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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Neville White, 21 March 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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“Keswick, March 21. 1831.
“My dear Neville,

“. . . . .You know, my dear Neville, that I have endeavoured always to impress upon the public the necessity of educating the people. If that education is either so conducted, or left so imperfect as in many cases to do harm rather than good, the fault is not in the principle, but in the mismanagement of it. The great evil which at present it produces is that of making young persons discontented with the stations which they were intended to fill; and thus producing more claimants for the stations one degree higher than can be provided for in that class. Whenever the education which such persons receive shall become universal, this mischief must necessarily cease. It produced nothing but good in Scotland, because it was universal there.

“A more difficult question is, how to render the religious instruction which children receive at school of more effect. And where parents neglect, as they so very generally do in that station of life, this duty,
I do not see how this is to be done by schools and teachers. We want a reformation of manners to effect that without which manners, alas I cannot be reformed. This is evident, that boys and girls are taken from school precisely at that age when they become capable of, in some degree, understanding and feeling what till then they have only learnt by rote. Then it is that the aid of catechists is wanting. In a small parish the clergyman can do much; in large ones I do not wonder that they are deterred from attempting what with their utmost exertions they could not possibly accomplish.

“I am perfectly satisfied that no children ought to be left without education; so much as to enable them to read, write, cypher, and understand their moral and religious duties. But about infant schools I do not see my way so clearly; and am not sure whether some harm is not done, both to parent and child, by taking so much off the parent’s hands. No doubt it is a choice between evils. Of this I am sure, that half the crimes which disgrace this nation are brought on by street education, which goes on in villages as well as in towns. So far as infant schools tend to prevent this, they are greatly beneficial.

“You ask me about Magdalen institutions. There is scarcely any form of misery that can have so strong a claim upon compassion as that which these are intended to alleviate. Often as the intention may be disappointed, one case in which it succeeds may compensate for fifty disappointments. And these poor creatures are not so generally, I might say so uniformly, to be distrusted as prison converts.
Ætat. 57. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 145
In prisons, I believe, the common effect is, that the cleverest criminals add hypocrisy to their other sins.

“Look again at what I have said concerning the observance of Sunday, and you will perceive that I have argued against Dymond’s liberal notions about the day, and also against, not a religious, but a puritanical, observance of it; for that, I am sure, tends to promote irreligion. Of the two extremes I would choose rather the popish than the puritanical Sabbath. Let us keep the mean.

James Stanger is expected here next week, but for a short time only. He is a very valuable man, and I have a sincere respect for him, though very far from being as good a neighbour as he might like to find me, and, were he less considerate than he is, might expect me to be. But I have no time for neighbourly intercourse.

“No room is left for politics. My hope is that the Ministers will not think it expedient to resign till war begins; for something would seem wanting in political justice if it were not to be begun under their administration. God forgive them for the mischief they are doing by their portentous budget of reform; and for calling in, as they have done, and are doing, the aid of the villainous press, in order to carry it by intimidation. Passages in the ——, which even the Editor would not dare to write, are said to have been supplied to him for this purpose.

“Our kind remembrances to your fireside.

“God bless you, my dear Neville!

Yours affectionately,
R. Southey.”