2493. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 27 October 1814

2493. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 27 October 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. 27 Oct. 1814.

My dear Cottle

It is not long since I heard of you from De Quincey, but I wish you would sometimes let me hear from you. There was a time when scarcely a day past without my seeing you, & in all that time I do not remember that there ever was a passing cloud of coolness between us. The feeling I am sure continues. Do not then let us so entirely be seperated by distance, which in case of correspondence, may almost be considered as a mere abstraction.

How has your attack in the spring left you? [1]  Disease has no form more alarming in appearance, but <there are> [2]  many which are more perilous in reality. You must be careful during the winter not to expose yourself to frosty air, & would do well to regulate the temperature of your apartments as nearly as possible to an equable heat. There is a stove by which this may be done with little trouble, – & which at once heats & ventilates a house.

Longman will send you my Poem. [3]  It has been printed about two months, but he delays its publication till November, for reasons of which he must needs be the best judge. I am neither sanguine about its early, nor doubtful concerning its ultimate acceptation in the world. The passion is in a deeper tone than in any of my former works; I call it a tragic poem for this reason, & also that the reader may not expect the same busy & compleated action which the term heroic might xxxx seem to promise. The subject has the disadvantage of belonging to an age of which little or no costume has been preserved. I was therefore cut off from all adornments of this kind, & xxxx had little left me to relieve the stronger parts but description the best of which is from the life.

My next production is to be entitled A Tale of Paraguay, [4]  & will not much exceed 1000 lines. As yet I have merely begun the introduction or Proem, – which is in the form of an address to my eldest daughter upon the subject of time & mortality. Were I not pressingly employed upon other things I should proceed in this little work with much earnestness, the story, which is true, is very simple & very beautiful.

Can you tell us anything of Coleridge? A few lines of introduction for a son of Mr Biddulph of St James’s [5]  are all that we have received from him since I saw him last September <twelvemonth> [6]  in town. The children being thus entirely left to chance, I have applied to his brothers at Ottery [7]  concerning them, & am in hopes, thro their means & the aid of other friends, of sending Hartley to college. Lady Beaumont has promised 30£ annually for this purpose. Poole 10£. I wrote to Coleridge three or four months ago telling him that unless he took some steps towards providing for the object, I must make this application, & required his answer within a given term of three weeks. He received the letter, & in his note by Mr Biddulph promised to answer it, – but has never taken any farther notice of it. I have acted with the advice of Wordsworth; – the brothers, [8]  as I expected, promise their concurrence, & I daily expect a letter stating to what amount they will contribute. – What is to become of C. himself! He may continue to find men who will give him board & lodging for the sake of his conversation, but who will pay his other expences? I cannot but apprehend some shameful & dreadful end to this deplorable course.

We were in great distress the beginning of this week concerning my youngest child, who had a most severe bilious attack. God be thanked, she is now doing well. – You can hardly understand how things of this kind try a parents heart. I feel at ease to day, – & the change is as much more delightful than that of xxxation relief from pain, as mental pain is more afflicting than bodily suffering.

Remember us most kindly to your sisters

& believe me my dear Cottle

ever your affectionate old friend

Robert Southey.

You will find among my Gothic names that of Cottila, [9]  – doubtless the origin of yours. I do not know its meaning.


* Address: To/ Mr Cottle/ Brunswick Square/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: 83 230
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 106–108; Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847), p. 386 [in part, with a paragraph from Southey to Cottle, 2 March 1815, Letter 2562, incorporated]; Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 81–83 [in part; misdated 17 October 1814). BACK

[1] Earlier in 1814 Cottle had been ‘afflicted with the bursting of a blood vessel, occasioned, probably, by present agitations of mind, which reduced … [him] to the point of death’, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847), p, 379; see also Southey to Joseph Cottle, 13 May 1814, Letter 2420. BACK

[2] <there are>: in another hand, probably Cottle’s. BACK

[3] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[4] A Tale of Paraguay (1825). BACK

[5] See Coleridge to Southey, 10 August 1814, E. L. Griggs (ed.), The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956–1971), III, p. 521. The ‘young Gentleman’ they introduced was Zachariah-Henry Biddulph (c. 1792- 1842), a young Bristolian who was later Vicar of Old and New Shoreham 1828–1842. He was the second son of the leading West Country evangelical Thomas Biddulph (1763–1838; DNB), Perpetual Curate of St James’s Bristol, and author of the much-reprinted Short Sermons by the R. John Biddulph. BACK

[6] <twelvemonth>: in another hand, probably Cottle’s. BACK

[7] See, for example, Southey to George Coleridge, 12 October 1814 (Letter 2485) and 14 November 1814 (Letter 2501). BACK

[8] i.e. Coleridge’s brothers. BACK

[9] Southey had given the name Cottila to a minor character in Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), possibly in tribute to his old friend. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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