717. Robert Southey to Jonathan Boucher, 7 September 1802

717. Robert Southey to Jonathan Boucher, 7 September 1802 ⁠* 


I ought sooner to have acknowledged & thanked you for the favour of your Letter. you will I trust excuse me. a domestic circumstance of the dearest nature – the birth of a first child – had made me forget it.

Mr Britton [1]  had led me to believe that you had collected some interesting facts which threw some light upon Chattertons character. [2]  I do not purpose to enter the controversy. indeed my whole business in this undertaking is merely to compile – & it has been done to serve the family, not from any pleasure which the object itself afforded. A quantity of unpublished poems have been discovered – for the most part mere rubbish – party-poems or personal – but always discove displaying a facility & sometimes a power of language, which might I think have produced great things. Chattertons character appears to me to be solved by madness. It is the family disease. his sister has been confined [3]  – & her daughter [4]  is a rigid Moravian. the light in his eyes – which is so particularly mentioned – was probably the glare of derangement. this is my own opinion – but as it is deduced from the circumstances of his living relatives – it would be indelicate to publish it.

With many thanks Sir for your favour I remain

your respectful & humble Servt –

Robert Southey.

Kingsdown . Sept. 7. 1802.


* Address: To/ The Revd J. Boucher/ Epsom/ Surry
Stamped: 122/ BRISTOL
Postmarks: SEP 7 1802; B/ SEP 8/ 1802
MS: Bristol Reference Library, B28476. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] John Britton (1771-1857; DNB), antiquary and topographer. BACK

[2] Southey and Joseph Cottle were preparing The Works of Thomas Chatterton (1803). BACK

[3] Mary Newton (1749-1804), the sister of Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770; DNB). The Southey-Cottle edition was intended to benefit her and her daughter. BACK

[4] Chatterton’s niece died in 1807. The Moravians were an evangelical sect that had spread from Germany into Britain in 1738. They were well represented in Bristol from 1755 onwards. BACK

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