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A Lover of Consistency
Southey versus Lord Byron.
Morning Chronicle  No. 17,369  (17 December 1824)
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH


No. 17,369. LONDON, Friday, December 17, 1824. Price Sevenpence.


“A living Ass will always have a kick at a dead Lion. ”

Robert Southey, in The Courier
Editor of the Courier, “Byron and his Admirers”
H. T., in The Courier

Sir—The public have sufficiently expressed their sentiments respecting the calumny upon Lord Byron, inserted in The Courier by Mr. Southey. It has been every where received with mingled feelings of astonishment and disgust; with astonishment and disgust by those who know nothing of Mr. S.; but with disgust, without astonishment, by those who do know him. The charges which he has so valiantly brought forward against his Lordship in his coffin may be reduced to two—one particular, the other general. The particular charge—that a seditious publisher has set up his Lordship’s head as a sign to his shop, as if his Lordship, when in Italy were responsible for what a vendor of pamphlets chose to do in England, without his knowledge or concurrence, and without a possibility on his part of preventing him, if he did know it. Now, this charge of Mr. Southey against a dead man, is too ridiculous to be refuted. Mr. Southey’s general charge against his Lordship is one sweeping accusation of inconsistency, falsehood, infidelity, blasphemy, impiety, and obscenity. In order that the public may judge what claims Mr. Southey, par excellence, has to volunteer these charges against any character, living or dead, the following plain questions are candidly submitted to public opinion:—

1. Was Mr. Southey, or was he not, during the French Revolution, a member of a republican revolutionary society? And did he, or did he not, at that time openly avow himself to be a republican and a revolutionist?

2. Has Mr. Southey, or has he not, selected men and published express eulogies upon them for being republicans and regicides, and has he not denounced all republicans and all regicides in other publications that are his, as monsters of infamy and as imps of the Devil?

3. Has Mr. Southey, or has he not, in one of his publications, stigmatized the character of Mr. Barry O’Meara, for being expelled from the army (though it was only for fighting a duel, a thing very natural to a fighting man), and was he, or was he not, himself long before expelled from Baliol College, in Oxford, and is so, for what was he expelled; and when Ministers sent Mr. Southey to Oxford for a LL.D. did Baliol or did any other College in Oxford enrol him as a Member of it?

4. Has Mr. Southey, or has he not, though supported in Oxford by a public exhibition, ridiculed and abused in one of his publications his own University as the seat of ignorance and error, as the retainer of Roman Catholic Rites, and the rejecter of Roman Catholic Faith; and did he not write that wicked and blasphemous libel upon the King, Church, and State, called “Wat Tyler?”

5. Has Mr. Southey, or has he not, in one of his publications, declared his disbelief of the leading doctrine of the Scriptures—namely, Eternal Punishment in a Future State. Has he not even called it there damnable and impious; and has he not, in his other publications, represented it to be a Divine Truth, and necessary to justify God’s moral government of the world?

6. Has Mr. Southey, or has he not, ridiculed and abused the Church of England for reading as a first Lesson in her service the first chapter of Ezekiel, though he knew at the time he published this low abuse that he was writing a falsehood, and that the Church of England never read at all in her service the first chapter of Ezekiel?

7. Has Mr. Southey, or has he not, published a work without his name, in which he holds up the Roman Catholic Church as the true Church of Christ, the Reformation in England as o Reformation at all, but the destruction of her best Institutions, both moral, civil, and religious, and in which he represents her Reformers as a pack of rascals altogether? And has he not published another work since with his name, in which he has extolled the Church of England, represented the Church of Rome as the whore of Babylon, the reformation of the light of the world, and the reformers as the glory of it?

8. Has Mr. Southey, or, has he not, in one of his publications, raked up and collected together (note upon note, and line upon line) the most salacious, prurient, and filthy witticisms upon the most awful and sacred subjects, upon the Vessel of Incarnation chosen for the redemption of mankind, upon the Salutation of the Angel, upon the formation of our Holy Redeemer in the uterus, and upon the practicability of clergymen baptizing children in the vagina of their mothers’ wombs before they were brought into the world?

H. T., in The Courier

Let any scholar, Mr. Editor, read all the publications of Mr. Southey, both those which he has owned and those which he has not owned, and then ask himself this simple question—Whether for one line of inconsistency, falsehood, infidelity, Republicanism, blasphemy, impiety and obscenity, which Lord Byron has written, Mr. Southey has or has not written ten? Was it possible for the public to view without indignation a pensioned bookseller’s hack, a writer, every thing by turns, and nothing long, a creeping, cringing cameleon of every hue and colour, a man of the lowest parentage and birth, stabbing, before he is cold in his grave, as accomplished a Nobleman (whatever may have been his errors) of the highest inspiration of genius, and who devoted his talents, his ample fortune, his person, and his life, to the recovery of the long lost liberties of Greece?


We refer our Readers to a Letter in another column on the subject of Mr. Southey’s late extraordinary attack on Lord Byron.

We are not of the number of those who would make it a matter of reproach against a man that he has not always entertained the same opinions. To what purpose do we read and reflect if we are not to be open to conviction, and to abandon what, on more mature consideration, appears to be erroneous? We do not, therefore, condemn Mr. Southey because he has abandoned all his former opinions in politics and religion, though we may think his earliest and latest opinions equally unsound. We are only astonished that a man at the age of fifty, after such a succession of changes of opinion, should be as exclusive and intolerant, as unwilling to allow sincerity to his opponents, as he was when Watt Tyler & Ball the Priest were gods of his idolatry. This only proves (supposing Mr. Southey sincere) that he is a very weak man, and if before there could be any doubt, his last letter proves that he is as malicious as he is weak. In the possession of power, a man of Dr. Southey’s character would be a persecutor; in Revolutionary France he would feed the guillotine; in Spain he would apply the firebrand to the pile; e sempre bene!

The first feeling which the perusal of Dr. Southey’s Letter excites is indignation; but a little reflection leads us to take compassion on his weakness.—That he is not a wise man in the sense of this world is pretty clearly evinced by the selection which he has made of the period of his attack.—Sir Walter Scott, who is a discreet man and an acute observer of the signs of the times, lives not much farther North than Dr. Southey; but they are the antipodes of each other with respect to policy. Was there no one to whisper in Dr. Southey’s ear, that when Sir Walter had rushed foremost to strew flowers over Byron’s bier, it was at least time for any other man not to boast publicly of his hatred of the departed?