625. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 11 November 1801
625. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 11 November 1801 *
Wednesday night. Nov. 11. 1801.
My dear friend
Amid the bustle & everlasting motion in which of late I have been engaged, I have neglected to apprize you of my goings on. partly indeed trusting that Henry would learn every thing worth knowing from his Mother.
Soon after my letter to him I joined my friends in Wales. we made what was designed to be our first journey, which terminated at Llangedwin, Wynns abode. there I found a letter inviting me to Ireland to become Corrys private Secretary for one year. the term prudently limited lest we should not suit each other. the proffered salary 400£ Irish. about 350 English, of which the half was specified as travelling expences. my circumstances neither required nor allowed hesitation. So after touching at Keswick twice, on my road to & from Dublin, here I am in my scribe capacity. My friend Rickmans acquaintance with Corry brought this about. he is Secretary to Abbot.  & his residence in Dublin will render my Irish half year very endurable, as he is one of the most men whom I most esteem for his whole moral & intellectual character
I have been a week in town, & in that time have learnt something. the civilities which already have been shown me discover how much I have been abhorred for all that is valuable in my nature. such civilities excite more contempt than anger – but they make me think more despicably of the world than I would wish to do. As if this were a baptism that purified me of all Jacobinical sins – a regeneration – & the one congratulates me, & the other visits me, as if the author of Joan of Arc & of Thalaba  were made a great man by scribing for the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer! –
I suppose my situation by all these symptoms to be a good one. for a more ambitious man doubtless very desirable, tho the ladder is longer than I design to climb. my principles & habits are happily enough settled. My objects in life are leisure to do nothing but write, & competence to write at leisure, & my notions of competence do not exceed 300 a year. – Mr Corry is a man of gentle & reconciling manners. fitter men for his purpose he doubtless might have found in some respects – none more so in regularity & dispatch. the newspapers I hear are at me – I am used to flea bites, & never scratch a pimple to a sore.
Doubtless you have seen the British Critics Review of Thalaba.  it is so perfect in its kind that I have no doubt in ascribing it to Sir Herbert Croft. the personality in the Monthly Review  I cannot so easily account for: Dr Geddes  has been whispered to me – but I hardly credit the whisper. for never having seen the man I cannot have offended him. – I recollect not whether or no I thanked you for your judgement of Thalaba, & acceded to its censure in great part. as far as I can judge by what reaches my own ears the poem has been succesful to its fair deserts; that is in the character it is gaining – of the sale I yet know nothing.
Burnett is at work for Phillips.  the young warrior fights under a veterans shield, & his bantlings are to be fathered by no less a personage than Dr Mavor  – head-journeyman to Edmund Curl the Second.  For this trade – a miserable trade, George Burnett is noways qualified. he over rates his own powers, & every body else under-rates them. my advice to him has been – turn Usher or tutor. & give your leisure to asserting your literary character. to this he will not stoop – at present he has employment. but he neither calculates rightly on its precariousness nor on his own fitness & ability to discharge it. his knowledge is not at hand <ready> – like the Bank it has cash – but alas! not payable on demand.
I wait my books & papers before I can be comfortably industrious – to correct Madoc – & proceed with the Curse of Kehama  – these are to be my leisure labours – both with the hope of long escaping the Press. for some half dozen reasons, of which the wisest is, that the longer they remain, the higher value they will acquire – not merely from the gradual correction – the ripening of crude fruit – but because my own character as a poet will strengthen, like a retired players. My time is sold at a better price than the booksellers would have given for it.
Do you come to London this winter? If I had the Wishing Cap  I would see you at Norwich – a place of which all remembrance is pleasurable. – direct under cover to
&c &c &c
Duke Street – Westminster –
<there is much meaning in the and pussey ands.  – Henry I hope will write – I wish to hear of him & from him.>
* Address: To/ Mr Wm Taylor Junr/ Surry Street/ Norwich./ Single
Stamped: BRIDGE St./ Westminster
Postmark: [partial] NO/ 12/ 01
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4831. 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. 377-380. BACK
 Charles Abbot, Lord Colchester (1757-1829; DNB), Chief Secretary for Ireland 1801-1802, The Speaker 1802-1817. BACK
 British Critic, 18 (September 1801), pp. 309-310. The review was anonymous and a sustained attack on ‘this complete monument of vile and depraved taste’. BACK
 Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) was not reviewed in the Monthly Review until volume 39 (November 1802), pp. 240-251. The Monthly had already published a number of unfriendly reviews of Southey’s other work, e.g. of Poems (1799) in volume 31 (March 1800), pp. 261-267. BACK
 William Fordyce Mavor (1758-1837; DNB), clergyman, schoolmaster and writer. Burnett was working on his Universal History, Ancient and Modern (1802), which was published by Phillips. BACK
 Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. He was still drafting the first book of the Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK
 Southey is referring to Fortunatus, the hero of a series of tales widely published in 16th and 17th-century Europe. Fortunatus had a purse that always replenished itself and a cap that could carry the wearer wherever he wished. BACK