3585. Robert Southey to John Taylor Coleridge, 19 December 1820

3585. Robert Southey to John Taylor Coleridge, 19 December 1820⁠* 

My dear Sir

If your friend Mr Lloyd [1]  were here I could put into his hands books which I am afraid he will not easily meet with, monastic history having hitherto been thought of very little value in protestant countries, tho in itself exceedingly curious & interesting on many accounts. The work of easiest access to which I can refer him is Helyot’s Histoire des Ordres Monastiques in 8. vol. 4to. [2]  – it is a work of authority & useful as a compendium but is barren in details, – which are only to be found in the chroniclers of the respective Orders. If he would see in what light modern Catholics represent their orders Alban Butlers Lives of the Saints, & Berringtons historical works should be consulted, but the genuine Romance is only kept out of sight there. [3]  St Francis occupies half a volume of the Acta Sanctorum. [4]  But the great history of the Seraphic Order is by Luke Wadding, an Irish Brother, written in Latin, & extending with its continuation, to more than twenty folios. [5]  I have long been looking for this work in vain, intending one day to give a Sketch of the History of the Monastic Orders, for which I have made considerable collections. [6]  – Any Flos Sanctorum [7]  will be of use to Mr Lloyd in giving him a general notion of the founders & heroes of the Mendicant Orders: & he should look for the Liber Conformitatum, – or parallel between St Francis & our Saviour! of which marvellous book I have a copy. [8] 

I do not think Hartley can know any thing more of Kebles letter than what has been repeated to him by his Mother from my report of it. [9]  I spoke of the letter, as I thought, as written with a right & proper feeling, & every way honourable to the writer. You will not wonder however that offence has been taken. Copplestone I understand says that Hartley was more than once picked up dead drunk in the streets, – & this Hartley denies; & it is upon this specific point I suppose, that he rests his appeal. He denies also that he received any warning, & confesses only to a few acts of occasional inebriety, few in number & trifling in degree. He talks of a system of espionage carried on by means of scouts & bedmakers, & represents himself as the victim of a conspiracy. Copplestone offered him 300£, but this has been indignantly refused. [10]  – As for spies & conspiracies. I should think better of his case, if the such words had not been used in his defence. It is very likely that he has been dealt with according to the rigour of the law, & that his manners may have contributed greatly to this. But I cannot believe that there has been any intentional injustice. How the matter will proceed I know not, but I would rather think that an appeal to the Visitor is intended; [11]  if the charge of being picked up in the streets cannot be proved, the failure of proof in that case, is a complete acquittal on that point; but it is very possible that Copplestone’s language may have been translated into a stronger meaning than it was intended to bear. – I hear from his Mother of his writing a tragedy, & having a volume of poems ready for the press, [12]  – this of course is with his fathers advice.

Gifford has had no other motive for clipping your article [13]  than the desire of making it into two, & of exercising that <his> editorial authority. He has as much pleasure in mutilating an unhappy paper, as an experimental surgeon has in an operation. I dislike the conduct of the review as much as you do, but I xxxxxxx continue to write in it notwithstanding, because there is no other means of obtaining the same attention to hints of practical value & immediate importance. I have heard of more than one instance in which my papers have given young men a right direction in their political opinions, when the bias of their minds inclined the other way. It will be very difficult to supply Gifford’s place, whenever he may drop: but it would not be difficult to conduct it with more decorum, more consistently & in a better temper. – Did you review Shelley’s Revolt of Islam? If you did, I will send you copies of some letters which he has addressed to me upon that subject, & of my answers. [14] 

I have not seen Godwin’s book, [15]  nor heard of it except from you. A[MS missing] the things for which I never could forgive Godwin was the readine[MS missing] with which he assented to Malthus’s monstrous theory when it was first advanced, & the coolness with which he proposed his damnable remedy. [16]  That the theory was false, I knew at once, as certainly as that there is a God by whom all things are ordered, & I never knew any man to whose judgement I looked with deference, who did not agree with me in thoroughly despising his book; – for instance – Coleridge, Wordsworth & Rickman may be named, – the latter of whom long ago assured me that Malthus’s premises were as inaccurate as his conclusion is monstrous.

What you say of Gooch is what I should have expected to hear of him. I saw him soon after the death of his son, [17]  & heard him bitterly, & in tears, regret the “cursed education” – these were his words, which he had received among the liberal dissenters, whose religion differs hardly a hairs breadth from unbelief. [18]  There is among them a total want of religious feeling, & when that is wanting, the heart has nothing to support it in affliction. I have often have resolved to put together, for the sake of men who are in the same state of unsettled opinions as Gooch was, a view of the moral & historical, – that is of the internal & external evidences of Xtianity; as briefly & as forcibly as I could. X xxx Whether I shall ever muster resolution for the task, or find time for it, God knows. But I have long thought of it, & sometimes feel dissatisfied with myself, for not girding myself for the work; because many persons would read it as coming from me, who will not read the abundant proofs that are already before them.

I hope Mrs C. & the infant continue to go on well. No doubt you feel how frail an infants life is, – the frailest of all frail things. [19]  I never look at Cuthbert without feeling it. At present, thank God, he is in fine health & strength, & promises as well as is possible at his age.

The hexameters [20]  of which you saw the beginning are now finished, & going forthwith to the press. In a few weeks you will find a copy of them at your chambers.

God bless you

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

Remember me to John May, & tell him that the late high winds have gone to my heart, for the love of the strong beer which is at sea. [21] 


* Address: To/ J. T. Coleridge Esqre/ 2. Pump Court/ Middle Temple/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 22 DE 22/ 1820
Endorsement: 1820/ Decr 22d/ R. Southey. Keswick
MS: British Library, Add MS 47553. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: W. Braekman, ‘Letters by Robert Southey to Sir John Taylor Coleridge’, Studia Germanica Gandensia, 6 (1964), 115–118. BACK

[1] Charles Lloyd (1784–1829; DNB), clergyman and Fellow of Christ Church, Oxford. He was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity in 1822 and Bishop of Oxford in 1827. A zealous and influential tutor and lecturer, he was credited with reviving theological studies at the University. A high churchman, Lloyd was initially opposed to civil liberties for Catholics, but in 1829 joined Robert Peel, his former student, in supporting Catholic relief. His move infuriated conservatives in church and state, and he was publicly snubbed by George IV. Lloyd might have wished to research monastic history in his role as preacher at Lincoln’s Inn 1819–1822, or to use it for his academic researches on the roots of Anglican liturgy and dogma. BACK

[2] Hippolyte Helyot (1660–1716), Histoire des Ordres Religieux et Militaires (1792), no. 1183 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Alban Butler (1709–1773; DNB), Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and other Saints (1759). Joseph Berington (1743–1827; DNB) was a Roman Catholic priest and religious controversialist, who pursued a liberal argument in favour of Catholic emancipation that stressed the compatibility between Catholicism and the English constitution. He emphasised an approach based on reason and toleration, criticised the temporal power of the papacy, and argued for reform of clerical celibacy and the liturgy. His publications included The State and Behaviour of English Catholics from the Reformation to the Year 1780, with a View of their Present Number, Wealth, Character (1780), History of the Reign of Henry II, and of Richard and John, His Sons (1790) and The Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani, giving an Account of His Agency in England in the Years 1634–5–6 (1793). In 1813, the latter was incorporated into The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Catholic Religion in England, During a Period of Two Hundred and Forty Years from the Reign of Elizabeth to the Present Time; including the Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani; Southey’s copy was no. 269 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[4] Acta Sanctorum, 53 volumes (Brussels and Antwerp, 1643–1794), October, II (1768), no. 207 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, contained a great deal of material on St Francis of Assisi (1181/2–1226), founder of the Franciscan order. BACK

[5] The historian of the Franciscans (the ‘Seraphic Order’) Luke Wadding (1588–1657; DNB). Southey acquired a copy of Wadding’s Annales Minorum, cum Continuatione J. W. de Anona, ab Anno 1208 ad 1564, et Vita L. Waddingii (1731–1745), with continuations, in 19 volumes; no. 2904 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[6] Southey did not write his proposed history of the monastic orders. BACK

[7] A compendium of lives of the saints, available in many different editions. Southey owned ones by Pedro de Ribadeneyra (1527–1611) and Alonso de Villegas (1534-c. 1615); nos 2397 and 3805–3806 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] Bartholomaeus de Rinonico (d. c. 1401), Liber Aureus. Inscriptus Liber Conformitatum Vitae Beati ac Seraphici Patris Francisci ad Vitam Jesu Christi Domini Nostri (1385–1399). Southey owned an edition of 1590, no. 472 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[9] The clergyman and poet John Keble (1792–1866; DNB) had written to John Taylor Coleridge to inform him that Hartley Coleridge had lost his Fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford, at the end of the probationary year on grounds of intemperance. John Taylor Coleridge had then forwarded Keble’s letter to Southey, who had to break the news to Hartley’s mother and friends in the Lakes. BACK

[10] The money was eventually accepted when it was made clear that acceptance did not imply surrender either by Hartley Coleridge or his opponents; see H. Coleridge, Poems, with a Memoir of His Life by His Brother Derwent Coleridge (London, 1851), p. LXXXVI. BACK

[11] The Visitor of Oriel College, Oxford, was the monarch. Visitors of charitable and religious institutions, like Oxford colleges, were ultimately responsible for overseeing their conduct and could intervene in their affairs, though usually their role was only ceremonial. BACK

[12] Hartley Coleridge did not publish a volume of poems, though he did write poems for the London Magazine at this time. His play was the unfinished ‘Prometheus’. BACK

[13] John Taylor Coleridge’s appraisal of the following volumes by Felicia Hemans (1793–1835; DNB), The Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy (1815); Tales and Historic Scenes in Verse (1819); Translations from Camoens and Other Poets, with Original Poems (1818); The Sceptic, a Poem (1820); Stanzas to the Memory of the Late King (1820). The article, which offered a highly positive survey of Hemans’s career and achievements to date, appeared in the Quarterly Review, 24 (October 1820), 130–139, published 19 December 1820. BACK

[14] In a letter of 26 June 1820, Shelley had accused Southey of writing a hostile review of Laon and Cythna, or the Revolution of the Golden City (1818; published late 1817) and The Revolt of Islam. A Poem, in Twelve Cantos (1818); see Edward Dowden (ed.), The Correspondence of Robert Southey with Caroline Bowles (Dublin and London, 1881), pp. 358–359. This had appeared in the Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 460–471. Its author was, indeed, John Taylor Coleridge, to whom Southey had sent copies of Shelley’s letters of 26 June and 17 August 1820, and of his replies to them; see Southey to Percy Bysshe Shelley, [c. 29 July 1820] (Letter 3517) and 12 October 1820 (Letter 3538); and Southey to John Taylor Coleridge, [19 January 1821] (Letter 3611). BACK

[15] Godwin’s Of Population. An Enquiry Concerning the Power of Increase in the Number of Mankind, Being an Answer to Mr. Malthus’ Essay on That Subject (1820). It refuted the arguments about population growth advanced in Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). BACK

[16] Southey particularly objected to Godwin’s Thoughts Occasioned by the Perusal of Dr Parr’s Spital Sermon (1801), which he saw as an endorsement of abortion; see Southey to Charles Biddlecombe, 17 August 1801, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Two, Letter 598. BACK

[17] Gooch’s son, Robert Knighton Gooch (1815–1820). BACK

[18] Unitarianism. Gooch had attended a day school in Great Yarmouth until he was fifteen, but Southey may be referring to the influence on Gooch’s early youth of Cornelius Girling Harley (c. 1768–1843), a blind man who was the centre of an intellectual circle in Yarmouth; and of William Taylor. BACK

[19] Coleridge’s wife Mary (1788–1874), née Buchanan, had given birth to their second child, John Duke (1820–1894; DNB), on 3 December. Their first child Mary Dorothy Frances (1819–1820) had died as an infant. BACK

[20] Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[21] Remember me … sea: inserted at the top of fol. 1r. Southey was eagerly awaiting a barrel of strong beer, sent to Keswick by John May; see Southey to John May, 15 November 1820, Letter 3556. BACK

People mentioned

Copleston, Edward (1776–1849) (mentioned 3 times)
Gifford, William (1756–1826) (mentioned 2 times)
Gooch, Robert (1784–1830) (mentioned 2 times)
Fricker, Sarah (1770–1845) (mentioned 2 times)
George IV (1762–1830) (mentioned 1 time)
Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 1 time)
Godwin, William (1756–1836) (mentioned 1 time)