57. Robert Southey to Miss Seward, 18 September 1793

57. Robert Southey to Miss Seward, 18 September 1793 ⁠* 

Brixton Causeway. Wednesday Sept. 18th. 1793

Dear Madam have you never seen
A Lady’s lap dog on the green
Run with her glove away?
And toss his playful head in air
And snarl & shake & bite & tear
Quite angry in his play.

On top the hedge he drags his prize
And there the bristled hedge-hog lies —
The lap dog stands at bay
Now backward leaps now forward goes —
And after he has prickd his nose
Drops tail & runs away.

Dear Madam — now apply to me
This very proper simile.
The ode you wish, the hog —
Oft as I try to strike the strain
I try & try & try in vain
Altho no puppy-dog.

Not seldom will some glove-like toy
The vacant harmless hour employ
The vacant hour may please —
But sooth to say I deem unfit
My odd unfashioned rambling wit
To strike at themes like these.

Let Historys eventful page
Record to every future age
A Cordès [1]  honord name —
Adown the rapid stream of time
The heroines praise shall sail sublime
And reach the port of Fame.

Meantime my little slender boat
On Times rough sea shall lightly float
And glide the billows oer
Spread out the wide-embosom’d sail
Swift said along before the gail
Then sink to rise no more.


Your request my Dear Madam at once flattered & mortified me — fully sensible of the honor you did me in making it, I could not feel otherwise than mortified at my own incapability. do not however imagine that this proceeds from any dislike to Charlotte Cordè — to me she appears not inferiour to Brutus [2]  & I firmly believe what she herself avowed that no one but a Republican could have accomplished so glorious a deed. a few centuries hence some Bard may celebrate her with safety — when Time has thrown his sacred viel over history & Fancy may pry into it unrestraind.

you see how I attempt to excuse myself — i[MS obscured] reality any recent event ties down Imagination too much — the Poet cannot ornament with safety.

be kind enough to accept of these excuses — & my best respect to Mrs Seward — Miss S & Mr Severne [3]  with many thanks for the favors I have receivd. you will [MS torn] good enough to make my acknowledgements to all friends who may enquire for me.

your much obliged humble servant

Robert Southey.

I wrote to Edmund at Aberistwyth & fear the letter did not reach him as he has been so long silent.


* Address: Miss Seward/ Sapey/ near Clifton/ Worcestershire
Postmark: SE/ 20/ 93
MS: Tipped into a graingerised copy of The English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, by Lord Byron. Illustrated with Portraits and Views, the First and Fourth Editions, with the alterations from the Fifth Edition (London, 1811), pp. [185–6], Hornby Library, Liverpool City Libraries. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Charlotte Corday (1768–1793) who, on 13 July 1793, stabbed Jean Paul Marat (1743–1793) to death in his bath. She was guillotined four days later. BACK

[2] Marcus Junius Brutus (85–42 BC), one of the assassins of Gaius Julius Caesar (100/102– 44 BC). BACK

[3] Francis Severn (c. 1760/61–1828), Rector of Abberley, Worcestershire, 1780–1828. BACK


People mentioned

Seward family (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned