750. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge [fragment], 12 January 1803

750. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge [fragment], 12 January 1803 ⁠* 

Wednesday night. 12 Jany. 1803

By your own account, dear Coleridge, it seems that your most violent attacks are the effect of imprudence. long foot journeys in a stormy country are foolish experiments for an invalid. here in the west I have given them up & probably I am the haler man of the two. if you go abroad, well. if you do not I wish & not wholly from selfish motives that you [MS missing] think of removing here. because the climate is far milder, & the the best [MS missing] view at Sea Mills. [1]  should we get [MS missing]

[MS missing] With respect to your letters upon Fox [2]  I have only a feeling of pain & sorrow that you should attack a man who has already too many enemies, & for whom I feel a kind of affectionate veneration. not having seen either those letters – or any indeed any thing like regular news for these six months, you will conceive how incapable I must now be of judging. [MS missing]

[MS missing] Now for myself. I should like – no that’s a lie! – but I should find it very convenient to be again in the pay of Stuart. [3]  my expences are heavier than I can bear. both Edith & myself are personally most honourably oeconomic – but I am drained at every pore. Harry is still an expence to me. Tom is with me. within the last twelvemonths I have paid more than an hundred pounds for my poor mother & poor Peggy – (I xxxx <may> tell you that their loss has gone deeper than it ought. or than any one believes.) – it is hard to be called from two such works as my poem [4]  & my history [5]  to write newspaper verses. but if Stuart will employ me – I am at his service – & you will serve me by telling him so – unless you think he wants no such help now for his columns. there is a sort of desperado pride in feeling that [MS missing]

[MS missing] These Booksellers & their Newspapers! their prospectus [6]  is the most xxxxxxx degrading insult that literature has ever sustained. some meddler has paragraphed me as translator of Amadis – tho it cost me forty pounds to conceal it. [7]  I still am trying to conceal it – & have sent Longman & Rees this paragraph for their blackguard “literary” papers.

We understand that the translation of Amadis de Gaul ascribed to Mr Southey is the work of a Mr Southwell. mistakes have frequently been made between the names Sotheby [8]  & Southey. it is rather remarkable that another name so similar should occur in the literary world.

Now if you will make the Morning Post suspect Sotheby before John Southwell Esq [MS missing]

[MS missing] I can struggle: & if it please God to spare my health & sight I can get thro that & all other drudgery, & still leave two works [9]  behind me that shall show what I would might have done in affluence.

That’s a serious paragraph – & in a tone which I am little used to. for to put my spirits in tune let me speak of Madoc. [10]  Every night – because I cannot see to search badly printed folios – Madoc is my resource. correction is very laborious work – & I correct most rigorously – compressing & weeding at every fresh perusal. it [MS missing]

[MS missing] I will tel[MS missing] will xxxx net me above [MS missing] procuring 300 names. I shall not announce this till the [MS missing] that is for a last transcription & revisal. this will float me – & but float [MS missing] for I am in the mud. To my history [11]  if I can ever get leisure for it I [MS missing] for independance. that will have a certain sale for its subject [MS missing] but general xxxxx a deep [MS missing]ubject. I cannot [MS missing] story to inweave [MS missing]

[MS missing] approbation. slow sale. [MS missing] get rid off. it will be as bad as the Odyssey in th[MS missing] which is difficult. the destruction of the superstition of the friendly tribe. & all th[MS missing]cription is to be added. I wish you were near me while it went thro the press. my poetical creed shall be given in a preface [12]  – if that may be called a creed which will be rather an abjuration of the articles of common faith. it will be dedicated to Wynn & the pleasure I shall feel in xxx that dedication is in truth the chief reason why I wish so soon to publish it.  [13] 

Chatterton is out. xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxx What think you of a “List of Chattertons Bristol friends & acquaintance, with their professions as far as they can be ascertained?”  [14] 

e.g. T. Carey – a pipe maker.

– Smith – a player [MS missing]

[MS missing] They wanted me to edite a newspaper at Norwich [15]  for a hundred a year. but I m[MS missing] be in the West. I love Wm Taylor – but will stay by Charles Danvers. the Lady lives on & lives comfortably by the courtesy of Nature – & I believe loves me [MS missing] to her own children. & I love her better than I wish – for she will be a loss to me – [MS missing] next to him of Antwerp. My great friend & companion in this city wide city is [MS missing] dog Cupid, my own god-son. Oh if you could but see that little God of Love [MS missing] I have a book binder too so gloriously stupid that he is become a great favourit[MS missing] poor Hort [16]  has been dreadfully ill & is sadly pulled down. the den of the Fox [17]  stinks worse than ever. [MS missing] is our news external. the news internal is like your own – tribulation of tripes. take care of yourself [MS missing]



* Location: Victoria University Library, Toronto, Coleridge Collection. ALS; 4p. (c).
Note on MS: the MS survives as 4 separate fragments. BACK

[1] Harbour north-west of Bristol, used for bathing and with fine views up the Avon gorge. BACK

[2] Coleridge’s two ‘Letters’ to Charles James Fox (1749-1806; DNB) in the Morning Post, 4 November 1802 and 9 November 1802. BACK

[3] Southey had regularly written poems for the Morning Post in 1798-1799. He contributed three poems in late 1801 and another thirteen in 1803. BACK

[4] Probably Madoc; Southey had written a fifteen-book version in 1797-1799 and by 1803 was correcting this for publication. A heavily revised version appeared in 1805. BACK

[5] Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[6] Probably the Literary Journal (1803-1806), which began publication on 6 January 1803 as a sixteen-page weekly magazine. Its editor was James Mill (1773-1836; DNB). Southey, badly nettled by the Edinburgh Review’s attack on Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), saw the critique of ‘a tendency to corruption in our taste, which obviously appears in an affected novelty of versification and sentiment, which seems daily to gain ground’ (Literary Journal, 1 (6 January 1803), 13), as aimed at himself; see Southey to John May, 9 March 1803, Letter 765. BACK

[7] See, for example, Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 597. BACK

[8] William Sotheby (1757-1833; DNB), poet and translator. BACK

[9] Joan of Arc (1796) and (1798) and Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[10] Southey had finished a version of Madoc in 1797-1799. He was revising it for publication, though it did not appear until 1805. BACK

[11] Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[12] The preface to Madoc (London, 1805) did not expound Southey’s ‘poetical creed’, but it did reject the ‘degraded title of Epic’ (p. ix). BACK

[13] Madoc (1805) was dedicated to Wynn. BACK

[14] Southey and Joseph Cottle, The Works of Thomas Chatterton, 3 vols (London, 1803), III, p. 494. BACK

[15] In December 1802, William Taylor had offered Southey the editorship of The Iris, a newspaper that Taylor was involved in setting up in Norwich. BACK

[16] William Jillard Hort (1764-1849) a Unitarian minister who taught in the school run by John Prior Estlin. He was the addressee of Coleridge’s ‘To the Rev. W. J. H.’, Poems on Various Subjects (London and Bristol, 1796), pp. [12]-14. BACK

[17] Charles Fox (c. 1740-1809; DNB), poet, translator and neighbour of Southey in Bristol. BACK