941. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 16 May 1804

941. Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 16 May 1804 ⁠* 

London, May 16. 1804.

My dear Edith,

A. Aikin had need send me certain complimentary sugar-plums; he has cut out some of my bitterest and best sentences, and has rejected my reviewal of his father’s Letters on the English Poets, to make room for something as Bare-bald as the book itself. [1]  However, no wonder; there must be a commander-in-chief, and the Annual Review has at least as good, or better, than either army, navy, or government in England.

You should have seen my interview with Hyde. [2]  I was Eve, he the tempter; could I resist Hyde’s eloquence? A coat, you know, was predetermined; but my waistcoat was shameful. I yielded; and yielded also to a calico under-waistcoat, to give the genteel fulness which was requisite. This was not all. Hyde pressed me further; delicate patterns for pantaloons, – they make gaiters of the same; it would not soil, and it would wash. I yielded, and am tomorrow to be completely hyded in coat, waistcoat, under-waistcoat, pantaloons, and gaiters; and shall go forth, like –––, conquering and to conquer. If Mrs. –––– should see me! and in my new hat – for I have a new hat – and my new gloves. O Jozé! I will show myself to Johnny Cockbain [3]  for the benefit of the North. Davy talks of going to the Lakes with Sir G. Beaumont, probably, and, in that case, soon. Elmsley talks of going in the autumn, and wishes me to accompany him to Edinburgh. Wynn wants me in Wales, and would fetch me. I cannot be in two places at once, and must not be cut in half, for to Solomon’s decision I have an objection. [4]                                         .                    .                    .                    .                    .                    .                    .                     I shall desire A. Aikin, my commander, to ship me down a huge cargo, that I may get at least fifty pounds for next year, and look to that for a supply in April. In the foreign one which he proposes, I will not take any active part; it will take more time, and yield less money in proportion. The whole article upon Peter Bayley is in, in all its strength. [5]                     .                    .                    .                    .                    .                    .                     I perfectly long to be at home again, and home I will be at the month’s end, God willing, for business shall not stand in my way. I will do all that is possible next week and the beginning of the following, and then lay such a load upon Dapple’s back as he never trudged under before; he shall work, a lazy, long-eared animal; he shall work, or the printer’s devil shall tease him out of his very soul. [6]                    .                    .                    .                    .

Dear Edith, how weary I am! God bless you!

R. S.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 285–286 [in part]. BACK

[1] John Aikin, Letters to a Young Lady on a Course of English Poetry (1804). Southey’s implication is that ‘Bare-bald’, his jokey name for Anna Letitia Barbauld, will write the review instead. BACK

[2] A London tailor frequented by Southey, his first name and dates are unknown. BACK

[3] A Keswick tailor (dates unknown). BACK

[4] See 1 Kings 3: 16–28. BACK

[5] Southey reviewed Peter Bayley (bap. 1778–1823; DNB), Poems (1803), in which he accused the author of plagiarising from Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads, in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 546–552. BACK

[6] Southey refers to his project to edit, with Bedford, a collection of minor poems, published with Longman in 1807 as Specimens of the Later English Poets. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)