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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to John Miller, 20 July 1835

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
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“Keswick, July 20 1836.
“My dear Sir,

“A copy of the ‘unique Opus’ came to me upon its first appearance, with my name printed in red letters on the back of the title-page, and ‘from the author’ on the fly-leaf, in a disguised hand; in which hand, through the disguise, I thought I could recognise that of my very intimate friend, the author of Philip Van Artevelde. He, however, if my theory of the book be well founded, is too young a man to be the author. I take the preparatory postscript to have been written in sincerity and sadness: and if so, Henry Taylor was a boy at the time when (according to the statement there) the book was begun.

“It may, I think, be inferred from everything about the book, and in it, that the author began it in his blithest years, with the intention of saying, under certain restrictions, quidlibet de quolibet, and making it a receptacle for his shreds and patches; that beginning in jest, he grew more and more in earnest as he proceeded; that he dreamt over it, and brooded over it—laid it aside for months and years,
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resumed it after long intervals, and more often latterly in thoughtfulness than in mirth; fancied, perhaps, at last that he could put into it more of his mind than could conveniently be produced in any other form; and having supposed (as he tells us) when he began, that the whole of his yarn might be woven up in two volumes, got to the end of a third, without appearing to have diminished the balls that were already spun and wound when the work was commenced in the loom, to say nothing of his bags of wool.

“To the reasons which he has assigned for not choosing to make himself publicly known, this no doubt may be added, that the mask would not conceal him from those who knew him intimately, nor from the few by whom he might wish to be known; but it would protect his face from dirt, or any thing worse that might be thrown at it

“I see in the work a little of Rabelais, but not much; more of Tristram Shandy, somewhat of Burton, and perhaps more of Montaigne; but methinks the quintum quid predominates.

“I should be as much at a loss to know who is meant by REVERNE as you have been, if I had not accidentally heard that the only person to whom the authorship is ascribed, upon any thing like authority, is the Rev. Erskine Neale. Mrs. Hodson (formerly Margaret Holford) being in the neighbourhood of Doncaster, and desirous to hunt out, if she could, the history of the Opus, inquired about it there, and was assured by a bookseller that it was written by this gentleman, who had once resided in
that place, but was then living at Hull. A clergyman whom she met there confirmed this, and there seemed to be no doubt about it in Doncaster. It is plain, therefore, that REVERNE designates this Great-every where-else-unknown; but I would not swear the book to him upon such evidence.

“I can resolve another of your doubts. The concluding signature is not in the Garamna tongue, but in cryptography, or, what might more properly be called, in Dovean language comicography. If you look at it, and observe that k, e, w spell Q, you will find that when the nut is cracked it contains no kernel.

“So much concerning a book which is a great favourite with my family, and has helped them sometimes to beguile what otherwise must have been hours of sorrow. Ten months have elapsed since our great affliction came upon us. . . . . This is the fortieth year of our marriage, and I know not whether the past or the present seems now to me most like a dream.

“Amid these griefs, you will be glad to know that some substantial good has befallen us. One of the last acts of Sir Robert Peel’s administration was to give me a pension of 300l., in addition to that of 200l. which I before possessed, the new one being (I am told) free from deductions; and this will emancipate me from all booksellers’ work, when my present engagements are completed. If my life be prolonged, I shall then apply myself to the histories of Portugal, of the Monastic Orders, and of English Literature, from the point where Warton breaks off. Do not
Ætat. 60. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 271
conclude that in entertaining such designs at my age, I am immemor sepulchri. For of the first at least three-fourths of the labour has been performed, and I have been very many years preparing for all three, hoping the time might come when I could afford to make them my chief employment.

“Farewell, my dear Sir. Present my best wishes to your brother and sister, and

Believe me always,
Yours with the sincerest respect and regard,
Robert Southey.”