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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to John May, 13 October 1817

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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“Keswick, Oct. 13. 1817.
“My dear Friend,

“The notion of writing again that letter which the rascal Louis destroyed at Geneva, has, I verily believe, prevented me from beginning one in the natural order of things. I can place myself at Thebes or at Athens on every occasion, dive into Padalon, or scale Mount Calasay*; but to remember what I then wrote, further than the journal you

* See the Curse of Kehama.

Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 279
have seen might remind me of the facts, Is beyond my power. Let us see, however, what can be done, with as little repetition as possible, of what you have taken the trouble to decipher. In speaking of Paris, I probably might have remarked what an out-of-door life is led by the inhabitants, and how prodigiously busy those people are who have nothing to do. There is more stir and bustle than in London, and of a very different character. In London they bear the stamp of business. You see that the crowds who pass by you in Cheapside have something to do, and something to think of; and in Paris you see as clearly, that restlessness and dissipation bring people into the street because they have nothing to do at home. I should think France decidedly inferior to England in beauty of country: yet I did not find the scenery altogether so uninteresting as I had been taught to expect. Picardy has much historical interest to an Englishman, and perhaps the recollection of great events makes me enjoy scenes which might else have been insipid. For I thought of the struggle between Burgundy and France; and in tracts where there was little more than earth and sky to be seen, I remembered that that same earth had been trodden by our countrymen before the battles of Cressy and Agincourt, and that that same sky had seen their victory. The towns, also, have many interesting antiquities, where an antiquarian or artist would find enough to employ him. The rivers have a magnitude and majesty to be found in few English streams. On the other hand, there is a want of wood or of variety of wood. Poplars give a sameness to the
scene, and a sort of sickly colouring, very different from the deep foliage of our oaks and elms. The very general custom of housing the cattle is unfavourable to the appearance of the country; there is a want of life, and motion, and sound. I believe, also, that there are fewer birds than in England. I scarcely remember to have seen a crow or a bird of prey. The most beautiful part of France which we saw (except the Jura country, which has a Swiss character), was French Flanders, which is indeed exceedingly beautiful. The country from Lisle to St. Omers may vie with the richest parts of England.
John Awdry was much disappointed with the South of France; perhaps this was because he entered it from Switzerland and Savoy; but the features, as he described them, were naturally unfavourable. The country upon the Loire has been much extolled. Landor told me it had the same fault which I had observed in other parts,—a pale and monotonous colouring from the poplars, which was not relieved by vineyards, and in summer, by sands which the river then left bare. We came upon a fine country as we approached Besançon. The air of the Jura mountains seemed congenial to me; and If I did not look upon the people with some partiality because they were mountaineers, they were a better race in many respects than the natives of Burgundy and Champagne. Were I to visit Switzerland again, I should wish to see more of the Jura. I do not think that a traveller can enter Switzerland in any better direction than by way of Pontarlier and Neufchatel. If the wine of this latter territory could reach Eng-
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 281
land, I should think it would have a great sale, for it has the flavour of Burgundy and the body of port. If the duties are lowered (as I understand they are likely to be), it will find its way by the Rhine. . . . .

“If the general use of tea could be introduced, it might prove a general benefit. A French breakfast has neither the comfort nor the domestic character of an English one; it is had better at a restaurateur’s or an hotel than at home. But domestic habits are what are wanting in France; and if it were the fashion to drink tea, they would be very much promoted by it. In Morocco, tea is gradually superseding the use of coffee. I do not know why it is so little liked upon the continent of Europe, when among us it has become one of the first necessaries of life. We tried it sometimes, but scarcely ever with success; and it is curious enough that we never on any occasion met with cream, except at Chalets in Switzerland, which is famous for it. Neither in France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, or the Netherlands, rich in dairies as all these countries are, do the inhabitants ever appear to use it. Perhaps I described the lakes of Neufchatel and Geneva in my last letter, and the abominable odour of the great city of Calvinism.

“Since my return we have had much company, and, in consequence, I have been led into much idleness.* Winter is now setting in: although the weather continues fine, the days are shortening fast; long evenings will confine me to my desk, and the retirement

* His friend Mr. Bedford had been passing some weeks at Keswick to their great mutual enjoyment; and Mr. Rickman had also been there for a short time.

which this place affords during the dark season is such, that I am in no danger of being disturbed. At present, I am finishing a
paper upon Lope de Vega for the next Quarterly, and preparing the first chapter of the Peninsular War for the press.

Believe me, yours most affectionately,
Robert Southey.”