1918. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 8 May 1811

1918. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 8 May 1811 ⁠* 

I give you joy very sincerely. [1]  No man can be thoroughly happy till he has a home, (– a mere house is not one,) & a family, whether it be his parents or his children, with whom he feels at rest, & in his proper place. To be at rest oneself, without either hope, wish, or desire beyond <what> the passing history of the human race ought to inspire, is my summum bonum, [2]  & this which by Gods blessing I have enjoyed for many years, I never could have attained while unmarried. There is a passage in the Confessions of St Augustine the truth of which any man who has a heart neither of the pumpkin nor the pippin class will recognize in the recollections of his own youth. “Nondum amabam, & amare amabam; quærebam quid amarem, amans amare.” [3]  – The very Welshmen will become more endurable if you take a wife to Llanthony.

Early in July I shall be at Bath. One of the best hearted & cleverest women whom I have ever known, is there at present with Sir Edward Littleton, to whom she has been as a daughter for many years. She is a very old friend of ours, & we must stay a few days with her on th our progress thro the South. I hope you will be at Bath at that time, & if not, – why you cannot be very far out of the road from Bristol to Keswick, – for it is one advantage of having so long a road way <road> to travel, that almost any part of England may be made in the way. I thought to have been at this time on my journey, & yet seem no nearer my departure than I was a month ago, so unmercifully does the business of 1809 grow under my hands. [4]  If it prove not a good volume, then will there have been a great deal of precious time mis employed, & a great deal of zealous labour thrown away.

You shall hear when I am in town that soon after I reach town some tidings of Count Julian, [5]  – for I think it is needless that you should prepare a more correct copy for Kembles [6]  perusal than that which I possess. It is best to treat such men with something like haughtiness, – that is to make them understand no favour is solicited – & that the obligation is quite as much on their part as on ours. I will tell him that the copy is incorrect, – & more than this, – that if he chuses to bring it forth, there will be a readiness on the authors part to adapt it for representation in such way as he may advise. If Kemble knows what is really excellent in dramatic composition (which really I doubt) – or if he knows what suits his own powers, which he most likely does, he will <ought to> jump at this play, – & the first hundred lines, or any single scene thro of the whole will determine him at once. I do not expect him to understand its excellence, – a man who can take as much pleasure in acting Zanga as King John cannot possibly have any real knowledge of Shakespere. [7] 

It vex vexed me that in your letter to Riquelme you should have spoken as you did of my poor friends the Portugueze. [8]  See how manfully they have acquitted themselves as soon as they had men at their head on whom they could rely, & a possibility appeared that their exertions might be successful. Surely all men are brave by nature, & when nations are cowardly the vice is wholly in the government. There will always be individual instances of cowardice; – but whenever it happens it is a physical infirmity, – not always superable by moral exertion. But I maintain that we as an animal man is naturally brave & that the men of all countries will make good soldiers if only they are well trained. Specific national qualities will still remain, – the Frenchman will march with most gaiety to the attack, the Spaniard will endure the greatest privations, – the Russian will stand the most quietly to have his skull hammered in with the butt end of a musket, & the Englishman will behave best in the field. My life for it we shall beat Buonaparte out of the Peninsula, & it will be our own fault if we do not dictate a px under the walls of Paris a peace of which the first article shall be that the French are never to have a ship of war. We must get them down, & down we must keep them.

Longman writes me that he has 109 copies of Kehama in his warehouse, & that he hopes these will sell by the time a small edition is xx ready. [9]  Accordingly I have written to Ballantyne to reprint, but to take his leisure about it, for there is no hurry. Madoc [10]  also is just gone again to press. In the 8th Quarterly there is an article of mine upon Methodism [11]  which if I had been in the church would have been worth a rich benefice, so completely has it delighted Perceval. Have you seen Jeffrays criticism upon Kehama? [12]  it is quite as original as the poem, & altogether matchless f for impertinence.

God bless you


Keswick. May 8. 1811.


* Address: To/ Walter Savage Landor Esqr/ South Parade/ Bath
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Art Library, London, MS Forster 48 D.32 MS 13. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 219–221. BACK

[1] Landor had recently married Julia Thuillier. BACK

[2] The ‘highest good’. BACK

[3] St Augustine of Hippo (354–430), Confessions, Book 3, lines 2–4; ‘I loved not yet, yet I loved to love … I sought what I might love, in love with loving’. BACK

[4] Southey was investing more time and labour than he had anticipated in the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1809 (1811). BACK

[5] Count Julian: A Tragedy (1812). Southey was assisting Landor with attempts to have it staged at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. In the event, nothing came of this plan. BACK

[6] The actor and theatrical manager John Philip Kemble (1757–1823; DNB) of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. BACK

[7] The critique is of Kemble’s taking on ‘respectable’ Shakespearean roles alongside leading parts in plays that Southey thought were ‘trash’. The vengeful Moor Zanga was the central character in Edward Young (bap. 1683, d. 1765; DNB), The Revenge: A Tragedy (1721). A version revised by Kemble and with him in the lead role had been staged at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Southey had seen and been disgusted by the revival of 1801–1802; see Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 12 March 1811, Letter 1883. BACK

[8] Landor’s Three Letters to Don Francisco Riquelme (1809); which addressed ‘the Means of supplying an adequate Force of Calvalry’, and gave Landor’s opinions on the ‘Parties in England, their Errors, and Designs’ and the conduct of the British forces in their attempts to take the Spanish ports of Ferrol (August 1800), and Buenos Aires (1806–1807) and in signing the Convention of Cintra (1808). Landor was highly critical of the conduct of the Portuguese. Francisco Riquelme (d. 1808) had commanded a division of the Spanish army of Galicia and had thus been involved in fighting French forces in northern Spain in August–November 1808. He died on 10 November 1808 of wounds received in action. BACK

[9] The first (1810) edition of The Curse of Kehama was in quarto. A second, duo-decimo edition was published in 1811. BACK

[10] The third edition of Madoc, published in 1812. BACK

[11] Southey’s review of Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

[12] Jeffrey’s appraisal of The Curse of Kehama (1810), Edinburgh Review, 17 (February 1811), 429–465; which had attacked Southey’s ‘conceit and bad taste, and … the perversity of his manifold affectations’ (429). BACK

Places mentioned

Llanthony (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)