1114. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 22 October 1805

1114. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 22 October 1805 ⁠* 

October 22. 1805.

My dear friend

The Vision of Joan of Arc is now by Longmans desire appended to the poem. there is the gap occasioned by its removal to be filled up. [1]  – Will you let me supply it in part by placing your tale of the Berkeley Witch with my own? [2]  most people will be as much pleased as I am to see how differently the same subject can be treated.

Your reviewal is not yet arrived [3]  – that in the Edinburgh you will have seen. [4]  I have been at Edinburgh & there seen Jeffrey. when he was invited to meet me, he very properly sent me the sheets, that I might see him or not according to my own feelings. this was what he could not well avoid, but it was not the less gentlemanlike. I met him in good humour, being by Gods blessing of a xxx happy temper. having seen him it were impossible to be angry with any thing so diminutive. [5]  We talked about the question of taste on which we are at issue – he is a mere child upon the subject. I never met with a man whom it was so easy to check-mate.

My Uncle says of your MM. reviewal [6]  that he thinks it well founded in almost all its parts. When the long article comes I will quietly sit down, & examine myself, & tell you as fairly what are the faults of these poem, as if it were not my own. With my first leisure I shall think of some better subject – but alas a world of work is before me! After this year I shall give up reviewing. more original & congenial labour will pay as well. King Arthur will easily supply my seat at the Round Table to his own satisfaction [7]  – but his readers will miss me – for I shall not affect to appear ignorant that of all his merry men you & I are the Lancelot & Tristram, – the men of proof. [8]  I read your articles with pleasure & have no patience with the insipidity or the pertness which occurs in all the rest. that Mr Norgate is a perfect abomination to me. [9] 

Mr Smiths news of Coleridge is very inaccurate. he holds the place of Public Secretary, till the person to whom the reversion was given comes to relieve him, for which he is waiting with miserable impatience. [10]  the salary which he receives is only half – half being paid as Treasurer, an office with <of> which he would not take charge. the utmost amount may be 500 £ a year, for which he gives up his whole time having literally no leisure to do any thing except write memorials home respecting Egypt & Mediterranean politics.

The Scotch society disappointed me, as it needs must do a man who loves conversation instead of discussion. [11]  Of the three faculties of the mind they seem exclusively to value judgement; they have nothing to teach & a great deal more to learn than I should chuse to be at the trouble of instructing them in. I had happily an admirable companion in my schoolfellow Elmsley, or I should have hungered & thirsted for my folios. But I must speak of other things. You have probably seen Harry by this time, – at least whether you have or not there should be no secrets between him & you. He has fallen into an affection common to people of his age – how he & the Lady [12]  & the Ladys friends may settle their affairs Heaven knows, – all that I have to do with it is this, – to fix my residence wherever he may commence his practise, if it ends in a marriage – that my home may be his till he can get one of his own. Here then is a chance of my domesticating in Norwich some twelvemonths hence. – I have never seen the Lady, & should be apt to think her a little too novelish (it is a better word than romantick) – & a little too fond of indulging herself in violent feelings; but these things wear off. After all it is likely enough that the whole may terminate as suddenly as it began. – You will find Harry nearly as you would wish to find him. perseverance he wants, & in spite of all I have done & am doing, I must fairly confess that it is a family failing, – for I get thro what I like, & have never been able to learn any language grammatically since I left school. He is in good odour at Edinburgh, & well may he be so, for among Scotch metaphysicians he may pass for learned. As far as I can judge he seems to have chosen his associates well, – to have culled the shining men for his acquaintance, the good ones for his friends.

I past three days with Walter Scott – an amusing & highly estimable man. You see the whole extent of his powers in the Minstrels Lay, [13]  of which your opinion seems to accord with mine, – a very amusing poem, – it excites a novel-like interest, – but you discover nothing on after perusal. Scott bears a great part in the E Review, [14]  but does not review well. he is editing Dryden [15]  – very carelessly. the printer has only one of the late common editions to work from, which has never been collated, & is left to make conjectural emendations. this I learnt from Ballantyne himself in his printing office.

I have undertaken to supply Dr Aikin with the literary biography of Spain & Portugal for the remainder of his Dictionary. [16]  It is a pity he did not apply to me sooner. this – my last campaign in the Review, & a certain prose work of which Harry will tell you in secret, will keep me hard at work during the winter. [17]  How Madoc sells I have not heard, save that half were sold in about two months – the rest of course must creep off slowly – but I hear that Thalaba is quickening his pace, & think it not unlikely that I may have the task of correcting that added to my work labours. [18]  Write to me about your Witch, [19]  – & if you will let me print it I will find all the fault I can with it first.

God bless you –



* Address: To/ Mr Wm Taylor Junr/ Surry Street/ Norwich/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: Ansd 28 October
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4852. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 101–105. BACK

[1] The third edition of Joan of Arc was published in 1806, with the ‘Vision of the Maid of Orleans’ – originally published in the second volume of Poems (1799) – printed at the end of the poem. Pieces brought into the 1806 edition of Poems to make up for the removal of the ‘Vision’ were, ‘Translation of a Greek Ode on Astronomy, written for the prize at Cambridge, 1793’ (pp. 3–9); ‘The Retrospect’ (pp. 13–22); ‘To Hymen’ (pp. 25–39); ‘Remembrance’ (pp. 40–43); ‘To Recovery’ (pp. 49–51); ‘Youth and Age’ (pp. 52–53); ‘The Traveller’s Return’ (pp. 54–55); ‘Autumn’ (pp. 56–58); ‘The Destruction of Jerusalem’ (pp. 59–62); ‘The Spanish Armada’ (pp. 63–66); ‘St Bartholomew’s Day’ (pp. 67–69); ‘To a Bee’ (pp. 74–75); ‘Metrical Letter’, pp. 76–79. For the alterations, see Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols. (London, 2004), I. BACK

[2] Southey’s ‘A Ballad Shewing how an Old Woman Rode Double and Who Rode Before Her’, (more familiarly known as ‘The Old Woman of Berkeley’) was published in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. [143]–160. In his letter to Southey of 23 December 1798, Taylor had revealed that he had also written a poem on the theme of the ‘Old Woman of Berkeley’ (J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, p. 235). This was written in about 1791, but remained unpublished for many years until its appearance in the Iris, the weekly Norwich newspaper edited by Taylor, on 29 October 1803. Taylor declined Southey’s offer to publish his poem, and ‘A Tale of Wonder’ was published in the Monthly Magazine 34 (1812), 234–236. See David Chandler, ‘Southey’s “German Sublimity” and Coleridge’s “Dutch Attempt’, in Romanticism on the Net, 32–33 (November 2003). BACK

[3] Taylor was reviewing Southey’s Madoc (1805) for the Annual Review and sent it to him for his comments before publication. It appeared in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 604–613. BACK

[4] Jeffrey reviewed Southey’s poem Madoc (1805) in the Edinburgh Review, 7 (October 1805), 1–29. BACK

[5] Southey consoled himself for Jeffrey’s printed criticisms of his work in the Edinburgh Review, by reflecting that his small stature was indicative of his diminutive intellectual capabilities. BACK

[6] Taylor’s review of Madoc appeared in the Monthly Magazine, 19 (July 1805), 656–658. BACK

[7] Meaning the Annual Review. BACK

[8] Lancelot and Tristram are trusted knights in Arthurian legend, on whose feats of courage the Round Table chiefly depends. BACK

[9] Thomas Starling Norgate (1772–1859), who as well as reviewing for the Monthly Magazine, also worked for the Analytical Review and the Annual Review. BACK

[10] Coleridge was acting as Public Secretary to the British Civil Commissioner in Malta in 1805. BACK

[11] Southey is referring to his recent visit to Edinburgh. BACK

[12] Emma Noel (d. 1873), daughter of Gerard Noel Edwardes of Exton Park, Rutland (1759–1838; DNB), who adopted the surname Noel in 1798, and inherited a baronetcy in 1813 to become the 2nd Baronet. BACK

[13] Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel: A Poem (1805). BACK

[14] Scott contributed reviews to the Edinburgh Review from 1802 to 1808. BACK

[15] Scott, The Works of John Dryden (1808). BACK

[16] John Aikin’s General Biography: or, Lives, Critical and Historical, of the Most Eminent Persons of all Ages, Countries, Conditions, and Professions, Arranged According to Alphabetical Order was published in 10 volumes between 1799–1815. According to Kenneth Curry (New Letters of Robert Southey 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, p. 403) Southey contributed the following entries to volumes VI (1807), VII (1808) and VIII (1813): Volume VI: ‘Vasco Lobeira’, 314–317; ‘Francisco Rodrigues Lobo’, 318; ‘Fernam Lopez’, 340; ‘Gregorio Lopez’, 340; ‘Francisco de Losa’, 344–345; ‘Joam de Lucena’, 371–372; ‘Miguel de Luna’, 388; ‘Fr. Francisco de Santo Agostinho Macedo’, 434–435, ‘El Enamorado Macias’, 437–438; ‘P. Fr. Pedro Malon de Chaide’, 506; ‘D. Jorge Manrique’, 523–524; ‘Don Juan Manuel’, 529–530; ‘Ausias March’, 542–543; ‘Juan de Mariana’, 555–557; ‘Vicente Mariner’, 558; ‘Luis de Marmol Carvajal’, 569; ‘P. M. Fr. Juan Marquez’, 574–575. Volume VII: ‘Juan de Mena’, 28–30; ‘Don Inigo Lopez de Mendoza’, 37–38; ‘D. Diego Hurtado de Mendoza’, 38–39; ‘Menezes’, 41–42; ‘Christoval de Mesa’, 59–60; ‘George de Montemayor’, 174–175; ‘Ambrosio de Morales’, 194–198; ‘Alonso de Castro Nunez’, 466; ‘Antonio de Naxara’, 469; ‘Abraham Nehemias’, 469; ‘Florian de Ocampo’, 471–472; ‘Fr. Diego de Olarte’, 487; ‘Fr. Andres de Olmos’, 497; ‘Jerome Osorio’ [with Thomas Morgan (1752–1821)], 530–533; ‘Alonso de Ovalle’, 548; ‘Andres de Oviedo’, 555–556; ‘Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo’, 556–557; ‘Lorenzo de Padilla’, 578; ‘Pedro Paez’, 578–580; ‘D. Juan de Palafox y Mendoza’, 585. Volume VIII: ‘Josef de Ossau, Salas y Pellicer’, 25–26; Bartholomé Pereira’, 46; ‘Luys Pereyra’, 46; ‘Antonio Perez’, 46–47; ‘Ruy de Pina’, 173; ‘Juan de Pineda’, 175; ‘Fernam Mendes Pinto’, 178–179; ‘Thome Pires’, 182–184; ‘Fernando de Pulgar’, 385. BACK

[17] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella: Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[18] Southey’s poem Thalaba the Destroyer, which was published in 1801. A second edition was not called for until 1809. BACK

[19] See note 2. BACK

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