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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Grosvenor C. Bedford, 24 February 1796

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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“Feb. 24. 1796., Lisbon, from which God grant
me a speedy deliverance.

“I am bitterly disappointed at not finding ‘The Flagellant’ here, of which I sent my only copy to my uncle. It was my intention to have brought it home again with me. You see, Grosvenor, this relic is already become rare. Have you received the original Joan of Arc, written at Brixton, bound decently, &c.? I left it with Cottle, to send with your copy: he has the transcript of it himself, which he begged with most friendly devotion, and, I believe, values as much as a monk does the parings of his tutelary saint’s great toe nail. Is not the preface a hodgepodge of inanity? I had written the beginning only
before I quitted Bristol. The latter days of my residence there, were occupied by concerns too nearly interesting, to allow time for a collected mass of composition; and you will believe that, after quitting
Edith on Sunday evening, I was little fit to write a preface on Monday morning. I never saw the whole of it together; and, I believe, after making a few hasty remarks on epic poems, I forgot to draw the conclusion for which only they were introduced. n’importe; the ill-natured critic may exercise malignity in dissecting it, and the friendly one his ingenuity in finding out some excuse.

“What has all this to do with Lisbon? say you. Take a sonnet for the ladies, imitated from the Spanish of Bartolomi Leonardo, in which I have given the author at least as many ideas as he has given me.
“Nay, cleanse this filthy mixture from thy hair,
And give the untricked tresses to the gale;
The sun, as lightly on the breeze they sail,
Shall gild the bright brown locks: thy cheek is fair,
Away then with this artificial hue,
This blush eternal! lady, to thy face
Nature has given no imitable grace.
Why these black spots obtruding on the view
The lily cheek, and these ear jewels too,
That ape the barbarous Indian’s vanity!
Thou need’st not with that necklace there invite
The prying gaze; we know thy neck is white.
Go to thy dressing room again, and be
Artful enough to learn simplicity.”

“Could you not swear to the author if you had seen this in the newspaper? You must know, Bedford, I have a deadly aversion to anything merely ornamental in female dress. Let the dress be as
Ætat. 22. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 269
elegant (i.e. as simple) as possible, but hang on none of your gewgaw eye-traps.

“Do write to me, and promise me a visit at Bristol in the summer; for, after I have returned to Edith, I will never quit her again, so that we shall remain there till I settle doggedly to law, which I hope will be during the next winter. . . . .

“Friday, 24th.

Timothy Dwight (Bedford, I defy you or Mr. Shandy to physiognomise that man’s name rightly. What historian is it who, in speaking of Alexander’s feast, says they listened to one Timothy a musician?) Timothy Dwight, an American, published, in 1785, an heroic poem on the conquest of Canaan. I had heard of it, and long wished to read it, in vain; but now the American minister (a good-natured man, whose poetry is worse than anything except his criticism) has lent me the book. There certainly is some merit in the poem; but, when Colonel Humphreys speaks of it, he will not allow me to put in a word in defence of John Milton. If I had written upon this subject I should have been terribly tempted to take part with the Canaanites, for whom I cannot help feeling a kind of brotherly compassion. There is a fine ocean of ideas floating about in my brain-pan for Madoc, and a high delight do I feel in sometimes indulging them till self-forgetfulness follows.

“’Tis a vile kind of philosophy, that for to-morrow’s prospect glooms to-day; àpropos, sit down when you have no better employment, and find all the faults
you can in ‘
The Retrospect’* against I return. It wants the pruning knife before it be re-published. . . . . When I correct Joan, I shall call you in—not as plenipotent amputator—you shall mark what you think the warts, wens, and cancers, and I will take care you do not cut deep enough to destroy the life. The fourth book is the best. Do you know I have never seen the whole poem together, and that one book was printing before another was begun? The characters of Conrade and Theodore are totally distinct; and yet, perhaps, equally interesting. There is too much fighting; I found the battles detestable to write, as you will do to read; yet there are not ten better lines in the whole piece than those beginning,—‘Of unrecorded name died the mean man, yet did he leave behind,’ &c.†

“Do you remember the days when you wrote No. 3. at Brixton? We dined on mutton chops and

* “The Retrospect” was published, among some poems by my father and Mr. Lovel, in the autumn of 1794.

† “Of unrecorded name
The soldier died; and yet he left behind
One who then never said her daily prayers
Of him forgetful; who to every tale
Of the distant war lending an eager ear,
Grew pale and trembled. At her cottage door
The wretched one shall sit, and with fix’d eye
Gaze on the path, where on his parting steps
Her last look hung. Nor ever shall she know
Her husband dead, but cherishing a hope,
Whose falsehood inwardly she knows too well,
Feel life itself with that false hope decay;
And wake at night with miserable dreams
Of his return, and weeping o’er her babe.
Too surely think that soon that fatherless child
Must of its mother also be bereft.”
Joan of Arc, 7th Book.

Ætat. 22. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 271
eggs. I have the note you wrote for
Dodd* among your letters. I anticipate a very pleasant evening when you shall show the cedar box† to Edith. ‘Oh, pleasant days of fancy!’ By the by, if ever you read aloud that part of the fifth book, mind that erratum in the description of the Famine,—
‘“With jealous eye,
Hating a rival’s look, the husband hides
His miserable meal.”
After I had corrected the page and left town, poor
Cottle, whose heart overflows with the milk of human kindness, read it over, and he was as little able to bear the picture of the husband, as he would have been to hide a morsel from the hungry; and, suo periculo, he altered it to ‘Each man conceals,’ and spoilt the climax. I was very much vexed, and yet I loved Cottle the better for it.

“No, Grosvenor, you and I shall not talk politics. I am weary of them, and little love politicians; for me, I shall think of domestic life, and confine my wishes within the little circle of friendship. The rays become more intense, in proportion as they are drawn to a point. Heighho! I should be very happy were I now in England: with Edith by the fireside, I would listen to the pelting rain with pleasure,—now it is melancholy music, yet fitly harmonising with my hanging mood.

“Farewell! write long letters.

R. S.

* One of the Westminster masters.

† The depository of the contributions to “The Flagellant.”


“P.S. In many parts of Spain they have female shavers: the proper name of one should be Barbara.”