3391. Robert Southey to Caroline Bowles, 20 [November] 1819

3391. Robert Southey to Caroline Bowles, 20 [November] 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 20 Novr 1819.

Yesterday evening a friend [1]  brought me your manuscript, [2]  which had so long been lying in Queen Anne Street. I read it this morning, & will rather dispatch a hasty letter than let a post elapse without telling you of its arrival, & exhorting you, by all means to proceed with the poem. It is in a very sweet strain, go on with it, & you will produce something which may hold a permanent place in English literature. – As you go on you will feel what passages are feeble, & require to be shortened or expunged, – there is very little that stands in need of this. The flow of the verse is natural & the language unconstrained – both as they should be. Everybody will recognize the truth of the feeling which pervades it, – & there is a charm in the pictures, – the imagery & the expression which cannot fail to be felt.

I made a long tour in Scotland of seven weeks. [3]  I saw a great deal that was <is> fine & a great deal that is in xxx a high degree beautiful, – but the general character of the Highlands is severe & mournful, & the impression upon me when I returned was that these Lakes gain as much by a comparison with the Scotch, as they lose when compared with the Swiss & Italian.

I intend to be in London as soon as my life of Wesley [4]  is finished which will be in the beginning of February. Shall I keep your poem, till I can carry it so far on its way? – I am too busy at present to say more – Only, understand these hurried lines as encouraging you in the strongest & most unequivocal manner to proceed.

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ Miss Bowles/ Buckland/ Lymington/ Hampshire
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: No 18 To Miss Caroline Bowles
MS: British Library, Add MS 47889. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Edward Dowden (ed.), The Correspondence of Robert Southey with Caroline Bowles (Dublin and London, 1881), pp. 16–17. BACK

[1] Possibly John Kenyon. BACK

[2] A manuscript of Bowles’s blank verse, autobiographical poem ‘The Birth-Day’. It was never completed, but was published in 1836. BACK

[3] Southey’s tour of Scotland lasted from 17 August until 1 October 1819. For his record of events, see Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (1929). BACK

[4] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)