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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Chauncy Hare Townshend, 12 April 1818

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, April 12. 1818.
“My dear Chauncey.

“I have just finished Henry Milman’s poem, a work of great power. But the story is ill constructed, and the style has a vice analogous to that which prevailed in prose about 170 years ago, when every composition was overlaid with strained thoughts and far-fetched allusions. The faults here are a perpetual stretch and strain of feeling; and the too frequent presence of the narrator, bringing his own fancies and meditations in the foreground, and thereby—as in French landscape engraving—calling off attention from the main subject, and destroying the effect. With less poetry Samor would have been a better poem. Milman has been endeavouring to adapt the moody and thoughtful character of Wordsworth’s philosophical poetry to heroic narra-
tion: they are altogether incompatible; and Wordsworth himself, when he comes to narrate in his higher strains, throws it aside like a wrestler’s garment, and is as severe a writer as
Dante, who is the great master in this style. If Milman can perceive or be persuaded of his fault, he has powers enough for any thing; but it is a seductive manner, and I think that as our poetry in Cowley’s days was overrun with conceits of thought, it is likely in the next generation to be overflown with this exuberance of feeling.

“This is a great error. That poetry (I am speaking of heroic narrative) which would reach the heart, must go straight to the mark like an arrow. Away with all trickery and ornaments when pure beauty is to be represented in picture or in marble; away with drapery when you would display muscular strength. Call artifices of this kind to your aid in those feebler parts which must occur in every narrative, and which ought to be there to give the other parts their proper relief.

Henry Milman was here, with an elder brother, about four years ago, who lodged at Keswick for some twelve months. He is a fine young man: and his powers are very great. They are, however, better fitted for the drama than for narration; the drama admits his favourite strain of composition, and is easier in its structure. Indeed, it is as much easier to plan a play than a poem of such magnitude as Samor, as it is to build a gentleman’s house than a cathedral.

“Do you know anything of Sir George Dallas? He has sent me some marvellous verses by a son of
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 303
his not yet thirteen; as great a prodigy as I have ever read of. Verse appears as easy to him as speech; Latin verse is at his fingers’ end like English; and he has acted a part in a play of his own composition like another
young Roscius. . . . .

“I am busy with history myself, and have written no poetry for many months; why this disuse, there is here hardly room to explain, if it were worth explanation. The account of Lope de Vega in the last Quarterly is mine, as you would probably guess. I have read widely in Spanish poetry; and might in historical and literary recollections call myself half a Spaniard, if, being half a Portuguese also, this would leave any room for the English part of my intellectual being. I anticipate much pleasure in showing you the treasures with which I am surrounded here upon these shelves. God bless you!

R. S.”