About this Edition

About this Edition

Editorial Methodology

The Collected Letters of Robert Southey is divided into twelve Parts: I: 1791–1797, II:1798–1803, III:1804–09, IV:1810–15, V:1816–18, VI:1819–21, VII: 1822–24; VIII: 1825–27; IX: 1828–30; X: 1831–33, XI:1834–6; XII: 1837–39.

The General Introduction outlines the project’s research context. In addition, each individual Part has a brief introductory essay.

Throughout the edition, letters are presented in chronological order, each letter being assigned its own number. Any letters that have been located after the first publication of an individual Part of the edition are inserted at their appropriate chronological point and given a suffix number (e.g. .1,.2): see, for example, Letter 1889.1. Previously unpublished letters have all been newly transcribed from the autograph manuscript, when that survives. In cases where the letter now exists only in a manuscript transcript in another hand, copy-text is taken from the transcript and this is recorded in the editorial headnote. Where letters have been previously published, we have returned to and transcribed the original manuscript when it survives. In cases where we have been unable to locate the manuscript of a published letter, copy-text is taken, without emendation, from the published version and this is recorded in the editorial headnote. There are two instances where a previously published version of a letter is fuller than the surviving manuscript. In these an edited, annotated transcript of the manuscript version has been placed within the main run of letters (see Letters 46 and 147), and the text of the longer, previously published version in Appendix 1.

We have followed the editors of the letters of Mark Twain and adopted a ‘plain text’ methodology in order to produce a text that is more quickly intelligible to the reader but that also represents, as closely as our digitised transcriptions can, the original holograph letters. [1]  Our aim is to allow the reader to get as close as possible to what Southey wrote and thus to provide an insight into the creative processes that underpinned his letter writing. This is particularly important now, when the older idea of Southey as someone who wrote with ease and never blotted a line or deleted a word is being challenged by new textual and critical scholarship. All letters are transcribed in full and editorial intervention in the text has been kept to a minimum. Southey’s original spelling, and mis-spelling, grammar, punctuation and any slips of his pen have been retained. Deletions are indicated by striking through the cancelled word or phrase, but without any attempt to indicate the heaviness of the deletion: e.g. ‘he said’. In those cases where Southey changed his mind and wrote over his original thought, we have put his final version in the text of the letter and indicated the original words or characters in an endnote. Throughout the text, ‘x’ is used to indicate an illegible character: e.g. ‘he xxid’. Underlining is indicated by italics: e.g. ‘he said’. The exception to this rule is where Southey used underlining not for emphasis but to indicate an abbreviation written in superscript: eg. ‘Dr’ rather than ‘Doctor’ or ‘Dr’. This was something Southey did occasionally and irregularly, particularly on address leaves. It is not possible to code a character or set of characters in both underline or italic and superscript, so in these cases we have silently regularised his practice and presented all his superscript abbreviations, both underlined or not, in superscript: e.g. ‘Mrs Smith said’. Editorial [...] within the text of an individual letter are used to indicate issues relating to the manuscript: a tear, cut, missing section or area obscured by a seal mark or blot, or a substantial section of a letter in the hand of a co-correspondent. See, for example, Letter 56, co-written with Grosvenor Charles Bedford. Editorial <...> are used to indicate an authorial insertion of text above or below the line.

We have retained Southey’s paragraphing but have not otherwise replicated the lineage of prose, the pagination, the hand, or any other physical features of his letters that it is clear Southey did not invest with any meaning. Throughout the edition, words split in the text of an individual letter by the end of a line or a page have been silently emended to reflect Southey’s customary spelling: eg. ‘mis-/ chief’ has been emended to ‘mischief’ in our text. In the case of poems included by Southey in his letters, we have retained the lineage and stanza breaks, with the exception of lines and stanzas that run onto the following line or page of the manuscript. In these cases, the run over word or line/s has been silently incorporated into the preceding part of the line or stanza as it is clear that the break had no meaning to Southey and was dictated purely by the spatial constraints of the manuscript page.

Each letter has an editorial headnote. This records the location of the manuscript, if it has survived, and describes its physical characteristics, using the following abbreviations:

ALS: autograph letter signed

AL: autograph letter, without signature

(A)LS: more than 50% of the manuscript in a hand other than Southey’s

TR = survives as a transcript in another hand

TS = survives as a typescript

p. = numbers of pages of the letter containing script, including the address leaf, when this has survived

(c) = letter transcribed and checked from a digital scan, photograph or photocopy of the manuscript

The headnote also notes any previous instances of publication and deals with other relevant issues, such as endorsements, watermarks, postmarks, franks, stamps and dating. This edition provides important new information about when many of Southey’s letters were actually written, and re-dates letters that have been misdated or misleadingly dated by previous editors. For example, Southey’s earliest correspondence is here demonstrated to date to late 1791, rather than 1790 as claimed by John Wood Warter. The following conventions have been observed in dating individual letters: [...] is used in headnotes to indicate an editorial dating; ‘c.’ to indicate a dating taken from the postmark or from internal evidence within an individual letter; ‘before’ is used either when a letter contains an authorial date, but there is evidence within the letter that it was begun before that time, or when an endorsement on the letter indicates its date of receipt; ‘after’ is used when a letter contains an authorial date, but there is evidence within the letter that it was continued after that time; ‘?’ is used to indicate a dating about which there remains some uncertainty.

Detailed information about Southey’s correspondents, along with other important figures in his letters, can be found in the ‘Biographies’ section. Each entry in this section also contains a list of letters to and list of letters about the person it deals with. People mentioned in the ‘Biographies’ section are hyperlinked from the text of individual letters, but are only hyperlinked from editorial endnotes when their identity needs further clarification than that supplied by the letter text. Information about where Southey lived, locations he was associated with, and the homes of friends he visited is provided in the ‘Places’ section of this edition and hyperlinked from the texts of individual letters.

Editorial notes to the text are used to clarify references to persons, books, places, and events within the main body of each individual letter. They also identify quotations and provide translations of foreign language material. A ‘Chronology’ covers key events in Southey’s life. ‘Indices of People and Letters’ organise Southey’s correspondence by, respectively, the individual to whom a letter is addressed and the person or persons mentioned in it. The links in the ‘Primary Navigation’ bar, on the left-hand side of the page, allow navigation across difference sections of the edition. The ‘Search’ facility allows the reader to perform dedicated word or phrase searches both across the entire edition (including the editorial apparatus) or within a particular part of it.

All transcriptions and editorial materials are checked by the editor or editors of that particular part of the edition and by at least one other member of the editorial team. After xml encoding and transformation, each Part of edition is proofed online by its editor or editors, who also check the index and search engine. The editor, or editors, also ensure any corrections are implemented before the text is made publicly available. After publication, any corrections or comments should be directed to Lynda Pratt from whom a copy of the current version of the correction file is also available on request.


Lynda Pratt is Professor of Modern Literature and Director of the Centre for Regional Literature and Culture at the University of Nottingham. She has published widely on Southey and his circle. She was general editor of Robert Southey: Poetical Works, 1793-1810, 5 vols (2004) and is co-general editor, with Tim Fulford, of Robert Southey: Later Poetical Works, 1811-1838, 4 vols (Pickering and Chatto, 2012). Her edited collection Robert Southey and the Contexts of English Romanticism was published in 2006.

Tim Fulford is a Professor of English at De Montford University. He has published several monographs in which Southey features, most recently Romantic Indians (2006). He edited Thalaba the Destroyer, vol. 3 of Robert Southey: Poetical Works, 1793-1810 (2004) and is co-general editor, with Lynda Pratt, of Robert Southey: Later Poetical Works, 1811-1838. Fulford and Pratt’s edition the Collected Letters of Robert Bloomfield and his Circle is also online at Romantic Circles

Ian Packer is Reader in History at the University of Lincoln. His publications include The Letters of Arnold Stephenson Rowntree to Mary Katherine Rowntree (Cambridge 2002). He has published widely on political and religious history and was an editor on Robert Southey: Later Poetical Works, 1811-1838.

Carol Bolton is Senior Lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her monograph Writing the Empire: Robert Southey and Romantic Colonialism was published in 2007. She has published widely on Romantic period writing and was an editor on Robert Southey: Later Poetical Works, 1811-1838.

W. A. Speck is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Leeds and was a Special Professor in the School of English Studies at the University of Nottingham. His Robert Southey: Entire Man of Letters was published by Yale University Press in 2006.

Averill Buchanan was an AHRC-funded research fellow on The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, based at the University of Nottingham. She completed an AHRC-funded PhD at Queen’s University Belfast in 2004 on the Anglo-Irish writer Mary Tighe. Her monograph Mary Blachford Tighe: The Irish Psyche was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2011.

Sam Ward was an AHRC-funded research fellow on The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, based at the University of Nottingham. He completed an AHRC-funded PhD at Nottingham Trent University in 2006. He has published peer-reviewed essays on John Clare John and Robert Bloomfield. His research interests also include James Montgomery.


The editors welcome comments and corrections. Please contact:

Lynda Pratt: Lynda.Pratt@nottingham.ac.uk


The editors thank the following for permission to reproduce manuscripts in their collections:

North America

The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; Beinecke Library, Yale University; The Berg Collection of English and American Literature, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations; Professor Paul F. Betz; the Private Collection of Fred Burwick; The Trustees of the Boston Public Library, Rare Books; Brown University Library; Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library; The Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York; The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library; Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library, New Hampshire; Special Collections and Archives, Drew University, New Jersey; Duke University Library; The Fales Library, New York University; Special Collections, The John Hopkins University; Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin; Quaker & Special Collections, Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania; Hispanic Society of America, New York; Houghton Library, Harvard University; Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Huntington Library, San Marino; Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa; the Library, Lehigh University; The Lilly Library, Indiana University; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries; Massachusetts Historical Society; Autograph Letter Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Library; Morgan Library, New York; Morristown National Historical Park; New York Public Library (General Manuscript collection); Pforzheimer Collection, New York Public Library; the Library, Pennsylvania State University; Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library; Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester; Spencer Library, University of Kansas; Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries; Tulane University Library; Victoria University Library, Toronto; the Library, Washington University in St Louis; The University of Waterloo Library, Special Collections and Archives, Bertram R. Davis Collection; the Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

United Kingdom

Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Birmingham; Bodleian Library, University of Oxford; Bristol City Library, Bristol; British Library, London; Brotherton Library, Leeds University; The Principal and Fellows of Newnham College, Cambridge; the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge; Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, Chester; the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Library; the Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral; Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, Winchester; the Harrowby Manuscript Trust; Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, Keswick; Lancashire Archives; Liverpool City Library, Liverpool; Liverpool Record Office; Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Liverpool; City of London Corporation, London Metropolitan Archives; the Lowther Estate Trust; the University of Manchester; Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collection: The Mitchell Library, Special Collections; the National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh; National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; the Librarian, Robinson Library, Newcastle University; Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire; Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham; the Provost and Fellows of Oriel College, Oxford; Principal and Fellows of Somerville College, Oxford; The Royal Academy of Arts, London; The Royal Institution of Great Britain; Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, Lichfield; Sheffield Archives, Sheffield; University of Sheffield Library; Somerset Record Office; Staffordshire Record Office; Sterling Library, Senate House, University of London; University College London Library, Special Collections; West Sussex Record Office; West Yorkshire Archive Service; the Governing Body, Westminster School; Dr Williams’s Library, London; Wisbech and Fenland Museum; The Wordsworth Trust, Dove Cottage, Grasmere.

Other International

Biblioteca Pública de Évora; Universiteitsbibliotheek, Ghent; Bibliotheca Nacional, Rio de Janeiro.

The editors are extremely grateful to the family of the late Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick Jnr for granting us permission to quote from his unpublished doctoral thesis ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (Harvard, 1967).

Conditions of Use, Permission for Reprinting, and Guidelines for Citation

For the edition’s Conditions of Use please follow this link:


For further information about Permission for Reprinting Romantic Circles Materials, including materials from The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, please follow this link:


Guidelines for Citation of the edition can be found here:



The Collected Letters of Robert Southey has been made possible by the generosity, help and support of a number of individuals and institutions.

The general editors thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a Resource Enhancement award. Lynda Pratt would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a Research Leave grant; the Leverhulme Trust for a Research Fellowship; the British Academy for a Small Research grant; the Beinecke Library, Yale University, for an Osborn fellowship; the Huntington Library, San Marino, for a Michael Connell fellowship; the Friends of Princeton University library for a research grant; and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre, University of Texas, Austin, for a research fellowship. Tim Fulford would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for a Research Fellowship and the British Academy for a Small Research Grant. Carol Bolton wishes to thank the British Academy for a Small Research Grant. The general editors also thank the following for their financial support: the Aurelius Charitable Trust, the Charlotte Bonham Carter Charitable Trust, the John S. Cohen Foundation, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Gibbs Trust, Bristol, the Mercers Charitable Foundation, and the Thriplow Charitable Trust.

The Collected Letters of Robert Southey has also benefited from grants from the School of English, University of Nottingham; Humanities Research Centre, University of Nottingham; the Humanities and Social Sciences Strategic Research Fund, University of Nottingham; the English Department, Nottingham Trent University; the University of Lincoln; Loughborough University.

The editorial team are indebted to the following individuals for their advice, support and assistance in completing Part One of this edition: Frances Banks, Anthony Bowen, Averill Buchanan, Maria Castanheira, David Eastwood, Parvin Fatemi, Caroline Franklin, Michael J. Franklin, Lynne Hapgood, Laura Mandell, Tilar J. Mazzeo, Souvik Mukherjee, Mike Quilligan, Dave Rettenmaier, Nicholas Roe, Diego Saglia, Bill Speck, Sam Ward, Susan J. Wolfson, David Worrall, Duncan Wu and Nahem Yousaf.

In addition to the above, the editorial team are extremely grateful to the following for advice and assistance in completing Part Two and Part Four of this edition: Richard Butterwick, Michael Eberle-Sinatra, Jason Koenig, Joanna Martin, Bill Overton, Nicola Royan, Lucia Scigliano Suarez, Douglass H. Thomson, Timothy D. Whelan, and Edward Yescombe.

In addition to the above, the editors of Part Three thank the following for their assistance: Kerri Andrews, Joselyn Almeida-Beveridge, John Bolton, Julia S. Carlson, Pamela Clemit, Ashley Cross, and Elaine Hobby. The editors are most grateful to Marilyn Gaull for her support, and to Michael Nash for his invaluable advice on naval matters in Part Three and Part Four.

The editors of Part Five in addition to the above are grateful to: David Fairer, Philippa Hoskin, Sara Slinn, Jane Stabler.

About the Design

This electronic edition was TEI-encoded by Averill Buchanan under the supervision of Laura Mandell and her team at Miami University of Ohio, and with the assistance of David Rettenmaier and Mike Quilligan at the University of Maryland. Buchanan used the new Word Macros tool developed at Miami University by Holly Connor and Jerry Gannod in order to learn TEI encoding. Mandell transformed the TEI files into HTML by using modified versions of the transforms provided by the TEI. Dave Rettenmaier and Mike Qulligan designed the splash pages, banners, etc., comprising the HTML design. The HTML pages do not use frames but rather make extensive use of tables and stylesheets for layout and presentation. The site works best when viewed with Mozilla Firefox v. 3, Netscape 4.0, Internet Explorer 4.0, or higher, or a comparable browser; earlier browsers may not display everything properly.


[1] For a full explication of ‘plain text’ see ‘Guide to Editorial Practice, (MTDP 00005).’ In Mark Twain Project Online. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. 2007. <http://www.marktwainproject.org/xtf/view?docId=letters/MTDP00005.xml;style=letterletter;brand=mtp>, accessed 2014-12-19. BACK