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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Herbert Knowles to Robert Southey, 28 December 1816

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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“Gomersal, near Leeds, Dec. 28. 1816.
“My dear Sir,

“I have duly received your two last letters, both of which have filled me with pleasure and gratitude, not so much for the solid advantage which your kindness affords and has obtained for me, as for the tender
manifestation which it gives me of your concern for my welfare.

“And now, my dear Sir, I will freely state to you my feelings and my sentiments at the present hour. Upon reading the Life of Kirke White, I was struck with surprise at the distinguished success which he met with at the University; and from his inordinate anxiety and immoderate exertions* to obtain it, I was insensibly led into the opinion, not that his success at college was considered as a sine quâ non for the benevolence of his patrons, but that that benevolence was given under the impression, and accompanied with the expectation, that he would make a corresponding

* I extract here the melancholy record of some of these exertions, “During his first term, one of the university scholarships became vacant; and Henry, young as he was in college, and almost self-taught, was advised by those who were best able to estimate his chance of success to offer himself as a competitor for it. He passed the whole term in preparing himself for this; reading for college subjects in bed, in his walks, or, as he says, where, when, and how he could; never having a moment to spare, and often going to his tutor without having read at all. His strength sunk under this; and though he had declared himself a candidate, he was compelled to decline: but this was not the only misfortune. The general college examination came on; he was utterly unprepared to meet it, and believed that a failure here would have ruined his prospects for ever. He had only about a fortnight to read what other men had been the whole term reading. Once more he exerted himself beyond what his shattered health could bear; the disorder returned; and he went to his tutor, Mr. Catton, with tears in his eyes, and told him that he could not go into the hall to be examined. Mr. Catton, however, thought his success here of so much importance, that he exhorted him, with all possible earnestness, to hold out the six days of the examination. Strong medicines were given him to enable him to support it, and he was pronounced the first man of his year. But life was the price which he was to pay for such honours as this; and Henry is not the first young man to whom such honours have proved fatal. He said to his most intimate friend, almost the last time he saw him, that were he to paint a picture of Fame, crowning a distinguished undergraduate after the senate-house examination, he would represent her as concealing a death’s head under a mask of beauty.”—Remains of H. K. White, vol. i. p. 46.

Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 225
compensation in the credit reflected upon them from his distinction at college.

“I will not deceive. If I thought the bounty of my friends was offered under the same impression, I would immediately decline it. Far be it from me to foster expectations which I feel I cannot gratify. My constitution is not able to bear half the exertion under which Kirke White sunk; double those exertions would be insufficient to obtain before October next his attainments, or insure his success at St. John’s. Two years ago I came to Richmond, totally ignorant of classical and mathematical literature. Out of that time, during three months and two long vacations, I have made but a retrograde course; during the remaining part of the time, having nothing to look forward to, I had nothing to exert myself for, and wrapped in visionary thought, and immersed in cares and sorrows peculiarly my own, I was diverted from the regular pursuit of those qualifications which are requisite for University distinction. . . . . I need not say much more. If I enter into competition for University honours, I shall kill myself. Could I twine (to gratify my friends) a Laurel with the Cypress, I would not repine; but to sacrifice the little inward peace which the wreck of passion has left behind, and relinquish every hope of future excellence and future usefulness in one wild and unavailing pursuit, were indeed a madman’s act, and worthy of a madman’s fate.

“Yet will I not be idle; but as far as health and strength allow, I will strive that my passage through the University, if not splendid, shall be respectable;
and if it reflect no extraordinary credit on my benefactors, it will, I trust, incur them no disgrace. . . . .

“I am at a loss to convey to you the high sense I feel of your proffered kindness, and that of your friends. The common professions of gratitude all can use, and extraordinary ones are unnecessary. Suffice it, then, to say, I thank you from my heart; let time and my future conduct tell the rest.

“I know not how I should act with respect to Lord Spencer and Mr. Rogers. Will you direct me? Should I write to them? If so, will you give me their respective addresses? With the highest esteem for your character, profound veneration for your talents, and the warmest gratitude for your kindness, I have the honour to be,

My dear Sir,
Affectionately yours,
Herbert Knowles.”