754. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 23 January 1803

754. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 23 January 1803 ⁠* 

Henrys brother does not cease to sympathize with Henrys gratitude to Burnett. Burnett has quarrelled with me – not I with him; & one motive of my writing about it to you was that he might understand no angry feeling existed in me, & that whenever he recovers his common sense he may know I have never lost mine. Mimosa Sensibility is not among the seeds that have thriven in me. there has not been hot-house nurture enough for such weeds, such parlour-window exotics.

Harry will never be an oeconomist that I have long known. I am so by principle & by necessity, − I hope he will never have such lessons as I had, being sure that he would never profit by them so well. it is not the virtue of any of my relations, except my Uncle – to whom in spite of such different views & opinions, I my feelings & character bear a very strong family likeness. but this vexes me in Harry & always did, & always will while I care any thing about him. if he be ever wealthy he will be lavish – not liberal. if he be poor God help him!

Your Prospectus [1]  has the mark of the beast. I should have known it had <it> been for a York or an Exeter paper to be yours: & excellently good it is. Success to you. I wish I had advertisements to send you – or any thing else. [2]  But in plain truth all this poor brain can spin must go to market. I am reviewing for Longman – reviewing for Hamilton. [3]  translating [4]  – perhaps about again to versify for the Morning Post [5]  – drudge – drudge – drudge. Do you know Quarles Emblem of the Soul [6]  that tries to fly but is chained by the leg to Earth? for myself I could do easily. but not easily for others – & there are more claims than one upon me. But in spite of your Prospectus & all the possible advantages of a party newspaper in a county where parties are nearly equal I cannot be satisfied that William Taylor should be a newspaper editor – that he who should be employed in preparing dishes for the daintiest palates – should be making wash for the swine. few men have his talents, fewer still his learning, & perhaps no other his leisure joined to these advantages. from him an opus magnum might – ought to be expected. Coleridge & I must drudge for newspapers from necessity – but it should not be your choice. I remember Edward Taylor [7]  as a fine open-faced boy – Stephen Weever Browne [8]  as one who had always a good humourd laugh ready on demand. – Pray send me your Iris – I care so little about news that to have it regularly once a week will be adding to my stock of knowledge, besides I would have your amber-stones gnat in my cabinet.

Thalaba [9]  shall be severely corrected. yet am I a dull dog if the story be obscure & can only say with Coleridge intelligibilia – non intellectum adfero. [10]  – which I pray you quote for me to those who do not understand it. metrical faults I confess in all abundance – but my “ands” my ‘μεrs & δεs’ [11]  have their use – they soften the abruptness of lyrical transition & connect the parts. the Garden of Irem history has been long condemned – so has all in Book 9 after the chain of Thalaba is loosed. [12] 

I will endeavour to find leisure from so many employments of will or of want to send you Madoc [13]  book by book as it proceeds, that you may find faults in time. it is now fourteen years since I fixd upon the subject. in 1792 I began to collect materials – in 94 began the poem – recommenced it 97 – finishd it 99 – & am now pulling it down & building a better edifice on the same ground. I am ambitious of your praise & of that of men like you who judge feelingly & knowingly. & of the praise of those who judge feelingly without knowledge – but for the tiers etat the middle class who want feeling & only pretend to knowledge, it would not be easy to express the xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxx <indifference with> which their praise or their censure can excite in <effects> me.

Your letter gave me the first intimation of Dr Sayers book. [14]  thank him for me. it is now just ten years since I bought the dramatic Sketches – the first book I was ever master of money enough to order at a boo country booksellers. the Runic Mythology will come under my hands in its turn. of the Celtic there is not enough recoverable to afford materials. [15]  perhaps Dr Sayer has not chosen his subjects well. the tale of Moina [16]  would have done equally well for a Hindoo-drama – or a Peruvian one.

farewell. the other half the note is inclosed – & you may tell Harry that the five shillings have been paid to Burnett. we are still house-hunting – “foxes have holes &c – you know the text [17]  – but I cannot find a den. my child is well: we are obliged – sorely against all inclination, to wean her for her mothers sake, who I am afraid has suffered materially by suckling her longer than she had strength. this vexes me & hangs upon my spirits. however the rising & falling of my spirits is never very perceptible to others. I can keep the equal countenance – & almost the equal mind.

God bless you

Robert Southey.

Sunday 23 Jany. 1803.

I expect Coleridge here this week on his way to France & Italy with Thomas Wedgewood – that is if W. lives to go – or keeps his mind till March.


* Address: To/ Mr Wm Taylor Junr/ Surry Street/ Norwich
Postmarks: BRISTOL/ JAN 23 1803; B/ JAN 24/ 1803
Endorsement: Ansd 6 Feb
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4838. 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. 444-447 [in part]. BACK

[1] Taylor’s prospectus for the new Norwich newspaper, The Iris, which began publication on 5 February 1803. BACK

[2] Southey did occasionally contribute poems to The Iris in 1803-1804, including ‘A Lamentation’, 12 November 1803 and ‘Monodrama. Florinda’, 21 July 1804. BACK

[3] Samuel Hamilton (fl. 1790s-1810s), owner of the Critical Review 1799-1804. BACK

[4] Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[5] Southey contributed thirteen poems to the Morning Post in 1803, beginning on 4 February with ‘A True Ballad of a Pope’. BACK

[6] Francis Quarles (1592-1644; DNB), Emblemes (1635), Book 5, Emblem 9, pp. 276-279. The book is no. 2311 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Edward Taylor (1784-1863; DNB), later a lecturer and writer on music. Taylor worked on The Iris. BACK

[8] Stephen Weaver Browne (1769-1832), Norwich-born Unitarian Minister. BACK

[9] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[10] ‘Things capable of being understood – not that I exercise any understanding’; a popular saying of Coleridge’s, used, for example, in his Poems, 3rd edn (London, 1803), p. x. BACK

[11] ‘On the one hand, and on the other’. BACK

[12] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 1, lines 180-633; Book 9, lines 539-662. BACK

[13] Southey’s revisionist epic, eventually published in 1805. BACK

[14] Frank Sayers (1763-1817; DNB), Poems, Containing Sketches of Northern Mythology, &c, 3rd edn (1803). The first edition appeared in 1790, the second in 1792. BACK

[15] Part of Southey’s never-achieved plan to write on all the world’s mythologies. For his ideas for Runic and Celtic poems, see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 11-12. BACK

[16] Sayers’s ‘Moina, a Tragedy’ first published in his Dramatic Sketches of the Ancient Northern Mythology (London, 1790), pp. 26-82. BACK

[17] Matthew 8: 20: ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head’. BACK

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