LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Lord Brougham to Robert Southey, January 1831

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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“Althorp, Jan. 1831.
“Dear Sir,

“I was prevented by various interruptions from writing to you while I was at Brougham upon a subject which greatly interests me, and I therefore take the earliest opportunity of bringing it before you.

“The Government of this country have long been
exposed, I fear justly, to the charge of neglecting science and letters. I feel it an impossible thing for me, whose life has been passed more or less in these pursuits, to allow this stain to rest upon any administration with which I am connected, and therefore that it is my duty, as far as in me lies, to turn the attention of the present Government to the best means of encouraging scientific and literary pursuits. With this view I have applied to the two men at the head of the physical and mathematical sciences, in my opinion, and I cannot look into the department of literature without being met by your name. I may probably apply in like manner to one or two more men distinguished in the same field, but I have not as yet selected any such. My wish is to have the benefit of your unreserved opinion upon the questions.

“1st. Whether or not letters will gain by the more avowed and active encouragement of the Government?

“2d. In what way that encouragement can the most safely and beneficially be given them?

“Under the first head is to be considered, no doubt, the chances of doing harm as well as the prospect of doing good. Thus it seems obvious that there is one danger to be guarded against—the undue influence of Government—capable of being perverted to political and party purposes. This includes the risk of jobs for unworthy persons, and the exclusion of men of merit. The applause of the public, it may be said, is a safe test and unbiassed reward of merit; not to be easily, at least not perma-
Ætat. 57. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 131
nently, perverted to wrong ends. I throw out this as one consideration, showing that the case is not so clear of doubt as it at first may seem to be.

“Under the second head several things present themselves for consideration. If the risk of abuse were not great, it is plain that pecuniary assistance would be the most desirable means of helping genius, because many a man of genius is forced out of the path of original inquiry and of refined taste by the necessities of his situation, and obliged to spend his time and talents on labour little better than mechanical. But the difficulties of arranging such aid systematically are so great, and the risk of abuse so imminent, that I question if more can be done in this way than by lending occasional assistance.

“The encouragement of societies has been already tried, not perhaps in the best way, but still a good deal has been thus attempted. These are susceptible of considerable improvement. A judicious foundation of prizes is another mode deserving consideration.

“The distribution of honours has been very partially tried, and many have proposed a more regular admission of men of science and letters to rank, confined to their own lives in cases where hereditary honours might be burthensome to their families. An order of merit has been proposed by some. But as all novelties in such a matter (of opinion and public feeling) are to be shunned, one of the existing orders of knighthood, as the Guelphic, has been by others suggested as free from the objection.

“I throw out these things more for the purpose of
bringing your mind to the details of the matter, than with the view of exhausting the subject.

“It will afford me great satisfaction to be favoured with your opinion upon the question, as fully as your leisure may permit. I shall, of course, keep it entirely to myself.

“It may very possibly turn out that, after all, nothing material can be accomplished; but, at any rate, I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without trying all means of accomplishing an object so desirable; and my anxiety on this score must plead my excuse for troubling you with so long a letter.

I am, dear Sir, your faithful servant,