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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 3 February 1815

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, Feb. 3. 1815.

“In one of the first books which I published a crazy compositor took it into his head to correct the proofs after me; and this he did so assiduously, that it cost me no fewer than sixteen cancels to get rid of the most intolerable of his blunders. One of his principles was, that in printing verse, wherever the lines were so indented that two in succession did not begin in the same perpendicular, there was to be a full stop at the end of the former; and upon this principle he punctuated my verses. I discovered it at last in the printing-office, upon inquiring how it happened that the very faults for which a leaf was cancelled appeared most perseveringly in the reprint. The man then came forward, quite in a fit of madness, told me I should have made a pretty book of it if he had not corrected it for me, and it was as much as the master of the office could do to pacify him.

“You have, I think, at Tours, the grave of Ronsard, who would have been a great poet if he had not been a Frenchman. I have read his works in those odds and ends of time which can be afforded to such reading, and have so much respect for him, Frenchman as he was, that I shall not visit Tours without inquiring for his grave. Never did man more boldly promise immortality to himself,—never did man more ardently aspire after it; and no Frenchman has ever impressed me with an equal sense of power; but poetry of the higher order is as impossible in that
Ætat. 40. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 101
language as it is in Chinese. And this reminds me of a certain
M. le Mierre, interprète, traducteur, &c., who has written to tell me that many of my compatriotes, distingués par leur goût et leurs connoissances, have spoken to him with great eulogies of my poem of Roderick; whereupon he, not having seen the poem, has resolved to translate it, and found a bookseller who will undertake to print the translation. I wrote him, as courtesy required, a civil reply, but expressed my doubts whether such a poem would accord with the tastes of a French public, and recommended him, if he should persist in his intention when he had read the work, to render it in prose rather than in verse.

“I have begun my Quaker poem, and written the first book in irregular rhyme,—a measure which allows of a lower key than any structure of rhymeless verse, and may be laid aside, when the passion requires it, for dialogue. The principal character is rather a Seeker (in the language of that day) than a Quaker, a son of Goffe, the King’s Judge, a godson of Cromwell, a friend of Milton, a companion of William Penn. The plan is sufficiently made out; but I have no longer that ardour of execution which I possessed twenty years ago. I have the disheartening conviction that my best is done, and that to add to the bulk of my works will not be to add to their estimation. Doubtless I shall go on with the poem, and complete it if I live; but it will be to please others, not myself; and will be so long in progress, that in all likelihood I shall never begin another. You see I am not without those autumnal feelings
which your stanza expresses, and yet the decline of life has delights of its own—its autumnal odours and its sunset hues. My disposition is invincibly cheerful, and this alone would make me a happy man, if I were not so from the tenour of my life; yet I doubt whether the strictest Carthusian has the thought of death more habitually in his mind.

“I hope to see you in the autumn, and will, if it be possible. God bless you!

R. S.”