391. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 18 March 1799
391. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 18 March 1799 *
I have been copying your lake Keswic for the Press.  it is one of those poems that the more it is read the more it must be liked. brimful of beauties like the scenery which it describes you immediately feel it to be fine, but the longer it is contemplated the more interesting it becomes. I never attempt the ode, except as a vehicle for sedition – like the 29th of May  which you saw, & one on the death of Wallace  which perhaps you saw also. it is the kind of poetry I like least – perhaps because it was the last I understood. I fed upon Spenser,  years before Collins  was intelligible to me – the consequence is that I approve only the one, & love the other.
I was called upon, on Saturday last, to make affidavit to those deeds which I & Burnett witnessd for you, as they were going to America. Of America we have sad accounts here. the English emigrants complain bitterly. that they should feel the want of cultivated society is not to be wondered at, but it is their own fault that they do not cluster together. there Priestley writes that he is to the full as obnoxious to the people there as ever he was in England.  their sedition bill  had for its first clause, that all persons who had fled their country on charges of treason or sedition & taken refuge in the United States should be delivered back to their respective governments. the clause was indeed thrown it, but what a spirit does it show when it could be proposed! England is certainly the best place now – it is the man with a growing stone in his bladder. Germany – Prussia &c have the stone very bad indeed – & the revolutionary countries have not yet recovered from being cut. On my <own> account I am sorry for the Monthly Review.  the others are good for little, & that will sink to their level. they treat me in the Critical in the manner you complain of: but my review are written with so little expence of time & thought that I am indifferent. who corrects me & tames me & qualifies me into insipidity I know not. I give praise to a good book with as much pleasure as the Author will receive it: to a moderate one I am merciful, & that must be very bad indeed that provokes severity. On anything bad in its aristocracy as well as in its composition I have no mercy.
The Almanach  will mostly be filld with my own pieces under as many aliases as Satan & his Majesty – (I once computed the titles of both those personages & the King out-titled the Devil.) the first volume will be good enough to attract contributions innumerable for the second. it will I think be best to exclude translations, & nothing else. I hate to recognize an old acquaintance in a new suit of cloathes that do’nt fit him; & this is the case with most translations.
God bless you.
March 18. 99.
* Address: To/ Mr Wm Taylor Junr/ Surry Street/ Norwich/ Single
Postmarks: BRISTOL/ MAR 18 99; B/ MR/ 19/ 99
Endorsement: Ansd 25
MS: McGill University Library. ALS; 4p. (c).
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. 265–266 [in part; verses not reproduced]. BACK
 Three leaders of revolts against tyrannical regimes: Harmodius (d. 514 BC); Lucius Junius Brutus, legendary founder of the Roman Republic; and Marcus Junius Brutus (85–42 BC). BACK
 Judith killed the Assyrian general, Holofernes, by beheading him when he was asleep, Book of Judith, 10–13. BACK
 Ehud killed King Eglon with a special two-edged dagger, having gained an audience on the pretext that he had a message for the King, Judges, 3: 20–21. BACK
 Breechd: Southey adds footnote ‘a fine phrase in the Moallakat.’ [Editorial note: His source is the ‘Poem of Hareth’, stanza 74, in The Works of Sir William Jones, 6 vols (London, 1799), IV, p. 334; see also Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 107.] BACK
 Southey’s republican ‘May 29 – Ode’ appeared anonymously in the Morning Post, 29 May 1798. It lamented the anniversary of the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660. BACK
 Southey’s ‘Ode. The Death of Wallace’ appeared anonymously in the Morning Post, 7 September 1798. Its subject was the brutal execution of the Scottish patriot William Wallace (d. 1305; DNB) by the English king Edward I (1239–1307; reigned 1272–1307; DNB). BACK
 Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599; DNB), author of the Horatian odes ‘Epithalamion’ (1594) and ‘Prothalamion’ (1596). BACK
 Joseph Priestley (1733–1804; DNB), who had emigrated to America in 1794 and settled in Northumberland, Pennsylvania. He defended himself against federalist attacks in Letters to the Inhabitants of Northumberland and its Neighbourhood, on Subjects Interesting to the Author, and to Them (1799). BACK
 The Sedition Act passed by Congress in July 1798. The Act made it an offence to bring the government into contempt. BACK
 In his letter to Southey of 4 March 1799, Taylor had intimated he was about to stop writing for the Monthly Review (J.W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, p. 259). BACK