2814. Robert Southey to Mary Matilda Betham, 24 June [1816]

2814. Robert Southey to Mary Matilda Betham, 24 June [1816]⁠* 

My dear Miss Betham

I ought long since to have written to you, – & thanked you for your verses. [1]  I felt them as you would wish me to feel them, but I have not yet ventured to put them into Ediths hand, & perhaps she had better not see them till they appear in print, – when Time shall have blunted the edge of pain, believe me I thank you sincerely for them, nor could you have gratified me more. They bear your stamp – the stamp of the lawful mint of the Muses.

There needs no apology about the Lay of Marie, – rather there does need one – but it is on my part; & you will easily excuse me for not having sooner executed my intention. [2]  I will certainly write an account of it for the number after this which is now far advanced in the press, – but I cannot answer for its insertion: – that must depend upon the Editor. [3]  My influence & efforts shall not be wanting; – & as I have some influence with one other Review I will lose no time in recommending it there. [4] 

That stanza in my Lay which made you sorry, will make others angry, – but the occasion required it. [5]  I cannot forgive the Dissenters for leaguing with the Catholicks against the Church, – the original cause of dissent being that the Church retained so many Popish ceremonies. They have no common principle, but that of hatred to the Establishment & a union formed upon that principle is abominable. But Church & State will both be overthrown before this generation pass away, unless the Government awakens to a sense of its danger. – I suppose I shall be called a Methodist for the poems & for the Pilgrimage. [6]  – with just as much propriety as I have formerly been called an Atheist.

Love from all. God bless you.


24 June. Keswick.


* MS: Beinecke Library, Osborn MSS File ‘S’, Folder 14107. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Ernest Betham (ed.), A House of Letters: Being Excerpts from the Correspondence of Miss Charlotte Jerningham (the Honble. Lady Bedingfield), Lady Jerningham, Coleridge, Lamb, Southey, Bernard and Lucy Barton, and others, with Matilda Betham; and from Diaries and Various Sources; and a Chapter upon Landor’s Quarrel with Charles Betham at Llanthony (London, 1905), pp. 168–169. BACK

[1] Matilda Betham had sent Southey her poem, ‘On the Death of Herbert Southey, addressed to his Father’. The lines were published in her Vignettes in Verse (London, 1818), pp. 64–67. BACK

[2] Betham’s The Lay of Marie: a Poem (1816). Southey did not review it for the Quarterly Review. A presentation copy was no. 278 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), published on 11 August 1816. BACK

[4] Probably the Eclectic Review; if so, it did not review the poem. BACK

[5] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanza 53, attacking the Catholics and Dissenters as allied opponents of the Anglican church: ‘The stern sectarian in unnatural league/ Joins her to war against their hated foe;/ Error and Faction aid the bold intrigue,/ And the dark Atheist seeks her overthrow,/ While giant Zeal in arms against her stands,/ Barks with an hundred mouths, and lifts an hundred hands’. BACK

[6] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

People mentioned

Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)