1939. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 19 July 1811

1939. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 19 July 1811 ⁠* 

London July 19. 1811.

Your letter addressed to Danvers’s, came to me the other day in a parcel from Bristol, a fortnight after that to Streatham. I cannot express to you how it has provoked & vexed me. Had I known that you thought of offering Count Julian to Longman, a word from me would have prevented all this irreparable mischief. [1]  The people at that house know nothing about books except in the mere detail of trade; – & the only thing which they would think off of was that single plays did not sell, unless they were represented. And because these Paternoster-row-men have acted in the spirit of their vocation, you have burnt a play, which doubtless contained as much pure ore as Julian, & which would have lived as long as the language! Zounds, – I could swear almost as vehemently at you as at them! –

It is utterly unaccountable to me why you of all men should care either for good or evil report of your poems, certain as you must be of their sterling value. I look upon Gebir [2]  in our language as I do upon Dantes long poem in the Italian, [3]  not as a good poem, but as containing the finest poetry in the language, – so it is with C Julian, & so no doubt it was with the play which you have so provokingly destroyed.

In about three weeks I hope to see you in your turret. We leave London this day week, & I will write from Bristol as soon as I can say when we shall depart from it. I was at Lanthony in 1798, & forded the Hodney on foot because I could not find the bridge. Have you found St Davids cavern which Drayton [4]  places there, & for which I enquired in vain?

I am no botanist, but like you, my earliest & deepest recollections are connected with flowers, & they <always> carry me back to other days. Perhaps this is because they are the only things which affect our senses precisely in the same manner as they did in childhood. The sweetness of the violet is always the same, & when you rifle a rose & drink as it were its fragrance, the refreshment is the same to the old man as to the boy. We see with different eyes, in proportion as we learn to discriminate, & therefore this effect is not so certainly produced by visual objects. Sounds recall the past in the same manner, – but do not bring with them individual scenes like the cowslip field, or the bank of violets, or the corner of the garden to which we have transplanted the field flowers. Oh what a happy season is childhood, if our modes of life & education will let it be so! It were enough to make one misanthropical when we consider how great a portion of the evil of this world is mans own making, – if the knowledge of this truth did not imply that therefore the evil is removable, & therefore the prime duty of a good man is by all means in his power to assist in removing it.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Walter Savage Landor Esqr/ Llanthony/ near/ Abergavenny
Postmark: JY/ 19/ 1811
MS: National Art Library, London, MS Forster 48 D.32 MS 15. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 312–313 [in part; misdated 15 July 1811]. BACK

[1] Landor’s Count Julian had been offered to and rejected by Longman. This led Landor to burn the MS of his unpublished tragedy ‘Ferranti and Giulio’. BACK

[2] Landor’s Gebir (1798). BACK

[3] Dante Aligheri (c. 1265–1321), Divina Commedia (1308–1321). BACK

[4] Michael Drayton (1563–1631; DNB), Poly-Olbion (1612), ‘The Fourth Song’, lines 225–230: ‘Where, in an aged Cell, with moss and ivy grown,/ In which to this day the sun hath ever shone,/ That reverend British Saint [David, patron saint of Wales], in zealous ages past,/ To contemplation liv’d; and did so truly fast,/ As he did only drink what crystal Hodney yields,/ And fed upon the Leeks he gather’d in the fields’. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 1 time)
Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)