1304. Robert Southey to Neville White, 7 April 1807

1304. Robert Southey to Neville White, 7 April 1807 ⁠* 

April 7. 1807.

My dear Sir,

.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .      The preliminary account is nearly finished. [1]  I have inserted in it such poems as seem best suited to that place, because they refer to Henry’s then state of mind, and thus derive an interest from the narrative, and in their turn give it also. After the introduction I purpose to insert a selection of his letters, or rather of extracts from them, in chronological order. Upon mature consideration, and upon trial as well, I believe this to be better than inserting them in the account of his life. If the reader feel for Henry that love and admiration which I have endeavoured to make him feel, he will be prepared to receive these epistolary fragments as the most authentic and most valuable species of biography; and if he does not feel that love, it is no matter how he receives them, for his heart will be in fault, and his understanding necessarily darkened.

I have, to the best of my judgment, omitted every thing of which the publication could occasion even the slightest unpleasant feeling to any person whatever; and if any thing of this kind has escaped me, you will, of course, consider your own opinion as decisive, and omit it accordingly, without any regard to mine. Assuredly we will not offend the feelings of anyone; but there are many passages which, though they can give no pain to an individual, you perhaps may think will not interest the public. If this fear come across you, take up Chatterton’s letters to his mother and sister, and see if the very passages which will excite in you the greatest interest are not of the individual and individualising character, and then remember that Henry’s is to be a name equally dear to the generation which will come after us. [2]              .              .              .              .              .              .              .              .              .               My heart has often ached during this employment.

Yours very truly and respectfully,

Robert Southey.


* 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), III, pp. 78–79. BACK

[1] The ‘Account of the Life of H. K. White’ which appeared in volume one of the Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham, 2 vols. (London, 1807), I, pp. 1–59. BACK

[2] Southey had previously edited the writings of Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB) for a posthumous edition designed to benefit his living relatives: Southey and Joseph Cottle, The Works of Thomas Chatterton (1803); now he was compiling a similar posthumous edition, Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham (1807). BACK

People mentioned

White, Henry Kirke (1785–1806) (mentioned 2 times)