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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Sir Archibald Alison, 17 April 1833

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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“Keewick, April 17. 1833.
“My dear Sir,

“I am much obliged to you for your History. It reached me on Monday evening last, so that I have only had time to run through the whole, and peruse those parts which arrested me.

“A better book could not possibly have been made upon that subject within the same limits; nor could the subject be treated in a manner more likely to be in the highest degree useful,—if anything in these times could be addressed with effect to the understanding of an infatuated nation.

“The events which you have so vividly described, are fresh in my memory, for I was just old enough to take the liveliest interest in them as they occurred; and young enough for that interest to have all the eagerness of hope. I thought as highly of the Girondistes as you have spoken of them, but was too young and too ignorant to see their errors as you have done. I entered, therefore, warmly into their views; and no public event ever caused me so much pain as the fate of Brissot and his associates,—till I lived to see our own constitution destroyed. Few of that party hold the same place in my estimation now—perhaps only Isnard and Vergniaud, for their speeches (which is all that we know of them), and Madame Roland, whose great qualities cannot be estimated too highly. But of the rest, too many were as profligate as they were superficial and irreligious.
Brissot, who was in some respects the best of them, has been greatly lowered in my mind since I read two volumes of his Memoirs, and a collection of nine volumes of his works. He was an amiable man in his private relations; but as a man of letters not above the third or fourth rank; and that enthusiasm which sometimes supplied to him the place of sound principle could not supply his want of judgment.

“I do not see the name of Helen Maria Williams among your references; if you have not seen her letters you would find in them more particulars concerning this party than in any other work that has fallen in my way. With all the contemporary works I am well acquainted; later ones I have not happened to meet with, and have not sought. The best that I have met with relating to the early period is Puisaye’s,—the two or three first volumes,—his latter volumes relate chiefly to the miserable intrigues among the emigrants; but there is some very interesting matter respecting his own life among the Chouans. I have been twice in company with Puisaye, and never saw a finer countenance, nor one that I could more readily have confided in.

“Are you accurate as to Barrere’s death?* I very well remember that in 1805 or 1806 the newspapers said he was attached to the French embassy at Lisbon; and though this was not the case, the impression upon my mind is, that he was employed under Buonaparte’s government.

* This observation was quite just, and was corrected in the next edition.—A. A.

Ætat. 58. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 209

“You have a good word for General Biron at his death. If this were the ci-devant Duc, he was altogether unworthy of it, having been one of the most profligate and thoroughly worthless of the French nobility.

Danton and Robespierre quarrelled at one of the political clubs, before the 10th of August: high words ended in a challenge: they met, and the duel was prevented by the interference of an Englishman, who went out as a second to the one, and represented to them how injurious it would be to the cause of liberty if either of them should fall. That Englishman was the present James Watt of Soho; and from him I heard this remarkable fact.

“But I must conclude, once more thanking you for the book, which is everything that such a book ought to be in all respects, except that for my own gratification I wish this part of your subject had been extended to four volumes, instead of being compressed into two; the booksellers and the public would no doubt be of a different opinion, but it is because men are too busy or too idle to read what ought to be read, that they who engage in state affairs are ignorant of what they ought to know; and hence the consequences that we have seen, and those which we may foresee.

“I very well remember, when you and Mr. Hope came in upon our cheerful party. Our friend Mr. Telford, whom I saw here last, was depressed in spirits by his growing deafness; this was more than two years ago, and I fear that the cause is not likely to be removed at his age.


“Should any circumstance lead you into this country, I hope you will give me an opportunity of shaking you once more by the hand, and own me a fellow-labourer in the field of history.

Believe me, my dear Sir,
Yours very truly,
Robert Southey.”