2034. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 10 February 1812

2034. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 10 February 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Feby. 10. 1812.

About an hour ago came a parcel to me from Murray, containing among other things an unfinished Commentary upon Trotters book. [1]  – Aut Landor aut Diabolus. [2]  From the manner, from the force, from the vehemence I concluded it must be yours, even before I fell upon the passage respecting Spain [3]  which proved that it was yours. – I could not lie down this night with an easy conscience if I did not beseech you to suspend the publication till you have cancelled some passages: for that attack upon Fellowes [4]  might bring you into a Court of Justice, & there are some others passages which would have the more painful effect of making you regret that you had written them. – I have but looked into the leaves as I opened them, & will not delay delay this letter intreaty a single post, – but tomorrow I will point out every passage which is likely to give implicit undeserved pain upon others, & therefore to recoil upon yourself. [5] 

It would equally grieve me to have this book supprest, or to have it appear as it is. It is yours, & yours all over, – the more imitabile fulmen. [6] 



* Address: To/ Walter Savage Landor Esqr/ Bath
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Art Library, London, MS Forster 48 D.32 MS 22. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: John Forster, Walter Savage Landor. A Biography, 2 vols (London, 1869), I, p. 358. BACK

[1] Landor’s Commentary on Memoirs of Mr Fox, which was ostensibly a response to John Bernard Trotter’s (1775–1818; DNB) laudatory account of his erstwhile employer Charles James Fox. Although the Commentary was printed, Murray eventually suppressed its publication, refusing to issue a book that attacked the Tory government and was dedicated to James Madison (1751–1836), President of the United States 1809–1817, with whom Britain was about to go to war. BACK

[2] ‘Either Landor or the Devil’. BACK

[3] Possibly Landor’s account of what he witnessed in Spain at the beginning of the Peninsular War, Charles James Fox. A Commentary on His Life and Character, ed. Stephen Wheeler (London, 1907), pp. 181–182. BACK

[4] In a tirade against ‘Reviewers and magazine-men, the linkboys and scavengers of literature’ Landor singled out Robert Fellowes (1770–1847; DNB): ‘Of late years, if any one had paid any attention to such people [reviewers] … one would imagine … that Aristotle only kept a box for Mr. Fellowes.// This reverent gentleman having settled religion to his mind, but unhappily … driven out from the poets, is retaliating on them as their judge. He writes, or did write, for I know not whether the work survives his hand, in The Critical Review; strange successor to the gentle, but high-minded Southey’, Landor, Charles James Fox. A Commentary on His Life and Character, ed. Stephen Wheeler (London, 1907), p. 146. Landor’s dislike of Fellowes had undoubtedly been fuelled by learning (from Southey) of the latter’s views on his poetry. Fellowes had observed in a letter to Seward of 1803 that: ‘The author of Gebir … has lately made another attempt to convey the waters of Helicon by leaden pipes, and many dark subterranean ways … having trod the dark profound of Gebir, I feel no inclination to begin another journey, which promises so little pleasure, and probably where only a few occasional flashes will enlighten the road’, Letters of Anna Seward: Written Between the Years 1784 and 1807, 6 vols (Edinburgh, 1811), V, p. 77 n. *. Fellowes’s Poems, Chiefly Descriptive of the Softer and More Delicate Sensations and Emotions of the Heart appeared in 1806. BACK

[5] For Southey’s detailed critique see his letter to Landor, 11 February 1812, Letter 2035. BACK

[6] ‘Imitable thunder’; a contraction of ‘non imitabile fulmen’ (‘unimitable thunder’), Aeneid, Book 6, line 590. BACK

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