1584. Robert Southey to Neville White, 18 February 1809

1584. Robert Southey to Neville White, 18 February 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick, Feb. 18. 1809.

My dear Neville,

Your letter required an earlier answer, because it asked me a question respecting Dr. Collyer’s book. [1]  I should have replied immediately, if it had not arrived at a time of considerable anxiety.

If it gives you any satisfaction to see my name in the list of your friend’s subscribers, by all means place it there. [2]  The subject is a very important one, if it be ably handled: the proofs from prophecy appear to me the best ground that can be taken to establish the truth of revelation. I shall accept the book with pleasure; but do not you, on another occasion, scruple at asking me to subscribe for myself. When you send it, it will save an unnecessary expense if you consign it to Longman’s care; he is in the habit of sending me frequent parcels by the waggon, – one in about six weeks, and these generally serve as deposits for all stray communications which may happen to be addressed to me.

You are right in supposing it is the ‘Quarterly’ for which I have been engaged. Walter Scott is the projector of the Review. He has long broken off all connection with the ‘Edinburgh,’ – before the reviewal of ‘Marmion’ appeared [3]  (which indeed would not have influenced him), upon the ground of his disaccord with their principles of politics, and the system of criticism which they adopted.

Bigland’s ‘Essays’ [4]  I have not read; nor do I ever read books of that nature, unless they come to me to be reviewed, and I am paid for reading them. Summaries of history are of no use to me, nor am I ever solicitous about the opinions of other men, except it falls to my lot to deliver one of my own. Then, indeed, I make it a duty to read everything that has ever been written upon the subject, as far as it is possible so to do. Warburton’s ‘Correspondence’ [5]  has not yet fallen in my way. He was a powerful man, – so powerful that even when he was most in the wrong, he makes you respect him; and you almost pardon his arrogance in deference to the feeling of superiority from which it springs. The new books which I most wish to see,–indeed, almost the only ones that I feel any desire for, are those of voyages and travels: of these, if I could afford it, I should buy all that come out. I take in Pinkerton’s publication of the contemporary ones, [6]  and I am thankful to him for publishing them, ill as they are translated, and indiscriminately as they seem to be brought there.

Your views of the good which Bonaparte will do by his temporary triumph accord with mine. The good will be permanent, the evil only for a time. It is to be hoped our ministry are not so wholly engrossed by the defence of the Duke of York, [7]  and their attempts to invalidate a very plain story by such petty prevarications as a dirty lawyer uses to bring off a fellow for sheep stealing, as to forget the Spaniards.

I have made no bargain about the ‘Curse of Kehama,’ [8]  nor have I any expectation of making a good one. It will, however, be time enough to think of this when the poem is finished. We have had one sickness after another for the last two months; my rest has thus been broken, and the poem has been at a stand. Of my History eighteen sheets are printed. [9]  I am better pleased with it in print than before, and am working very hard in transcribing and filling up for the press.

The Duke of Kent [10]  has manifested a disposition to serve your brother James in one way. Perhaps if Dr. Collyer [11]  were to mention his situation to him, he might do it effectually in another, by placing him in a public office. Remember me to him, and believe me

Yours affectionately,

Robert Southey.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856)
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 131–133. BACK

[1] William Bengo Collyer (1782–1854; DNB), congregational minister and religious writer, who published Lectures on Scripture Prophecy (1809). BACK

[2] Southey’s name was included in the list of subscribers. BACK

[3] Though Scott wrote for the Edinburgh Review, its editor Jeffrey published a highly critical piece on his 1808 poem Marmion in volume 12 (April 1808), 1–35. BACK

[4] Essays on Various Subjects (1805) by John Bigland (1750–1832; DNB), schoolmaster and educational writer. BACK

[5] Letters from a Late Eminent Prelate to One of His Friends (1808), by William Warburton (1698–1779; DNB), Bishop of Gloucester and religious controversialist. BACK

[6] John Pinkerton (1758–1826; DNB), editor of A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in all Parts of the World (1808–1814). BACK

[7] Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), Commander in Chief of the army. He held the post from 1798–1809, but was forced to resign in the wake of allegations that he had profited by allowing his mistress, Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB), to accept money from army officers, in return for which promotion was arranged. BACK

[8] Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama was published by Longman in 1810. BACK

[9] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[10] Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820; DNB), the fourth son of King George III (1738–1820; DNB). BACK

[11] See note 1. BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)