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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to John Jebb, 17 April 1826

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, April 17. 1826.
“My Lord,

“I will be at your door at ten o’clock on Saturday the 20th of May, unless any mishap should prevent me.


“It was not without some degree of shame that I received your kind letter; the shame which arises from a consciousness of having omitted what ought to have been done. For I have often thought of writing to you, and intended to write; and as often some avocation has made me postpone it till that more convenient season, which never arrives for one who is always employed, and but too frequently interrupted.

“My last year’s journey proved an eventful one, both for evil and good. I travelled in the hope of cutting short an annual catarrh, which is of such a nature that, unless the habit of its recurrence can be overcome, its work must, in a very few visits more, be completed. The experiment succeeded perfectly, and so far all was well. I sent home, also, a goodly consignment of folios, and of smaller fry, from Brussels, and from Leyden; heavy artillery, to be mounted in my batteries against Babylon. But my ill fortune began at Douay, whither I went on my outward journey, partly for the sake of taking a line which I had not travelled before; chiefly because I had an ancestor buried there, the first Sir Herbert Croft, who turned Romanist in the reign of James I., and died there among the Benedictines. Happily for me, his son returned to the faith in which he had been born: I wished to see his grave; but when I came to the Benedictine church, I was in the same case as Yorick, when he looked for the tombs of Amandus and Amanda. The church had been gutted, the monuments destroyed, in the Revolution; and the crypt, wherein he was buried, was filled with
Ætat. 51. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 247
rubbish. However, I saw the shell of the building; and I saw also the outside of that college where so many treasons had been plotted, and so much mischief for these kingdoms hatched. But at Douay, or at Bouchain, I was bitten on the foot by the vilest of all insects; an accidental hurt, which was but just healed, had disposed the part for inflammation. The weather was intensely hot; by the time I reached Antwerp, I was unable to put that foot to the ground; and having proceeded to Leyden, whither, happily, I had a strong motive for proceeding, I was told that had the inflammation continued to proceed for another day, the limb would have been in danger. So there I lay nearly three weeks, under a surgeon’s hands. Such, however, was my good fortune, that I never passed three weeks more happily.
Bilderdijk, whose wife translated Roderick into Dutch verse, and who is himself, take him for all in all, the most extraordinary and admirable person whom I have ever known, took me into his house. Here I was nursed, as if I had been their brother; and thither, as they cannot come and visit me, I am going to see them once more; were Leyden ten times as distant as it is, I would take the journey, for the pleasure which I shall give and receive. I knew him only by letter, till I was cast upon their compassion. But Bilderdijk is one of those men whose openness of heart you perceive at first sight; and when I came to know them both, if I had sought the world over, it would not have been possible for me to have found two persons with whom I should have felt myself more entirely in unison;
except, indeed, that my host stands up, like a true Hollander of the old stamp, for the Synod of Dort.

“He is above seventy years of age, and considering what he has gone through in mind and body, it is marvellous that he is alive. From infancy he has been an invalid; and in childhood was saved, after his case was pronounced hopeless, by a desperate experiment of his own father’s,—to change the whole mass of his blood by frequent bleeding. But in consequence, his system acquired such a habit of making blood, that periodical bleeding has been necessary from that time; and now, in his old age, after every endeavour to prolong the intervals, he is bled every six weeks. His pulse is always that of a feverish man. He has never slept more than four hours in the four-and-twenty, and wakes always unrefreshed, and in a state of discomfort, as if sleep exhausted him more than the perpetual intellectual labour in which he is engaged. None of his countrymen have written so much, or so variously, or so well; this is admitted by his enemies; and he has for his enemies the whole body of Liberals and time-servers. His fortune was completely wrecked in the Revolution; and having been the most confidential and truest friend of the Stadtholder, he has received the usual reward of fidelity after a Restoration. The House of Orange, like other restored families, has thought it politic to show favour to their enemies, and neglect their friends. A small pension of about 140l. is all that he has; and a professorship, which the King had promised, is withheld, lest the Liberals should be offended.

Ætat. 51. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 249

“His life has been attempted in popular commotions; he has almost wanted bread for his family in exile, having had eight children by a first wife, seven by the present! one boy of twelve years old is the only one left, whose disposition is everything that can be desired, but his constitution so feeble, that it is impossible to look at him without fear. The mother is four-and-twenty years younger than her husband, and in every respect worthy of him; I have never seen a woman who was more to be admired and esteemed for everything womanly; no strangers would suppose that so unassuming a person was in high repute as a poetess. Bilderdijk’s intellectual rank is at once indicated by his countenance; but he is equally high-minded and humble, in the best sense of those epithets; and both are so suited to each other, so resigned to their fortunes, so deeply and quietly religious, and therefore so contented, so thankful, and so happy, that it must be my own fault if I am not the better for having known them.

“This theme has made me loquacious. You see that if I suffered for visiting Holland instead of Ireland, the evil was amply overpaid. For your renewed invitation I cannot thank you as I ought, nor say more at present than that in all likelihood I shall be most happy to accept it. We shall see what twelve months will bring forth.

“Farewell, my Lord, till May 20. I beg my kind regards to Mr. Forster, and remain,

With sincere respect and esteem,
Your Lordship’s obliged and faithful servant,
Robert Southey.”