1722. Robert Southey to Hugh Chudleigh Standert, 14 December 1809

1722. Robert Southey to Hugh Chudleigh Standert, 14 December 1809 ⁠* 

Dear Sir

Your letters reminds me of some pleasant days which I had not forgotten, & which it gives me pleasure to perceive that you remember also. Mr Eltons volume of poems, [1]  as well as those which appeared in the Athenæum [2]  I have read & admired, – as containing many beautiful xxxxx <passages> & always affording the promise of greater things hereafter. His Hesiod [3]  I have never seen. I wished to have reviewed it in the Quarterly, being fond of Hesiod & fancying I had something to say upon the Theogony, [4]  – but for some reason unknown the book was not sent me, – perhaps because it had been published too long.

My knowledge of the trade of literature has I am sorry to say, never been very profitable either to myself or my friends. Perhaps no poor author ever acquired so little pudding in proportion to his praise. There are only two branches in which a man of letters can obtain any adequate remuneration for his labour, – by writing for reviews, or for the stage. I need not say how grievously the stage is in want of poets, & every thing which I have seen of Mr Eltons induces me to think that he would succeed in this line, which is paid as much above its due proportion as all other kinds of poetry are under paid. He might offer a play thro Longman to Covent Garden – or I would willingly & zealously exceed my influence for him at a new theatre which is in preparation at Edinburgh, [5]  where I have been urged to try my own fortune.

Reviewing also is well paid, even at the inferior price of the monthly Reviews. The Annual [6]  in which I could have been of service to your friend is defunct. I bear a part in the Quarterly, but have no personal knowledge either of the Editor or Publisher , & doubt the efficacy of my interference. Nevertheless if Mr Elton thinks his prose as good as his verse (& our best poets are our best prose-writers) & if he be disposed to amuse himself in this manner, I will mention his name there. Halham who, if I mistake not is related to him by marriage, has written in the Edinburgh, & could perhaps introduce him xxxx in that direction. [7]  Reviewing is not an unpleasant task. Carlisle introduced me to the Critical [8]  in 1798, & I wrote some years for it at the low rate of three guineas per sheet, – my work was not worth more, – it brought me from 50 to 100 £ xxxxxxxx <yearly> a very acceptable addition to my very straitened income. it made me look for my opinions upon many subjects which had not occupied much of my attention before, & it made me acquire more knowledge of contemporary literature than I should else have possessed. For the Annual I received four guineas, – as much as the concern could afford, but greatly below the value of my work, for the former apprenticeship had made me a skilful workman. Two years ago I refused ten guineas per sheet with the promise of a great advance for the Edinburgh, – upon the ground of my total dissent from all its principles of morals & politics as well as taste. – I have since had that sum for the Quarterly, & have this very evening been offered twice that sum for a specific article in it. [9]  – These facts will show you the relative prices & the nature of the employ. The ordinary pay of the Monthly [10]  is five guineas, – the Critical & British Critic rather less. [11]  This latter is likely to depart in peace – may the dust be heavy upon its pages of bigotry, intolerance & dullness!

But it is to the drama that I should especially advise Mr Elton to direct his thoughts, as a pursuit congenial to his taste & worthy of his talents. There is a natural flow of feeling & of language in his poems (& this which you have done me the favour to send it is an instance of it) which is excellently adapted to dramatic verse. We want to have the mixed drama of Shakespeares age restored. Poor John Tobin attempted it, [12]  & would have done much if he had lived, – but in the higher requisites I do not think he was equal to what might be expected from Mr Elton. I knew him, & speak as much from what was in him, as well as from what came out from <of> him.

I thank you for the intelligence you give me concerning my Aunt, to whom in consequence of thus knowing where to direct I have written, tho as the letter has to make a tour in search of a frank it will be a day or two longer upon the road than this. If any chance should lead you to our Lakes it will give me great pleasure to be your guide in this neighbourhood, – or if at any time you have a friend travelling this way, a line from you shall be honoured as a draft for all serviceable civilities in my power. Remember me to my Taunton friends when you see them & believe me

my dear Sir

truly & respectfully yours

Robert Southey

Keswick. Dec. 14. 1809


* Address: To/ H. C. Standert Esqr/ Taunton/ Single
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: [illegible]
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS;4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 522–524. BACK

[1] Charles Abraham Elton (1778–1853; DNB), the poet, translator, theologian and occasional reviewer for the Quarterly Review, who like Southey was Bristol-born. In 1804 he had published an edition of Poems. BACK

[2] Elton published the following poems in The Athenæum, A Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information: ‘Lines Written on the Banks of the Thames’, 1 (March 1807), 278–279; ‘Lines on a Favourite Retirement’, 1 (May 1807), 501–502; ‘The Rose’, 2 (July 1807), 50. BACK

[3] Elton’s The Remains of Hesiod the Ascraean: Translated from the Greek into English (1809). BACK

[4] The Theogony is a poem by Hesiod (8C–7C BC), which describes the origins and genealogies of the Greek gods, composed c. 700 BC. BACK

[5] The New Theatre Royal in Edinburgh. BACK

[6] Southey wrote for the Annual Review from 1801 to 1808. BACK

[7] Charles Elton’s sister, Julia Maria (1807–1840; DNB), married the historian Henry Hallam (1777–1859; DNB) in 1807. Between 1805 and 1809 he contributed articles to the Edinburgh Review. BACK

[8] The Critical Review, founded in 1756 and continuing until 1817. BACK

[9] William Gifford offered Southey 20 guineas a sheet for his review of John Charnock (1756–1806; DNB), Biographical Memoirs of Lord Viscount Nelson, &c., &c., &c.; with Observations, Critical and Explanatory (1806); James Harrison (d. 1847), The Life of Lord Nelson (1806); T. O. Churchill (fl. 1800–1823), The Life of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronté, &c (1808); and James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) and John McArthur (1755–1840; DNB), The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from his Lordship’s Manuscripts (1809), see Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. It was later expanded into a full-scale Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[10] The Monthly Review, a periodical founded in 1749 and continuing until 1845. BACK

[11] The British Critic was a Tory periodical, established in 1793, and published until 1843. BACK

[12] John Tobin (1770–1804; DNB) was a London solicitor and playwright whose comedy The Honey Moon had been a success in 1805. BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)