626. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [mid-late November 1801]

626. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [mid-late November 1801] ⁠* 

Charlotte Smith [1]  I see is better acquainted with John Bunyan [2]  than with Robert Southey. that she will find out whenever we meet. [3]  as for panegyric, I never praised living being yet except Mary Wollstonecraft  [4]  – not even Bonaparte [5]  in his honest days. she I perceive still clings to France – but France has played the traitor with Liberty. – Mary Barker – it is not I who have turned round. I stand where I stood looking at the rising sun – & now the sun has set behind me! –

England has mended – is mending – will mend. I have still faith enough in God & hope enough of man. but not of France! Freedom cannot grow up in that hot bed of immorality. that oak must root in a hardier soil – England or Germany. a military despotism! – popery reestablished – the negroes again to be enslaved! [6]  – Why had not the man perished before the Walls of Acre [7]  in his greatness & his glory! – I was asked to write a poem upon that defeat, & half tempted to do it because it went to my very heart –

I wish we could offer you a bed – lodgings cramp one sadly. Ediths love. – we are eager to see you –


R Southey.


* Address: To/ Miss Barker.
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick Jnr, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 20-21 [where it is dated December 1801]
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 180–181.
Dating note: Miss Barker had visited Southey in London and left by 3 December 1801 (Southey to Danvers 2-3 December 1801, Letter 634). This letter was written in reply to a letter of Mary Barker’s and in expectation of her visit. A date of mid-late November 1801 can therefore be suggested for this letter. BACK

[1] Charlotte Turner Smith (1749-1806; DNB), poet and novelist; author, among many other works, of Celestina (1791) and The Old Manor House (1793). BACK

[2] John Bunyan (1628-1688; DNB), author of Pilgrim’s Progress (1678-1684). BACK

[3] Mary Barker was an old friend of Charlotte Smith; they spent the winter together in London in 1801-1802. BACK

[4] Southey’s ‘To Mary Wollstonecraft’ first appeared in Poems (Bristol, 1797), p. 3. BACK

[5] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821, First Consul 1799-1804, Emperor of the French 1804-1814). BACK

[6] Southey mentions Napoleon’s assumption of control in France by a military coup on 9 November 1799, the signature of a Concordat between France and the Papacy in July 1801, and preparations for an expedition, which sailed on 14 December 1801, to re-conquer the French colony of Haiti. BACK

[7] Napoleon’s plan to advance from Egypt into Palestine was halted by his failure to take the city of Acre in a siege of March-May 1799. BACK

People mentioned

Barker, Mary (c. 1780–1853) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)