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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Grosvenor C. Bedford, 20 November 1792

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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“Nov. 20. 1792.
“My dear Bedford,

I doubt not but you will be surprised at my sending a church neither remarkable for beauty of design or neatness of execution. Waiving, however, all apologies for either, if you are disposed at some future time to visit the ‘Verdant House’ of your friend when he shall be at supper,—‘not when he eats, but when he is eaten,’—you will find it on the other side of this identical church. The very covering of the vault affords as striking an emblem of mortality as would even the mouldering tenant of the tomb. Yesterday, I know not from what strange humour, I visited it for the second time in my life; the former occasion was mournful, and no earthly consideration shall ever draw me there upon a like. My pilgrimage yesterday was merely the result of a meditating moment when philosophy had flattered itself into apathy. I am really astonished when I reflect upon the indifference with which I so minutely surveyed the heaving turf, which inclosed within its cold bosom ancestors upon whom fortune bestowed rather more of her smiles than she has done upon their descendants,—men who, content with an independent patrimony, lay hid from the world too obscure to be noticed by it, too elevated to fear its insult. Those days are past. Three Edward Hills there sleep for ever. I send the epitaph which, at
present, is inscribed upon one of the cankered sides: perhaps the production of some one of my forefathers, who possessed more piety than poetry:—
‘Farwell this world
With all Its Vanity;
We hope, through Christ,
To live eternally.’

“You have the exact orthography, and the inscription will probably cover the remains of one who has written so much for others, and must be content with so humble an epitaph himself, unless you will furnish him with one more characteristical.

“Were you to walk over the village (Ashton) with me, you would, like me, be tempted to repine that I have no earthly mansion here,—it is the most enchanting spot that nature can produce. My rambles would be much more frequent, were it not for certain reflections, not altogether of a pleasant nature, which always recur. I cannot wander like a stranger over lands which once were my forefathers’, nor pass those doors which are now no more open, without feeling emotions altogether inconsistent with pleasure and irreconcileable with the indifference of philosophy.

“What is there, Bedford, contained in that word of such mighty virtue? it has been sounded in the ear of common sense till it is deafened and overpowered with the clamour. Artifice and vanity have reared up the pageant, science has adorned it, and the multitude have beheld at a distance and adored; it is applied indiscriminately to vice and virtue, to the exalted ideas of Socrates, the metaphysical charms of Plato, the frigid maxims of Aristotle, the unfeeling dictates of the Stoics, and the disciples of the
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 167
Epicurus. Rousseau was called a philosopher whilst he possessed sensibility the most poignant. Voltaire was dignified with the name when he deserved the blackest stigma from every man of principle. Whence all this seeming absurdity? or why should reason be dazzled by the name when she cannot but perceive its imbecility?

“So far I wrote last night; upon running it over, I think you will fancy you have a rhapsody for the Flagellant instead of a letter; and really, had I continued it in the same mood, it would have been little different. If I had any knowledge of drawing, I would send you some of the most pleasing views you can conceive, whether rural, melancholy, pleasing, or grand. At some future period I hope to show you the place, and you will then judge whether I have praised it too lavishly. . . . . In the course of next summer the Duke of Portland will be installed at Oxford: the spectacle is only inferior to a coronation. I have rooms there, and am glad of the opportunity to offer them to you. We are permitted to have men in college upon the occasion: the whole university makes up the procession. It will be worth seeing, as perhaps coronations, like the secular games, will soon be as a tale that is told.

“Within this half hour I have received a letter from my uncle at Lisbon, chiefly upon a subject which I have been much employed upon since March 1. I will show it you when we meet. It is such as I expected from one who has been to me more than a parent: without asperity, without reproaches. . . . . To-morrow I answer it, and, as he has desired, send
him the
Flagellant. I then hope to drop the subject for ever in this world; in the next all hearts are open, and no man’s intentions are hid.

“I can now tell you one of the uses of philosophy: it teaches us to search for applause from within, and to despise the flattery and the abuse of the world alike; to attend only to an inward monitor; to be superior to fortune: why, then, is the name so prostituted? Do give me a lecture upon philosophy, and teach me how to become a philosopher. The title is pretty, and surely the philosophic S. would sound as well as the philosophic Hume or the philosopher of Ferney. Would it not be as truly applied? I am loth to part with my poor Flagellants; they have cost me very dear, and perhaps I shall never see them more.* One copy ought to be preserved, in order to contradict the inventions of future malice. Are you not ashamed of your idleness?

R. Southey.”

“P.S. If I can one day have the honour of writing after my name Fellow of Balliol College, that will be the extent of my preferment. Sometimes I am tempted to think that I was sent into this world for a different employment; but, as the play says, beware of the beast that has three legs. Now, Bedford, as you might long puzzle to discover the genus of the beast, know that his grasp is always mortal, that—in short

* This proved to be the case:—he never saw the latter numbers of the Flagellant again. Mr. Hill preserved the copy which had been sent to him, but in after years kept it carefully from my father’s knowledge, thinking he would destroy it. This copy is now before me, and is, perhaps, the only one in existence.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 169
(here follows a sketch). But, as that drawing wants explanation as much, if not more, than the description, know it is—the gallows.

“About the 17th of January I begin my residence at Oxford, where the prime of my life is to pass in acquiring knowledge; which, when I begin to have some ideas of, it will be cut short by the Doctor, who levels all ranks and degrees. Is it not rather disgraceful, at the moment when Europe is on fire with freedom—when man and monarch are contending—to sit and study Euclid or Hugo Grotius? As Pindar says, a good button-maker is spoilt in making a king; what will be spoilt when I am made a fellow of Balliol? That question I cannot resolve, I can only say I have spoilt a sheet of paper, and you fifteen minutes in reading it.

“N.B. If you do not soon answer it, you will spoil my temper.”