LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Allan Cunningham, 23 July 1829

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
“Keswick, July 23. 1829.
“My dear Allan,

“I have read your first volume, and with very great pleasure. You need not ask any one how biography ought to be written. A man with a clear head, a good heart, and an honest understanding will always write well; it is owing either to a muddy head, an evil heart, or a sophisticated intellect that men write badly, and sin either against reason, or goodness, or sincerity.

“There may be secrets in painting, but there are none in style. When I have been asked the foolish question, what a young man should do who wishes to acquire a good style, my answer has been that he should never think about it; but say what he has to say as perspicuously as he can, and as briefly as he can, and then the style will take care of itself.

“Were you to leave nothing but these Lives, you need not doubt of obtaining the remembrance which you court and desire.


“I wish I could tell you any thing which might be found useful in your succeeding volumes. I knew Barry, and have been admitted into his den in his worst (that is to say, his maddest) days, when he was employed upon his Pandora. He wore at that time an old coat of green baize, but from which time had taken all the green that incrustations of paint and dirt had not covered. His wig was one which you might suppose he had borrowed from a scarecrow; all round it there projected a fringe of his own grey hair. He lived alone, in a house which was never cleaned; and he slept on a bedstead with no other furniture than a blanket nailed on the one side. I wanted him to visit me. ‘No,’ he said, ‘he would not go out by day, because he could not spare time from his great picture; and if he went out in the evening the Academicians would waylay him and murder him.’ In this solitary, sullen life he continued till he fell ill, very probably for want of food sufficiently nourishing; and after lying two or three days under his blanket, he had just strength enough left to crawl to his own door, open it, and lay himself down with a paper in his hand, on which he had written his wish to be carried to the house of Mr. Carlisle (Sir Anthony) in Soho Square. There he was taken care of; and the danger from which he had thus escaped seems to have cured his mental hallucinations. He cast his slough afterwards; appeared decently drest and in his own grey hair, and mixed in such society as he liked.

“I should have told you that, a little before his illness, he had with much persuasion been induced to
pass a night at some person’s house in the country. When he came down to breakfast the next morning, and was asked how he had rested, he said remarkably well; he had not slept in sheets for many years, and really he thought it was a very comfortable thing.

“He interlarded his conversation with oaths as expletives, but it was pleasant to converse with him; there was a frankness and animation about him which won good will as much as his vigorous intellect commanded respect.

“There is a story of his having refused to paint portraits, and saying, in answer to applications, that there was a man in Leicester Square who did. But this he said was false; for that he would at any time have painted portraits, and have been glad to paint them. God bless you!

Yours very truly,
R. S.”