LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 11 May 1810

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
“Durham, May 11. 1810.
“My dear Scott,

“Yesterday evening, on my return from the raceground, I found your poem* lying on the table. A provoking engagement called me from it for two or three hours; but notwithstanding this, and my obstinate habit of getting early to bed, I did not go to rest till I had finished the book. Every reader’s first thought, when he begins to think at all, will be to compare you with yourself. If I may judge from my own feelings, the Lady will be a greater favourite than either of her elder brethren. There is in all,

* The Lady of the Lake.

Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 285
the same skilful inscrutability of story till the artist is pleased to touch the spring which lays the whole machine open; but while the plot is thus well wound up in the new poem, I think the narrative is more uniformly perspicuous than in the two former. There is in all, the like originality and beauty of circumstances. I am not willing to admit that some of the situations in the
Lay and Marmion can be outdone, and if I thought they were outdone last night, and still incline to think so, it is probably because new impressions are more vivid than the strongest recollection.

“I wished most of the songs away on the first perusal; on recurring to them, I was glad they were there; yet, wherever they interrupt the narrative, without in any way tending to carry on the business of the story, my admiration of the things themselves does not prevent me from thinking them misplaced. Your title is likely to be a popular one; and for that very reason, I wish it had not been chosen. Of course it led me to expect some tale of Merlin or King Arthur’s days; but what is of real consequence to one who loves old lays is, that whenever hereafter the Lady of the Lake will be mentioned, most readers will suppose your Ellen is intended; and in this way a sort of offence against antiquity has been committed. This is something in the manner of Momus’s criticism, to find fault with the trinkets of the Lady and with her name. But I heartily give you joy of the poem, and congratulate you with perfect confidence upon the success which you have a right to expect, which you deserve, and which you will find. The
portrait seems more like the more I look at it; and my friend Camp is now doubly immortalised. This reminds me of the dog in the poem,—an incident so fine that it bears as well as courts comparison with one of the most affecting passages in

Longman was instructed to send you my Brazil. I hope to get a long spell at the concluding volume before it is necessary to fall seriously to work upon the second Register. What you will think of Kehama I am not quite sure,—of what the public will think, I can have, and never have had, the slightest doubt. No subject could have been devised more remote from human sympathies; and there are so few persons who are capable of standing aloof from them, that the subject must be admitted to have been imprudently chosen, if in choosing it I had had any other motive than that of pleasing myself and some half a dozen others. If it had been my intention to provoke censure, I could not have done it more effectually; for without intending any innovation, or being at first sensible of any, I have fallen into a style of versification as unusual as the ground-work of the story; with this, however, I am well satisfied. I have written the first canto of Pelayo in blank verse, and without machinery. This promises to be a striking poem, and, if it were ready now, might perhaps, in some degree, be a useful one.

“The metre of the Lady is to me less agreeable than the more varied measure. There is an advantage in writing in a metre to which one has been little accustomed; it necessarily induces a certain change of style, and thus enables the writer to clothe his old
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 287
conceptions in so different a garb, that they appear new even to himself. The alteration which you have made is not sufficiently great to obtain this advantage,—and there is a loss of variety, from which I should have predicted a loss of freedom and a loss of power. This, however, is amply confuted by the poem, which certainly is never deficient either in force or freedom.

“I shall return home in the course of a fortnight; a short interval of idleness makes me feel impatient to get once more to my books and my desk. Pray remember me to Mrs. Scott, and believe me,

Very affectionately yours,
Robert Southey.”