2085. Robert Southey to William Wordsworth, [April 1812]

2085. Robert Southey to William Wordsworth, [April 1812]⁠* 

My dear Wordsworth

It is needless to say that this provoking business of Montagues & the way in which it is resented vexes me greatly. [1]  C. avoided the subject when he was in my company, as he does every unpleasant subject,—nor was it mentioned before me till about an hour before his departure. [2]  I then contradicted more denied most peremptorily that you had ever commissioned M. to speak say you had no hopes of him—on your own word then—as I had before done at Richmond, as positively, on the common sense of the thing. But he lays little stress upon this,—the gravamen is that all his habits should have been made the subject of complaint to M. & especially that you should have said ‘in short he has been a perfect nuisance in this house for more than twelvemonths’.—How he says can I ever feel towards a man when I know that he has felt this concerning me?—

From C’s manner I cannot but give full credit to his representation of the conversation with M. I never saw him so much affected as when he entered into the detail at Richmond. This however he only shows that M. has acted just as he did to Lady Rush [3]  & ought to make no difference in any persons opinion respecting him. C. thinks of him with too much contempt to feel any anger but he has taken a mortal dislike to his wife from a variety of circumstances all too much like tea-table talk to be repeated, & of that kind that two persons differently disposed might have seen them with different eyes & heard them with different ears the things themselves being the same.

My own feeling is that it is absurd to suppose a man is not fully justified in saying speaking to one friend of another with perfect freedom upon every part of his conduct & every thing relating to him, except such things as are confidential. But if we were to search the world thro we should hardly find two men to whom this could be so unhappily applied,—when of the one <almost> every part of his conduct is matter of grief & shame, & the other is a cracked pitcher, spoiled in the making, & treacherous because of the flaw.

If you see De Quincey in London tell him I did not receive his note till it was too late to answer it. I have a favour to ask of him,—which is that he would spare me his copy of Pyrard de Lavals travels, at present in my possession. [4]  It is so much connected with the affairs of the Portugueze in India that I should consider it a valuable addition to my collection of documents & should hold myself greatly obliged to him if he would accept in exchange for it those books which I purchased <for> him at Cuthells. [5] 

The dedication to Jeffrey was omitted by Dr B’s desire, but the main part of it is woven into the book. A few stinging personalities were suppressed for the same reason. The book rather wants division than alteration of arrangement. but it was written first as an article for the Review & then augmented. [6] 

I am closely employed upon the Register. [7]  Thank God we are beginning at last to act upon the offensive. If this country once gets a liking for land war as it has for maritime victories the time will not be long before we shall have other Blenheims. [8] 


Sunday morning.


* Address: To / Mr Wordsworth
Seal: [partial] red wax
Watermark: RUSEN
MS: Wordsworth Trust,WL MS A Southey. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 32–34 [text in Curry taken from a copy of the MS made by Ernest de Selincourt].
Dating note: Curry dates [April 1812] claiming that this is ‘one move in the final complicated efforts’ of friends of Coleridge and Wordsworth’s to reconcile them. The reconcilation was achieved in mid May 1812. Compare with Robert Southey to Mary Matilda Betham, 25 April 1812, Letter 2083, which deals with the same subject. BACK

[1] This letter deals with the quarrel between Wordsworth and Coleridge, which had started in October 1810 when Montagu told Coleridge he had been authorised by Wordsworth to say that his friends had ‘no hope’ for him. BACK

[2] Coleridge had left Keswick in March 1812. He was never to return. BACK

[3] Lady Laura Rush (d. 1822), wife of Sir William Beaumaris Rush (d. 1833). Their eldest daughter, also named Laura (d. 1806), had married Basil Montagu in 1801, and died in childbirth. BACK

[4] The French navigator and travel writer, François Pyrard De Laval (c. 1578-c. 1623), Voyage aux Indes Orientales (1679). Southey either kept De Quincey’s copy, or bought one of his own, no. 2144 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[5] John Cuthell (d. 1818), a bookseller whose premises were in Middle Row, Holborn. The books Southey acquired for De Quincey are unidentified. BACK

[6] Southey’s The Origin, Nature and Object, of the New System of Education (1812), an expansion of his article in Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304. See Andrew Bell to Robert Southey, 26 December 1811, The Life of the Rev. Andrew Bell, 3 vols (London, 1844), II, pp. 648–651; Robert Southey to Andrew Bell [fragment], 30 December 1811 (Letter 2008); and Robert Southey to John Murray [c. 30 December 1811] (Letter 2009). BACK

[7] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

[8] i.e. other victories to compare with that of the allies over the French at Blenheim, 13 August 1704. The British Army had advanced into Spain in 1812, taking the towns of Ciudad Rodrigo on 19 January and Badajoz on 6 April. A great victory was won at Salamanca on 22 July 1812. BACK

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