943. Robert Southey to William Taylor, [before 20 May 1804]

943. Robert Southey to William Taylor, [before 20 May 1804] ⁠* 

Dear friend

Yesterday for the first time I read your reviewal of Thalaba. [1]  your language is as undisguisable as my face; you must never write libels! nor I engage in conspiracy. be sure that I am very thankful for so much praise, & more pleased with the sweet draught because it is given in a goblet of such workmanship. I saw it rapidly & therefore cannot recriticise till it lies before me. there are however some things to be defended. I ought to have explained my design – that of exhibiting the various mythologies of the world in a set of poems founded upon the characteristics of each. [2]  fatalism is the corner of stone of Mawmetry, [3]  the hero of the Islam therefore was to act under the xxxxx <impulse> of Destiny. yet this Destiny guides him, he still acts for himself, & the power of arbitrement is surely exercised by Thalaba & felt by the reader with Mohareb Book 5, & with Laila. I shall correct the poem ‘root & branch’ – if there be a call for a second edition. if not – I am too poor a man to afford time for cultivating flowers however beautiful & however to me delightful. the florist must work in the cabbage garden. Oh William Taylor how do these things of criticism depend upon private feeling. compare the reviews of this one poem in the Critical & the British Critic! [4]  – Take care of Madoc for me. [5]  it will stand the test.

I left a little girl in bed with her mother. [6]  Xxx on my return I shall begin to love her – but with the wary wisdom of second love, for now I may tell you that the first loss almost broke my heart. [7] 

It is a sore disappointment to me that you do not visit London while I am here. if I were not bound to carry home a Lady from Staffordshire I would elbow out of my way to Norwich. – can I do any thing for you here? my stay will be about ten days longer – xxx I am like a fish out of water, & shall not feel comfortable till I find my self once more at home.

The frank & my hurry must excuse blank paper –

God bless you.

yrs very affectionately

R Southey.


* Address: Wm Taylor
Endorsement: Ansd 20 May
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4846. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Warden Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, pp. 501–503.
Dating note: From endorsement. BACK

[1] Taylor’s review of Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) appeared in The Critical Review, 2nd series, 39 (December 1803), 369–379. BACK

[2] Thalaba the Destroyer was the first of a series of epic romances that Southey intended to write illustrating different mythologies and religions. BACK

[3] Meaning the religion of Mohammed. BACK

[4] Taylor’s positive review in the Critical contrasted with the unsigned review in The British Critic, 18 (September 1801), 309–310, which declared that ‘a more complete monument of vile and depraved taste no man ever raised’ (309). BACK

[5] Southey is referring to his poem Madoc (1805), which Taylor reviewed for the Monthly Magazine, 19 (July 1805), 656–658. BACK

[6] The Southeys’ second child, Edith May Southey, was born on 30 April 1804. BACK

[7] The Southeys’ first child, Margaret Edith Southey, had died in August 1803. BACK

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