1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Kirke White

Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 23 May 1807; Life and Correspondence (1849-50) 3:91-93.



The fact is briefly this: — at the age of seventeen he published a little volume of poems of very great merit, and sent with them to the different Reviews, a letter stating that his hope was to raise money by them to pursue his studies and get to college. Hamilton, then of the Critical, showed me this letter. I asked him to let me review the book, which he promised; but he sent me no books after the promise. Well, the M. Review noticed this little volume in the most cruel and insulting manner. I was provoked, and wrote to encourage the boy, offering to aid him in a subscription for a costlier publication. I spoke of him in London, and had assurances of assistance from Sotheby, and, by the way of Wynn, from Lord Carysfort. His second letter to me, however, said he was going to Cambridge, under Simeon's protection. I plainly saw that the Evangelicals had caught him; and as he did not want what little help I could have procured, and I had no leisure for new correspondences, ceased to write to him, but did him what good I could in the way of reviewing, and getting him friends at Cambridge. He died last autumn; and I received a letter informing me of it. It gave me a sort of shock, because, in spite of his evangelicalism, I always expected great things, from the proof he had given of very superior powers; and, in replying to this letter, I asked if there were any intention of publishing any thing which he might have left, and offered to give an opinion upon his papers, and look them over. Down came a box-full, the sight of which literally made my heart ache, and my eyes overflow, for never did I behold such proofs of human industry. To make short, I took the matter up with interest, collected his letters, and have, at the expense of more time than such a poor fellow as myself can very well afford, done what his family are very grateful for, and what I think the world will thank me for too. Of course I have done it gratuitously. His life will affect you, for he fairly died of intense application. Cambridge finished him. When his nerves were already so over-strained that his nights were utter misery, they gave him medicines to enable him to hold out during examination for a prize! The horse won, — but he died after the race! Among his letters there is a great deal of methodism: if this procures for the book, as it very likely may, a sale among the righteous over-much, I shall rejoice for the sake of his family, for whom I am very much interested. I have, however, in justice to myself, stated, in the shortest and most decorous manner, that my own views of religion differ widely from his. Still, that I should become, and that, too, voluntarily, an editor of methodistical and Calvinistic letters, is a thing which, when I think of it, excites the same sort of smile that the thoughts of my pension does, and I wonder, like the sailor, what is to be done next.