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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to James White, 14 December 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, Dec. 14. 1826.
“My dear James,

“You need not be assured that I am very glad accident should have enabled me to put you in the way of being usefully, though arduously, employed*, and in a station where I hope you may make your

* Mr. James White had been appointed to the incumbency of St. George’s, Manchester, through my father’s recommendation.

own way to something better. To be sure nothing can be less agreeable than the description which you give both of your fold and your flock; the only setoff against this is the reflection, that the worse the people are, the more good you may do them. When once it is known that you perform the service impressively, like a man whose heart is in his work, you will not preach to empty benches.

“If I preached to a wealthy congregation, my general aim would be to awaken them from that state of religious torpor which prosperity induces. I should, therefore, dwell upon the responsibility which is attached to the good things of this world; upon sins of omission, and the straitness of the gate. But to a congregation like yours my general strain would be consolatory; forgiveness and mercy would be my favourite theme. In the former case it is necessary to rouse, if not to alarm; in the latter to encourage and invite. In the former to dwell upon the difficulty of attaining to salvation; in the latter upon its easy terms, and the relief which it offers to those who are heavy laden.

“Concerning schools, no person can be more unfitted for advising you on that business (or, indeed, on any other) than I am. But of this I am sure, that in such a parish as yours an infant-school is the most useful and necessary establishment that could be formed. The people of this country are not yet aware of the consequence of youthful depravity; how widely it extends, and how early it begins. In any attempts of this kind you will have the mothers with you. And, indeed, at all attempts at moral
Ætat. 52. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 281
reformation the women are so immediately interested, that their good will is sure to attend upon any endeavours at bettering the condition of their children, or preserving their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers from vice. Do not, however, aim at too much, and thereby exhaust yourself, even if you do not otherwise defeat your own purpose. Fill your church, and establish, as soon as you can, an infant-school; and as you feel what more is wanted, you will discover by what means to bring it about.

“In your case, I would never touch upon controversial subjects, especially those which relate to Popery. The character of being a charitable, earnest, and pious preacher will make its way among some of the Irish Romanists, and lead them farther than they are aware of towards a perception of the difference between the religion of the Gospel, and the superstitions by which they are enthralled. But were you to touch upon the points of difference, it would serve only to put their priests upon the alert, and make them watch over their flock more strictly. I would pursue a different course at Dublin, because the two parties are in hostile array there, and the weapons of controversy must be used.

“But your task seems to me, in this respect, a pleasanter one. If I judge rightly of the circumstances in which you are placed, your call is to proclaim good tidings, and preach the promises of the Gospel. Those who are in misery—I had almost said, in the vices to which misery too often leads—have little need of its threats.

“But enough of this. I have no acquaintance in
Manchester to whom I can introduce you; but going there in what may be called a public character, you will soon find acquaintance, and I have no doubt friends. There is this advantage in large cities (and a great one it is), that you are sure of finding some persons there with whom it is both pleasant and profitable to associate.

Believe me, my dear James,
Always yours, with sincere regard,
Robert Southey.”