502. Robert Southey to William Taylor, [started 'some weeks' before and continued on] 26 March [1800]

502. Robert Southey to William Taylor, [started ‘some weeks’ before and continued on] 26 March [1800] ⁠* 

My dear friend

Your Wortigerne reached me, [1]  & it has given me much pleasure. the Anthology [2]  I find has not room for it. are you willing to annex it, with all due doubtfulness of prefatory scepticism, to the Rowleys of Chatterton in the new edition? [3]  I should <think> nothing misplaced that gave additional value to the volumes, & this your fragment assuredly would do. As for the proof it contains of the possibility of writing such poems now, there needs no new evidence. But the poetry is very – very fine –, & its masquerade-spelling will become familiar to the reader who has previously decyphered Chattertons. If you think this a fit mode of publication, I will save you the trouble of making a glossary. – A few evenings since my friend Rickman amused himself in examining the fac-simile in Rowley, & copying out all the es in the twelve lines. he found no less than 27 genera, each totally different from the other & many of them impossible to have ever been used in writing (except with a design of producing a strange unsightliness) from the various manners in which it was necessary to hold the pen in tracing them. These es I shall place at the bottom of the fac-simile.

Sir Herberts letter I saw in the Gentlemans Magazine [4]  just before your information respecting him arrived. in my reply [5]  I have not noticed xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxx xxxx xxxxxxxxxxx admitted no personality, his own letter sufficiently proves the truth of my statement. do you know that he is distantly related to me? [6]  Harry bears also the name Herbert from the same xxxxxx <origin>, a name which has continued in my mothers family since they branched from the Croft stock.

Your epigrams [7]  frightened Cottle. he deprecated their insertion lest they should intimidate all correspondents. I laughed & argued – but not effectually – & as the risque of the Anthology is Cottles, did not feel justified in using my voice potential. Wherever you print them, do not suppress the chilly River. [8]  the Inscription is a bad one & deserves no mercy. & were it better, you know not the little value I set upon these trifles. I expect soon to send you the Anthology & with it the Noah; [9]  which has been detained too long & used too little.

I wait with unpleasant anxiety the letters from Lisbon which will decide my destination. Lisbon I hope will be the place, old recollections attract me there, & the prospect of employment in the History of the Kingdom, [10]  important enough to excite ardour, & sufficiently interesting to prevent lassitude. – Burnett is at Mrs McDonalds. 5. Nicholsons Street.


March. 26. – This unfinished sheet has remained like an evil conscience, for some weeks in my desk. I hav my destination is now settled. we are in all the bustle of preparing for a twelvemonths absence from England, & purpose leaving this place in a fortnight on our way to Falmouth, & Lisbon. If I were not villainously sick at sea – the whole anticipation would be pleasant – but the certainty of intestine commotions excites qualms already –

Between the setting foot on board a ship and leaving it in port the interim is like a phantasma or a hideous dream! – My intention is seriously to undertake the History of Portugal, & to qualify myself for the task by travelling over the whole of the little Kingdom, & well understanding the site of every place whereof it may be my office to write. no country possesses a better series of chronicles. I shall visit the various Convent Libraries & hunt out all scarcer documents. twelvemonths well employed will suffice for the collection of materials – & if otherwise – I am not limited to time. One thing I shall especially attempt in writing history. to weave the manners of the times, as far as can properly be done into the narrative – instead of crowding the volumes with appendix chapters. rather in this point to resemble the old chroniclers than the modern historians.

You will direct to me with the Reverend Herbert Hill. Lisbon. your gossamery paper, which I have sometimes growled <at> for letting the ink thro, will suit well the post office of a country where an extravagant price is charged by weight. remember that as for society – such as suits my habits – Lisbon is always in a state of famine – & that the receipt of a letter in a foreign country is a joy which lasts for a week. My intention is, if peace permits, to return thro the South of Spain & over the Pyrenees to Calais. surely there will not be another years war – & I would wait some months for peace beyond xxx the proposed limits of my stay. Much however depends upon the effects which the climate may produce upon me. experiments upon health [MS torn] important in their result not to excite some anxiety. my complaint is probably not organic, but it remains to be proved removable, & only from climate can I expect this.

In the course of ten days you will receive the Anthology. I will send it to Harry in his parcel, & he can forward it thro Yarmouth. for the third volume I shall delegate my authority. I am sorry my name was given in the Reviews & Monthly Magazine, [11]  In reviewing anonymous works myself, when I have known the authors, I have never mentioned them, taking it for granted they had sufficient motives for avoiding this publicity.

Let me hear from you before my departure.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

10. Stokes Croft . Bristol.


* Address: To/ Mr Wm Taylor Junr/ Surry Street/ Norwich./ Single
Postmarks: BRISTOL/ MAR 26 1800; B/ MAR 27/1800
Endorsement: Ansd 1 April
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4828. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, pp. 339–343; Adolfo Cabral (ed.), Robert Southey: Journals of a Residence in Portugal 1800–1801 and a Visit to France 1838 (Oxford, 1960), pp. 68–69 [in part]. BACK

[1] William Taylor’s unfinished play ‘Wortigerne’, in the style of Thomas Chatterton’s (1752–1770; DNB) pseudo-medieval writings, which he attributed to the 15th-century Bristol priest, Thomas Rowley. BACK

[2] Annual Anthology (1800). BACK

[3] Southey and Cottle’s edition of the Works of Thomas Chatterton (1803). BACK

[4] Gentleman’s Magazine, 70 (February–April 1800), 99–104, 222–226, 322–325. BACK

[5] See Robert Southey to the Editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 20 March [1800], Letter 497. BACK

[6] Southey’s mother’s grandmother (Margaret) was a member of the Croft family (Robert Southey to John May, 1 August 1820). The name ‘Herbert’ was traditional in the Croft family in honour of the first baronet, Sir Herbert Croft (1651–1720). Southey named his eldest son Herbert (1806–1816), presumably in honour of his maternal ancestors. BACK

[7] William Taylor’s epigrams on all the poems in Annual Anthology (1799); see Taylor to Southey, 16 February 1800, J.W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, pp. 332–334. BACK

[8] Taylor’s epigram on Southey’s ‘Inscription I, For the Banks of the Hampshire Avon’, Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1799), pp. 67–68. BACK

[9] Johann Jakob Bodmer (1698–1783), Noachide (1752), which Southey had borrowed from Taylor. Southey probably did not finish it until 26 March 1800, and then dismissed it as a ‘bad poem’ (Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 2). BACK

[10] Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[11] Southey had been named as the editor of the Annual Anthology in the Monthly Magazine, 8 (December 1799), 1052; and in numerous other periodicals, including the Critical Review, 28 (January 1800), 82–89. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Stokes Croft (mentioned 1 time)
Yarmouth (mentioned 1 time)