469. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge [fragment], 27 December 1799

469. Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge [fragment], 27 December 1799 ⁠* 

Bristol, Dec. 27. 1799.

Geese were made to grow feathers, and farmers’ wives to pluck them. I suspect booksellers and authors were made with something of the like first cause. With Thalaba [1]  I must make sure work and speedy, for abroad I must go. Complaints of immediate danger I have none, but increased and increasing nervous affections threaten much remote. I have rushes of feeling nightly, like fainting or death, and induced, I believe, wholly by the dread of them. Even by day they menace me, and an effort of mind is required to dispel them. . . . . So I must go, and I will go. Now, then, the sooner the better. Some progress is made in the sixth book of Thalaba; my notes are ready for the whole, at least there is only the trouble of arranging and seasoning them. If the bargain were made, it would be time to think of beginning to print, for the preliminaries are usually full of delays, and time with me is of importance. I must have the summer to travel in, and ought to be in Germany by the beginning of June. Treat, therefore, with Longman, or any man, for me.

The W.’s  [2]  are at Clifton: if they saw the probable advantages of a journey to Italy, – of the possible reach to Constantinople, the Greek Islands, and Egypt, – in a light as strong as I do, they would, I think, wish to delay the new birth of Lessing: [3]  but this is, on your part, a matter of feeling; and when I spoke of your joining us, it was with the conviction that it was a vain wish, but it is a very earnest one. Together we might do so much; and we could leave the women for excursions – now into Hungary, now into Poland, and see the Turks. Zounds! who knows but, like Sir John Maundeville, we might have gone where the Devil’s head is always above ground! [4]  Go I must, but it would be a great satisfaction to have a companion. . . . .

But Lessing’s life – and I half wish he had never lived – how long after the first of April (an ominous day) will that confine you? Or if you come here to do it, cannot I raise mortar and carry bricks to the edifice? . . . . For Stuart I must make out another quarter. I have huge drains, like the Pontic marshes [5]  – a leech hanging on every limb. . . . .

God bless you.




* 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. 35–37 [in part]. BACK

[1] Thalaba the Destroyer was completed during, not before, Southey’s second visit to Portugal in 1800–1801, and published in 1801. BACK

[2] Josiah Wedgwood II (1769 –1843), eldest brother of Thomas Wedgwood and also a patron of Coleridge’s. BACK

[3] Coleridge was planning a ‘Life’ of the German poet Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781). BACK

[4] Sir John Mandeville, The Voiage and Travails of Sir John Maundeville (London, 1727), pp. 340–344. BACK

[5] Marshes south east of Rome; attempts had been made to drain them since the 4th century BC. BACK

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