LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Ch. XXIII. 1818

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

Affairs in the political world had now somewhat settled down, and the immediate fear of an insurrectionary movement had passed away.

The original intention of the Government in wishing my father to come up to town for the purpose of conferring with him, was, as he had supposed, to endeavour to induce him to conduct a political journal which should aim at counteracting the influence of the seditious and anarchical portion of the daily and weekly press. This, however, was a scheme which no inducement they could have offered would have per-
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 291
suaded him to enter into; and, indeed, we have seen that he had declined an offer of the same nature, which would have combined far greater independence of action with large pecuniary advantages. It appears, however, that they were by no means so anxious that he should write “ex propria motu,”, as under their own especial influence; and he was urged to employ the
Quarterly Review as a vehicle for his opinions and arguments, in preference to a separate and independent publication.

This, in the first instance, he consented to do; and the result was that article “On the Rise and Progress of popular Disaffection”* which excited the “ponderous displeasure” of Mr. William Smith; but for some time he still adhered to his intention of embodying his views of the dangers and evils of the existing state of society in England, and the remedies, in a small volume fitted in size and price for general circulation.

Other avocations, however, intervened, and together with the improved aspect of public affairs, caused him to lay aside this idea for the present. “As to politics,” he writes at the close of the year, “I have nothing to do with them now. The battle has been won; but that, indeed, was a cause in which I would have spent something more precious than ink.” . . . . “When I touch upon politics,” he continues, “it will be with a wider range and a larger view than belongs to any temporary topics.” It seems probable, indeed, that the Colloquies on

* This article was reprinted in his Essays.

the Progress and Prospects of Society, took their rise from the ideas thus aroused.

The first letter with which the new year opens shows pleasingly how abiding were his feelings of gratitude to his early friend Mr. Wynn, and also speaks of his present literary employments.

To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq., M.P.
“Keswick, Jan. 1. 1818.
“My dear Wynn,

“Many happy returns of the new year to you and yours. It is now thirty years since you and I first met in Dean’s Yard, and in the course of these years half the human race who were then living have gone under ground. How long either of us may keep above it, God knows; but while we do, there is little likelihood that any circumstances can break or loosen an attachment which has continued so long. Your path has been just what might have been predicted,—straight, honourable, and in full view, only that one might have expected to have found you on the other side the house and in office; and one day or other (the sooner the better) I trust to see you there. What mine might have been without your helping hand, when I was among the bogs and briars, I know not. With that help it has been a very pleasant uphill road, with so many incidents by the way, that the history of them would make no bad Pilgrim’s Progress, especially as I am now at rest among the
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 293
Delectable Mountains, and have little more to do than to cross the river whenever my turn comes.

“We are enjoying a beautiful winter here. No snow has yet fallen in the valley, and it lies on the fells not raggedly, but in an even line, so that Skiddaw and Grisdale bear no distant resemblance to the Swiss mountains, and imbibe tints at morning and evening which may vie with any thing that ever was seen upon Mont Blanc or Jungfrau.

“I am writing for the Quarterly Review upon the Poor Laws, or, rather, upon the means of improving the lower classes,—a practical paper, containing, I think, some hints which any clergyman or other influential person In a parish may usefully improve. It is not unlikely that I may gradually withdraw from the Review; that Is to say, as soon as I can live without it. It takes up far too great a portion of my time; for although no man can take to task-work with less reluctance, still, from the very circumstance of its being task-work,—something which must be done, and not what I desire at the time to do,—it costs me twice or thrice the time of any other composition, as much in the course of the year as it took to write Thalaba or Kehama. This last poem is going to press for a fourth edition; they sell slowly and steadily.

“The life of Wesley is my favourite employment just now, and a very curious book it will be, looking at Methodism abroad as well as at home, and comprehending our religious history for the last hundred years. I am sure I shall treat this subject with moderation. I hope I come to it with a sober
judgment, a mature mind, and perfect freedom from all unjust prepossessions of any kind. There is no party which I am desirous of pleasing, none which I am fearful of offending; nor am I aware of any possible circumstance which might tend to bias me one way or other from the straight line of impartial truth. For the bigot I shall be far too philosophical; for the libertine far too pious. The Ultra-churchman will think me little better than a Methodist, and the Methodists will wonder what I am. Άγια άγίοις will be my motto.

“My books from Milan have reached London;—something more than 100 volumes. Ramusio is among them, and the Gesta Dei. I have not yet heard of my Acta Sanctorum, the arrival of which will form a grand day in my life. Little leisure as I find for poetry, and seldom indeed as I think of it, there is yet a sort of reluctance in me wholly to give up any scheme of a poem on which I have ever thought with, any degree of fondness; and because I had meditated a Jewish poem many years ago, I bought at Milan the great Bibliotheca Rabinica of Barlotacci, as a repository of materials. Could I have afforded to have written verses during those years when nobody bought them, I verily believe I should have written more than any of my predecessors. God bless you!

R. S.”
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 295
To Walter Scott, Esq.
“Keswick, March 10. 1818.
“My dear Scott,

“I am glad that the first tidings which informed me of your illness, told of your recovery also. There is an enjoyment of our absent friends, even of those from whom we are far distant, in talking and thinking of them, which makes a large part of the happiness of life. It is a great thing to be in the same place with a friend, it is something to be in the same planet. And whenever you are removed to a better, there are few men whose loss will be more widely felt in this, for I know no one who has administered so much delight to so extensive a part of the public. I hope your illness has left no weakness behind it. We stand in need sometimes of visitations which may lead us to look towards eternity; and in such cases the stroke is merciful when it falls on the body. There is a joyousness, too, in the sense of returning health,—a freshness of sensation such as one mi^ht expect from a draught of the fountain of youth.

“About four months ago, John Ballantyne wrote to ask me if he should dispose of my property in the Ed. An. Register to Constable, upon the same terms as those of the other persons who had the same shares in it. As I had given it up for a lost concern, I was very glad to hear that I was to have about the same sum which the share had cost, in a bill from Constable at twelve months’ date; four months, however, have elapsed, and I have heard
nothing farther. Perhaps, if you have an opportunity, you will do me the kindness to ask how the matter stands.

“The neighbouring county is in an uproar already with the expected election. —— has succeeded in producing as much turbulence there as he could desire; and if we may judge of what the play will be by what the rehearsal has been, it may prove a very serious tragedy before it is over. I am out of the sphere of this mischief. We shall have mobs, I think, upon the Poor-Law question, which is as perilous in its nature as a corn bill, and yet must be taken in hand. I know not whether the next Quarterly Review will look the danger in the face, and say honestly that we must be prepared to meet it. Preventive measures are very easy, and would be found effectual. How grievously do we want some man of commanding spirit in the House of Commons to do constantly what Canning only rouses himself to do now and then. There is, however, good promise in the Solicitor-General; to him, I think, we may look with hope, and to Peel.

“I saw Humboldt at Paris; never did any man portray himself more perfectly in his writings than he has done. His excessive volubility, his fulness of information, and the rapidity with which he fled fromevery fact into some wide generalisation, made you more acquainted with his intellectual character in half an hour than you would be with any other person in half a year. Withal, he appeared exceedingly good-natured and obliging. It was at Mackenzie’s that I met him.

Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 297

“Remember us to Mrs. Scott and your daughter, who is now, I suppose, the flower of the Tweed.

Believe me, my dear Scott,
Ever affectionately yours,
Robert Southey.”

In a preceding letter my father refers to an article on the Poor Laws which he was then preparing for I the Quarterly Review. This was a subject he would hardly have taken up of himself, being well aware of his inability to handle topics requiring a clear head for statistical calculation and political economy. He had, however, been urged to it by Mr. Rickman, who furnished him with information and argument on all those points he felt himself unequal to—“as a history of the poor rates, a catalogue raisonné of the abominable effects of the Poor Laws, an expose the injudicious quackeries which from generation to generation had made bad worse.”

It appears that although “the Poor-Law question and its remedies, if to be remedied,” would have seemed, of all subjects, one of the least objectionable for discussion, Gifford at first had some fears lest it might be rather above the temperature of the Review, and to his hesitation about inserting it (before he had seen it) the following letter refers; while the next shows that a perusal of the paper removed his objections.

To John Rickman, Esq.
“April 5. 1818.
“My dear R.,

“I apprehended, as you know, some such demurrer on the part of the feeble. They are, I believe, the only persons who, when engaged in mortal combat, were ever afraid of provoking their enemies, or striking them too hard. . . . . .

Murray wrote me a brief note the other day, wherein, without any mention of this paper, he said he never desired to see another article upon either politics or religion in the Review, because they are ‘certain of offending a great mass of people.’ I replied to this at some length in a way which for a little while would impress the magnus homo; but because Mackintosh and a few other Ops. praise a number which does them no harm, he fancies because they are pleased the rest of his readers must be pleased too. This is the mere impression for the moment; but that the Review will ever proceed in a bold, upright, and straightforward course is not to be expected.

“I have a chance letter from Stuart: he says Cobbett has fallen one third in sale, and all such publications are declining, but the anarchists are as active as ever, and new opportunities will occur for bringing their venom into life. ‘These wretches’ he continues, ‘are effecting their purposes by libelling; they are driving off the ground every man that can oppose them; they are conquering by scandal, and
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 299
Ministers wish as much as others to keep out of the way. Unless this spirit of scandal is put down, unless the licentiousness of the press be restrained, certainly it will effect a revolution,—restrained I mean by new laws, and new regulations. It is altogether, as at present practised, a new thing, not older than the French Revolution. I can perceive every one shrinking from it,—you, me,
Wordsworth, Coleridge, &c. Every one about the press dreads Cobbett’s scandal; and thus when a man throws off all consideration of character, he has all others in his power. Even the Ministry, too, and their friends, I think shrink from those who fight their battles, when covered with filth in the fray.’

Stuart is wrong in two points. This sort of scandal is certainly as old as Junius and Wilkes, perhaps much older; and he mistakes my feelings upon the subject and Wordsworth’s.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To John Rickman, Esq.
“April 11. 1818.
“My dear R.,

“I am not a little pleased that the paper has passed through the hands of Gifford with so little mutilation. . . . . My letter to Murraymagne in reply to his intended act of exclusion, has had its proper effect; but behold the said Murraymagne does not regard the Poor Law paper as political:
‘Such papers as these,’ he says, ‘are exceedingly desirable for the
Review, because they are of essential service to the country, and they must obtain for us the esteem of all well-thinking men.’ He only meant that we should avoid all party politics. I wish he did mean this. However, for the present we have got a most important paper—most important in two points—for strengthening authority, as much as for its remedy for the evil of the Poor Laws. . . . .

“The second Police Report is not of the character which you supposed. There is much valuable matter in it; and indeed, both Reports furnish stronger positions for me than for the enemy to occupy. The Bow-street men appear to great advantage in both. It really appears as if the coffee shops would almost supersede dram-drinking, so comfortable do the working classes find warmth and distention (your philosophy). Do you know that of all known substances coffee produces the most of that excitement which is required in fatigue? The hunters in the Isle of France and Bourbon take no other provision into the woods. And Bruce tells us that the viaticum of the Galla in their expeditions consists of balls of ground coffee and butter, one per diem (I believe) the size of a walnut sufficing to prevent the sense of hunger. I have just made a curious note upon the same subject for the History of Brazil: a people in the very heart of S. America, living beside a lake of unwholesome water, instead of making maize beer, like all their neighbours, carbonised their maize,—as good a substitute for coffee as any which was
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 301
used under
Bonaparte’s commercial system; and this was their sole beverage, and it was found very conducive to health.

Edith May has found a brazen or copper spearhead, upon Swinside, in a craggy part of the mountain, where it may have laid unseen for centuries. It is perfectly green but not corroded; exceedingly brittle, quite plain, but of very neat workmanship, as if it had been cast,—one of my spans in length.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To Chauncey Hare Townshend, Esq.
“Keswick, April 12. 1818.
“My dear Chauncey.

“I have just finished Henry Milman’s poem, a work of great power. But the story is ill constructed, and the style has a vice analogous to that which prevailed in prose about 170 years ago, when every composition was overlaid with strained thoughts and far-fetched allusions. The faults here are a perpetual stretch and strain of feeling; and the too frequent presence of the narrator, bringing his own fancies and meditations in the foreground, and thereby—as in French landscape engraving—calling off attention from the main subject, and destroying the effect. With less poetry Samor would have been a better poem. Milman has been endeavouring to adapt the moody and thoughtful character of Wordsworth’s philosophical poetry to heroic narra-
tion: they are altogether incompatible; and Wordsworth himself, when he comes to narrate in his higher strains, throws it aside like a wrestler’s garment, and is as severe a writer as
Dante, who is the great master in this style. If Milman can perceive or be persuaded of his fault, he has powers enough for any thing; but it is a seductive manner, and I think that as our poetry in Cowley’s days was overrun with conceits of thought, it is likely in the next generation to be overflown with this exuberance of feeling.

“This is a great error. That poetry (I am speaking of heroic narrative) which would reach the heart, must go straight to the mark like an arrow. Away with all trickery and ornaments when pure beauty is to be represented in picture or in marble; away with drapery when you would display muscular strength. Call artifices of this kind to your aid in those feebler parts which must occur in every narrative, and which ought to be there to give the other parts their proper relief.

Henry Milman was here, with an elder brother, about four years ago, who lodged at Keswick for some twelve months. He is a fine young man: and his powers are very great. They are, however, better fitted for the drama than for narration; the drama admits his favourite strain of composition, and is easier in its structure. Indeed, it is as much easier to plan a play than a poem of such magnitude as Samor, as it is to build a gentleman’s house than a cathedral.

“Do you know anything of Sir George Dallas? He has sent me some marvellous verses by a son of
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 303
his not yet thirteen; as great a prodigy as I have ever read of. Verse appears as easy to him as speech; Latin verse is at his fingers’ end like English; and he has acted a part in a play of his own composition like another
young Roscius. . . . .

“I am busy with history myself, and have written no poetry for many months; why this disuse, there is here hardly room to explain, if it were worth explanation. The account of Lope de Vega in the last Quarterly is mine, as you would probably guess. I have read widely in Spanish poetry; and might in historical and literary recollections call myself half a Spaniard, if, being half a Portuguese also, this would leave any room for the English part of my intellectual being. I anticipate much pleasure in showing you the treasures with which I am surrounded here upon these shelves. God bless you!

R. S.”

In the course of the spring of this year, an offer was made to my father of an appointment, which it might have been imagined would have been more suited to his habits and likings than any other that had been proposed to his acceptance, and which, indeed, had it been made to him in earlier life it is more than probable he would have gladly taken advantage of. This was the situation of Librarian to the Advocates’ Library at Edinburgh; the salary 400l. a-year, with the prospect of an increase, and the labour of making a catalogue attached to it. “Few persons,” he says, speaking of this offer,
“would dislike such labour less, but I am better employed. I do not love great cities. I will not remove further from my friends (being already too far from them); and having, God be thanked, no pecuniary anxieties, I am contented where I am and as I am, wanting nothing and wishing nothing.”

In thus expressing his freedom from pecuniary anxiety (of which in reality he had so large a share), it seems probable that he alluded chiefly to the small provision the Laureateship had enabled him to secure for his family by means of a life insurance. In other respects, however he might feel in moments of high hope and active exertion, when he perceived his reputation steadily rising, and his work becoming more remunerative, there were many times when the consciousness came over him that his subsistence depended upon his ability to follow day by day “his work and his labour until the evening;” and when the feeling that sickness might at any time, and that old age certainly would “dim the eye and deaden the memory, and palsy the hand,” came across him like a cloud over the face of the sun.

This the reader will see strikingly exemplified in a letter to Mr. Bedford written at the close of the year, which forms a singular contrast to the expressions my father uses respecting this offer. It would seem, indeed, that he had taken root so firmly among the mountains of Cumberland, and was so unwilling to encounter the difficulties of a removal, and to take upon him new habits of life, that he exercised unconsciously a kind of self-deception whenever an offer was made to him, and con-
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 305
jured up for the time feelings of security from anxiety which had no solid foundation, but which served for the time to excuse him to himself for declining them.

To John Kenyon, Esq.
“Keswick, June 13. 1818.
“My dear Sir,

“Your letter to Mr. Coleridge, which has this day arrived, enables me to thank you for Dobrizhoffer, and for the good old Huguenot Jean de Leny. The American by whom the letter was sent to my brothers has not yet made his appearance at the Lakes. When he comes I will provide him with an introduction to Wordsworth if he should not bring one from London; and if he is particularly desirous of seeing live poets, he shall have credentials for Walter Scott. I suppose an American inquires for them as you or I should do in America for a skunk or an opossum. They are become marvellously abundant in England; so that publications which twenty years ago would have attracted considerable attention, are now coming from the press in shoals unnoticed. This makes it the more remarkable that America should be so utterly barren: since the Revolution they have not produced a single poet who has been heard of on this side of the Atlantic. Dwight and Barlow both belong to the Revolution; and well was it for the Americans, taking them into the account, that we could not say of them—tam Marte, quam Mercurio.


“I am very sorry that your friend Ritchie should have gone upon an expedition which has proved fatal to every one who has yet undertaken it, and which I think the amateur geographising ‘gentlemen of England who sit at home at ease’ are altogether unjustifiable in pursuing at such a cost of valuable lives. The object is not tantamount, as it is in a voyage of discovery. In such voyages men are only exposed to some additional risk in the way of their profession, and the reward, if they return safe, is certain and proportionate; but, here, Mungo Park went upon his second expedition literally because he could not support his family after the first. If, however, Ritchie should live to accomplish his object, I am no ways apprehensive that his reputation will be eclipsed by his intended rival Ali Bey, that solemn professor of humbug having always made less use of his opportunities than any other traveller.

“If you go through Cologne (as I suppose you will), do not fail to visit St. Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins, whose relics form the most extraordinary sight that the Catholic superstition has to display. You will also find the Three Kings in the same city well worthy a visit to their magnificent shrine. From thence to Mentz and Frankfort you will see everywhere the havoc which the Revolution has made; further I cannot accompany your journey. We came to Frankfort from Heidelburgh and the Black Forest.

Yours most truly,
Robert Southey.”
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 307
To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq., M.P. (Boulogne).
“Keswick, Aug. 4. 1818.
“My dear Wynn,

“I envy you your French wines, and in a less degree your French cookery also, both indispensable in the alderman’s heaven, where the stomach is infinite, the appetite endless, and the dinner eternal. I should envy also your bathing upon that noble beach, if Derwentwater were not within reach, and still better the rock baths in Newlands, which are the perfection of bathing. What you say of the country about Boulogne is just what I should have supposed it to be from what we saw upon the road, and the place itself is a very interesting one. I slept there, and did not leave it till noon the next day, happening to have an acquaintance there. . . . . I had been told that the road to Paris was uninteresting, but to me it appeared far otherwise; for even if it had not possessed an historical interest of the highest kind to an Englishman, the scenery itself is in many parts very striking.

“You will be better pleased to hear that, if the carriers do not disappoint me, I may expect tomorrow to receive my three cases of books, with the Acta Sanctorum, and some fourscore volumes besides, the gatherings of my last year’s journey from Como to Brussels. Far better, and far more agreeably, would my time and thoughts be employed with the saints of old than with the sinners of the present day, with past events and in other countries than
with the current politics of our own. Heaven knows I have no predilection for a train of thought which brings with it nothing elevating and nothing cheerful. But I cannot shut my eyes either to the direct tendency of the principles which are now at work, or to their probable success; inevitable indeed, and at no very distant time, unless some means be taken for checking the progress of the evil.

“The state of religious feeling appears to differ much in different parts of France. In most places we found that the churches were very ill attended, but at Auxerre they were so full that we literally could not decently walk in to examine them as we wished to have done. In Switzerland the Protestant cantons have suffered more than the Catholic ones. I had good opportunities of inquiring into this in the Pays de Vaud, and the state of religion in Geneva is now notorious. Upon the banks of the Rhine all the inhabitants who were not actually employed in the fields seemed to be busy in performing a pilgrimage. It was a most striking sight to see them; men, women, and children toiling along bareheaded, under a July sun, singing German hymns. I suspect that the progress of irreligion has kept pace with the extent of French books in the Catholic part of Europe, and that where they have not found their way the people remain in the same state as before. But if things remain quiet for one generation the Catholic Church will recover its ascendency; its clergy are wise as serpents, and with all their errors one cannot, considering all things, but heartily wish them success.

Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 309

“You should go to St. Omers, if it were only to groan over the ruin of its magnificent cathedral. The country between that place and Lisle is the perfection of cultivated scenery, and the view from Cassel the finest I have ever seen over a flat country.

“God bless you, my dear Wynn! I half hope Parliament may be sitting in December, that I may meet you in town.

Yours most affectionately,
R. S.”

The commencement of the next letter refers to some remarks of Mr. Bedford upon a pamphlet (in the form of that addressed to William Smith), which my father had drawn up in reply to an attack which was made upon him during a contested election in Westmoreland. He had been accused from the hustings of having busied himself greatly on the Tory side, and he was denounced to an excited multitude as one rolling in riches unworthily obtained. To the former charge he could have given a direct denial, not having taken any part whatever in the matter; the latter one need not be further alluded to than as proving some little forbearance on his part in not carrying out his intention of publishing a reply. It is right to add that a counter-statement was made from the same place, on a subsequent occasion, by the same person.

To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, Sept. 6. 1818.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“If you had written to me in extenuation, as you term it, I should have been as nearly angry with you as anything could make me, for how could I possibly attribute anything you had said to any motive but the right one, or wherefore should I be more displeased with you for not liking my extended epistle more than you were with me for not liking your Dalmatian wine? The roughness of the one did not suit my palate, nor the asperity of the other your taste. And what of that? I dare say you think quite as favourably of your wine as before, and I am not a whit the less satisfied with my style objurgatory. But let that pass. . . . .

“I have just purchased Gifford’s Ben Jonson. He supposes that the Laureate continues to receive his tierce of Spanish canary, and recommends him yearly to drink to Old Ben in the first glass. Tell him, if he will get me reinstated in my proper rights, I will drink to Ben Jonson not once a year, but once a day, and to him also. By the manner in which he speaks of Sidney’s Arcadia, I conclude that either he has never read the book, or has totally forgotten it.

“So you are to have a Palace-yard meeting tomorrow. How few weeks have elapsed since Hunt was beaten and blackguarded in the face of the mob till his own miscreants hooted at him, and yet, you
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 311
see, he is in full feather again. The fellow ought to be tried for sedition; he would certainly be found guilty, for the jury, as yet, would be nothing worse than Burdettites, and, therefore, disposed to give him his deserts. And, during his confinement, he should be restricted to prison diet, kept from all intercourse with visitors, and left to amuse himself with the Bible, the prayer-book, and
Drelincourt upon death, or the Whole Duty of Man, for his whole library. At the end of two years he would come out cured. . . . .

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To John Taylor Coleridge, Esq.
“Keswick, Sept. 8. 1818.
“My dear Sir,

“I am glad to hear that you have taken your chance for happiness in that state in which alone there is a chance of finding it. Men in your station too frequently let the proper season go by, waiting till they can afford to start with a showy establishment. Among those who have not more than an ordinary share of good principles, this is a very common cause of libertine habits; and they who escape this evil incur another, which is sometimes not less fatal. They look out for a wife when they think themselves rich enough, and this is like going to market for one: the choice on their part is not made from those feelings upon which the foundation of happiness must be laid; and, on the other part, they
are accepted, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the establishment which they offer. Similarity of disposition is not consulted, and there is generally in such cases a disparity of years, which is not very likely to produce it. You have chosen a better course, and may God bless you in it.

“The most profitable line of composition is reviewing. You have good footing in the Quarterly, and I am glad of it, for heretofore there has been vile criticism in that journal upon poetry, and upon fine literature in general. This connection need not preclude you from writing for the British Review. Translation is of all literary labour the worst paid; that is, of all such labour as is paid at all: and yet there are so many poor hungry brethren and sisters of the grey goose-quill upon the alert, that new books are sent out from France and Germany by the sheet as they pass through the press, lest the translation should be forestalled.

“Anything which is not bargained for with the booksellers is, of course, matter of speculation, and success is so much a matter of accident (that is to say, temporary success) in literature, that the most knowing of them are often as grievously deceived as a young author upon his first essay. Biography, however, is likely to succeed; and, with the London libraries at hand, the research for it would be rather pleasurable than toilsome. History, which is the most delightful of all employments (experto crede), is much less likely to be remunerated. I have not yet received so much for the History of Brazil as for a single article in the Quarterly Review. But there
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 313
are many fine subjects which, if well handled, might prove prizes in the lottery. A history of
Charles I. and the Interregnum, or of all the Stuart kings, upon a scale of sufficient extent, and written upon such principles as you would bring to it, would be a valuable addition to the literature of our country,—useful to others, as well as honourable to yourself. Venice offers a rich story, and one which, unhappily, is now complete. Sweden, also, is a country fruitful in splendid and memorable events. For this, indeed, it would be necessary to acquire the Norse languages. Sharon Turner acquired them, and the Welsh to boot, for a similar purpose, without neglecting the duties of his practice. It may almost be asserted that men will find leisure for whatever they seriously desire to do. . . . .

Believe me,
Yours faithfully,
Robert Southey.”
To Sharon Turner, Esq.
“Keswick, Sept. 21. 1818.
“My dear Turner,

“You have taken, I see, Cornano for your physician. Had I made the same experiment, I should have been disposed to prefer a diet of roots, fruits, and esculent plants to bread, which is so likely to be adulterated. There is as much difference in the stomachs of men as in their tempers and faces; severe abstinence is necessary for some, and others feed
high and drink hard, and yet attain to a robust old age; but unquestionably the sparing system has most facts in its favour, and I have often remained with wonder the great length of life to which some of the hardest students and most inveterate self-tormentors among the monastic orders have attained. Truly glad shall I be if you derive from your system the permanent benefit which there seems such good reason to expect. Both you and I must wish to remain as long as we can in this ‘tough world’ for the sake of others. Thank Heaven it is no rack to us, though we have both reached that stage in our progress in which the highest pleasure that this life can afford is the anticipation of that which is to follow it.

“You have made a wise determination for your son William, for I believe that medical studies are of all others the most unfavourable to the moral sense. Anatomical studies are so revolting, that men who carry any feeling to the pursuit are glad to have it seared as soon as possible. I do not remember ever in the course of my life to have been so shocked as by hearing Carlisle relate some bravados of young men in this state when he was a student himself.

“I wonder you should have any qualms at going to the press, knowing, as you do, how capriciously at best, and in general with what injustice and impudent partiality, praise or blame is awarded by contemporary critics, and how absolutely worthless their decrees are in the court of posterity, by which the merits of the case must be finally determined. I am so certain that any subject which has amused your
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 315
wakeful hours must be worthy to employ the thoughts of other men, and to give them a profitable direction, that, without knowing what the subject is, I exhort you to cast away your fears.

“Remember me most kindly to your household.

Yours affectionately,
R. Southey.”
To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq., M. P.
“Keswick, Nov. 4. 1818.
“My dear Wynn,

“Since I wrote to you at Boulogne, the greater part of my time has been consumed by interruptions of which I ought not to complain, seeing they must needs be beneficial to my health, however they may be felt in the sum total of the year’s work. I have had for a guest C——. There is something remarkable in the history of this family. His grandmother was a she-philosopher, a sort of animal much worse than a she-bear. Her housekeeper having broken her leg, she was exceedingly indignant at not being able to convince her that there was no such thing as pain; and when the poor woman complained that the children disturbed her by playing in a room over her head, she insisted upon it that that was impossible, because it was the nature of sound to ascend; and, therefore, she could not be disturbed unless they played in the room under her. This good lady bred up her children as nearly as she could upon Rousseau’s maxims, and was especially careful that they
should receive no religious instruction whatever. Her daughter had nearly grown up before she ever entered a church, and then she earnestly entreated a friend to take her there from motives of curiosity. This daughter has become a truly religious woman. The son has not departed from the way in which he was trained up; but as he is not a hater of religion, only an unbeliever in it, and has a good living in his gift, he chooses that his only son should take orders, this living being the most convenient means of providing an immediate establishment for him!

“C—— introduced himself to me about three years ago by sending me some poems, which for a youth of seventeen were almost better than should be wished. . . . . When he first proposed to visit me, his father was thrown into a paroxysm of anger, notwithstanding the mollia tempora fandi had been chosen for venturing to make the request; but he suffered him to see me in London last year. He had formed a notion that I was a Methodist, and drank nothing but water; and I believe it raised me considerably in his estimation when C—— assured him that I seemed to enjoy wine as much as any man. . . . .

Wilberforce, also, has been here with all his household, and such a household! The principle of the family seems to be that, provided the servants have faith, good works are not to be expected from them, and the utter disorder which prevails in consequence is truly farcical. The old coachman would figure upon the stage. Upon making some complaint about the horses, he told his master and
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 317
mistress that since they had been in this country they had been so lake-and-river-and-mountain-and-valley-mad, that they had thought of nothing which they ought to think of. I have seen nothing in such pell-mell, topsy-turvy, and chaotic confusion as Wilberforce’s apartments since I used to see a certain breakfast-table in Skeleton Corner.* His
wife sits in the midst of it like Patience on a monument, and he frisks about as if every vein in his body were filled with quicksilver; but, withal, there is such a constant hilarity in every look and motion, such a sweetness in all his tones, such a benignity in all his thoughts, words, and actions, that all sense of his grotesque appearance is presently overcome, and you can feel nothing but love and admiration for a creature of so happy and blessed a nature.

“A few words now concerning myself. It was my intention to have spent the Christmas in London; a very unexpected cause induced me to delay my journey. More than six years have elapsed since the birth of my youngest child: all thoughts of having another had naturally ceased. In February or March, however, such an event may be looked for. My spirits are more depressed by this than they ought to be; but you may well imagine what reflections must arise. I am now in my forty-fifth year, and if my life should be prolonged it is but too certain that I should never have heart again to undertake the duty which I once performed with such diligence and such delightful hope. It is well for us

* A part of Christ Church, so called, where Mr. Wynn’s rooms were situated.

that we are not permitted to choose for ourselves. One happy choice, however, I made when I betook myself to literature as my business in life. When I have a heart at ease, there can be no greater delight than it affords me; and when I put away sad thoughts and melancholy forebodings, there is no resource so certain.

“I begin to be solicitous about making such a provision as should leave me at ease in my ways and means, if loss of health or any other calamity should render me incapable of that constant labour, from which, while health and ability may last, I shall have no desire to shrink. When my next poem is finished, I shall be able to do what has never before been in my power,—to demand a sum for it.

“God bless you, my dear Wynn!

Yours most affectionately,
R. S.”
To John May, Esq.
“Keswick, Nov. 16. 1818.
“My dear Friend,

“. . . . . I know something of rebellions, and generally suspect that there has been some fault in the master as well as in the boys, just as a mutiny in a man of war affords a strong presumption of tyranny against the captain. Without understanding the merits of this case, it is easy to perceive that the boys believed their privileges were invaded, and fancied that the
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 319
Magna Charta of Eton was in danger (the Habeas Corpus in schools is in favour of the governors—a writ issued against the subject, and affecting him in tail), —— took the patriotic side, acting upon Whig principles. They are very good principles in their time and place, and youth is a good time and school a good place for them. When he grows older, he will see the necessity of subordination, and learn that it is only by means of order that liberty can be secured. . . . . I have a fellow-feeling for ——, because I was myself expelled from Westminster, not for a rebellion (though in that too I had my share), but for an act of authorship.
Wynn and Bedford and Strachey (who is now chief secretary at Madras), and myself, planned a periodical paper in emulation of the Microcosm. It was not begun before the two former had left school, and Bedford and I were the only persons actually engaged in it. I well remember my feelings when the first number appeared on Saturday, March 1. 1792. It was Bedford’s writing, but that circumstance did not prevent me from feeling that I was that day borne into the world as an author; and if ever my head touched the stars while I walked upon the earth it was then. It seemed as if I had overleapt a barrier, which till then had kept me from the fields of immortality, wherein my career was to be run. In all London there was not so vain, so happy, so elated a creature as I was that day; and, in truth, it was an important day in my life; far more so than I, or than any one else could have anticipated, for I was expelled for the fifth number.
The subject of that number was flogging, and Heaven knows I thought as little of giving offence by it, as of causing an eclipse or an earthquake. I treated it in a strange, whimsical, and ironical sort of manner, because it had formed a part of the religious ceremonies of the heathens, and the Fathers had held that the gods of the heathens were our devils, and so I proved it to be an invention of the Devil, and therefore unfit to be practised in schools; and though this was done with very little respect for the Devil, or the Fathers, or the heathen gods, or the schoolmasters, yet I as little expected to offend one as the other. I was full of
Gibbon at the time, and had caught something of Voltaire’s manner. And for this I was privately expelled from Westminster, and for this I was refused admission at Christ Church, where Randolph, from the friendship which he professed for my uncle, could not else have decently refused to provide for me by a studentship: and so I went to Balliol instead, in a blessed hour; for there I found a man of sterling virtue (Edmund Seward), who led me right, when it might have been easy to have led me wrong. I used to call him Talus for his unbending morals and iron rectitude, and his strength of body also justified the name. His death in the year 1795 was the first severe affliction that I ever experienced; and sometimes even now I dream of him, and wake myself by weeping, because even in my dreams I remember that he is dead. I loved him with my whole heart, and shall remember him with gratitude and affection as one who was my moral father, to the last moment of my life; and to meet him again will
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 321
at that moment be one of the joys to which I shall look forward in eternity. My dear
John May, I have got into a strain which I neither intended nor foresaw. Misfortunes, as the story says, are good for something. The stream of my life would certainly have taken a different direction, if I had not been expelled, and I am satisfied that it could never have held a better course. . . .

“God bless you, my dear friend!

Believe me,
Most truly and affectionately yours,
Robert Southey.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, Nov. 28. 1818.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“This is a most remarkable season with us. On the 20th of November we had French beans at dinner, and now (on the 28th), there has not been the slightest snow on the mountains, nor the slightest appearance of frost in the valley. The late flowers continue to blossom still, and the early ones are pushing forward as if it were spring. The great scarlet poppy has two large buds ready to burst, and your favourite blue thistle has brought forth a flower. But what is more extraordinary, the annual poppies, whose stalks, to all appearance dead and dry, were left in the ground, merely till Mrs. Lovel should give directions for clearing them away, have in many instances shot out fresh leaves of diminutive
size, and produced blossoms correspondently small, not bigger than a daisy. This is in our own garden, which, as you know, has no advantages of shelter or situation; in happier spots the gardens have more the appearance of September than of winter.

Gifford will tell you that I have been speaking a good word in behalf of the historical painters. (By the bye, get Nash to take you to see Haydon’s great picture, which is prodigiously fine.) I am now upon the Copyright question, which I shall make as short as possible; a few days will finish it, and a few days more finish a paper upon the Catacombs, in which I have brought together a great collection of facts from out-of-the-way sources, some of them very curious. The Copyright must have place in the present number, and no doubt it will, being much more for Murray’s interest than mine. The Catacombs will eke out my ways and means for the next quarter, and I shall have done with the Quarterly Review for the next six months.

“I shall not move southward, till both the Brazil and the Wesley are finished. Three winter months will do wonders, as I hope to be entirely free from interruptions. Other circumstances would not allow me to leave home before March, nor will I move then unless these works are off my hands. I shall then start fairly, without impediment, and in full force for the Peninsular War; and thus my life passes, looking to the completion of one work for the sake of beginning another, and having to start afresh for a new career as often as I reach the goal. And so I suppose it will be, till I break down and founder
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 323
upon the course. But if I live a few years longer in possession of my faculties, I will do great things.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq., M.P.
“Keswick, Nov. 30. 1818.
“My dear Wynn,

“I was truly glad to hear of your daughter’s recovery. I have been in a storm at sea, in a Spanish vessel, and the feeling, when the weather had so sensibly abated that the danger was over, is the only one I can compare with that which is felt in a case like yours upon the first assurance that the disease is giving way. Those writers who speak of childhood or even youth as the happiest season of life, seem to me to speak with little reason. There is, indeed, an exemption from the cares of the world, and from those anxieties which shake us to the very centre. But as far as my own experience goes, when we are exempt from trials of this nature, our happiness, as we grow older, is more in quantity, and higher in degree as well as in kind. What hopes we have are no longer accompanied with uneasiness or restless desires. The way before us is no longer uncertain; we see to the end of our journey; the acquisition of knowledge becomes more and more delightful, and the appetite for it may truly be said to grow with what it feeds on; and as we set our thoughts and hearts in order for another world, the prospect of that world becomes a source of deeper delight than anything which this
could administer to an immortal spirit. On the other hand, we are vulnerable out of ourselves, and you and I are reaching that time of life in which the losses which we have to endure will be so many amputations. The wound may heal, but the mutilation will always be felt. Not to speak of more vital affections, the loss of a familiar friend casts a shade over the remembrance of everything in which he was associated. You and I, my dear
Wynn, are less to each other than we were in old times. Years pass away without our meeting; nor is it at all likely that we shall ever again see as much of each other in this world as we used to do in the course of one short term at Oxford. And yet he who is to be the survivor will one day feel how much we are to each other, even now,—when all those recollections which he now loves to invite and dwell upon will come to him like spectres.

“However, I hope that both you and I may be permitted to do something more before we are removed. And I cannot but hope that you will take upon yourself a conspicuous part in that reformation of the criminal laws, which cannot much longer be delayed. Nor do I know any one (setting all personal feelings aside) by whom it could so fitly be taken up. That speech of Frankland’s was perfectly conclusive to my mind: but that alterations are necessary is certain, and the late trials for forgery show that they must be made, even now, with a bad grace, but with a worse the longer they are delayed. To me it has long appeared a safe proposition that the punishment of death is misapplied whenever the
Ætat. 44. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 325
general feeling that it creates is that of compassion for the criminal. A man and woman were executed for coining at the same time with
Patch. Now what an offence was this to the common sense of justice! There is undoubtedly at this time a settled purpose among the revolutionists to bring the laws into contempt and hatred, and to a very great degree it has succeeded. The more reason, therefore, that where they are plainly objectionable they should be revised. But for the principle of making the sentence in all cases proportionate to the crime, and the execution certain, nothing in my judgment can be more impracticable, and I am sure nothing could lead to greater injustice than an attempt to effect it. The sentence must be sufficient for the highest degree of the crime, and a discretionary power allowed for tempering it to the level of the lowest. You would take up the matter with a due sense of its difficulty, and with every possible advantage of character, both in the House and in the country; and moreover the disposition of the ministers ought to be, and I really should suppose would be, in your favour. . . . .

“God bless you, my dear Wynn!

R. S.”