3511. Robert Southey to John Miller, 16 July 1820

3511. Robert Southey to John Miller, 16 July 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 16 July. 1820

Dear Sir

It has neither been from disrespect nor forgetfulness that I have thus long delayed to thank you for your xxxxx xxxxxxx [1]  & the letter which accompanied them. They were put into my hands at the Inn door, while I was waiting for the Stage Coach. My time in London was so compleatly filled up with hurrying & wearying engagements of various kinds, that reading was impossible. I am now once more at home & in quiet; & having received the packages of books which followed me, the first which I read has been your volume. Till I had perused it I would not thank you for it, – for a letter of thanks in such cases, written before the book is read, may often be rightly understood as implying in the writer a wish not to express any opinion to xxxx a disinclination to read the work <it>, or an apprehension that, having read it, the opinion which he should form would not be one that he could communicate to the author.

I have read your Xxxxxxxx with more than common pleasure; – with the double gratification of feeling myself every where in sympathy with the writer, & of finding a calm, settled & secure conviction of the great truths of Christianity supported by an original train of argument, which the more it is considered the stronger it must appear. I have read it too with advantage as well as delight – & if I compleat a little work upon which I am at this time employed [2]  you will find me sometimes following pursuing a track of thought which you have opened.

When I saw you at Balliol [3]  it was in so large a company & for so short a time, that I brought away with me a few names only, & very imperfect recollections of any individual person whom I had not seen before. My eyes which serve me excellently well in their duty at home, are slow in learning strange faces, especially when they come many together; & I have the more inconvenient defect of not having that readiness of mind in company, of which I feel no want in private. Otherwise, when I heard your name, I should have asked you whether you were not acquainted with Xxxxxxxxx [4]  who bequeathed to me a singular charge in a most extraordinary manner. It is well that his papers were not consigned to any person who held opinions similar to his own; (Godwin, for instance, who I hear has been very inquisitive concerning them) – for, in spite of the dreadful insanity of which they contain the most decided proofs, a publication might have been made from them which would have done infinite mischief, & would perha I verily believe have occasioned as many acts of suicide as Goethe has to answer for. [5]  – If I publish any thing from these papers, I will take especial care that it shall neither do injury to the living, nor dishonour to the dead. [6] 

Farewell Sir. I hope we shall one day meet again, & with better opportunity for occasion; – at any rate we shall not meet as strangers. – If you should ever find leisure & inclination to visit the land of Lakes & Mountains, it will give me great pleasure to see you, & to offer you a bed xx if our spare room be unoccupied, – if it not, such hospitality as I can.

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs truly & respectfully

Robert Southey.


* Address: [in another hand] London Nineteenth July 1820/ The Revd John Miller/ Worcester Coll:/ Oxford/ <Bxxxxxxxxxx/ Nr London>/ Frm J Rickman
Stamped: [partial] DINGWA/ 71–
Postmark: FREE/ 19 JY 19/ 1820
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The deletions in this letter are exceptionally heavy and are possibly in another hand. The words deleted here are possibly ‘Bampton Lectures’, indicating that Miller had sent a copy of the printed text of a series of eight sermons on The Divine Authority of Holy Scripture, Asserted, From its Adaptation to the Real State of Human Nature he had delivered in 1817 under the auspices of the Bampton Lectures on Christian theology, which have been delivered annually at Oxford University since 1780. They had been published in 1817, with a second edition appearing in 1819. BACK

[2] Southey’s The Book of the Church (1824). BACK

[3] Southey had attended a reception at Balliol College, Oxford, following his receipt of an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law on 14 June 1820. BACK

[4] The deleted material is probably ‘Hamond’, i.e. Elton Hamond, who had bequeathed his papers to Southey in the hope that the latter would publish them. BACK

[5] Johann von Goethe (1749–1832), author of the influential Die Leiden des Jungen Werther (1774), whose hero commits suicide. BACK

[6] Southey abandoned any plans of publishing Hamond’s writings. BACK

People mentioned

Hamond, Elton (1786–1820) (mentioned 1 time)
Godwin, William (1756–1836) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Balliol (mentioned 1 time)