497. Robert Southey to the Editor of the Gentleman's Magazine, 20 March [1800]

497. Robert Southey to the Editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 20 March [1800] ⁠* 

Bristol, March 20.

Mr. Urban, [1] 

As the Rev. Sir Herbert Croft has replied in your Magazine (p. 99) to my statement of his conduct towards the family of Chatterton, I trust you will insert the few remarks which his letter requires. [2] 

My statement, it appears, was inaccurate, in supposing him to have been in orders in 1778. In no other part does it require correction: Sir Herbert does not deny that he promised to return the letters in an hour when he borrowed them; nor that he published them, without the knowledge of the family, for his own emolument. How far the publication, intituled, “Love and Madness,” [3]  was indebted to these letters for its value, its popularity, and its sale, the publick can judge. Sir Herbert does not deny his promises to the family of after-assistance; nor that, when Mrs. Newton [4]  applied for it, he required a certificate of her character from the clergyman of the parish.

To the personalities contained in Sir Herbert’s letter, I make no reply: these things do not concern the publick. Sir Herbert may still date his letters from Denmark, and complain of my attacking him during a North-east wind; it is not my business to correct these mis-statements. But, as he has endeavoured to injure the proposed publication, by declaiming against the principles, real and imputed, of the editor, I will not let pass the opportunity of requesting, that party prejudices may not impede a work designed to benefit the family of Chatterton. The sister of Chatterton supports herself by teaching children to read; she is advancing in years, and her sight begins to fail. Should the subscription for his Works be extensive, it will render her old age comfortable, and provide for her child.

Sir Herbert intimates, that my object is to profit by the subscription. The list of the subscribers shall be published, and the accounts.

Robert Southey.


* MS: MS has not survived
Previously published: Gentleman’s Magazine, 70.1 (March 1800), 226 [from where the text is taken]. BACK

[1] The editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine was always referred to as ‘Sylvanus Urban’. At this time it was John Nichols. BACK

[2] Croft’s reply – which was also a defence of his conduct – was published in Gentleman’s Magazine, 70 (February–April 1800), 99–104, 222–226, 322–325. BACK

[3] Herbert Croft, Love and Madness (1780). BACK

[4] Mary Newton (1749–1804), sister of Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB). BACK

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