LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to John May, 14 December 1798

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
“Westbury, Dec. 14. 1798.
“My dear Friend,

“We are enduring something like a Kamtschatkan winter here. I am obliged to take my daily walk, and, though I go wrapped up in my great coat, almost like a dancing bear in hirsute appearance, still the wind pierces me. We are very deficient in having no winter dress for such weather as this. I am busy upon the Grecian history, or, rather, it is the employment of all my leisure. The escape of my Pythoness* was in the early ages, and they, I believe,

* My father had been urged by several friends to try his hand at dramatic composition; and this refers to one of the subjects on which he had purposed to write a play.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 351
will suit me best. I must have the Pythian games celebrated; for the story, I have only invention to trust to. The costume of Greece will be new to the English drama, owing to the defects of our theatres; but I had rather get to some country and some people less known. Among the many thoughts that have passed over my mind upon this subject, I have had the idea of grounding stories, upon the oppression exercised at different periods of time upon particular classes of people; the Helots, for instance, the Albigenses, or the Jews. The idea of a tragedy upon one of the early martyrs has for some years been among my crude plans; but it would not suit the stage, because it would not suit the times. There is something more noble in such a character than I can conceive in any other; firm to the defiance of death in avowing the truth, and patient under all oppression, without enthusiasm, supported by the calm conviction that this is his duty. Among the Helots, something may be made of the infernal Crypteia; but I am afraid to meddle with a Spartan; there is neither feeling, thinking nor speaking like one who has been educated according to the laws of
Lycurgus; knowledge of human nature is not knowledge of Lacedæmonian nature. The state of slavery among our own countrymen at an early period is better; the grievances of wardship, and the situation of a fief or villain. Dramatists and novelists have ransacked early history, and we have as many crusaders on the stage, and in the circulating library, as ever sailed to Palestine: but they only pay attention
to the chronology, and not to the manners or mind of the period. . . . .

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”