LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Grosvenor C. Bedford, 26 October 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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
“Bristol, Oct. 26. 1793.

“Never talk to me of obstinacy, for contrary to all the dictates of sound sense, long custom, and inclination, I have spoilt a sheet of paper by cutting it to the shape of your fancy. Accuse me not of irascibility, for I wrote to you ten days back, and though you have never vouchsafed me an answer, am now writing with all the mildness and goodness of a philosopher.

“Call me Job, for I am without clothes, expecting my baggage from day to day; and much as I fear its loss unrepining, own I am modest in assuming no merit for all these good qualities. Know then, most indolent of mortals, that my baggage is not yet ar-
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 185
rived, that I am fearful of its safety, and yet less troubled than all the rest of the family, who cry out loudly upon my puppet-show dress, and desire I will write to inquire concerning it. . . . .

“Now I am much inclined to fill this sheet, and that with verse, but I will punish myself to torment you: you shall have half a prose letter. The College bells are dinning the King’s proclamation in my ear, the linings of my breeches are torn, you are silent, and all this makes me talkative and angrily communicative; so that had you merited it, you would have received such a letter,—so philosophic, poetical, grave, erudite, amusing, instructive, elegant, simple, delightful, simplex munditiis,—in short, το αγαθον και το αριστον, το βελτιστον—such a letter, Grosvenor, full of odes, elegiacs, epistles, monodramas, comodramas, tragodramas, all sorts of dramas, though I have not tasted spirits to-day. Don’t think me drunk, for if I am, ’tis with sobriety; and I certainly feel most seriously disposed to be soberly nonsensical. Now you wish I would dispose my folly to a short series; which sentence if you comprehend, you will do more than I can. You must not be surprised at nonsense, for I have been reading the history of philosophy, the ideas of Plato, the logic of Aristotle, and the heterogeneous dogmas of Pythagoras, Antisthenes, Zeno, Epicurus, and Pyrrho, till I have metaphysicized away all my senses, and so you are the better for it. . . . .

“Now good night! Egregious nonsense, execrably written, is all you merit. O my clothes! O Joan!”*

* The first MS. of Joan of Arc was in his baggage.

“Sunday morning.

“Now my friend, whether it be from the day itself, from the dull weather, or from the dream of last night, I know not, but I am a little more serious than when I laid down the pen. My baggage makes me very uneasy: the loss of what is intrinsically worth only the price of the paper would be more than ever I should find time, or perhaps ability, to repair; and even supposing some rascal should get them and publish them, I should be more vexed than at the utter loss. Do write immediately. I direct to you that you may have this the sooner. Inform me when you receive it, and with what direction. It is almost a fortnight since I left Brixton, and I am equipped in such old shirts, stockings, and shoes, as have been long cast off, and have lost all this time, in which I should have transcribed half of Joan. . . . .

“Of the various sects that once adorned the republic of Athens, to me that of Epicurus, whilst it maintained its original purity, appears most consonant to human reason. I am not speaking of his metaphysics and atomary system; they are (as all cosmogonies must be) ridiculous; but of that system of ethics and pleasure combined, which he taught in the garden. When the philosopher declared that the ultimate design of life is happiness, and happiness consists in virtue, he laid the foundation of a system which might have benefited mankind; his life was the most temperate, his manner the most affable, displaying that urbanity which cannot fail of attracting esteem. Plotinus, a man memorable for corrupting philosophy, was in
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 187
favour with
Gallienus, with whose imperial qualifications you are well acquainted: the enthusiast requested his royal highness would give him a ruined city in Campania, which he might rebuild and people with philosophers, governed by the laws of Plato, and from whom the city should be called Platonopolis. Gallienus, who was himself an elegant scholar, was pleased with the plan, but his friends dissuaded him from the experiment. The design would certainly have proved impracticable in that declining and degenerate age—most probably in any age; new visionary enthusiasts would have been continually arising, fresh sects formed, and each would have been divided and subdivided till all was anarchy. Yet I cannot help wishing the experiment had been tried; it could not have been productive of evil, and we might at this period have received instruction from the history of Platonopolis. Under the Antonines or under Julian the request would have been granted; despotism is perhaps a blessing under such men. . . . . I could rhapsodise most delightfully upon this subject; plan out my city—her palaces, her hovels—all simplex munditiis (my favourite quotation); but if you were with me, Southeyopolis would soon be divided into two sects; whilst I should be governing with Plato (correcting a few of Plato’s absurdities with some of my own), and almost deifying Alcaeus, Lucan, and Milton, you (as visionary as myself) would be dreaming of Utopian kings possessed of the virtue of the Antonines, regulated by peers every one of whom should be a Falkland, and by a popular assembly where
every man should unite the integrity of a
Cato, the eloquence of a Demosthenes, and the loyalty of a Jacobite.

Yours most sincerely,
R. S.”