Part 4 out of 9
but it may not be inappropriate to offer a few preliminary remarks:--
The following letters will exhibit the genuine character of Mr. Southey
through the whole of his literary life. In the earlier periods, a playful
hilarity will be found; but this buoyancy of spirit, when prevailing to
excess, (in the constitutionally cheerful, such as was Mr. S.) is
generally modified, if not subdued, by the sobering occurrences of after
life. Letters, like the present, possess some peculiar advantages.
Whenever, as in this instance, epistles are written through a series of
years, to one person, the writer's mind is presented, under different
aspects, while the identity is preserved. This benefit is greatly
diminished, when, in a promiscuous correspondence, letters are addressed
to a diversity of persons; often of different habits, and pursuits, where
the writer must be compelled, occasionally, to moderate his expressions;
to submit in some measure to mental restraint, by the necessity he is
under to curb the flow of his spontaneous feeling. Besides this freedom
from comparative bondage, one other advantage is derived from these
continuous, and unconstrained letters to a single friend. A writer, in
all his letters, from addressing one, for the most part, of congenial
sympathies, expresses himself with less reserve; with more of the
interior poured out; and consequently he maintains a freedom from that
formality of essay-like sentences, which often resemble beautiful
statues, fair, but cold and wanting life.
When, during the Revolutionary war, disgusted with the excesses of the
Trench, Mr. Southey saw it right, from a Foxite, to become a Pittite,
some who did not know him, ascribed his change of sentiment to unworthy
motives; of this number was my esteemed friend the late Rev. John Foster,
who whilst freely admitting Mr. Southey's great attainments and
distinguished genius, regarded his mind as injuriously biassed. He
thought Mm a betrayer of his political friends. No countervailing effect
was produced by affirming his uprightness, and the temperance with which
he still spake of those from whom he was compelled to differ. He was told
that Mr. Southey was no blind political partisan, but an honest
vindicator of what, in his conscience, he believed to be right--that no
earthly consideration could have tempted him to swerve from the plain
paths of truth and justice. An appeal was made to his writings, which
manifested great moderation: and as it respected the Church, the London,
and the Baptist Missionary Societies, it might be said, that he
courageously stood forth to vindicate them in the Quarterly, at a
critical time, when those Societies had been assailed by Sydney Smith, in
the Edinburgh Review. All proved unavailing. At length I submitted to Mr.
Foster's inspection, Mr. Southey's correspondence for more than forty
years, where, in the disclosure of the heart's deepest recesses, the
undisguised character distinctly appears. He read, he admired, he
recanted. In a letter to myself on returning the MS. he thus wrote: "The
letters exhibit Southey as a man of sterling worth,--of sound
principles;--faithfulness to old friendship, generosity, and, I trust I
may say, genuine religion." And Mr. F. ever after expressed the same
sentiments to his friends. It is confidently hoped that similar instances
of unfavourable prepossession, may be corrected by the same means.
In his "Friend" Mr. Coleridge thus refers to his early schemes of
"Truth I pursued, as fancy led the way
And wiser men than I went worse astray."
"From my earliest manhood I perceived that if the people at large
were neither ignorant nor immoral, there could be no motive for a
sudden and violent change of Government; and if they were, there
could be no hope but a change for the worse. My feelings and
imagination did not remain unkindled in this general conflagration
(the French Revolution) and I confess I should be more inclined to be
ashamed than proud of myself if they had. I was a sharer in the
general vortex, though my little world described the path of its
revolution in an orbit of its own. What I dared not expect from
constitutions of Government and whole nations, I hoped from religion,
and a small company of chosen individuals, formed a plan, as harmless
as it was extravagant, of trying the experiment of human
perfectibility on the banks of the Susquehannah; where our little
society, in its second generation, was to have combined the innocence
of the patriarchal age with the knowledge and genuine refinements of
European culture; and where I dreamt that in the sober evening of my
life, I should behold the cottages of Independence in the undivided
dale of liberty,
'And oft, soothed sadly by the dirgeful wind
Muse on the sore ills I had left behind.'
Strange fancies! and as vain as strange! Yet to the intense interest
and impassioned zeal, which called forth and strained every faculty
of my intellect for the organization and defence of this scheme, I
owe much of whatever I at present possess,--my clearest insight into
the nature of individual man, and my most comprehensive views of his
social relations, of the true uses of trade and commerce, and how far
the wealth and relative power of nations promote or impede their
The following is Mr. Coleridge's estimate of Mr. Southey.
"Southey stands second to no man, either as an historian or as a
bibliographer; and when I regard him as a popular essayist, I look in
vain for any writer who has conveyed so much information, from so
many and such recondite sources, with so many just and original
reflections, in a style so lively and poignant, yet so uniformly
classical and perspicuous; no one, in short, who has combined so much
wisdom, with so much wit; so much truth and knowledge, with so much
life and fancy. His prose is always intelligible, and always
entertaining. It is Southey's almost unexampled felicity, to possess
the best gifts of talent and genius, free from all their
characteristic defects. As son, brother, husband, father, master,
friend, he moves with firm, yet light steps, alike unostentatious,
and alike exemplary. As a writer he has uniformly made his talents
subservient to the best interests of humanity, of public virtue, and
domestic piety; his cause has ever been the cause of pure religion,
and of liberty, of national independence, and of national
The reader has several times heard of Pantisocracy; a scheme perfectly
harmless in itself, though obnoxious to insuperable objections. The
ingenious devisers of this state of society, gradually withdrew from it
their confidence; not in the first instance without a struggle; but cool
reflection presented so many obstacles, that the plan, of itself, as the
understanding expanded, gradually dissolved into "thin air." A friend had
suggested the expediency of first trying the plan in Wales, but even this
less exceptionable theatre of experiment was soon abandoned, and sound
sense obtained its rightful empire.
It was mentioned in a former part, that Mr. Southey was the first to
abandon the scheme of American colonization; and that, in confirmation,
towards the conclusion of 1795, he accompanied his uncle, the Rev.
Herbert Hill, Chaplain to the English factory at Lisbon, through some
parts of Spain and Portugal; of which occurrence, Mr. S.'s entertaining
"Letters" from those countries are the result; bearing testimony to his
rapid accumulation of facts, and the accuracy of his observations on
persons and things.
The very morning on which Mr. Southey was married to Miss Edith
Fricker, he left his wife in the family of kind friends, and set off
with his Uncle, to pass through Spain to Lisbon. But this procedure marks
the delicacy and the noble character of his mind; as will appear from the
following letter, received from him, just before he embarked.
My dear friend,
I have learnt from Lovell the news from Bristol, public and private, and
both of an interesting nature. My marriage is become public. You know
that its publicity can give me no concern. I have done my duty. Perhaps
you may think my motives for marrying (at that time) not sufficiently
strong. One, and that to me of great weight, I believe was not mentioned
to you. There might have arisen feelings of an unpleasant nature, at the
idea of receiving support from one not legally a husband; and (do not
show this to Edith) should I perish by shipwreck, or any other casualty,
I have relations whose prejudices would then yield to the anguish of
affection, and who would then love and cherish, and yield all possible
consolation to my widow. Of such an evil there is but a possibility, but
against possibility it was my duty to guard.
Mr. Southey having sent me two letters from the Peninsula, they are here
presented to the reader.
"Corunna, Dec. 15th, 1795.
Indeed my dear friend, it is strange that you are reading a letter from
me now, and not an account of our shipwreck. We left Falmouth on Tuesday
mid-day; the wind was fair till the next night, so fair that we were
within twelve hours' sail of Corunna; it then turned round, blew a
tempest, and continued so till the middle of Saturday. Our dead lights
were up fifty hours, and I was in momentary expectation of death. You
know what a situation this is. I forgot my sickness, and though I thought
much of the next world, thought more of those at Bristol, who would daily
expect letters; daily be disappointed, and at last learn from the
newspapers, that the Lauzarotte had never been heard of.
Of all things it is most difficult to understand the optimism of this
difference of language; the very beasts of the country do not understand
English. Say "poor fellow" to a dog, and he will probably bite you; the
cat will come if you call her "Meeth-tha," but "puss" is an outlandish
phrase she has not been accustomed to; last night I went to supper to the
fleas, and an excellent supper they made; and the cats serenaded me with
their execrable Spanish: to lie all night in _Bowling-Green Lane_,
would be to enjoy the luxury of soft and smooth lying.
At sight of land a general shaving took place; no subject could be better
for Bunbury than a Packet cabin taken at such a moment. For me, I am as
yet whiskered, for I would not venture to shave on board, and have had no
razor on shore till this evening. Custom-house officers are more
troublesome here than in England, I have however got everything at last;
you may form some idea of the weather we endured; thirty fowls over our
head were drowned; the ducks got loose, and ran with a party of half
naked Dutchmen into our cabin: 'twas a precious place, eight men lying on
a shelf much like a coffin. Mr. Wahrendoff, a Swede, was the whole time
with the bason close under his nose.
The bookseller's shop was a great comfort; the Consul here has paid me
particular attentions, and I am to pass to-morrow morning with him, when
he will give me some directions concerning Spanish literature. He knows
the chief literary men in England, and did know Brissot and Petion. Of
the dramatic poet whom Coates's friend Zimbernatt mentioned as rivalling
Shakspeare, I hear nothing; that young Spaniard seems to exaggerate or
rather to represent things like a warm-hearted young man, who believes
what he wishes. The father-in-law of Tallien is a banker, what you call a
clever fellow; another word, says the most sensible man here, for a
cheat; the court and the clergy mutually support each other, and their
combined despotism is indeed dreadful, yet much is doing; Jardine is very
active; he has forwarded the establishment of schools in the Asturias
with his Spanish friends. Good night, they are going to supper. Oh, their
foul oils and wines!
Tuesday morning. I have heard of hearts as hard as rocks, and stones, and
adamants, but if ever I write upon a hard heart, my simile shall be, as
inflexible as a bed in a Spanish Posada; we had beef steaks for supper
last night, and a sad libel upon beef steaks they were. I wish you could
see our room; a bed in an open recess, one just moved from the other
corner. Raynsford packing his trunk; Maber shaving himself; tables and
chairs; looking-glass hung too high even for a Patagonian, the four
evangelists, &c. &c. the floor beyond all filth, most filthy.
I have been detained two hours since I began to write, at the custom
house. Mr. Cottle, if there be a custom house to pass through, to the
infernal regions, all beyond must be, comparatively, tolerable....
"Lisbon, February 1st, 1796.
'Certainly, I shall hear from Mr. Cottle, by the first packet' said I.
Now I say, 'probably I may hear by the next,' so does experience abate
the sanguine expectations of man. What, could you not write one letter?
and here am I writing not only to all my friends in Bristol, but to all
in England. Indeed I should have been vexed, but that the packet brought
a letter from Edith, and the pleasure that gave me, allowed no feeling of
vexation. What of 'Joan?' Mr. Coates tells me it gains upon the public,
but authors seldom hear the plain truth. I am anxious that it should
reach a second edition, that I may write a new preface, and enlarge the
last book. I shall omit all in the second book which Coleridge wrote.
Bristol deserves panegyric instead of satire. I know of no mercantile
place so literary. Here I am among the Philistines, spending my mornings
so pleasantly, as books, only books, can make them, and sitting at
evening the silent spectator of card playing and dancing. The English
here unite the spirit of commerce, with the frivolous amusements of high
life. One of them who plays every night (Sundays are not excepted here)
will tell you how closely he attends to profit. 'I never pay a porter for
bringing a burthen till the next day,' says he, 'for while the fellow
feels his back ache with the weight, he charges high; but when he comes
the next day the feeling is gone, and he asks only half the money.' And
the author of this philosophical scheme is worth L200,000!
This is a comfortless place, and the only pleasure I find in it, is in
looking on to my departure. Three years ago I might have found a friend,
Count Leopold Berchtold. This man (foster brother of the Emperor Joseph)
is one of those rare characters, who spend their lives in doing good. It
is his custom in every country he visits, to publish books in its
language, on some subject of practical utility; these he gave away. I
have now lying before me the two which he printed in Lisbon; the one is
an Essay on the means of preserving life, in the various dangers to which
men are daily exposed. The other an Essay on extending the limits of
benevolence, not only towards men, but towards animals. His age was about
twenty-five; his person and his manners the most polished. My uncle saw
more of him than any one, for he used his library; and this was the only
house he called at; he was only seen at dinner, the rest of the day was
constantly given to study. They who lived in the same house with him,
believed him to be the wandering Jew. He spoke all the European
languages, had written in all, and was master of the Arabic. From thence
he went to Cadiz, and thence to Barbary; no more is known of him.
We felt a smart earthquake the morning after our arrival here. These
shocks alarm the Portuguese dreadfully; and indeed it is the most
terrifying sensation you can conceive. One man jumped out of bed and ran
down to the stable, to ride off almost naked as he was. Another, more
considerately put out his candle, 'because I know,' said he 'the fire
does more harm than the earthquake.' The ruins of the great earthquake
are not yet removed entirely.
The city is a curious place; a straggling plan; built on the most uneven
ground, with heaps of ruins in the middle, and large open places. The
streets filthy beyond all English ideas of filth, for they throw
everything into the streets, and nothing is removed. Dead animals annoy
you at every corner; and such is the indolence and nastiness of the
Portuguese, that I verily believe they would let each other rot, in the
same manner, if the priests did not get something by burying them. Some
of the friars are vowed to wear their clothes without changing for a
year; and this is a comfort to them: you will not wonder, therefore, that
I always keep to the windward of these reverend perfumers.
The streets are very disagreeable in wet weather. If you walk under the
houses you are drenched by the waterspouts; if you attempt the middle,
there is a river; if you would go between both, there is the dunghill.
The rains here are very violent, and the streams in the streets, on a
declivity, so rapid as to throw down men; and sometimes to overset
carriages. A woman was drowned some years ago, in one of the most
frequented streets of Lisbon. But to walk home at night is the most
dangerous adventure, for then the chambermaids shower out the filth into
the streets with such profusion, that a Scotchman might fancy himself at
Edinburgh. You cannot conceive what a cold perspiration it puts me in, to
hear one dashed down just before me; as Thomson says, with a little
"Hear nightly dashed, amid the perilous street,
The fragrant stink pot."
This furnishes food for innumerable dogs, that belong to nobody, and
annoy everybody. If they did not devour it, the quantities would breed a
pestilence. In a moonlight night, we see dogs and rats feeding at the
Lisbon is plagued with a very small species of red ant, that swarm over
everything in the house. Their remedy for this is, to send for the
priest, and exorcise them. The drain from the new convent opens into the
middle of the street. An English pigsty is cleaner than the metropolis of
To-night I shall see the procession of 'Our Lord of the Passion.' This
image is a very celebrated one, and with great reason, for one night he
knocked at the door of St Roque's church, and there they would not admit
him. After this he walked to the other end of the town, to the church of
St. Grace, and there they took him in: but a dispute now arose between
the two churches, to which the image belonged; whether to the church
which he first chose, or the church that first chose him. The matter was
compromised. One church has him, and the other fetches him for their
processions, and he sleeps with the latter the night preceding. The
better mode for deciding it, had been to place the gentleman between
both, and let him walk to which he liked best. What think you of this
story being believed in 1796!!!
The power of the Inquisition still exists, though they never exercise it,
and thus the Jews save their bacon. Fifty years ago it was the greatest
delight of the Portuguese to see a Jew burnt. Geddes, the then chaplain,
was present at one of these detestable Auto da Fe's. He says, 'the
transports expressed by all ages, and all sexes, whilst the miserable
sufferers were shrieking and begging mercy for God's sake, formed a scene
more horrible than any out of hell!' He adds, that 'this barbarity is not
their national character, for no people sympathize so much at the
execution of a criminal; but it is the damnable nature of their religion,
and the most diabolical spirit of their priests; their celibacy deprives
them of the affections of men, and their creed gives them the ferocity of
devils.' Geddes saw one man gagged, because, immediately he came out of
the Inquisition gates, he looked up at the sun, whose light for many
years had never visited him, and exclaimed, 'How is it possible for men
who behold that glorious orb, to worship any being but him who created
it!' My blood runs cold when I pass that accursed building; and though
they do not exercise their power, it is a reproach to human nature that
the building should exist.
It is as warm here as in May with you; of course we broil in that month
at Lisbon; but I shall escape the hot weather here, as I did the cold
weather of England, and quit this place the latter end of April. You will
of course see me the third day after my landing at Falmouth, or, if I can
get companions in a post-chaise, sooner. This my resolution is like the
law of the Medes and Persians, that altereth not. Be so good as to
procure for me a set of Coleridge's 'Watchman,' with his Lectures and
Poems. I want to write a tragedy here, but can find no leisure to begin
Portugal is much plagued with robbers, and they generally strip a man,
and leave him to walk home in his birth-day suit. An Englishman was
served thus at Almeyda, and the Lisbon magistrates, on his complaint,
took up the whole village, and imprisoned them all. Contemplate this
people in what light you will, you can never see them in a good one. They
suffered their best epic poet to perish for want: and they burned to
death their best dramatic writer, because he was a Jew.
Pombal, whose heart was bad, though he made a good minister, reduced the
church during his administration. He suffered no persons to enter the
convents, and, as the old monks and nuns died, threw two convents into
one, and sold the other estates. By this means, he would have annihilated
the whole generation of vermin; but the king died, and the queen, whose
religion has driven her mad, undid, through the influence of the priests,
all that Pombal had done. He escaped with his life, but lived to see his
bust destroyed, and all his plans for the improvement of Portugal
reversed. He had the interest of his country at heart, and the
punishment, added to the regret of having committed so many crimes to
secure his power, must almost have been enough for this execrable
The climate here is delightful, and the air so clear, that when the moon
is young, I can often distinguish the whole circle, thus; O. You and
Robert may look for this some fine night, but I do not remember ever to
have observed it in England. The stars appear more brilliant here, but I
often look up at the Pleiades, and remember how much happier I was when I
saw them in Bristol. Fare you well. Let me know that my friends remember
After the complete reconciliation had taken place with Mr. Coleridge, Mr.
Southey in the autumn of 1796, settled in London, and purposed to study
the law. From London he sent me the following letter.
"London, Nov. 1796.
My dear friend,
I am now entering on a new way of life which will lead me to
independence. You know that I neither lightly undertake any scheme, nor
lightly abandon what I have undertaken. I am happy because I have no
want, and because the independence I labour to attain, and of attaining
which, my expectations can hardly be disappointed, will leave me nothing
to wish. I am indebted to you, Cottle, for the comforts of my later time.
In my present situation I feel a pleasure in saying thus much.
Thank God! Edith comes on Monday next. I say Thank God, for I have never
since my return from Portugal, been absent from her so long before, and
sincerely hope and intend never to be so again. On Tuesday we shall be
settled, and on Wednesday my legal studies begin in the morning, and I
shall begin with 'Madoc' in the evening. Of this it is needless to
caution you to say nothing; as I must have the character of a lawyer; and
though I can and will unite the two pursuits, no one would credit the
possibility of the union. In two years the Poem shall be finished, and
the many years it must lie by will afford ample time for correction.
I have declined being a member of a Literary Club, which meet at the
Chapter Coffee House, and of which I had been elected a member. Surely a
man does not do his duty who leaves his wife to evenings of solitude; and
I feel duty and happiness to be inseparable. I am happier at home than
any other society can possibly make me. With Edith I am alike secure from
the wearisomeness of solitude, and the disgust which I cannot help
feeling at the contemplation of mankind, and which I do not wish to
Here is a great deal about myself, and nothing about those whom I have
seen in London, and of whom we have all heard in the country. I will make
a report upon them in my next letter. God bless you.
Letter from Robert Southey, to Amos Cottle, Magdalen College, Cambridge.
"London, Feb. 28, 1797.
20, Prospect Place, Newington Butts.
... Here I am travelling on in the labyrinth of the law; and though I had
rather make books myself than read the best lawyer's composition, I am
getting on cheerfully, and steadily, and well.
While you are amusing yourself with mathematics, and I lounging over the
law, the political and commercial world are all in alarm and confusion. I
cannot call myself a calm witness of all this, for I sit by the fireside,
hear little about it, think less, and see nothing; 'all hoping, and
expecting all in patient faith.' Tranquillity of mind is a blessing too
valuable to sacrifice for all the systems man has ever established. My
day of political enthusiasm is over. I know what is right, and as I see
that everything is wrong, care more about the changing of the wind, lest
it should make the chimney smoke, than for all the empires of Europe...."
My dear friend,
... I physiognomise everything, even the very oysters may be accurately
judged by their shells. I discovered this at Lisbon, where they are all
deformed, hump-backed, and good for nothing. Is it not possible by the
appearance of a river to tell what fish are in it? In the slow sluggish
stream you will find the heavy chub. In the livelier current, the trout
and the pike. If a man loves prints you have an excellent clue to his
character; take for instance, the inventory of mine at College:--Four
views of the ruins at Rome; Charles Fox; Belisarius; Niobe; and four
Landscapes of Poussin; and Claude Lorraine. These last are of constant
source of pleasure. I become acquainted with the inhabitants in every
house, and know every inch of ground in the prospect. They have formed
for me many a pleasant day-dream. I can methodise these into a little
poem. I am now settled; my books are organised; and this evening I set
off on my race.
We have a story of a ghost here, who appears to the watchman,--the spirit
of a poor girl, whose life was abandoned, and her death most horrible. I
am in hopes it may prove _true!_ as I have a great love for apparitions.
They make part of the poetical creed. Fare you well.
To Joseph Cottle.
"London, March 6, 1797.
... I am inclined to complain heavily of you, Cottle. Here am I
committing grand larceny on my time, in writing to you; and you, who
might sit at your fire, and write me huge letters, have not found time to
fill even half a sheet. As you may suppose, I have enough of employment.
I work like a negro at law, and therefore neglect nothing else, for he
who never wastes time has always time enough.
I have to see many of the London lions, or literati, George Dyer is to
take me to Mary Hayes, Miss Christal, and Taylor, the Pagan, my near
neighbour. You shall have my physiognomical remarks upon them. I hate
this city more and more, although I see little of it. You do not know
with what delight I anticipate a summer in Wales, and I hope to spend the
summer of the next year there, and to talk Welsh most gutturally. I shall
see Meirion this week, whose real name is William Owen. He is the author
of the new Welsh dictionary, a man of uncommon erudition, and who ought
to esteem me for Madoc's sake. Fare you well. Remember me to all friends.
God bless you.
"... Perhaps you will be surprised to hear, that of all the lions of
literati that I have seen here, there is not one whose countenance has
not some unpleasant trait. Mary Imlay is the best, infinitely the best.
The only fault in it, is an expression somewhat similar to what the
prints of Horne Tooke display; an expression indicating superiority, not
haughtiness, not conceit, not sarcasm, in Mary Imlay, but still it is
unpleasant. Her eyes are light brown, and though the lid of one of them
is affected by a slight paralysis, they are the most meaning I ever saw.
Her complexion is dark, sun-burnt, and her skin a little cracked, for she
is near forty, and affliction has borne harder on her than years; but her
manners are the most pleasing I ever witnessed, they display warm
feeling, and strong understanding; and the knowledge she has acquired of
men and manners, ornaments, not disguises, her own character. I have
given an unreserved opinion of Mrs. Barbauld to Charles Danvers.
While I was with George Dyer one morning last week, Mary Hayes and Miss
Christal entered, and the ceremony of introduction followed. Mary Hayes
writes in the New Monthly Magazine, under the signature of M. H., and
sometimes writes nonsense there about Helvetius. She has lately published
a novel, 'Emma Courtney,' a book much praised and much abused. I have not
seen it myself, but the severe censure passed on it by persons of narrow
mind, have made me curious, and convinced me that it is at least an
uncommon book. Mary Hayes is an agreeable woman and a Godwinite. Now if
you will read Godwin's book with attention, we will determine between us,
in what light to consider that sectarian title. As for Godwin himself, he
has large noble eyes, and a nose,--oh, most abominable nose! Language is
not vituperative enough to express the effect of its downward elongation.
He loves London, literary society, and talks nonsense about the collision
of mind, and Mary Hayes echoes him.
But Miss Christal, have you seen her Poems? A fine, artless, sensible
girl. Now, Cottle, that word sensible must not be construed here in its
dictionary acceptation. Ask a Frenchman what it means, and he will
understand it, though, perhaps, he can by no circumlocution explain its
French meaning. Her heart is alive. She loves poetry. She loves
retirement. She loves the country. Her verses are very incorrect, and the
literary circle say, she has no genius, but she has genius, Joseph
Cottle, or there is no truth in physiognomy. Gilbert Wakefield came in
while I was disputing with Mary Hayes upon the moral effects of towns. He
has a most critic-like voice, as if he had snarled himself hoarse. You
see I like the women better than the men. Indeed they are better animals
in general, perhaps because more is left to nature in their education.
Nature is very good, but God knows there is very little of it left.
I wish you were within a morning's walk, but I am always persecuted by
time and space. Robert Southey, and law, and poetry, make up an odd kind
of tri-union. We jog on easily together, and I advance with sufficient
rapidity in Blackstone, and 'Madoc.' I hope to finish my poem, and to
begin my practice in about two years.
God bless you.
"... I am running a race with the printers again: translating a work from
the French: 'Necker on the French Revolution,' vol. II. Dr. Aikin and his
son translate the 1st volume. My time is wholly engrossed by the race,
for I run at the rate of sixteen pages a day; as hard going as sixteen
miles for a hack horse. About sixteen days more will complete it.
There is no necessity for my residing in London till the close of the
autumn. Therefore after keeping the next term, which may be kept the
first week in May, I intend to go into the country for five months;
probably near the sea, at the distance of one day's journey from London,
for the convenience of coming up to keep the Trinity Term. This will not
increase my expenses, though it will give me all the pleasure of
existence which London annihilates. God bless you,
"My dear Cottle,
... George Dyer gave me what he calls his 'Crotchet,' and what I call an
indifferent poem. Said he to me, 'I could not bring in Wordsworth, and
Lloyd, and Lamb, but I put them in a note.' That man is all benevolence.
If, which is probable, we go to Hampshire, I shall expect to see you
there. It is an easy day's ride from Bristol to Southampton; but I shall
lay before you a correct map of the road when all is settled.
I have seen your Dr. Baynton's book. It is vilely written; but the
theory, seems good, (that of bandaging wounded legs) My friend Carlisle
means to try it at the Westminster Hospital. I was somewhat amused at
seeing a treatise on sore legs, printed on wove paper, and hot pressed.
I met Townsend, the Spanish traveller, a few days since at Carlisle's. He
flattered me most unpleasantly on 'Joan of Arc.' Townsend is much taller
than I am, and almost as thin. He invited me to Pewsey, and I shall
breakfast with him soon. He is engaged in a work of immense labour; the
origin of languages. I do not like him; he is too polite to be sincere.
The late George Dyer, referred to by Mr. Southey, was an University man
who exercised his talents chiefly in writing for the Periodicals. His
chief work was "The History of the Halls and Colleges of Cambridge." He
published also several small works. The Poem, referred to above, was
complimentary, in which he noticed most of his literary friends. The way
in which he "brought in" the author of the "Pleasures of Memory" was,
very properly putting wit before wealth,
"Was born a banker, and then rose a bard,"
George Dyer was sincere, and had great simplicity of manners, so that he
was a favourite with all his friends. No man in London encouraged so much
as he did, Bloomfield, the author of the "Farmer's Boy;" and he was
equally prepared with kind offices for every body. He had some odd
fancies, one of which was, that men ought to live more sparingly and
drink plenty of water-gruel. By carrying this wholesome precept on one
occasion, rather too far, he unhappily reduced himself to death's door.
Charles Lamb told me, that having once called on him, at his room in
Clifford's Inn, he found a little girl with him, (one of his nieces) whom
he was teaching to sing hymns.
Mr. Coleridge related to me a rather ludicrous circumstance concerning
George Dyer, which Charles Lamb had told him, the last time he passed
through London. Charles Lamb had heard that George Dyer was very ill, and
hastened to see him. He found him in an emaciated state, shivering over a
few embers. "Ah!" said George, as Lamb entered, "I am glad to see you.
You wont have me here long. I have just written this letter to my young
nephews and nieces, to come immediately and take a final leave of their
uncle." Lamb found, on inquiry, that he had latterly been living on
water-gruel, and a low starving diet, and readily divined the cause of
his maladies. "Come," said Lamb, "I shall take you home immediately to my
house, and I and my sister will nurse you." "Ah!" said George Dyer, "it
wont do." The hackney coach was soon at the door, and as the sick man
entered it, he said to Lamb, "Alter the address, and then send the letter
with all speed to the poor children." "I will," said Lamb, "and at the
same time call the doctor."
George Dyer was now seated by Charles Lamb's comfortable fire, while Lamb
hastened to his medical friend, and told him that a worthy man was at his
house who had almost starved himself on water-gruel. "You must come,"
said he, "directly, and prescribe some kitchen stuff, or the poor man
will be dead. He wont take any thing from me; he says, 'tis all useless."
Away both the philanthropists hastened, and Charles Lamb, anticipating
what would be required, furnished himself, on the road, with a pound of
beef steaks. The doctor now entered the room, and advancing towards his
patient, felt his pulse, and asked him a few questions; when, looking
grave, he said, "Sir, you are in a very dangerous way," "I know it Sir, I
know it Sir," said George Dyer. The Dr. replied, "Sir, yours is a very
peculiar case, and if you do not implicitly follow my directions, you
will die of atrophy before to-morrow morning. It is the only possible
chance of saving your life. You must directly make a good meal off
beef-steaks, and drink the best part of a pot of porter." "Tis too late,"
said George, but "I'll eat, I'll eat." The doctor now withdrew, and so
nicely had Lamb calculated on results, that the steaks were all this time
broiling on the fire! and, as though by magic, the doctor had scarcely
left the room, when the steaks and the porter were both on the table.
Just as George Dyer had begun voraciously to feast on the steaks, his
young nephews and nieces entered the room crying. "Good bye, my dears,"
said George, taking a deep draught of the porter. "You wont see me much
longer." After a few mouthfuls of the savoury steak, he further said, "be
good children, when I am gone." Taking another draught of the porter, he
continued, "mind your books, and don't forget your hymns." "We wont,"
answered a little shrill silvery voice, from among the group, "we wont,
dear Uncle." He now gave them all a parting kiss; when the children
retired in a state of wonderment, that "sick Uncle" should be able to eat
and drink so heartily. "And so," said Lamb, in his own peculiar
phraseology "at night, I packed up his little nipped carcass snug in bed,
and, after stuffing him for a week, sent him home as plump as a
"April, 26, 1797.
"... I have finished Necker this morning, and return again to my regular
train of occupation. Would that digging potatoes were amongst them! and
if I live a dozen years, you shall eat potatoes of my digging: but I must
think now of the present.
Some Mr. ---- sent me a volume of his poems, last week. I read his book:
it was not above mediocrity. He seems very fond of poetry and even to a
superstitious reverence of Thompson's 'old table,' and even of Miss
Seward, whose MS. he rescued from the printer. I called on him to thank
him, and was not sorry to find him not at home. But the next day a note
arrived with more praise. He wished my personal acquaintance, and 'trusts
I shall excuse the frankness which avows, that it would gratify his
feelings to receive a copy of 'Joan of Arc, from the author.' I thought
this, to speak tenderly, not a very modest request, but there is a
something in my nature which prevents me from silently displaying my
sentiments, if that display can give pain, and so I answered his note,
and sent him the book. He writes sonnets to Miss Seward, and Mr. Hayley;
enough to stamp him 'blockhead.'
Carlisle and I, instead of our neighbours' 'Revolutionary Tribunal,' mean
to erect a physiognomical one, and as transportation is to be the
punishment, instead of guillotining, we shall put the whole navy in
requisition to carry off all ill-looking fellows, and then we may walk
London streets without being jostled. You are to be one of the Jury, and
we must get some good limner to take down the evidence. Witnesses will be
needless. The features of a man's face will rise up in judgment against
him; and the very voice that pleads 'Not Guilty,' will be enough to
convict the raven-toned criminal.
I sapped last night with Ben. Flower, of Cambridge, at Mr. P.'s, and
never saw so much coarse strength in a countenance. He repeated to me an
epigram on the dollars which perhaps you may not have seen.
To make Spanish dollars with Englishmen pass,
Stamp the head of a fool, on the tail of an ass.
This has a coarse strength rather than a point. Danvers tells me that you
have written to Herbert Croft. Give me some account of your letter. Let
me hear from you, and tell me how you all are, and what is going on in
the little world of Bristol. God bless you.
"... We dine with Mary Wolstoncroft (now Godwin) to-morrow. Oh! he has a
foul nose! I never see it without longing to cut it off. By the by, Dr.
Hunter (the murderer of St. Pierre)  told me that I had exactly
Lavater's nose, to my no small satisfaction, for I did not know what to
make of that protuberance, or promontory of mine. I could not compliment
him. He has a very red drinking face: little good humoured eyes, with the
skin drawn up under them, like cunning and short-sightedness united. I
saw Dr. Hunter again yesterday. I neither like him, nor his wife, nor his
son, nor his daughter, nor any thing that is his. To night I am to meet
Opie. God bless you. Edith's love.
My dear Cottle,
... Opie indeed is a very extraordinary man. I have now twice seen him.
Without any thing of politeness, his manners are pleasing, though their
freedom is out of the common; and his conversation, though in a
half-uttered, half-Cornish, half-croak, is interesting. There is a
strange contrast between his genius, which is not confined to painting,
and the vulgarity of his appearance, --his manners, and sometimes of his
language. You will however easily conceive that a man who can paint like
Opie, must display the same taste on other subjects. He is very fond of
Spenser. No author furnishes so many pictures, he says. You may have seen
his 'Britomart delivering Amoret.' He has begun a picture from
Spenser,--which he himself thinks his best design, but it has remained
untouched for three years. The outline is wonderfully fine. It is the
delivery of Serena from the Salvages, by Calepine. You will find the
story in the 6th book of the 'Fairy Queen.' The subject has often struck
me as being fit for the painter.
I saw Dr. Gregory (Biographer of Chatterton) to-day; a very brown-looking
man, of most pinquescent, and full-moon cheeks. There is much tallow in
him. I like his wife, and perhaps him too, but his Christianity is of an
intolerant order, and he affects a solemnity when talking of it, which
savours of the high priest. When he comes before the physiognomical
tribunal, we must melt him down. He is too portly. God bless you....
"... I fancy you see no hand-writing so often as mine. I have been much
pleased with your letter to Herbert Croft. I was at Dr. Gregory's last
night. He has a nasal twang, right priestly in its note. He said he would
gladly abridge his life of Chatterton, if I required it. But it is a bad
work, and Coleridge should write a new one, or if he declines it, let it
devolve on me. They knew Miss Wesley, daughter of Charles Wesley,
with whom I once dined at your house. She told them, had he not
prematurely died, that she was going to be married to John Henderson. Is
I have a treasure for you. A 'Treatise on Miracles,' written by John
Henderson, your old tutor, for Coleridge's brother George, and given to
me by a pupil of his, John May, a Lisbon acquaintance, and a very
valuable one. John May is anxious for a full life of John Henderson. You
should get Agutter's papers. You ought also to commit to paper all you
know concerning him, and all you can collect, that the documents may
remain, if you decline it. If the opportunity pass, he will die without
I have lost myself in the bottomless profundity of Gilbert's papers.
Fire, and water, and cubes, and sybils, and Mother Church, &c. &c. Poor
fellow. I have been introduced to a man, not unlike him in his
ideas,--Taylor the Pagan, a most devout Heathen! who seems to have some
hopes of me. He is equally unintelligible, but his eye has not that
inexpressible wildness, which sometimes half-terrified us in Gilbert."
"Christ Church, June 14, 1797.
"... I am in a place I like: the awkwardness of introduction over, and
the acquaintance I have made here pleasant.... Your letter to Herbert
Croft has made him some enemies here. I wish much to see you on that
business. Bad as these times are for literature, a subscription might be
opened now with great success, for Mrs. Newton (Chatterton's sister) and
the whole statement of facts ought to be published in the prospectus.
Time gallops with me. I am at work now for the Monthly Magazine, upon
Spanish poetry. If we are unsuccessful here (in suiting ourselves with a
house) I purpose writing to Wordsworth, and asking him if we can get a
place in his neighbourhood. If not, down we go to Dorsetshire. Oh, for a
snug island in the farthest of all seas, surrounded by the highest of all
rocks, where I and some ten or twelve more might lead the happiest of all
possible lives, totally secluded from the worst of all possible monsters,
"Christ Church, June 18, 1797.
"... The main purport of my writing is to tell you that we have found a
house for the next half year. If I had a mind to affect the pastoral
style, I might call it a cottage; but, in plain English, it is exactly
what it expresses. We have got a sitting-room, and two bed-rooms, in a
house which you may call a cottage if you like it, and that one of these
bed-rooms is ready for you, and the sooner you take possession of it the
better. You must let me know when you come that I may meet you.
So you have had Kosciusco with you, (in Bristol) and bitterly do I regret
not having seen him. If he had remained one week longer in London, I
should have seen him; and to have seen Kosciusco would have been
something to talk of all the rest of one's life.
We have a congregation of rivers here, the clearest you ever saw: plenty
of private boats too. We went down to the harbour on Friday, in Mr.
Rickman's; a sensible young man, of rough, but mild manners, and very
seditious. He and I rowed, and Edith was pilot.
God bless you.
Mr. Rickman afterwards acquired some celebrity. He became private
secretary to the prime minister, Mr. Perceval, and afterwards for many
years, was one of the clerks of the House of Commons. He published also,
in 4to, a creditable Life of Telford, the great engineer, and officially
conducted the first census, (1800) a most laborious undertaking. The
second census, (1810) was conducted in a very efficient way, by Mr.
Thomas Poole, whose name often appears in this work, appointed through
the influence of Mr. Rickman.
"London, Dec. 14, 1797.
My dear Cottle,
I found your parcel on my return from a library belonging to the
Dissenters, (Dr. Williams's Library) in Redcross-street, from which, by
permission of Dr. Towers, I brought back books of great importance for my
'Maid of Orleans.' A hackney coach horse turned into a field of grass,
falls not more eagerly to a breakfast which lasts the whole day, than I
attacked the old folios, so respectably covered with dust. I begin to
like dirty rotten binding, and whenever I get among books, pass by the
gilt coxcombs, and disturb the spiders. But you shall hear what I have
got. A latin poem in four long books; on 'Joan of Arc;' very bad, but it
gives me a quaint note or two, and Valerandus Valerius is a fine name for
a quotation. A small 4to, of the 'Life of the Maid', chiefly extracts
from forgotten authors, printed at Paris, 1712, with a print of her on
horseback. A sketch of her life by Jacobus Philippus Bergomensis,--bless
the length of his erudite name.
John May, and Carlisle, (surgeon) were with me last night, and we struck
out a plan, which, if we can effect it, will be of great use. It is to be
called the 'Convalescent Asylum'; and intended to receive persons who are
sent from the hospitals; as the immediate return to unwholesome air, bad
diet, and all the loathsomeness of poverty, destroys a very great number.
The plan is to employ them in a large garden, and it is supposed in about
three years, the institution would pay itself, on a small scale for forty
persons. The success of one, would give birth to many others. C. W. W.
Wynn enters heartily into it. We meet on Saturday again, and as soon as
the plan is at all digested, Carlisle means to send it to Dr. Beddoes,
for his inspection. We were led to this by the circumstance of finding a
poor woman, almost dying for want, who is now rapidly recovering in the
hospital, under Carlisle.
My dear Cottle,
In the list of the killed and wounded of the 'Mars,' you saw the name of
Bligh, a midshipman. I remember rejoicing at the time, that it was not a
name I knew. Will you be surprised that the object of this letter is to
require your assistance in raising some little sum for the widow of this
I cannot express to you how deep and painful an interest I take in the
history of this man. My brother Tom, an officer in the same ship, loved
him; and well he might, for poor Bligh was a man, who, out of his
midshipman's pay, allowed his wife and children thirteen pounds a year.
He wished to be made master's mate, that he might make the sum twenty
pounds, and then he said they would be happy. He was a man about
thirty-five years of age; an unlettered man, of strong natural powers,
and of a heart, of which a purer, and a better, never lived. I could tell
you anecdotes of him that would make your eyes overflow, like mine.
Surely, Cottle, there will be no difficulty in sending his poor wife some
little sum. Five guineas would be much to her. We will give one, and I
will lay friends in London under contribution. God bless you.
My dear Cottle,
My time here has been completely occupied in riding about the country. I
have contrived to manufacture one eclogue, and that is all; but the
exercise of riding has jostled a good many ideas into my brain, and I
have plans enough for long leisure. You know my tale of the 'Adite' in
the garden of Irem. I have tacked it on to an old plan of mine upon the
destruction of the Domdanyel, and made the beginning, middle, and end.
There is a tolerable skeleton formed. It will extend to ten or twelve
books, and they appear to me to possess much strong conception in the
Arabian manner. It will at least prove that I did not reject machinery in
my Epics, because I could not wield it. This only forms part of a
magnificent project, which I do not despair of one day completing, in the
destruction of the 'Domdanyel.' My intention is, to show off all the
splendor of the Mohammedan belief. I intend to do the same to the Runic,
and Oriental systems; to preserve the costume of place as well as of
I have been thinking that though we have been disappointed of our Welsh
journey, a very delightful pilgrimage is still within our reach. Suppose
you were to meet me at Boss. We go thence down the Wye to Monmouth. On
the way are Goodrich castle, the place where Henry V. was nursed; and
Arthur's cavern. Then there is Ragland Castle somewhere thereabout, and
we might look again at Tintern. I should like this much. The Welsh mail
from Bristol, comes every day through Boss; we can meet there. Let me
hear from you, and then I will fix the day, and we will see the rocks and
woods in all their beauty. God bless you.
"Exeter, Sept. 22, 1799.
My dear Cottle,
... You will, I hope, soon have a cargo to send me of your own, for the
second volume of the 'Anthology' and some from Davy. If poor Mrs.
Yearsley were living I should like much to have her name there. As yet I
have only Coleridge's pieces, and my own, amounting to eighty or one
hundred pages. 'Thalaba, the Destroyer' is progressing.
There is a poem called 'Geber' of which I know not whether my review of
it, in the Critical' be yet printed, but in that review you will find
some of the most exquisite poetry in the language. The poem is such as
Gilbert, if he were only half as mad as he is, could have written. I
would go a hundred miles to see the (anonymous) author.
There are some worthies in Exeter, with whom I have passed some pleasant
days, but the place is miserably bigoted. Would you believe that there
are persons here who still call the Americans 'the Rebels' Exeter is the
filthiest town in England; a gutter running down the middle of every
street and lane. We leave on Monday week. I shall rejoice to breathe
fresh air. Exeter, however, has the best collection of old books for
sale, of any town out of London.
I have lately made up my mind to undertake one great historical work, the
'History of Portugal,' but for this, and for many other noble plans, I
want uninterrupted leisure; time wholly my own, and not frittered away by
little periodical employments. My working at such work is Columbus
serving before the mast. God bless you.
My dear Cottle,
Our journey here was safe, but not without accidents. We found the
packet, by which we were to sail, detained by the wind, and we are
watching it with daily anxiety.
A voyage is a serious thing, and particularly an outward-bound voyage.
The hope of departure is never an exhilarating hope. Inns are always
comfortless, and the wet weather that detains us at Falmouth, imprisons
us. Dirt, noise, restlessness, expectation, impatience,--fine cordials
for the spirits!
Devonshire is an ugly county. I have no patience with the cant of
travellers, who so bepraise it. They have surely slept all the way
through Somersetshire. Its rivers are beautiful, very beautiful, but
nothing else. High hills, all angled over with hedges, and no trees. Wide
views, and no object. I have heard a good story of our friend, Charles
Fox. When his house, at this place, was on fire, he found all effort to
save it useless, and being a good draughtsman, he went up the next hill
to make a drawing of the fire! the best instance of philosophy I ever
I have received letters from Rickman and Coleridge. Coleridge talks of
flaying Sir Herbert Croft. This may not be amiss. God bless you. I shake
you mentally by the hand, and when we shake hands bodily, trust that you
will find me a repaired animal, with a head fuller of knowledge, and a
trunk full of manuscripts. Tell Davy this Cornwall is such a vile county,
that nothing but its merit, as his birth-place, redeems it from utter
execration. I have found in it nothing but rogues, restive horses, and
wet weather; and neither Pilchards, White-ale, or Squab-pie, were to be
obtained! Last night I dreamt that Davy had killed himself by an
explosion. Once more, God bless you.
Mr. Southey, in this second visit to Lisbon, sent me the following
poetical letter, which, for ease, vivacity, and vigorous description,
stands at the head of that class of compositions. A friendly vessel,
mistaken for a French privateer, adds to the interest. In one part, the
poet conspicuously bursts forth.
"Lisbon, May 9th, 1800.
Dear Cottle, d'ye see,
In writing to thee,
I do it in rhyme,
That I may save time,
Determin'd to say,
Without any delay,
Whatever comes first,
Whether best or worst.
Alack for me!
When I was at sea,
For I lay like a log,
As sick as a dog,
And whoever this readeth,
Will pity poor Edith:
Indeed it was shocking,
The vessel fast rocking,
The timbers all creaking,
And when we were speaking,
It was to deplore
That we were not on shore,
And to vow we would never go voyaging more.
The fear of our fighting,
Did put her a fright in,
And I had alarms
For my legs and my arms.
When the matches were smoking,
I thought 'twas no joking,
And though honour and glory
And fame were before me,
'Twas a great satisfaction,
That we had not an action,
And I felt somewhat bolder,
When I knew that my head might remain on my shoulder.
But O! 'twas a pleasure,
Exceeding all measure,
On the deck to stand,
And look at the land;
And when I got there,
I vow and declare,
The pleasure was even
Like getting to heaven!
I could eat and drink,
As you may think;
I could sleep at ease,
Except for the fleas,
But still the sea-feeling,--
The drunken reeling,
Did not go away
For more than a day:
Like a cradle, the bed
Seemed to rock my head,
And the room and the town,
Went up and down.
My Edith here,
Thinks all things queer,
And some things she likes well;
But then the street
She thinks not neat,
And does not like the smell.
Nor do the fleas
Her fancy please
Although the fleas like her;
They at first vie w
Fell merrily too,
For they made no demur.
But, O, the sight!
The great delight!
From this my window, west!
This view so fine,
This scene divine!
The joy that I love best!
The Tagus here,
So broad and clear,
Blue, in the clear blue noon--
And it lies light,
All silver white,
Under the silver moon!
Farewell to you,
Farewell, my friend so dear,
Write when you may,
I need not say,
How gladly we shall hear.
I leave off rhyme,
And so next time,
Prose writing you shall see;
But in rhyme or prose,
Dear Joseph knows
The same old friend in me,
* * * * *
[Illustration: Portrait of Robert Southey, Esq. Poet Laurate.]
* * * * *
"Portugal, Cintra, July, 1800.
My dear Cottle,
I write at a five minutes' notice. The unforeseen and unlucky departure
of my only friend gives me occasion for this letter, and opportunity to
send it. It is Miss Barker Congreve. She is a woman of uncommon talents,
with whom we have been wandering over these magnificent mountains, till
she made the greatest enjoyment of the place. I feel a heavier depression
of spirits at losing her than I have known since Tom left me at Liskard.
We are at Cintra: I am well and active, in better health than I have long
known, and till to-day, in uninterrupted gaiety at heart. I am finishing
the eleventh book of 'Thalaba' and shall certainly have written the last
before this reaches you. My Bristol friends have neglected me. Danvers
has not written, and Edith is without a line from either of her sisters.
My desk is full of materials for the literary history which will require
only the labour of arrangement and translation, on my return. I shall
have the knowledge for the great work; and my miscellaneous notes will
certainly swell into a volume of much odd and curious matter. Pray write
to me. You know not how I hunger and thirst for Bristol news. I long to
be among you. If I could bring this climate to Bristol, it would make me
a new being: but I am in utter solitude of all rational society; in a
state of mental famine, save that I feed on rocks and woods, and the
richest banquet nature can possibly offer to her worshippers. God bless
Abuse Danvers for me. Remember me to Davy, and all friendly inquirers.
P. S.--.... The zeal of the Methodists and their itinerant preachers, has
reprieved for half a century the system; but you must be aware, that
sooner or later, the Church of England will absorb all those sects that
differ only in discipline. The comfortable latitude that takes in the
Calvinist and the Arminian, must triumph. The Catholic system will
perhaps, last the longest; and bids fair to continue as a political
establishment, when all its professors shall laugh at its absurdity.
Destroy its monastic orders, and marry the priests, and the rest is a
pretty puppet-show, with the idols, and the incense, and the polytheism,
and the pomp of paganism. God bless you.
"Bristol, Aug. 1802.
Well done good and faithful editor. I suspect that it is fortunate for
the edition of Chatterton, that its care has devolved upon you.
The note with which you preface 'Burgum's Pedigree' need not come to me,
as the M.S. is yours, whatever inferences may be drawn from it, will be
by you. Add your name at the end to give it the proper authority. I shall
know how to say enough, in the preface, about all other aiders and
abetters, but it will not be easy to mention such a ringleader as
yourself in words of adequate acknowledgment.
What you have detected in the 'Tournament' I have also observed in
Barrett, in the omission of a passage of bombast connected with one of
the accounts of the Bristol churches. Your copy of the 'Tournament' being
in Chatterton's own hand-writing is surely the best authority. We are now
of one opinion, that Chatterton and Rowley are one.
I am glad to hear that you have discovered anything worth printing in the
British Museum. Doubtless, if you think it worth printing, others will do
the same, and it is not our fault, if it be dull or an imperfect work. I
transcribed page after page of what would have been worth little if
genuine, and not being genuine, is worth nothing. This refers only to the
local antiquities, and false deeds of gift, &c. I made a catalogue, and
left it with you. Why say, 'I hope you will not take it amiss.' I am as
ready to thank you for supplying any negligence of mine, as any one else
can be. I should have wished for more engravings, but we have gone to the
bounds of expense and trouble, in this gratuitous, but pleasant effort to
benefit the family of Bristol's most illustrious bard. Why did you not
sign your notes? I can now only say, that much, indeed most of the
trouble has devolved on yon. J. C. at the end of each note, would have
showed how much.
I have seen Cattcott. Chatterton had written to Clayfield that he
meant to destroy himself. Clayfield called on Barrett to communicate his
uneasiness about the young lad. 'Stay,' said Barrett, 'and hear what he
will say to me.' Chatterton was sent for. Barrett talked to him on the
guilt and folly of suicide. Chatterton denied any intention of the kind,
or any conversation to that import. Clayfield came from the closet with
the letter in his hand, and asked, 'Is not this your hand-writing?'
Chatterton then, in a state of confusion, fell upon his knees, and heard
in sullen silence, the suitable remarks on his conduct. God bless you.
"Bristol, Sept. 1802.
I was from home, looking out for a habitation in Wales, when your
letter arrived. My journey was so far successful, that I am in treaty for
a house, eight miles from Neath, in the mountains, a lovely spot, exactly
such as will suit my wishes...."
In a letter received from Mr. Southey, Aug. 25, 1805, he says, "I have
neither seen, nor heard, of 'Foster's Essays'; nor do I remember to have
heard you mention him. Certainly, on your recommendation, I shall either
buy or borrow the work. But no new book ever reaches these mountains,
except such as come to me to be killed off."
Mr. Southey mentioned to me the last time I saw him, the jeopardy in
which he had recently been placed, through his 'killing off'; and from
which danger he was alone saved by his anonymous garb. He said he had
found it necessary in reviewing a book, written by a native of the
emerald isle, to treat it with rather unwonted severity, such as it
richly deserved. A few days after the critique had appeared, he happened
to call on a literary friend, in one of the inns of court. They were
conversing on this work, and the incompetence of the writer, when the
author, a gigantic Irishman entered the room, in a great rage, and vowing
vengeance against the remorseless critic. Standing very near Mr. Southey,
he raised his huge fist, and exclaimed, "And, if I knew who it was, I'd
hate him!" Mr. S. observed a very profound silence, and not liking the
vicinity of a volcano, quietly retired, reserving his laugh for a less
Mr. Southey in a letter, June 18, 1807, thus expresses himself. "...
Beyond the fascinations of poetry, there is a calmer and steadier
pleasure in acquiring and communicating the knowledge of what has been,
and of what is. I am passionately fond of history, even when I have been
delighted with the act of poetical composition. The recollection that all
was fable in the story with which I have exerted myself, frequently
mingled with the delight. I am better pleased in rendering justice to the
mighty dead; with the holding up to the world, of kings, conquerors,
heroes, and saints, not as they have been usually held up, but as they
really are, good or evil, according to the opinion formed of them, by one
who has neither passion, prejudice, nor interest, of any kind to mislead
There is a delight in recording great actions, and, though of a different
kind, in execrating bad ones, beyond anything which Poetry can give, when
it departs from historical truth. There is also a sense of power, even
beyond what the poet, creator as he is, can exercise. It is before _my_
earthly tribunal, that these mighty ones are brought for judgment.
Centuries of applause, trophies, and altars, or canonizations, or
excommunications, avail nothing with me. No former sentences are
cognizable in my court. The merits of the case are all I look to, and I
believe I have never failed to judge of the actions by themselves, and of
the actor by his motives; and to allow manners, opinions, circumstances,
&c., their full weight in extenuation. What other merit my historical
works may have, others must find out for themselves, but this will I
vouch for, that never was the heart of any historian fuller of purer
opinions; and that never any one went about his work with more thorough
industry, or more thorough good-will.
Your account of Churchey is very amusing, I should like to see the
pamphlet of which you speak. God bless you.
"Keswick, March 16, 1810.
My dear Cottle,
I cannot express to you how much it has affected me to hear of your
affliction, [a long continued inflammation of the eyes, subdued
ultimately, after bleeding, blistering, and cupping, by Singleton's eye
ointment,] for though I am sure there is no one who would bear any
sufferings with which it should please God to visit him, more patiently
and serenely, than yourself, this nevertheless, is an affliction of the
heaviest kind. It is very far from being the habit of my mind to indulge
in visionary hopes, but from what I recollect of the nature of your
complaint, it is an inveterate inflammation, and this I believe to be
completely within the reach of art...."
In the year 1814, after an hemorrhage from the lungs, and consequent
debility, I relieved my mind by writing a kind, serious, and faithful
letter to my friend Southey, under an apprehension that it might be my
last; to which Mr. Southey returned the following reply.
"Keswick, May 13, 1814.
My dear Cottle,
I have seen so dreadful a case of hemorrhage from the lungs terminate
favorably, that your letter alarms me less than otherwise it would have
done. Basil Montague the younger, continued to bleed at intervals for six
weeks, in January and February last, and he has this day left Keswick
without any dangerous symptoms remaining upon him. Two other instances
have occurred within my knowledge, I will therefore hope for a favorable
termination. Your letter comes upon me when I am like a broken reed, so
deeply has the loss of Danvers wounded me. Were I to lose you also, I
should never have heart to visit Bristol again.
What answer shall I make to your exhortations? We differ, if indeed there
be a difference, more in appearance than reality; more in the form than
in the substance of our belief. I have already so many friends on the
other side of the grave, that a large portion of my thoughts and
affections are in another world, and it is only the certainty of another
life, which could make the changes and insecurity of this life endurable.
May God bless you, and restore you, my dear old friend, is the sincere
In the year 1816, Mr. Southey sustained a great loss in the death of his
youngest son, a boy of promising talent, and endued with every quality
which could attach a father's heart. Mr. S. thus announced the melancholy
"Keswick, May 23, 1816.
My dear Cottle,
I know not whether the papers may have informed you of the severe
affliction with which we have been visited,--the death of my son; a boy
who was in all things after my own heart. You will be gratified to hear,
however, that this sorrow produces in both our cases, that beneficial
purpose for which such visitations were appointed: and in subtracting so
large a portion of our earthly happiness, fixes our hearts and hopes with
more earnestness on the life to come. Nothing else I am well assured,
could have supported me, though I have no ordinary share of fortitude.
But I know where to look for consolation, and am finding it where only it
can be found. My dear Cottle, the instability of human prospects and
enjoyments! You have read my proem to the 'Pilgrimage,' and before the
book was published, the child of whom I had thus spoken, with such
heartfelt delight, was in his grave! But of this enough. We have many
blessings left, abundant all, and of this, which was indeed the flower of
all our blessings, we are deprived for a time, and that time must needs
In the year 1817, Mr. Southey's juvenile drama of "Wat Tyler," was
surreptitiously published; written during the few months of his political
excitement, when the specious pretensions of the French, carried away,
for a brief period, so many young and ardent minds. He thus noticed the
"My dear Cottle,
You will have seen by the papers, that some villain, after an interval of
three and twenty years, has published my old uncle, 'Wat Tyler.' I have
failed in attempting to obtain an injunction, because a false oath has
been taken, for the purpose of defeating me....
I am glad to see, and you will be very glad to hear, that this business
has called forth Coleridge, and with the recollections of old times,
brought back something like old feelings. He wrote a very excellent paper
on the subject in the 'Courier,' and I hope it will be the means of his
rejoining us ere long; so good will come out of evil, and the devil can
do nothing but what he is permitted.
I am well in health, and as little annoyed by this rascality as it
becomes me to be. The only tiling that has vexed me, is the manner in
which my counsel is represented in talking about my being ashamed of the
work as a wicked performance! "Wicked! My poor 'old uncle' has nothing
wicked about him. It was the work of a right-honest enthusiast, as you
can bear witness; of one who was as upright in his youth as he has been
in his manhood, and is now in the decline of his life; who, blessed be
God, has little to be ashamed before man, of any of his thoughts, words,
or actions, whatever cause he may have for saying to his Maker, 'God be
merciful to me a sinner.' God bless you, my old and affectionate friend,
I am writing a pamphlet, in the form of a letter, to Wm. Smith. Fear not,
but that I shall make my own cause good, and set my foot on my enemies.
This has been a wicked transaction. It can do me no other harm than the
expense to which it has put me."
"Keswick, Sept. 2, 1817.
My dear Cottle,
... I have made a long journey on the continent, accompanied with a
friend of my own age, and with Mr. Nash, the architect, who gave me the
drawings of Waterloo. We went by way of Paris to Besancon, into
Switzerland: visited the Grand Chartreuse, crossed Mont Cenis; proceeded
to Turin, and Milan, and then turned back by the lakes Como, Lugano, and
Maggiore, and over the Simplon. Our next business was to see the
mountainous parts of Switzerland. From Bern we sent our carriage to
Zurich, and struck off what is called the Oberland (upper-land.) After
ten days spent thus, in the finest part of the country, we rejoined our
carriage, and returned through the Black Forest. The most interesting
parts of our homeward road were Danaustrugen, where the Danube rises.
Friburg, Strasburg, Baden, Carlsruhe, Heidelburg, Manheim, Frankfort,
Mentz, Cologne, and by Brussels and Lisle, to Calais.
I kept a full journal, which might easily be made into an amusing and
useful volume, but I have no leisure for it. You may well suppose what an
accumulation of business is on my hands after so long an absence of four
months. I have derived great advantage both in knowledge and health. God
bless you, my dear Cottle.
Yours most affectionately,
P.S.--Hartley Coleridge has done himself great credit at Oxford. He has
taken what is called a second class, which, considering the disadvantages
of his school education, is as honourable for him as a first class for
any body else. In all the higher points of his examination, he was
excellent, and inferior only in those minuter points, wherein he had not
been instructed. He is on the point of taking his degree."
"Keswick, Nov. 26,1819.
My dear Cottle,
Last night I received a letter from Charles Lamb, telling me to what a
miserable condition poor John Morgan is reduced: not by any extravagance
of his own, but by a thoughtless generosity, in lending to men who have
never repaid him, and by ----, who has involved him in his own ruin; and
lastly by the visitation of providence. Every thing is gone!
In such a case, what is to be done? 'but to raise some poor annuity
amongst his friends.' It is not likely to be wanted long. He has an
hereditary disposition to a liver complaint, a disease of all others,
induced by distress of mind, and he feels the whole bitterness of his
situation. The palsy generally comes back to finish what it has begun.
Lamb will give ten pounds a year. I will do the same, and we both do
according to our means, rather tham our will. I have written to Michael
Castle to exert himself; and if you know where his friend Porter is, I
pray you communicate this information to him. We will try what can be
done in other quarters...."
"Keswick, June 25, 1823.
My dear Cottle,
... I must finish my 'Book of the Church.' Under this title a sketch of
our ecclesiastical history is designed. One small volume was intended,
and behold it will form two 8vos. The object of the book is, to give
those who come after us a proper bias, by making them feel and
understand, how much they owe to the religious institutions of their
Besides this, I have other works in hand, and few things would give me
more pleasure than to show you their state of progress, and the
preparations I have made for them. If you would bring your sister to pass
a summer with us, how joyfully and heartily you would be welcomed, I
trust you both well know. Our friendship is now of nine and twenty years'
standing, and I will venture to say, for you, or for us, life cannot have
many gratifications in store greater than this would prove. Here are
ponies accustomed to climb these mountains which will carry you to the
summit of Skiddaw, without the slightest difficulty, or danger. And here
is my boat, the 'Royal Noah,' in the lake, in which you may exercise your
arms when you like. Within and without I have much to show you. You would
like to see my children; from Edith May, who is taller than her mother,
down to Cuthbert, who was four years old in February last. Then there are
my books, of which I am as proud as you are of your bones. They are
not indeed quite so old, but then they are more numerous, and I am sure
Miss C. will agree with me that they are much better furniture, and much
Not that I mean to depreciate your fossil remains. Forbid it all that is
venerable. I should very much like to see your account of them. You gave
me credit for more than is my due, when you surmised that the paper in
the Quarterly (on the presumed alteration in the plane of the ecliptic)
might have been mine. I write on no subject on which I have not bestowed
considerable time and thought; and on all points of science, I confess
myself to be either very superficially informed, or altogether ignorant.
Some day I will send you a list of all my papers in that Journal, that
you may not impute to me any thing which is not mine; and that, if you
have at any time such a desire, you may see what the opinions are that I
have there advanced. Very few I believe in which you would not entirely
accord with me. God bless you.
"Keswick, April 7, 1825.
My dear Cottle,
You have indeed had a severe loss, I know not how the heart could
bear, if it were not for the prospect of eternity, and the full sense of
the comparative nothingness of time, which that prospect produces. If I
look on the last thirty years, things seem as but yesterday; and when I
look forward, the end of this mortal journey must be near, though the
precise point where it will terminate is not in sight. Yet were you under
my roof, as I live in hope that one day you will be, you would recognize
just as much of the original Robert Southey as you would wish to see
remaining;--though the body is somewhat the worse for wear.
I thought I had written to thank you for your 'Strictures on the Plymouth
Antinomians;' which were well deserved, and given in a very proper
spirit. Ultra-Calvinism is as little to my liking as it is to yours. It
may be, and no doubt is held by many good men, upon whom it produces no
worse effects than that of narrowing charity. But Dr. Hawker, and such as
the Hawkers, only push it to its legitimate consequences.
At present I am engaged in a war with the Roman Catholics, a war in which
there will be much ink shed, though not on my part, for when my
'Vindiciae' are finished, I shall leave the field. When you see that
book, you will be surprised at the exposure of sophistries,
disingenuousness, and downright falsehoods, which it will lay before the
world; and you will see the charge of systematic imposture proved upon
the papal church.
I must leave my home by the middle of next month, and travel for some
weeks, in the hope of escaping an annual visitation of Catarrh, which now
always leaves cough behind it, and a rather threatening hold of the
chest. I am going therefore to Holland, to see that country, and to look
for certain ecclesiastical books, which I shall be likely to obtain at
Brussels, or Antwerp, or on the way thither.
A young friend, in the Colonial office, is to be one of my companions,
and I expect that Neville White will be the other. It is a great effort
to go from home at any time, and a great inconvenience, considering the
interruption which my pursuits must suffer; still it is a master of duty
and of economy to use every means for averting illness. If I can send
home one or two chests of books, the pleasure of receiving them on my
return is worth some cost.
How you would like to see my library, and to recognize among them some
volumes as having been the gift of Joseph Cottle, seven or eight and
twenty years ago. I have a great many thousand volumes, of all sorts,
sizes, languages, and kinds, upon all subjects, and in all sorts of
trims; from those which are displayed in 'Peacock Place,' to the ragged
inhabitants of 'Duck Row.' The room in which I am now writing contains
two thousand four hundred volumes, all in good apparel; many of them of
singular rarity and value. I have another room full, and a passage full;
book-cases in both landing places, and from six to seven hundred volumes
in my bed-room. You have never seen a more cheerful room than my study;
this workshop, from which so many works have proceeded, and in which
among other things, I have written all those papers of mine, in the
Quarterly Review, whereof you have a list below.
The next month will have a paper of mine on the 'Chuch Missionary
Society,' and the one after, upon the 'Memoir of the Chevalier Bayard,'
which Sarah Coleridge, daughter of S. T. Coleridge, has translated.
Write to me oftener, as your letters will always have a reply, let whose
may go unanswered. God bless you, my dear old friend.
Yours most affectionately,
"Keswick, Feb. 26, 1826.
My dear Cottle,
I have sent you my Vindication of the 'Book of the Church,' in which
though scarcely half of what was intended to be comprised, enough is done
to prove the charge of superstition, impostures, and wickedness, upon the
Romish Church. Whether I shall pursue the subject, in that form, depends
on circumstances. I have employment enough in other ways, and would
rather present my historical recollections in any form than that of
controversy.... The revelations of sister Nativity are mentioned in my
'Vindiciae.' You will see an account of this impious Romish imposture in
the next Quarterly. Such an exposure ought to open the eyes of those who
are duped with the belief that the Roman Catholic religion is become
innocent and harmless.
Have I written to you since I was bug-bitten in France, and laid up in
consequence, under a surgeon's hands in Holland? This mishap brought with
it much more immediate good than evil. Bilderdyk, whose wife translated
'Don Roderic' into Dutch, and who is himself confessedly the best poet,
and the most learned man in that country, received me into his house,
where I was nursed for three weeks by two of the very best people in the
world. But the effects of the accident remain. On my way home, owing
perhaps to the intense heat of the weather, erysipelas showed itself on
the wounded part. The foot also has been in a slight degree swollen, and
there is just enough sense of uneasiness to show that something is amiss.
My last year's journey succeeded in cutting short the annual catarrh,
which had for so many years laid me up during the summer months. I shall
try the same course as soon as the next summer commences.
Will you never come and visit me, and see how that hair looks, which I
doubt not keeps its colour so well in Vandyke's portrait? now it is three
parts grey, but curling still as strong as in youth. I look at your
portrait every day and see you to the life, as you were thirty years ago!
What a change should we see in each other now, and yet how soon should we
find that the better part remains unchanged.
The day before yesterday I received your two volumes of 'Malvern Hills,
Poems, and Essays,' fourth edition, forwarded to me from Sheffield, by
James Montgomery. You ask my opinion on your ninth essay (on the supposed
alteration in the planes of the equator and the ecliptic suggested by an
hypothesis in the Quarterly). I am too ignorant to form one. The
reasoning seems conclusive, taking the scientific part for granted, but
of that science, or any other, I know nothing. This I can truly say, that
the essays in general please me very much. That I am very glad to see
those concerning Chatterton introduced there;--and very much admire, the
manner, and the feeling, with which you have treated Psalmanazar's story.
You tell me things respecting Chatterton which were new to me, and of
course interested me much. It may be worth while, when you prepare a copy
for republication, to corroborate the proof of his insanity, by stating
that there was a constitutional tendency to such a disease, which places
the fact beyond all doubt....
Thank you, for the pains you have taken about 'Bunyan.' The first edition
we cannot find, nor even ascertain its date. The first edition of the
Second part we have found. An impudent assertion, I learn from
'Montgomery's Essay,' was published, that the 'Pilgrim's Progress' was a
mere translation from the Dutch. I have had the Dutch book, and have read
it, which he who made this assertion could not do. The charge of
plagiarism is utterly false, not having the slightest foundation. When
you and I meet in the next world, we will go and see John Bunyan, and
tell him how I have tinkered the fellow, for tinker him I will, who has
endeavoured to pick a hole in his reputation. God bless you, my dear old
P. S. There are two dreams that may be said to haunt me, they recur so
often. The one is, that of being at Westminster school again, and not
having my books. The other is, that I am at Bristol, and have been there
some indefinite time; and unaccountably, have never been to look for you
in Brunswick Square, for which I am troubled in conscience. Come to us,
and I will pledge myself to visit you in return when next I travel to the
In a letter to Mr. Southey, I mentioned that a relation of Wm. Gilbert
had informed me that he was hurt with Mr. S. for having named him, in his
'Life of Wesley,' as being tinctured with insanity; a fact notorious. Mr.
G. had often affirmed that there was a nation of the Gilbertians in the
centre of Africa, and expressed a determination of one day visiting them.
In the year 1796, he suddenly left Bristol, without speaking to any one
of his friends; and the inference drawn, was that he was about to
commence his African expedition. I had also mentioned that Sir James
Mackintosh had expressed an opinion that Mr. Southey had formed his style
on the model of Horace Walpole. These preliminary remarks are necessary
to the understanding of the following letter.
"Keswick, Feb. 26.
My dear Cottle,
What you say about poor Gilbert has surprised me. You know we lost sight
of him after he left Bristol, with, according to our apprehension, the
design of going to Liverpool, and from thence to procure a passage to
Africa. On that occasion, after consulting with Danvers, and I think with
you, I wrote to Roscoe, apologizing, as a stranger, for the liberty,
requesting him to caution any captain of a ship, bound to the African
coast, from taking a person in his state of mind on board. Roscoe replied
very courteously, and took the desired precaution, but Gilbert never
appeared at Liverpool. Some time afterward it was told me that he was
dead, and believing him so to be, I mentioned him in the life of Wesley,
(Vol. 2. p. 467.) speaking of him as I had ever felt, with respect and
kindness, but in a way which I should not have done if I had not been
fully persuaded of his death.
Mackintosh's notice, as you inform me, that my style is founded on Horace
Walpole, is ridiculous. It is founded on nobody's. I say what I have to
say as plainly as I can, without thinking of the style, and this is the
whole secret. I could tell by what poets my poetry has successively been
leavened, but not what prose writers have ever in the same manner
influenced me. In fact, I write as you may always have remarked, such as
I always converse, without effort, and without aiming at display.
... Poor Morgan, you know, was latterly supported by a subscription,
which Charles Lamb set on foot, and which was to have been annual, but he
died within the year.
Just now I am pressed for time to finish the 'Life of Cowper.' This Life
will interest you, not merely because you (I know) would read with
partial interest anything of mine, but because many circumstances are
there stated which have never before been made public.
You may have heard that a new edition of my 'Life of Wesley' is promised.
Such an accumulation of materials has been poured upon me by a Mr.
Marriott, well known among the Methodists, that I shall have to add a
fourth, or perhaps, a third part of new matter, besides making many
corrections and alterations. I have also got possession of the remaining
papers of Mr. Powley, who married Miss Unwin. His widow died last year;
and thus they became accessible. There were in the collection a good many
letters of Mr. Newton, whose letters to Mr. Thornton, I have had before,
and made great use of them in the 1st vol. of Cowper. From these papers I
shall learn much concerning the first proceedings of the evangelical
clergy, and expect to collect some materials for the 'Biographical
Notes,' which must accompany 'Cowper's Letters'; and still more for the
religious history of 'Wesley's Times,' as connected with the progress of
Methodism. God bless you, my dear old friend,
"Keswick, Nov. 4, 1828.
My dear Cottle,
Shame on me that your last friendly letter should have remained so long
unanswered, and that the direct motive for writing now should be a
selfish one; one however, in which I know you will take some interest, on
more accounts than one.
Major, in Fleet Street, is about to publish an edition of the Pilgrim's
Progress, for which I have undertaken to write an introductory life of
the author. You need not be told how dearly I love John Bunyan. Now he
has made inquiries among public and private libraries for the first
edition, and can nowhere discover a copy. It has occurred to me that it
may be in the Bristol Baptist Library, and if you will make this inquiry
for me, and in case it be there, ascertain whether it differs from the
folio edition of Bunyan's works, you will do me a great kindness....
That I should be somewhat the worse for the wear was to be expected, but
I am not more so than you would look to see me; still active, cheerful,
with a good appetite for books, and not an ill one for work. Some things
I shall have to send you both in prose and verse, before the winter
Remember me in the kindest manner to ----, and to ----, and to ----. When
I think of you all, old times return with the freshness of a dream. In
less time than has elapsed since we were all young together, we shall be
together again, and have dropped the weight of years and mortality on the
If my old acquaintance, Isaac James be living, remember me to him with
cordial good will. God bless you, my dear old friend.
"Keswick, March 22, 1831.
My dear Cottle,
Your package arrived safely yesterday afternoon. I shall get the books
with which you presented me furbished up, and write in each that it was
your gift;--a pleasant memorandum which is found in others on these
shelves. I like to give books this incidental value, and write therefore,
the date, and place, in every fresh acquisition. Many recollections do
they call up, which otherwise would have passed away. You who have known
me from the beginning of my authorial life, ought to see this library of
mine. As I think no man ever made more use of his books, so I am sure
that no man ever took more delight in them. They are the pride of my
eyes, and the joy of my heart; an innocent pride, I trust, and a
* * * * *
The reader's attention will now be directed to Mr. Coleridge, by
introducing a letter from Mr. C. to Mr. Wade, who had written to him for
advice respecting a meditated excursion to Germany.
"March 6, 1801.
My very dear friend,
I have even now received your letter. My habits of thinking and feeling,
have not hitherto inclined me to personify commerce in any such shape, so
as to tempt me to tarn pagan, and offer vows to the goddess of our isle.
But when I read that sentence in your letter, 'The time will come I
trust, when I shall be able to pitch my tent in your neighbourhood,' I
was most potently commanded to a breach of the second commandment, and on
my knees, to entreat the said goddess, to touch your bank notes and
guineas with her magical multiplying wand. I could offer such a prayer
for you, with a better conscience than for most men, because I know that
you have never lost that healthy common sense, which regards money only
as the means of independence, and that you would sooner than most men cry
out, enough! enough! To see one's children secured against want, is
doubtless a delightful thing; but to wish to see them begin the world as
rich men, is unwise to ourselves, for it permits no close of our labours,
and is pernicious to them; for it leaves no motive to their exertions,
none of those sympathies with the industrious and the poor, which form at
once the true relish and proper antidote of wealth.
... Is not March rather a perilous month for the voyage from Yarmouth to
Hamburg? danger there is very little, in the packets, but I know what
inconvenience rough weather brings with it; not from my own feelings, for
I am never sea-sick, but always in exceeding high spirits on board ship,
but from what I see in others. But you are an old sailor. At Hamburgh I
have not a shadow of acquaintance. My letters of introduction produced
for me, with one exception, viz., Klopstock, the brother of the poet, no
real service, but merely distant and ostentatious civility. And Klopstock
will by this time have forgotten my name, which indeed he never properly
knew, for I could speak only English and Latin, and he only French and
German. At Ratzeburgh, 35 English miles N. E. from Hamburgh, on the road
to Lubec, I resided four months; and I should hope, was not unbeloved by
more than one family, but this is out of your route. At Gottingen I
stayed near five months, but here I knew only students, who will have
left the place by this time, and the high learned professors, only one of
whom could speak English; and they are so wholly engaged in their
academical occupations, that they would be of no service to you. Other
acquaintance in Germany I have none, and connexion I never had any. For
though I was much entreated by some of the Literati to correspond with
them, yet my natural laziness, with the little value I attach to literary
men, as literary men, and with my aversion from those letters which are
to be made up of studied sense, and unfelt compliments, combined to
prevent me from availing myself of the offer. Herein, and in similar
instances, with English authors of repute, I have ill consulted the
growth of my reputation and fame. But I have cheerful and confident hopes
of myself. If I can hereafter do good to my fellow-creatures as a poet,
and as a metaphysician, they will know it; and any other fame than this,
I consider as a serious evil, that would only take me from out the number
and sympathy of ordinary men, to make a coxcomb of me. As to the inns or
hotels at Hamburgh, I should recommend you to some German inn. Wordsworth
and I were at the 'Der Wilde Man,' and dirty as it was, I could not find
any inn in Germany very much cleaner, except at Lubec. But if you go to
an English inn, for heaven's sake, avoid the 'Shakspeare,' at Altona, and
the 'King of England,' at Hamburgh. They are houses of plunder rather
than entertainment. 'The Duke of York' hotel, kept by Seaman, has a
better reputation, and thither I would advise you to repair; and I advise
you to pay your bill every morning at breakfast time: it is the only way
to escape imposition. What the Hamburgh merchants may be I know not, but
the tradesmen are knaves. Scoundrels, with yellow-white phizzes, that
bring disgrace on the complexion of a bad tallow candle. Now as to
carriage, I know scarcely what to advise; only make up your mind to the
very worst vehicles, with the very worst horses, drawn by the very worst
postillions, over the very worst roads, and halting two hours at each
time they change horses, at the very worst inns; and you have a fair,
unexaggerated picture of travelling in North Germany. The cheapest way is
the best; go by the common post wagons, or stage coaches. What are called
extraordinaries, or post-chaises, are little wicker carts, uncovered,
with moveable benches or forms in them, execrable in every respect. And
if you buy a vehicle at Hamburgh, you can get none decent under thirty or
forty guineas, and very, probably it will break to pieces on the infernal
roads. The canal boats are delightful, but the porters everywhere in the
United Provinces, are an impudent, abominable, and dishonest race. You
must carry as little luggage as you well can with you, in the canal
boats, and when you land, get recommended to an inn beforehand, and
bargain with the porters first of all, and never lose sight of them, or
you may never see your portmanteau or baggage again.
My Sarah desires her love to you and yours. God bless your dear little
ones! Make haste and get rich, dear friend! and bring up the little
creatures to be playfellows and school-fellows with my little ones!
Again and again, sea serve you, wind speed you, all things turn out good
to you! God bless you,
S. T. Coleridge."
As a curious literary fact, I might mention that the sale of the first
edition of the "Lyrical Ballads," was so slow, and the severity of most
of the reviews so great, that their progress to oblivion, notwithstanding
the merit which I was quite sure they possessed, seemed ordained to be as
rapid as it was certain. I had given thirty guineas for the copyright, as
detailed in the preceding letters; but the heavy sale induced me at
length, to part with, at a loss, the largest proportion of the
impression of five hundred, to Mr. Arch, a London bookseller. After this
transaction had occurred, I received a letter from Mr. Wordsworth,
written the day before he set sail for the continent, requesting me to
make over my interest in the "Lyrical Ballads" to Mr. Johnson, of St
Paul's Churchyard. This I could not have done, had I been so disposed, as
the engagement had been made with Mr. Arch.
On Mr. W.'s return to England, I addressed a letter to him, explaining
the reasons why I could not comply with his request, to which he thus
"My dear Cottle,
I perceive that it would have been impossible for you to comply with my
request, respecting the 'Lyrical Ballads,' as you had entered into a
treaty with Arch. How is the copyright to be disposed of when you quit
the bookselling business? We were much amused with the 'Anthology,' Your
poem of the 'Killcrop' we liked better than any; only we regretted that
you did not save the poor little innocent's life, by some benevolent art
or other. You might have managed a little pathetic incident, in which
nature, appearing forcibly in the child, might have worked in some way or
other, upon its superstitious destroyer.
We have spent our time pleasantly enough in Germany, but we are right
glad to find ourselves in England, for we have learnt to know its value.
We left Coleridge well at Gottingen, a month ago....
God bless you, my dear Cottle,
Your affectionate friend,
Soon after the receipt of the above, I received another letter from Mr.
W. kindly urging me to pay him a visit in the north, in which, as an
inducement, he says,
"... Write to me beforehand, and I will accompany you on a tour. You will
come by Greta-bridge, which is about twenty miles from this place,
(Stockburn); and after we have seen all the curiosities of that
neighbourhood, I will accompany you into Cumberland and Westmoreland....
God bless you, dear Cottle,
A short time after the receipt of this invitation, Mr. Coleridge arrived
in Bristol from Germany, and as he was about to pay Mr. Wordsworth a
visit, he pressed me to accompany him. I had intended a journey to
London, and now determined on proceeding with so agreeable a companion,
and on so pleasant a journey and tour; taking the metropolis on my
return. To notice the complicated incidents which occurred on this tour,
would occupy a large space. I therefore pass it all over, with the
remark, that in this interview with Mr. Wordsworth, the subject of the
"Lyrical Ballads" was mentioned but once, and that casually, and only to
account for its failure! which Mr. W. ascribed to two causes; first the
"Ancient Mariner," which, he said, no one seemed to understand; and
secondly, the unfavorable notice of most of the reviews.
On my reaching London, having an account to settle with Messrs. Longman
and Rees, the booksellers of Paternoster Row, I sold them all my
copyrights, which were valued as one lot, by a third party. On my next
seeing Mr. Longman, he told me, that in estimating the value of the
copyrights, Fox's "Achmed," and Wordsworth's "Lyrical Ballads," were
"reckoned _as nothing_." "That being the case," I replied, "as both these
authors are my personal friends, I should be obliged, if you would return
me again these two copyrights, that I may have the pleasure of presenting
them to the respective writers." Mr. Longman answered, with his
accustomed liberality, "You are welcome to them." On my reaching Bristol,
I gave Mr. Fox his receipt for twenty guineas; and on Mr. Coleridge's
return from the north, I gave him Mr. Wordsworth's receipt for his thirty
guineas; so that whatever advantage has arisen, subsequently, from the
sale of this volume of the "Lyrical Ballads," I am happy to say, has
pertained exclusively to Mr. W.
I have been the more particular in these statements, as it furnishes,
perhaps, the most remarkable instance on record, of a volume of Poems
remaining for so long a time, almost totally neglected, and afterwards
acquiring, and that in a rapid degree, so much deserved popularity.
A month or two after Mr. Coleridge had left Bristol for Germany, Dr.
Beddoes told me of a letter he had just received from his friend, Davies
Giddy, (afterward with the altered name of Gilbert, President of the
Royal Society) recommending a very ingenious young chemist, of Penzance,
in Cornwall, to assist him in his Pneumatic Institution, at the Hotwells.
"The character is so favourable," said the Dr. "I think I shall engage