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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 5 September 1813

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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“Streatham, Sunday, Sept. 5. 1813.
“My dear Edith,

One of the letters which you forwarded was from James Ballantyne; my business in that quarter seems likely to terminate rather better than might have been expected. I wish you had opened the other, which was from Scott. It will be easier to transcribe it than to give its contents; and it does him so much honour that you ought to see it without delay.—‘My dear Southey,—On my return home I found, to my no small surprise, a letter tendering me the laurel vacant by the death of the poetical Pye. I have declined the appointment as being incompetent to the task of annual commemoration; but chiefly as being provided for in my professional department, and unwilling to incur the censure of en-
grossing the emolument* attached to one of the few appointments which seems proper to be filled by a man of literature who has no other views in life. Will you forgive me, my dear friend, if I own I had you in my recollection? I have given
Croker the hint, and otherwise endeavoured to throw the office into your choice (this is not Scott’s word, but I cannot decypher the right one). I am uncertain if you will like it, for the laurel has certainly been tarnished by some of its wearers, and, as at present managed, its duties are inconvenient and somewhat liable to ridicule. But the latter matter might be amended, and I should think the Regent’s good sense would lead him to lay aside these biennial commemorations; and as to the former point, it has been worn by Dryden of old, and by Warton in modern days. If you quote my own refusal against me, I reply, 1st, I have been luckier than you in holding two offices not usually conjoined. 2dly, I did not refuse it from any foolish prejudice against the situation, otherwise how durst I mention it to you my elder brother in the muse? but from a sort of internal hope that they would give it to you, upon whom it would be so much more worthily conferred. For I am not such an ass as not to know that you are my better in poetry, though I have had (probably but for a time) the tide of popularity in my favour. I have not time to add ten thousand other reasons, but I only wished to tell you how the matter was, and to beg you to think before

* Sir Walter Scott seems to have been under the impression that the emoluments of the Laureateship amounted to 300l. or 400l. a year,—See Life of Scott, vol. iv. p. 118.

you reject the offer which I flatter myself will be made you. If I had not been, like Dogberry, a fellow with two gowns already, I should have jumped at it like a cock at a gooseberry. Ever yours most truly, W. S.’

“I thought this was so likely to happen, that I had turned the thing over in my mind in expectation. So as soon as this letter reached me, I wrote a note to Croker to this effect,—that I would not write odes as boys write exercises, at stated times and upon stated subjects; but that if it were understood that upon great public events I might either write or be silent as the spirit moved, I should now accept the office as an honourable distinction, which under those circumstances it would become. To-morrow I shall see him. The salary is but a nominal 120l.; and, as you see, I shall either reject it, or make the title honourable by accepting it upon my own terms. The latter is the most probable result. . . . .

“No doubt I shall be the better on my return for this course of full exercise and full feeding, which follows in natural order. By good fortune this is the oyster season, and when in town I devour about a dozen in the middle of the day; so that in the history of my life this year ought to be designated as the year of the oysters, inasmuch as I shall have feasted on them more than in any other year of my life. I shall work off the old flesh from my bones, and lay on a new layer in its place,—a sort of renovation which makes meat better, and therefore will not make me the worse. Harry complains of me as a
general disturber of all families. I am up first In the house here and at his quarters; and the other morning when I walked from hence to breakfast with
Grosvenor, I arrived before anybody except the servants were up. This is as it should be. . . . .

“God bless you!

R. S.”