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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to John Rickman, 15 January 1806

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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“Jan. 15. 1806.
“Dear Rickman,

“Before I speak of myself, let me say something upon a more important subject. Nature has given offensive armour for two reasons; in the first place, it is defensive because it serves to intimidate; a better reason is, that claws and teeth are the tools with which animals must get their living; and that the general system of one creature eating another is a benevolent one, needs little proof; there must be death, and what can be wiser than to make death subservient to life. As for a state of nature, the phrase, as applied to man, is stark naked nonsense. Savage man is a degenerated animal. My own belief is, that the present human race is not much more than six thousand years old, according to the concurrent testimony of all rational history. The Indian records are good for nothing. But add as many millenniums as you will, the question, ‘How came they here at first?’ still occurs. The infinite series is an infinite absurdity; and to suppose them growing like mushrooms or maggots in mud, is as bad. Man must have been made here, or placed here with

* J. R. to R. S., Jan. 9. 1806.

sufficient powers, bodily and mental, for his own support. I think the most reasonable opinion is, that the first men had a knowledge of language and of religion; in short, that the accounts of a golden or patriarchal age are, in their foundation, true. How soon the civilised being degenerates under unfavourable circumstances, has been enough proved by history. Freewill, God, and final retribution solve all difficulties. That Deity cannot be understood, is a stupid objection; without one we can understand nothing. I cannot put down my thoughts methodically without much revision and re-arrangement; but you may see what I would be at; it is no difficult matter to harpoon the Leviathan, and wound him mortally. . . . . You may account by other means for the spread of the Mexican religion than by the love of blood. Man is by nature a religious animal; and if the elements of religion were not innate in him, as I am convinced they are, sickness would make him so. You will find that all savages connect superstition with disease,—some cause, which they can neither comprehend nor control, affects them painfully, and the remedy always is to appease an offended Spirit, or drive away a malignant one. Even in enlightened societies, you will find that men more readily believe what they fear than what they hope: . . . . religions, therefore, which impose privations and self-torture have always been more popular than any other. How many of our boys’ amusements consist in bearing pain?—grown children like to do the
same from a different motive. You will more easily persuade a man to wear hair-cloth drawers, to flog himself, or swing upon a hook, than to conform to the plain rules of morality and common sense. I shall have occasion to look into this subject when writing of the spirit of Catholicism, which furnishes as good an illustration as the practices of the Hindoos. Here, in England, Calvinism is the popular faith. . . . . Beyond all doubt, the religion of the Mexicans is the most diabolical that has ever existed. It is not, however, by any means, so mischievous as the Brahminical system of caste, which, wherever it exists, has put a total stop to the amelioration of society. The Mexicans were rapidly advancing. Were you more at leisure, I should urge you to bestow a week’s study upon the Spanish language, for the sake of the mass of information contained in their travellers and historians. . . . .

“God bless you!

R. S.”