1702. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 26 [October 1809]

1702. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 26 [October 1809] ⁠* 

My dear Coleridge

The Porter kept your letter, manuring it in his Pocket till Tuesday, & it then found its way to me at such an hour that as soon as I could get pen in hand to answer it news came that the carriers were going. – I will endeavour to do what you desire so as to send it on Saturday. [1] 

The Friend is faulty in nothing but its mode of publication, which certes is the most unsuitable that xxxx has could possibly be xxxxx chosen for matter of close reasoning & high philosophy. The mischief however is only temporary, – & the objection applying only to these Essays while they are appearing in weekly sheets, not & ceasing as soon as they are in a collected form. It would be better to intersperse numbers of amusement, – indeed t give three four or five in succession – so as to put the great children who read it in good humour <humour>; give them sugar plumbs so that they may be ready with open mouth to swallow a tonic bolus – every now & then before they are aware of what is coming. At present they expect physic & make up their mouths accordingly, & what is worse, their stomachs too. Any dislocation of the logical order of the Essays is an inferior consideration, that can be remedied in reprinting them. At present the one thing needful is to amuse the readers for a while & give them something that they can talk about, – Heaven help us – it is for this end only that the precious ‘Public’ condescend to read.

You told me you had proved those madx scenes in Jeronymo to be Shakesperes. I have no doubt they are so. xxx make this the subject of an early number [2]  – there will be something for the talkers, & for the mudlarks & gold-finders of literature, & for the magazine-men to discuss, – besides its own value.

Will you have an Essay upon the Spanish Ballads – showing how much worse they are than the English, & introducing three or four specimens of the different kinds which happen to be lying by me? I do not propose this as any thing striking, tho it may turn out better than the subject promises, – but merely because I know not what else to offer.  [3] 

G. Coleridges conduct exemplifies the precious consequences of substituting faith for good works, & talking about religion till you cease to feel it. [4]  When xxxx xx should xxxxxx In general men degrade their intellects by corrupting their hearts: he has gone thro the opposite process which is rather the worst of the two. – What do you mean about Stuart, – that was the most unpleasant part of your letter, – the rest related to light vexations & evils all removable. [5] 

I have undertaken the whole historical part of Ballantynes New Register, at unreasonable notice & ill prepared for the task, – but he was in distress, having been disappointed in the sample he received from the person originally engaged – (– whom I suspect to have been Wm Rose, old Georges son) – & he made me an offer which it would became me to accept. [6]  I am working at this, & greatly pressed for time. The first Chapter is printed, – it will displease the Foxites [7]  as much as your Letters did, & it will offend all parties in turn, being tolerably strong & stinging. – Will you give me as briefly as you please the history of that Maltese Regiment which behaved so ill at Scylla last year? [8]  I will tell any truths about Sicily that you may think fit to be told.

I have asked Sir G Beaumont to use his influence with Lord Mulgrave [9]  on behalf of my brother Tom. [10]  This was done with no little reluctance & gizzard-grumbling on my part, – but knowing how intimate Sir G. is in that quarter, I thought it was not justifiable to let my own dislike to asking favours stand in the way here. What may come of it God knows. Sir G. wrote me an answer sufficiently kind recommending me rather to apply to Ld Lonsdale, – that however was out of the question. He has county & borough applications of that nature out of number.

Your 8th No. was very interesting. I did not venture being no German to alter the name of Munster, [11]  tho I believe it should be Muncer, – & I was in hopes you would have said more of him, he being one of my Worthies of the World. [12]  At present the little mention you have made of him leaves him under his usual load of obloquy. Would the lives of Loyola & Wesley be fit for the Friend? The one you know I have by me, & materials at hand for amplifying or amending it; – there is none that I know of in our language except such slight second-hand notices, – nor is there any account of Wesley except those we <which> have been written by his disciples. [13]  – Tell me any thing that I can do, & I will purloin time to do it.

Poor Mrs Fricker is released at last, – a great blessing for herself & for poor Martha [14] 

God bless you


Thursday 26.th

Mrs C expected to hear that the Applethwaite was received, which was sent in a letter by young Benson. [15] 


* Address: To/ S. T. Coleridge Esqr.
MS: MS untraced. Formerly in the possession of Rev. N.F.D. Coleridge, the MS was sold at Sotheby’s, 15 July 2010, present location unknown. Text is taken from copy at British Library, RP9236. ALS; 4p. (c).
Previously published: S. T. Coleridge, The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke, 2 vols (London and Princeton NJ, 1969), II, 495–497. BACK

[1] Coleridge had asked Southey on 20 October 1809 to ‘look over the eight numbers’ of The Friend ‘and to write a letter ... in a lively style, chiefly urging, in a humorous manner, my Don Quixotism in expecting that the public will ever pretend to understand my lucubrations, or feel any interest in subjects of such sad and unkempt antiquity’, meaning to answer Southey’s letter in a future number of The Friend. See The Collected Letters of S. T. Coleridge, ed. E. L. Griggs, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956–1971), III, p., 254. As well as this letter, Southey also wrote a reply intended for publication, which however arrived too late for Coleridge to use it in The Friend. For that letter, see Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, [28 October 1809], Letter 1704. BACK

[2] In his Specimens of English Dramatic Poets (1808), pp. 6–12, Lamb suggested that these scenes in Thomas Kyd’s (1558–1594; DNB) Spanish Tragedy: or, Hieronimo is mad again (1580s) may have been written by John Webster (c.1580 – c.1634; DNB). Coleridge would lecture in London on Shakespeare and Elizabethan drama in 1811 and 1812, but did not discuss the issue in The Friend. BACK

[3] An essay on this subject did not appear in The Friend. BACK

[4] Coleridge’s elder brother George had rejected his appeal to help finance The Friend. See Coleridge’s letter of 18 October 1809 in The Collected Letters of S. T. Coleridge, III, pp. 249–251. BACK

[5] Stuart had criticized Coleridge’s method of publishing and distributing The Friend in a letter to him of 5 October 1809. The text is given in S. T. Coleridge, The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke, 2 vols (London and Princeton NJ, 1969), II, p. 493. BACK

[6] Ballantyne had offered Southey £400 a year to edit the historical sections of the Edinburgh Annual Register. The suspected predecessor was the poet and translator William Steward Rose (1775–1843; DNB); his father was the Pittite loyalist MP George Rose (1744–1818; DNB). BACK

[7] A faction within the Whig party who were followers of the policies of Charles James Fox. BACK

[8] Probably a slip on Southey’s part for Capri. The Maltese regiment was not involved in fighting at Scylla, Calabria, in 1809, but in 1808 became notorious when on 4 October it fled back to barracks and allowed itself to be taken prisoner, rather than face flanking fire from the French. Coleridge supplied Southey with information on the Maltese regiment in a letter of 24 December 1809 (see The Collected Letters of S. T. Coleridge, III, 265). Southey used this information as the basis of his account of the affair–blaming British officers for removing the Maltese from the defence of their own island–in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 213. BACK

[9] Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave (1755–1831; DNB): diplomatist and politician, appointed First Lord of the Admiralty in 1807. BACK

[10] For this, see Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 12 October 1809, Letter 1692. BACK

[11] Coleridge, The Friend; A Literary, Moral, and Political Weekly Paper (London, 1809), p. 116. The text is given in S. T. Coleridge, The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke, 2 vols (London and Princeton NJ, 1969), II, p. 497. BACK

[12] In The Friend, 5 October 1809, Coleridge had cited ‘Munster’, alongside Luther and Erasmus. He may have meant Sebastian Münster (1489–1552), editor of the Hebrew Bible, or Thomas Münzer (c. 1490–1525), the German leader of the Anabaptists. Southey means the latter. The text is given in S. T. Coleridge, The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke, 2 vols (London and Princeton NJ, 1969), II, p. 497. BACK

[13] Southey did not write the lives of John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB) and Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556) for The Friend but did publish The Life of Wesley: and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[14] Martha Fricker (née Rowles), the mother-in-law of both Southey and Coleridge, was nursed in her final illness by her daughter Martha. BACK

[15] Perhaps Coleridge’s manuscript of ‘At Applethwaite’ (1804), Wordsworth’s sonnet on the property given him in 1803 by Sir George Beaumont, forwarded from Keswick to Coleridge in Grasmere by his wife Sara. ‘Young Benson’ may have been the son of Ann Benson who worked as a maid for the Wordsworths. BACK