76. Robert Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 22 [–24] December 1793 *
College Green. Sunday Night. Dec. 22. 1793.
Monday morning. of last nights verses I have two things to say. the metre is that of Ph. Fletchers purple island.  the specimens of the poem in Headleys selection & Warton  are beautiful — you promised me some information relative to a late edition. the other remark is that two more letters will probably grow out of this. the last stanza has given birth to a train of thoughts which wait your next for maturity. your last letter I found on my return from Bath — I had prolonged my stay there to enjoy Lovells company. you know the no-ceremony I stand upon when I wish to make a friend — it may be singular but I am sure to me singularly fortunate. as a poet in some walks I do not know his equal — in the plaintive & soft kinds — elegy & sonnet for instance but this is not his only merit — epistles & various other species he has handled with peculiar delicacy. I do not scruple to say that for elegance & simplicity of versification I know no Author in our language that surpasses him. most probably we shall soon publish together. I am apprehensive he will miss your brother by calling as last Saturday.
and now to the subject of your letter. recollect Horace that Love is a perishable passion & however we may paint its immortality with the vivid colors of youth — must ultimately mellow with friendship. I say must — for it is physically impossible that it should endure. Honor my dear friend is everlasting & immortal & inspires that conscious dignity which will dilate the soul when the less pure flame of Love shall have consumed itself. past errors are always the best future guides. a strong head & a good heart have almost miraculously rescued you from vice & folly — you have experience at eighteen — a constitution naturally good which exercise will brace. tho you have errd that error is reparable. I am more & more convinced that Oxford would be of essential service to you — solitude is the mother of melancholy — hourly experience tells me so too forcibly. the college life is not what I delight in — female society is wanting there but any damnd soul would be happy to avoid hell by flying to purgatory & so I look forward with comparative pleasure to Balliol. indeed with positive pleasure when I reflect that I am going to a society of men who are temperate & liberal — who return my friendship for them & perhaps expect our meeting with the same pleasure felt by me. Seward resides with us six months longer & that <as being> unexpected is doubly agreable. you will seldom Horace find a better acquaintance not to mention your friends at XChurch or mine at Corpus.
I have accomplishd a most arduous task. transcribing all my verses that appear worthy the trouble (except letters). of these I took one list. another of my pile of stuff & nonsense & a third of what I have burnt & lost, upon an average 10-000 verses are burnt & lost — the same number preservd — & 15-000 worthless consider that all my letters are excluded & you may judge what waste of paper I have occasiond. three years yet remain before I can become any way settled in life & during that interval my object must be to pass each hour in employment. the million would say I must study divinity — the Bishops would give me folios to peruse little deeming that to me every blade of grass & every atom of matter is worth all the fathers. I can bear a retrospect — but when I look forward to taking orders a thousand dreadful ideas crowd at once upon my mind. oh Horace my views in life are surely very humble — I ask but honest independance & that never will be my lot.
Tues morn. I was at the play last night more from the wish of sparing my eye sight than from expectation of amusement as I <was> well acquainted with the impossibilities of the play & had laughd four times at the Prize.  of course the space between the acts furnishd most occupation — I looked round & would have physiognomozed but every visnomie was either commonly mediocre or uncommonly dull — so I recalled the actions of the day — laid down the plan of a Platonic ode & slept agreably when I returned upon the prospect. this morning I am yet fasting so the space before breakfast is yours. tomorrow is Xmas day only noticd by me as an obligation of going to church — else here mirth & merriment may reign. next week comes the day that I must celebrate & you & your brother may expect new years verses provided you give me some too. tis an old hackneyd subject pretty nearly exhausted — yet we may possibly strike one spark from the old flint.
I have many epistolary themes in embryo. your brothers next will probably be upon the advantages of long noses & the recent service mine accomplished in time of need — philosophy & folly take me by turns — I spent three hours one night in last week in cleaving an immense piece of old oaken timber — without axe hatchet or wedges. the chopper was our instrument one piece of wood wedged another & a third made the hammer of death — Shad liked it as well as myself so we finishd the job & fatigued ourselves. on Sunday night I amused myself after writing your letter with taking profiles. to day I shall dignify my own & Shads with pasteboard — marbled border & a bow of green ribbonds — to hang up in my collection room. by the by this is an excellent method of taking likenesses it hides all defects <botts &c.>
the more I see of this strange world the more I am convinced that society requires desperate remedies. the friends I have (& you know me to be cautious in chusing them) are many of them struggling with obstacles which never could happen were man what Nature intended him. a torrent of ideas burst upon my mind when I reflect upon this subject — in the hours of sanguine expectation these reveries are agreable but more frequently the visions of futurity are dark & gloomy — & the only ray enlivening the scene beams on America. you see I must fly from thought. to day I begin Cowpers Homer  & write an ode — tomorrow read on & write something else. by the by is CC offended with me? — I shall write to him very shortly taking for granted that his silence rather proceeds from the important occupation of Ch Church than from any childish offence, inconsistent with the goodness of his head & heart. so make my remembrances to him. plague take breakfast.
so now to conclude let me hear from you soon. remember me to all friends — & you <may> give my compliments to my correspondent Mr Miles  if you want something to say to him & tell him that I had 99 minds to answer his letter — but something like diffidence came in & surprized me with silence. remember me likewise to Harry.
now for my ode in an excellent mood.
* Address: Horace Walpole Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/
Postmark: ODE/ 25/ 93
Watermarks: G R in a circle; figure of Britannia
Endorsement: Recd. Dec. 25. 1793
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 197–199 [in part; misdated 22 Dec 1793]. BACK
 Henry Headley (1765–1788; DNB), Select Beauties of Ancient English poetry, 2 vols (London, 1787), I, pp. 4–5, 35–36; II, pp. 15–16, 76. Southey borrowed the first volume from the Bristol Library Society between 20–23 December 1793. Thomas Warton (1728–1790; DNB), Observations on the Faerie Queene of Spenser (London, 1754), pp. 54–55, 236, 280–281. BACK
 William Cowper (1731–1800; DNB), The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, Translated into English Blank Verse, (1791). Southey borrowed the first volume from the Bristol Library Society between 23–27 December 1793 and the second from 27–30 December 1793. BACK