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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to John May, 5 August 1805

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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“Keswick, August 5. 1805.
“My dear Friend,

“I am much gratified with your praises of Madoc, and disposed to acquiesce in some of your censure.

* I may here not inappropriately quote Sir Walter Scott’s opinion of Madoc, as corroborating what my father himself here allows, that the execution is better than the subject; and also that the poem will well bear one of the surest tests of merit of all kinds—an intimate knowledge:—“As I don’t much admire compliments, you may believe me sincere when I tell you, that I have read Madoc three times since my first cursory perusal, and each time with an increased admiration of the poetry. But a poem, whose merits are of that higher tone, does not immediately take with the public at large. It is even possible that during your own life—and may it be as long as every real lover of literature can wish—you must be contented with the applause of the few whom nature has gifted with the rare taste for discriminating in poetry; but the mere readers of verse must one day come in, and then Madoc will assume his real place at the feet of Milton. Now this opinion of mine was not that (to speak frankly) which I formed on reading the poem at first, though I then felt much of its merit.”—W. S. to R. S., Oct. 1. 1807.

Ætat. 30. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 341
. . . . . It pleased me that you had selected for praise the quieter passages, those in an under key, with which the feeling has the most, and the fancy the least, to do. . . . .

“My History would go to press this winter if my uncle were in England, and probably will not till he and I have met, either in that country or in this. Believe me it is an act of forbearance to keep back what has cost me so many hours of labour; the day when I receive the first proof-sheet will be one of the happiest of my life. The work may or may not succeed; it may make me comfortably independent, or obtain no credit till I am in a world where its credit will be of no effect: but that it will be a good book, and one which, sooner or later, shall justify me in having chosen literature for my life pursuit, I have a sure and certain faith. If I complained of anything, it would be of the necessity of working at employments so worthless in comparison with this great subject. However, the reputation which I am making, and which, thank God, strengthens every year, will secure a sale for these volumes whenever they appear. Roscoe’s Leo is on the table—sub judice. One great advantage in my subject is, that it excites no expectations; the reader will be surprised to find in me a splendour of story which he will be surprised not to find in the miserable politics of Italian princelings.

“I cannot answer your question concerning the contemporary English historians; Bishop Nicholson will be your best guide. Of English history we have little that is good;—I speak of modern com-
pilers, being ignorant, for the most part, of the monkish annalists.
Turner’s Hist. of the Anglo-Saxons ought to be upon your shelves . . . . so much new information was probably never laid before the public in any one historical publication; Lord Lyttleton’s Henry II. is a learned and honest book. Having particularised these two, the ‘only faithful found,’ it may safely be said, that of all the others those which are the oldest are probably the best. What Milton and Bacon have left, have, of course, peculiar and first-rate excellence.

“I beg of you to thank young Walpole for his book. . . . . I wish he were to travel anywhere rather than in Greece, there is too much hazard and too little reward; nor do I think much can be gleaned after the excellent Chandler. Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, are the countries for an able and inquisitive traveller. I should, for myself, prefer a town in Ireland to a town in Greece, as productive of more novelty.

“I should be much obliged if you could borrow for me Beausobre’s Histoire du Manicheisme, which, for want of catalogues, I cannot get at by any other channel. The book is said to be of sterling value, and the subject so connected with Christian and Oriental superstition, that my knowledge of both is very imperfect till I have read it. Besides, I think I have discovered that one of the great Oriental mythologies was borrowed from Christianity, that of Budda, the Fo of the Chinese; if so, what becomes of their chronology?

God bless you!
R. S.”