1838 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

Walter Savage Landor to Leigh Hunt, 6 February 1838; Correspondence of Leigh Hunt (1862) 1:318-19.



Whatever I sent you, in supplement or continuation of High and Low Life, is quite as much at your discretion as what I first presented to you. The "attempts at simplicity" were introduced for the correction of the vice now prevalent in English poetry. Wordsworth is certainly the man whose authority has produced and fostered it. Now Southey was the first man of letters who openly and boldly placed him near the eminence he at present occupies. We differed in this: Southey preferred him, thirty years ago, to Walter Scott; while my opinion was, that he had written nothing so good as Marmion. Again, I showed my sense of the injustice he had received in the first publication of my Imaginary Conversations. No person can pretend to the name of critic had publicly avowed so favourable an opinion of him. It was only when I heard from Kenyon and Robinson of his base ingratitude to Southey, of his practice (for I heard it again from a gentlemen and lady named Godwin, residing in his neighbourhood,) of saying that he would not give five shillings for all the poetry of Southey had ever written, it was only then that I resolved to show more accurately what were his own claims in comparison with Southey's.