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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Grosvenor C. Bedford, 16 March 1793

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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“March 16. 1793.

“I am now sitting without fire in a cold day, waiting for Wynn to go upon the Isis, ‘silver-slippered queen,’ as Warton calls her; the epithet may be
classical, but it certainly is ridiculous. Of all poetical figures the prosopopoeia is that most likely to be adopted by a savage nation, and which adds most ornament, but not to composition; but in the name of common sense, what appropriate idea does ‘silver-slippered’ convey?
Homer’s Χρυσοπέδιλος* probably alludes to some well-known statue so habited. Nature is a much better guide than antiquity.


“On the water I went yesterday, in a little skiff, which the least deviation from the balance would overset. To manage two oars and yet unable to handle one!† My first setting off was curious. I did not step exactly in the middle, the boat tilted up, and a large barge from which I embarked alone saved me from a good ducking; my arm, however, got completely wet. I tugged at the oar very much like a bear in a boat; or, if you can conceive any thing more awkward, liken me to it, and you will have a better simile. . . . . When I walk over these streets what various recollections throng upon me, what scenes fancy delineates from the hour when Alfred first marked it as the seat of learning! Bacon’s study is demolished, so I shall never have the honour of being killed by its fall; before my window Latimer and Ridley were burnt, and there is not even a stone to mark the place where a monument should be erected

* “Άργυρόπεζα” would have been nearer the mark. Warton was imitating Milton, who uses the term “tinsel-slippered.”

† My father used to say he learned two things only at Oxford,—to row and to swim.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 177
to religious liberty. . . . . I have walked over the ruins of Godstow Nunnery with sensations such as the site of Troy or Carthage would inspire; a spot so famed by our minstrels, so celebrated by tradition, and so memorable in the annals of legendary, yet romantic truth. Poor Rosamond! some unskilful impostor has painted an epitaph upon the chapel wall, evidently within this century; the precise spot where she lies is forgotten, and the traces are still visible of a subterranean passage—perhaps the scene of many a deed of darkness; but we should suppose the best:—surely amongst the tribe who were secluded from the world, there may have been some whose motives were good among so many victims of compulsion and injustice. Do you recollect
Richardson’s plan for Protestant nunneries?* To monastic foundations I have little attachment; but were the Colleges ever to be reformed (and reformation will not come before it is wanted), I would have a little more of the discipline kept up. Temperance is much wanted; the waters of Helicon are far too much polluted by the wine of Bacchus ever to produce any effect. With respect to its superiors, Oxford only exhibits waste of wigs and want of wisdom; with respect to undergraduates, every species of abandoned excess.

* “Considering the condition of single women in the middle classes, it is not speaking too strongly to assert that the establishment of Protestant nunneries upon a wide plan, and liberal scale, would be the greatest benefit that could possibly be conferred upon these kingdoms. The name, indeed, is deservedly obnoxious, for nunneries, such as they exist in Roman Catholic countries, and such as at this time are being re-established in this, are connected with the worst corruptions of popery, being only nurseries of superstition and of misery.”—Southey’s Colloquies, vol. i. p. 338.

As for me, I regard myself too much to run into the vices so common and so destructive. I have not yet been drunk, nor mean to be so. What use can be made of a collegiate life I wish to make; but in the midst of all, when I look back to
Rousseau, and compare myself either with his Emilius or the real pupil of Madame Brulenck, I feel ashamed and humbled at the comparison. Never shall child of mine enter a public school or a university. Perhaps I may not be able so well to instruct him in logic or languages, but I can at least preserve him from vice.

Yours sincerely,
Robert Southey.”