15 May 1799

Robert Southey, Brixton, to Edith Southey, Wednesday, 15 May 1799.1


Brixton.  Wednesday night. May 15. 99


     [...] I called on Mary Hays. She appeared glad to see me, and the conversation of course turned upon Lloyd. She told me Lloyd had behaved very ill to her. The circumstances were these. One evening when her spirits were very much oppressed by some grief, she went on a visit somewhere with Lloyd and Stephen Weever Browne: a man who you know talks most mightily. From the effort which persons often make when they are depressed, she had talked with a degree of gaiety, so as to exhaust herself. They went home with her. Stephen Browne’s talking fatigued her still more. He left her first, and when she came into her lodgings and sat down she burst into tears. Lloyd was full of expressions of friendship – had she anything on her mind? &c &c &c. The following day wrote her a letter full of professions and sentiment and feelings. But Lloyd tells this story in company with these alterations – that Mary Hays was in love with him – that she contrived to send away St. Brown that she might be left alone with Lloyd, and burst into tears because Lloyd would not understand her. This was repeated to her, and she wrote to Lloyd, rather rallying him for his ridiculous vanity than reproaching him, because it was so contemptible and because she did not fully understand the whole abuse till his reply. He answered by confessing that he had traduced her character – and apologizing most humbly for it, alledging that her principles were so very bad that he had suspected her conduct – yet saying that no one who knew her excellence unless he were a fool or a villain. Of course she thinks him either the one or the other, nor was it possible for me to justify him – as he evidently has said that she would have prostituted herself to him if he had pleased – and now comes out with a canting repentance. It has sunk him in my opinion. She told me these circumstances because she thought I might hear something of them from him. She spoke with temper and great good sense. You know I like Mary Hays. About his marriage she blamed him for telling every body that he had no affection for Sophia. Edith, those persons who talk most of their feelings do not feel the most.

      I shall only tell Lloyd that I have seen Mary Hays and heard that they have disagreed. It is not my wish to enter upon the subject[.]

1  Excerpt taken from Kenneth Curry, ed., New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965), 1.187-88; also in Brooks, Correspondence 324; The Collected Letters of Robert Southey (Romantic Circles edition), gen, ed. Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford, and Ian Packer.