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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to John May, 22 January 1799

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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“Jan. 22. 1799.
“My dear Friend,

“Since my last my dramatic ideas have been fermenting, and have now, perhaps, settled—at least, among my various thoughts and outlines there is one which pleases me, and with which Wynn seems well satisfied. I am not willing to labour in vain, and before I begin I would consult well with him and you, the only friends who know my intention. The time chosen is the latter part of Queen Mary’s reign: the characters,—Sir Walter, a young convert to the Reformation; Gilbert, the man who has converted him; Stephen, the cousin of Sir Walter, and his heir in default of issue, a bigoted Catholic; Mary, the betrothed of Walter, an amiable Catholic; and her Confessor, a pious excellent man. Gilbert is burnt, and Walter, by his own enthusiasm, and the bigotry and interested hopes of his cousin, condemned, but saved by the Queen’s death. The story thus divides itself:—1. To the discovery of Walter’s principles to Mary and the Confessor. 2. The danger he runs by his attentions to the accused Gilbert. 3. Gilbert’s death. 4. Walter’s arrest. 5. The death of the Queen. In Mary and her Confessor I design Catholics of the most enlarged minds, sincere but tolerating, and earnest to save Walter, even to hastening his marriage, that the union with a woman of such known sentiments might divert suspicion. Gilbert is a sincere but bigoted man, one of the old reformers, ready to suffer death for his opinions, or
to inflict it. Stephen, so violent in his hate of heresy as half to be ignorant of his own interested motives in seeking Walter’s death. But it is from delineating the progress of Walter’s mind that I expect success. At first he is restless and unhappy, dreading the sacrifices which his principles require; the danger of his friend and his death excite an increasing enthusiasm; the kindness of the priest, and Mary’s love, overcome him; he consents to temporise, and is arrested; then he settles into the suffering and steady courage of a Christian. To this I feel equal, and long to be about it. I expect a good effect from the evening hymn to be sung by Mary, and from the death of Gilbert. From the great window, Mary and the Confessor see the procession to the stake, and hear the Te Deum; they turn away when the fire is kindled, and kneel together to pray for his soul; the light of the fire appears through the window, and Walter Is described as performing the last office of kindness to his martyred friend. You will perceive that such a story can excite only good feelings; its main tendency will be to occasion charity towards each other’s opinions. The story has the advantage of novelty; the only martyrdom-plays I know are mixed with much nonsense—the best is Corneille’s ‘
Polyeucte;’ in English we have two bad ones from Massinger and Dryden. When I see you I will tell you more; the little thoughts for minute parts, which are almost too minute to relate formally in a letter.

“I come to town the week after next again: the thought of the journey is more tolerable, as I expect relief from the exercise, for very great exercise is
necessary. I do not, and will not, neglect my health, though it requires a very inconvenient attention. My medical guide tells me that, with my habits, the disorder must be flung off now, or it will adhere to me through life. God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”