362. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 27 December 1798
362. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 27 December 1798 *
I was very glad to see your hand writing again. Burnett did not rightly, it appears, understand my leaving Bristol; it was merely to keep a term, that is to eat three indifferent dinners in bad company.
I know not how to say any thing about settling Henry under Maurice, except by stating to you how I am circumstanced respecting him. it is not easy to take care of a ready-made family without a ready-made fortune, John May is no ways connected with me except by friendship, he knew that it would greatly embarrass me to support Henry, & offered to dis xxx discharge his school bills. his intent was to place him under his own tutor, a brother of Coleridge; but the school was full, & Henrys age would otherwise have been an objection. John May then requested me to look out any school or situation which I thought proper. Under these circumstances you will see the impropriety of my placing him at all expensively, & were Maurice to lower his terms to the thermometer of my feelings, that would be burthening me with another obligation. I cannot educate him myself, I have no time, my family is already quite as large as my means, & the utter retirement in which we live would be unfavourable for an age when he ought to be forming friendships. I should like him to be with Maurice because he himself wishes it, & because there would be less danger of his contracting any vices there than in a large & promiscuous school, & this is what is most to be feared. the danger you mention I fear he would be likely to incur in most situations. what do you think the lowest sum which it would not be improper to propose to Maurice?
I have been much indisposed & my recovery I am afraid will be slow. my heart is affected, & this at first alarmed me because I could not understand it. however I am scientifically satisfied that it is only a nervous affection. sedentary habits have injured my health, x this prescription of exercise prevents me from proceeding with the works that interest me, & only allows time for the task labour which is neither pleasant to look on to or to remember. my leisure is quite destroyed. had it not been for this I should ere now have sent you the remainder of my Eclogues, it is now almost too late for the volume is half-printed.  However I have reserved them to conclude it with, that I may receive your corrections. The Old Mansion House is altered as you suggested & materially improved by it. I like the spirit of what follows & have read it aloud with some effect.
The Sailors Mother.
I hope you will not be tired of my Travellers. there are no more – & the first is turned into a Stranger  – because he happens to be at home. I print as one of these Eclogues the story which you may remember in the Monthly Magazine with my name, & which the Printer thought proper to call plaintive because plain did not please him.  the other two  I will send you as soon as I can copy them – they will be printed within a fortnight & if you have leisure I shall be thankful for your correction.
I recognized you in “Climb climb Aboukirs tower!”  but it was not in the spirit of the ode. the first of August is one of my dies nefandæ.  A good orthodox clergyman seriously exclaimd on hearing of Buonapartes  Italian victories “I cannot for my life conceive what God Almighty can be thinking of all this while!” & if I had not somewhat of Pangloss  about me I should be tempted to say the same upon that victory. I like the aggrandizing spirit of the French as little as you do – but I see worse effects from their defeat than from their success. & their success in Egypt can only produce good.
I am curious to see how you & Dr Sayers dressd the Old Woman.  not knowing the story when you mentioned his ballad I thought the subject a mine of my own discovery. commotion must stay for the rhyme. trepidation I had altered – perhaps not much for the better the line too <now> stands “Grew a quaver of consternation.”
God bless you.
Thursday. Dec. 27. 1798.
* Address: To/ Mr William Taylor Junr/ Surrey
Street/ Norwich./ Norfolk./ Single
Postmark: B/ DE/ 28/ 98
Watermarks: GR in a circle/ 1794; Britannia in an oval underneath a crown
Endorsement: Ansd 4 Jan
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, pp. 237–239 [in part; verses not reproduced]; Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, p. 352 [in part; one paragraph]. BACK
 Southey’s ‘English Eclogues’, six of which were published, accompanied by a brief preface, in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. –232. BACK
 must bear: Southey’s note: ‘x This happened to a sailor in the Mars.’ [Editor’s Note: Southey’s brother, Tom, had served on the Mars in its famous battle against L’Hercule on 21 April 1798.] BACK
 Woman ... rest the s[MS torn]: Verse in double columns. Published in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. 206–215. BACK
 In ‘The Old Mansion House’, the ‘Traveller’ in the version sent to Taylor on 24 July  (Letter 338) was transformed into a ‘Stranger’ in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. pp. 185–193. BACK
 ‘The Funeral’ in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. 202–205 was a revised version of ‘Hannah. A Plaintive Tale’, Monthly Magazine, 4 (October 1797), 287. BACK
 ‘The Last of the Family’ and ‘The Ruined Cottage’ were sent to Taylor on 30 December 1798 (Letter 364). BACK
 William Taylor, ‘The Ode on the Battle of Aboukir’, Monthly Magazine, 6 (November 1798), 366. BACK
 The Latin translates as ‘days not to be mentioned’. On 1–2 August 1798, the British Fleet had destroyed the Fleet that was supporting the French invasion of Egypt at the Battle of the Nile (or Aboukir Bay). BACK
 Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), First Consul 1799–1804, Emperor of the French 1804–1814. He won a great series of victories against the Austrian forces in Northern Italy in 1797 and conquered Egypt in 1798. France remained in control of Egypt until 1801. BACK
 An eternally optimistic character in Voltaire’s (1694–1778), Candide, ou l’Optimisme (1759). BACK
 In his letter to Southey of 23 December 1798, Taylor had revealed that both he and Frank Sayers (1763–1817; DNB) had also written poems on the theme of the ‘Old Woman of Berkeley’(J.W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, p. 235). BACK