William Gifford

Robert Southey to William Gifford, 6 March 1809; Life and Correspondence (1849-50) 3:221-23.

Keswick, March 6. 1809.


Your letter, and its enclosed draft, reached me this afternoon. I have to acknowledge the one, and thank you for the other. It gratifies me that you approve my defence of the missionaries, because I am desirous of such approbation; and it will gratify me if it should be generally approved, because I wrote from a deep and strong conviction of the importance of the subject. With respect to any alterations in this or any future communication, I am perfectly sensible that absolute authority must always be vested in the editor. The printer has done some mischief by misplacing a paragraph in p. 225., which ought to have followed the quotation in the preceding page. The beginning of the last paragraph is made unintelligible by this dislocation; and indeed you have omitted the sarcasm, which it was designed to justify. I could have wished that this Review had less resembled the Edinburgh in the tone and temper of its criticisms. That book of Miss Owenson's is, I dare say, very bad both in manners and morals; yet, had it fallen into my hands, I think I could have told her so in such a spirit, that she herself would have believed me, and might have profited by the censure. The same quantity of rain which would clear a flower of its blights, will, if it falls heavier and harder, wash the roots bare, and beat the blossoms to the ground. I have been in the habit of reviewing more than eleven years, for the lucre of gain, and not, God knows, from any liking to the occupation; and of all my literary misdeeds, the only ones of which I have repented have been those reviewals which were written with undue asperity, so as to give unnecessary pain. I propose to continue the subject of the Missions through two other articles, neither of which will probably be half so long as the first; one respecting the South Sea Islands, the other South Africa. Lord Valentia's book I shall be glad to receive, and any others which you may think proper to entrust to me. Two things I can promise, — perfect sincerity in what I write, without the slightest assumption of knowledge which I do not possess; and a punctuality not to be exceeded by that of Mr. Murray's opposite neighbours by at St. Dunstan's.

I am, Sir,

Yours very respectfully,