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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 8 December 1807

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, Dec. 8. 1807.
“My dear Scott,

“I am very much obliged to you for the offer which you make concerning the Edinburgh Review, and fully sensible of your friendliness, and the advantages which it holds out. I bear as little ill-will to Jeffrey as he does to me, and attribute whatever civil things he has said of me to especial civility, whatever pert ones (a truer epithet than severe would be) to the habit which he has acquired of taking it for granted that the critic is, by virtue of his office, superior to every writer whom he chooses to summon before him. The reviewals of Thalaba and Madoc do in no degree influence me. Setting all personal feelings aside, the objections which weigh with me against bearing any part in this journal are these:—I have scarcely one opinion in common with it upon any subject. Jeffrey is for peace, and is endeavouring to frighten the people into it: I am for war as long as Bonaparte lives. He is for Catholic emancipation: I believe that its immediate consequence would be to introduce an Irish priest into every ship in the navy. My feelings are still less in unison with him than my opinions. On subjects of moral or political importance no man is more apt to speak in the very gall of bitterness than I am, and this habit is likely to go with me to the grave; but that sort of bitterness in which he indulges, which tends
Ætat. 33. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 125
directly to wound a man in his feelings, and injure him in his fame and fortune (
Montgomery is a case in point), appears to me utterly inexcusable. Now, though there would be no necessity that I should follow this example, yet every separate article in the Review derives authority from the merit of all the others; and, in this way, whatever of any merit I might insert there would aid and abet opinions hostile to my own, and thus identify me with a system which I thoroughly disapprove. This is not said hastily. The emolument to be derived from writing at ten guineas a sheet, Scotch measure, instead of seven pounds, Annual, would be considerable; the pecuniary advantage resulting from the different manner in which my future works would be handled, probably still more so. But my moral feelings must not be compromised. To Jeffrey as an individual I shall ever be ready to show every kind of individual courtesy; but of Judge Jeffrey of the Edinburgh Review I must ever think and speak as of a bad politician, a worse moralist, and a critic, in matters of taste, equally incompetent and unjust.

“Your letter was delayed a week upon the road by the snow. I wish it had been written sooner, and had travelled faster, or that I had communicated to you my own long-projected edition of Morte d’ Arthur. I am sorry to have forestalled you, and you are the only person whom I should be sorry to forestal in this case, because you are the only person who could do it certainly as well, and perhaps better, with less labour than myself. My plan is to give the whole bibliology of the Round Table in the pre-
liminaries, and indicate the source of every chapter in the notes.

“The reviewal of Wordsworth I am not likely to see, the Edinburgh very rarely lying in my way. My own notions respecting the book agree in the main with yours, though I may probably go a step farther than you in admiration. There are certainly some pieces there which are good for nothing (none, however, which a bad poet could have written), and very many which it was highly injudicious to publish. That song to Lord Clifford, which you particularise, is truly a noble poem. The Ode upon Pre-existence is a dark subject darkly handled. Coleridge is the only man who could make such a subject luminous. The Leech-gatherer is one of my favourites; there he has caught Spenser’s manner, and, in many of the better poemets, has equally caught the best manner of old Wither, who, with all his long fits of dulness and prosing, had the heart and soul of a poet in him. The sonnets are in a grand style. I only wish Dundee had not been mentioned. James Grahame and I always call that man Claverhouse, the name by which the devils know him below.

Marmion is expected as impatiently by me as he is by ten thousand others. Believe me, Scott, no man of real genius was ever yet a puritanical stickler for correctness, or fastidious about any faults except his own. The best artists, both in poetry and painting, have produced the most. Give me more lays, and correct them at leisure for after editions—not laboriously, but when the amendment comes
Ætat. 33. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 127
naturally and unsought for. It never does to sit down doggedly to correct.

The Cid is about half through the press, and will not disappoint you. It is much in the language of Amadis, both books having been written before men began to think of a fine style. This is one cause why Amadis is so far superior to Palmerin. There are passages of a poet’s feeling in the Cid, and some of the finest circumstances of chivalry. I expect much credit from this work.

“To recur to the Edinburgh Review, let me once more assure you that, if I do not grievously deceive myself, the criticisms upon my own poems have not influenced me; for, however unjust they were, they were less so, and far less uncourteous, than what I meet with in other journals; and, though these things injure me materially in a pecuniary point of view, they make no more impression upon me than the bite of a sucking flea would do upon Garagantua. The business of reviewing, much as I have done in it myself, I disapprove of, but, most of all, when it is carried on upon such a system as Jeffrey’s. The judge is criminal who acquits the guilty, but he is far more so who condemns the innocent. In the Annual I have only one coadjutor, all the other writers being below contempt. In the Edinburgh I should have had many with whom I should have felt it creditable to myself to have been associated, if the irreconcileable difference which there is between Jeffrey and myself upon every great principle of taste, morality, and policy, did not occasion an irremovable difficulty. Meantime, I am as sincerely
obliged to you as if this difference did not exist, and I could have availed myself of all its advantages, to the importance of which I am fully sensible.

“I am very curious for your Life of Dryden, that I may see how far your estimate of his merits agrees with my own. In the way of editing we want the yet unpublished metrical romances from the Auchinleck MS., of which you have just given such an account as to whet the public curiosity, and a collection of the Scotch poets. K. James, who is the best, has not been well edited; Blind Harry but badly; Dunbar, and many others, are not to be procured. Your name would make such a speculation answer, however extensive the collection might be. I beg my respects to Mrs. Scott, and am,

Yours very truly,
Robert Southey,”