bishop of Hereford. Hill was thus distantly related to the 5th Baronet, Sir Herbert Croft, whom Southey and Cottle had accused of unfair dealing with the family of Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB), after he obtained manuscripts from them under false pretences. BACK

[4] In his letter to Wynn of 9 October [1806], Southey acknowledges receipt of an ‘apparatus’ which is likely to have been an early version of carbon paper, first patented by Ralph Wedgwood (1766–1837) on 7 October 1806 as the ‘stylographic manifold writer’; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 9 October [1806] (Letter 1223) and 17–18 October 1806 (Letter 1228). BACK

[5] Coleridge did not in fact lecture there until 1808, on the subjects of the Principles of Poetry, Shakespeare and Milton. BACK

[6] The short-lived Athenaeum magazine (1807–1809), edited by John Aikin and published by Longman. Southey contributed to the ‘Omniana’ section of the The Athenæum: a Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information, 1 (1807): see p. 138. BACK

[7] Southey had asked Cottle to provide an account of the life of Walter Churchey (1747–1805; DNB), the Welsh author of Poems and Imitations of the British Poets (1789), for inclusion in his Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807); see Southey to Joseph Cottle 11 August 1806, Letter 1210. None of Churchey’s poems were published in the Specimens. BACK

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