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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to John Rickman, 9 January 1800

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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“Bristol, Jan. 9. 1800.

“The subject of your letter is important. I had considered it cursorily, for my mind has been more occupied by the possible establishment of a different

* J. R. to R. S., Jan. 4. J800.

state of society, than by plans for improving the present. To my undertaking the work you propose, I wish there were no obstacles, but a very important one exists in the nature of my own powers. The compositions in which I have indulged have encouraged rapidity of feeling, a sudden combination of ideas, but they have been unfavourable to regular deduction and methodical arrangement. Another objection arises from my present plans. . . . . However, I am impressed by your letter, and should much like to talk with you upon the subject, and map out the country before us. Have you not leisure for a visit to Bristol? . . .

“Poetry does not wholly engross my attention; the history of Spanish and Portuguese literature is a subject on which I design to bestow much labour, and in which much useful matter may be conveyed. But poetry is my province, and at present no unimportant one; it makes its way where weighter books would not penetrate, and becomes a good mental manure.

“I shall be selfishly sorry if you leave Christchurch: the prospect of haying you my neighbour, considerably influenced me in taking the Burton House. However, if I recover my health, London must be my place of residence; and you probably will be drawn into that great vortex,—a place which you and I see with widely different eyes. Much as I enjoy society, rather than purchase it by residing in that huge denaturalised city, I would prefer dwelling on Poole Heath. Bristol allows of country enjoyments and magnificent scenery, and an open sky view,
for in London you neither see earthy air, or water, undisguised. We have men of talent here also, but they are not gregarious, at least not regularly so as in Norwich and London. I mingle among them, and am in habits of intimacy with
Davy, by far the first in intellect: with him you would be much pleased. . . . . Certainly this place has in my memory greatly advanced; ten years ago, Bristol man was synonymous with Bœotian in Greece, and now we are before any of the provincial towns.

The Corsican has offended me, and even his turning out the Mamelukes will not atone for his rascally constitution. The French are children, with the physical force of men; unworthy, and therefore incapable, of freedom. Once I had hopes; the Jacobins might have done much, but the base of morality was wanting, and where could the corner-stone be laid? They have retarded our progress for a century to come. Literature is suspected and discouraged; Methodism, and the Catholic system of persecution and slavery, gaining ground. Our only hope is from more expeditions, and the duke commander; new disgrace and new taxes may bring the nation to their senses, as bleeding will tame a madman Still, however, the English are the first people, the only men. Buonaparte has made me Anti-Gallican; and I remember Alfred, and the two Bacons, and Hartley, and Milton, and Shakespeare, with more patriotic pride than ever.

“The Beguines I had looked upon as a religious establishment, and the only good one of its kind. When my brother was a prisoner at Brest, the sick
and wounded were attended by nuns, and these women had made themselves greatly beloved and respected. I think they had been regularly professed, and were not of the lay order. I think I see the whole importance of your speculation.
Mary Wollstonecroft was but beginning to reason when she died; her volume is mere feeling, and its only possible effect to awaken a few female minds more excitable than the common run. The one you propose, would go on different grounds and enter into detail: the more nay mind dwells upon it, the stronger interest it takes; I could work under your directions, and would work willingly at least, if not well. Come, I pray you, to Bristol; talk over the plan, and map it out, and methodise my rambling intellect. I will submit to any drilling that shall discipline it to good purpose. . . . .

Yours with respect and esteem,
Robert Southey.”