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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Ch. V. 1797

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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My father continued to reside in Bristol until the close of the year 1796, chiefly employed, as we have seen, in working up the contents of his foreign note-books into “Letters from Spain and Portugal,” which were published in one volume early in the following year. This task completed, he determined to take up his residence in London, and fairly to commence the study of the law; which he was now enabled to do through the true friendship of Mr. C. W. W. Wynn, from whom he received for some years from this time an annuity of 160l.,—the prompt fulfilment of a promise made during their years of college intimacy. This was indeed one of those acts of rare friendship,—twice honourable,—“to him that gives and him that takes it;” bestowed with pleasure, received without any painful feelings, and often reverted to, as the staff and stay of those years, when otherwise he must have felt to the full, all the manifold evils of being, as he himself expressed it, “cut adrift upon the ocean of life.”

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 299

How reluctantly he had looked forward to his legal studies, his past letters have shown; nor did the prospect appear more pleasing when the anticipation was about to be changed to the reality.

To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Jan. 1. 1797

“So, Bedford, begins the year that will terminate our correspondence. I mean to spend one summer in North Wales, studying the country for Madoc, and do not intend writing to you then, because you shall be with me. And for all the rest of the days I look on to clearly, the view is bounded by the smoke of London. Methinks, like Camoens, I could dub it Babylon, and write lamentations for the ‘Sion’ of my birth-place, having, like him, no reason to regret the past, except that it is not the present; it is the country I want. A field thistle is to me worth all the flowers of Covent Garden.

“However, Bedford, happiness is a flower that will blossom anywhere; and I expect to be happy, even in London. You know who is to watch at my gate; and if he will let in any of your club, well and good.

“Time and experience seem to have assimilated us: we think equally ill of mankind, and from the complexion of your last letters, I believe you think as badly as I do of their rulers. I fancy you are mounted above the freezing point of aristocracy, to the temperate degree where I have fallen. . . . . Methinks, Grosvenor, the last two years have made me the
elder; but you know I never allow the aristocracy of years.

“I have this day finished my Letters, and now my time is my own,—my ‘race is run;’ and perhaps the next book of mine which makes its appearance will be my ‘posthumous works!’. . . . I must be on the Surrey side of the water; this will suit me and please you. I am familiar with the names of your club,—shall I ever be so with themselves? Naturally of a reserved disposition, there was a considerable period of my life in which high spirits, quick feelings, and principles enthusiastically imbibed, made me talkative;—experience has taught me wisdom, and I am again as silent, as self-centering as in early youth.

“After the nine hours’ law study, I shall have a precious fragment of the day at my own disposal; now, Grosvenor, I must be a miser of time, for I am just as sleepy a fellow as you remember me at Brixton. You see I am not collected enough to write,—this plaguy cough interrupts me, and shakes all the ideas in my brain out of their places.

“Jan. 7.

“A long interval, Grosvenor, and it has not been employed agreeably. I have been taken ill at Bristol. . . . . I was afraid of a fever. . . . . a giddiness of head, which accompanied the seizure, rendered me utterly unfit for anything. I was well nurst, and am well. . . . . When I get to London I have some comfortable plans; but much depends on the likeability of your new friends: you say you have en-
Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 301
gaged some of them to meet me: now if you taught them to expect anything in me, they must owe their disappointment to you. Remember that I am as reserved to others as I am open to you. You have seen a hedgehog roll himself up when noticed, even so do I shelter myself in my own thoughts. . . . .

“I have sketched out a tragedy on the martyrdom of Joan of Arc, which is capable of making a good closet drama. My ideas of tragedy differ from those generally followed; there is seldom nature enough in the dialogue. Even Shakespeare gets upon the stilts sometimes; the dramatist ought rather to display a knowledge of the workings of the human heart than his own imagination; high strained metaphor can rarely be introduced with propriety—similes never.—Do you think I shall strip tragedy of all its ornaments? this, time must discover. Yet look on the dramatic parts of Joan of Arc; they are the best;—the dialogue is impassioned, but it is natural. John Doe and Richard Roe must, however, form the chief personages in the last act of my life. Grosvenor, will it be a tragedy or a comedy? However, I will not now think of the catastrophe, but rather look on to the pleasant scenes when we shall meet. Fare you well. . . . .

Yours affectionately,
R. S.”

In the course of the next month (February), my father went up to town for the purpose of fixing himself in some convenient situation for his legal studies. “Now, my dear Edith,” he writes from
there, “am I of Gray’s Inn; where I this day paid twelve pounds fifteen shillings for admission.* . . . Edith, you must come to me. I am not merely uncomfortable, I am unhappy without you. I rise in the morning without expecting pleasure from the day, and I lie down at night without one wish for the morning. This town presents to me only a wilderness. . . . . I am just returned from ——; they can receive us for 40l. a year:—two rooms, they are not large, but they are handsomely furnished, and there is a good book-case, and every thing looks clean. . . . . Direct to me at Mr. Peacocks, No. 203 Prospect Place, Newington Butts, near London; but, my dear Edith, there is ‘no prospect’ in this vile neighbourhood.” . . . . And again, a few days later, he writes in that playful and affectionate strain in which all his letters to my mother are couched,—“
Grosvenor has just been talking of you. He was correcting an error in Musæus; I had laid down my pen and begun one of my melodious whistles, upon which he cried for mercy for God’s sake, and asked if you liked my whistling; adding that he would spirit you up to rebellion if ever I did any thing you did not like. I said you had often threatened to tell Grosvenor Bedford. Well, Edith, on the fifth day I shall see you once more; and you do not know with what comfort I think at night, that one day more is gone. I do not misemploy the leisure I make here; such books as, from their value, ought not to be lent from the library, I am now consulting, and appro-

* This letter is without date, but the receipt for these entrance fees, which I have before me, fixes the time, February 7. 1797,

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 303
priating such of their contents as may be useful, to my red book.

“. . . . Richards, I understand, was much pleased with me on Sunday. I was, as always in the company of strangers, thoughtful, reserved, and almost silent. God never intended that I should make myself agreeable to anybody. I am glad he likes me, however,—he can and will assist me in this ugly world.”*

The following letters will show the course of his London life during the few months he resided there at this time.

To Joseph Cottle, Esq.
“London, Feb. 1797.
“My dear Friend,

“I am now entered on a new way of life, which will lead me to independence. You know that I neither lightly undertake any scheme, nor lightly abandon what I have undertaken. I am happy because I have no wants, and because the independence I labour to obtain, and of attaining which my expectations can hardly be disappointed, will leave me nothing to wish. I am indebted to you, Cottle, for the comforts of my latter time. In my present situation I feel a pleasure in saying thus much.

“As to my literary pursuits, after some consideration I have resolved to postpone every other till I have concluded Madoc. This must be the greatest

* Feb. 16. 1797.

of all my works. The structure is complete in my mind; and my mind is likewise stored with appropriate images. Should I delay it these images may become fainter, and perhaps age does not improve the poet.

“Thank God! Edith comes on Monday next. I say thank God! for I have never, since my return, been absent from her so long before, and sincerely hope and intend never to be so again. On Tuesday we shall be settled; and on Wednesday my legal studies begin in the morning, and I shall begin with Madoc in the evening. Of this it is needless to caution you to say nothing, as I must have the character of a lawyer; and, though I can and will unite the two pursuits, no one would credit the possibility of the union. In two years the poem shall be finished, and the many years it must lie by will afford ample time for correction. Mary* has been in the Oracle; also some of my sonnets in the Telegraph, with outrageous commendation. I have declined being a member of a Literary Club which meets weekly, and of which I had been elected a member. Surely a man does not do his duty who leaves his wife to evenings of solitude, and I feel duty and happiness to be inseparable. I am happier at home than any other society can possibly make me.

God bless you!
Yours sincerely,
Robert Southey.”

* His ballad of Mary the Maid of the Inn.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 305
To Joseph Cottle, Esq.
“London, March 13. 1797.

“. . . . . Perhaps you will be surprised to hear that, of all the lions or literati that I have seen here there is not one whose countenance has not some unpleasant trait. Mary Imlay’s* is the best, infinitely the best: the only fault in it is an expression somewhat similar to what the prints of Horne Tooke display—an expression indicating superiority; not haughtiness, not sarcasm in Mary Imlay, but still it is unpleasant. Her eyes are light brown, and, though the lid of one of them is affected by a little paralysis, they are the most meaning I ever saw.

“When I was with George Dyer one morning last week, Mary Hayes and Miss Christal entered, and the ceremony of introduction followed. Mary Hayes writes in the ‘Monthly Magazine’ under the signature of M. H., and sometimes writes nonsense there about Helvetius, She has lately published a novel—‘Emma Courtenay’; a book much praised and much abused. I have not seen it myself, but the severe censures passed on it by persons of narrow mind have made me curious, and convinced me that it is at least an uncommon book. Mary Hayes is an agreeable woman, and a Godwinite. Now, if you will read Godwin’s book with attention, we will consider between us in what light to consider that sectarian title. As for Godwin himself he has large

* The daughter of Mary Wollstonecroft.

noble eyes, and a nose—oh, most abominable nose! Language is not vituperations enough to describe the effect of its downward elongation.* He loves London, literary society, and talks nonsense about the collision of mind; and Mary Hayes echoes him. But Miss Christal,—have you seen her poems?—a fine,artless, sensible girl! Now,
Cottle, that word sensible must not be construed here in its dictionary acceptation. Ask a Frenchman what it means, and he will understand it, though, perhaps, he can by no circumlocution explain its French meaning. Her heart is alive, she loves poetry, she loves retirement, she loves the country: her verses are very incorrect, and the literary circles say she has no genius; but she has genius, Joseph Cottle, or there is no truth in physiognomy. Gilbert Wakefield came in while I was disputing with Mary Hayes upon the moral effects of towns. He has a most critic-like voice, as if he had snarled himself hoarse. You see I like the women better than the men. Indeed, they are better animals in general, perhaps because more is left to nature in their education. Nature is very good, but God knows there is very little of it left.

“I wish you were within a morning’s walk, but I am always persecuted by time and space. Robert

* Godwin’s nose came in for no small share of condemnation. In another letter he says—“We dine with Mary Wollstonecroft (now Godwin) to-morrow. Oh, he has a foul nose, and I never see it without longing to cut it off. By the bye, Dr. —— told me that I had exactly Lavater’s nose; to my no small satisfaction, for I did not know what to make of that protuberance or promontory of mine. I could not compliment him. He has a very red, drinking face; and little good-humoured eyes, like cunning and short-sightedness united.”—To Joseph Cottle, May, 1797.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 307
Southey and Law and Poetry make up an odd kind of triunion. We jog on easily together, and I advance with sufficient rapidity in Blackstone and Madoc, I hope to finish my poem and to begin my practice in about two years. God bless you!

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To Thomas Southey.
“March 31. 1797.

“I have stolen time to write to you, though uncertain whether you may still be at Plymouth; but, if the letter should have to follow you, well and good; if lost, it matters little. I have a bookseller’s job on my hands; it is to translate a volume from the French—about a month’s work*; and the pay will be not less than five-and-twenty guineas, an employment more profitable than pleasant; but I should like plenty such. Three or four such jobs would furnish me a house. . . . . Your description of the Spanish coast about St. Sebastian has very highly delighted me. I intend to versify it, put the lines in Madoc, and give your account below in the note. To me, who had never seen any other but the tame shores of this island, the giant rocks of Galicia ap-

* The work was tolerably hard. “I am running a race with the printers again,” he writes to Mr. Cottle, April 5., “translating a work from the French (Necker on the Revolution, vol. ii.,—Dr. Aiken and his son translate the first vol.). My time is now wholly engrossed by the race, for I run at the rate of sixteen pages a day, as hard going as sixteen miles for a hack horse.”

peared stupendously sublime. They even derived a grandeur from their barrenness: it gives them a majestic simplicity that fills the undistracted mind. I have in contemplation another work upon my journey,—a series of poems, the subjects occasioned by the scenes I passed, and the meditations which those scenes excited. Do you perceive the range this plan includes? History, imagination, philosophy, all would be pressed into my service. . . . . A noble design! and it has met with some encouragement. But time is scarce, and I must be a lawyer—a sort of animal that might be made of worse materials than those with which nature tempered my clay. . . . . Should I publish the series of poems I mentioned, it is my intention to annex prints from the sketches my
uncle took upon our road. I sometimes regret that, after leaving the College Green, I have never had encouragement to go on with drawing. The evening when Shad and I were so employed, was then the pleasantest part of the day, and I began at last to know something about it. I would gladly get those drawings, but my aunt never lets any thing go; and the greater part of my books, and all those drawings, and my coins; with a number of things, of little intrinsic value, but which I should highly prize, are all locked up in the Green.

“The poor old theatre* is going to ruin, for which I have worked so many hours, and which so deeply interested me once. Such are the revolutions of private life, and such strange alterations do a few years produce!

* See p. 131.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 309

“My aunt told Peggy* it was pretty well in me to write a book about Portugal who had not been there six months: for her part, she had been there twelve months, and yet she could not write a book about it—so apt are we to measure knowledge by time. I employed my time there in constant attention, seeing everything and asking questions,—and never went to bed without writing down the information I had acquired during the day. I am now tolerably versed in Spanish and Portuguese poetry, and am writing a series of essays upon the subject, in the ‘Monthly Magazine’—a work which, probably, you do not see.

“Farewell! I hope you may soon come to Portsmouth, that we may see you.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To Thomas Southey.
“April 28. 1797.
“My dear Thomas,

“I have been regretting that you were not at Portsmouth in the great insurrection†, that I might have had a full, true, and particular account of that extraordinary business—a business at which every body is astonished. . . . . As I have no business in London (except, indeed, to dine at Gray’s Inn once at the latter end of June,) till November, we intend

* His cousin, Margaret Hill.

† The mutiny of the fleet at Spithead.

spending the summer and autumn somewhere by the sea: where is not yet determined, but most probably somewhere in Hampshire. . . . . London is a place for which I entertain a most hearty hatred; and
Edith likes it as little as myself; and as for the sea, I like it very much when on shore.

“I had a letter from Lisbon yesterday. My uncle’s family has been very unfortunate: his poor old woman is dead, and so is his dog Linda. His mare, who was lame, he had given away to be turned into the woods; she has not been seen lately, and he thinks the wolves have eat her; it was an account that made me melancholy. I had been long enough an inhabitant of his house to become attached to every thing connected with it; and poor old Ursula was an excellent woman: he will never find her equal, and I shall never think of Lisbon again without some feelings of regret

“My acquaintance here are more than are convenient, and I meet with invitations unpleasant to refuse, and still more unpleasant to accept. This is another motive to me to wish for a country residence as long as possible. I find the distance in this foul city very inconvenient; ’tis a morning’s walk to call upon a distant friend, and I return from it thoroughly fatigued. We are going to dine on Wednesday next with Mary Wollstonecroft—of all the literary characters the one I most admire. My curiosity is fully satisfied, and the greater part of these people, after that is satisfied, leave no other remaining. This is not the case with her; she is a first-rate woman,
Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 311
sensible of her own worth, but without arrogance or affectation.

“I have two reasons for preferring a residence near the sea. I love to pickle myself in that grand brine tub; and I wish to catch its morning, evening, and mid-day appearance for poetry, with the effect of every change of weather. Fancy will do much; but the poet ought to be an accurate observer of nature; and I shall watch the clouds, and the rising and setting sun, and the sea birds with no inattentive eye. I have remedied one of my deficiencies, too, since a boy, and learnt to swim enough to like the exercise. This I began at Oxford, and practised a good deal in the summer of 1795. My last dip was in the Atlantic Ocean, at the foot of the Arrabida Mountain—a glorious spot. I have no idea of sublimity exceeding it. . . . . Have you ever met with Mary Wollstonecroft’s letters from Sweden and Norway? She has made me in love with a cold climate, and frost and snow, with a northern moonlight. Now I am turned lawyer, I shall have no more books to send you, except, indeed, second editions, when they are called for, and then my alterations will be enough, perhaps, to give one interested in the author some pleasure in the comparison. God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”

As the spring advanced, my father began to pine more and more for country air, and conceiving that his legal studies could be as well pursued by the sea
side as in the smoke of London, went down into Hampshire to look for some place to settle in for the summer months. Southampton was their first halting-place, and from thence he writes to
Mr. Bedford, complaining of their ill success.

“In every village of the Susquehannah Indians* there is a vacant dwelling, called the strangers’ house. When a traveller there arrives at one of these villages, he stops and hollas; two of the elders of the tribe immediately go out to meet him; they lead him to this house, and then go round to tell the inhabitants that a stranger is arrived fatigued and hungry.

“They do not order these things quite so well in England. We arrived at Southampton at six last evening. ‘Lodgings’ were hung out at almost every house, but some would not let less than eleven rooms, some seven, and so on, and we walked a very long and uncomfortable hour before we could buy hospitality, and that at a very dear rate. I mean to walk to-morrow through Lyndhurst and Lymington

“Here with Cadwallon and a chosen band,
I left the ships. Lincoya guided us
A toilsome way among the heights; at dusk
We reach’d the village skirts; he bade us halt,
And raised his voice; the elders of the land
Came forth, and led us to an ample hut,
Which in the centre of their dwellings stood,
The Strangers’ House. They eyed us wondering,
Yet not for wonder ceased they to observe
Their hospitable rites; from hut to hut
The tidings ran that strangers were arrived,
Fatigued and hungry and athirst; anon,
Each from his means supplying us, came food
And beverage such as cheer the weary man.
Madoc, Book V.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 313
to Christ Church,—that is, if
Edith be better, for she is now very unwell. I hope and believe it is only the temporary effect of fatigue; but, Grosvenor, a single man does not know what anxiety is.

Edith is not well enough to walk out. I therefore have seen only enough of this place to dislike it. . . . . I want a quiet lonely place, in sight of something green. Surely in a walk of thirty miles this may be found; but if I find the whole coast infected by visitors, I will go to Bristol, where I shall have the printer on the one side, Charles Danvers on the other, Cottle in front, the woods and rocks of Avon behind, and be in the centre of all good things.

“Our journey was hot and dusty, but through a lovely country. At one time the coach was full, and all but me asleep. Something fell off the roof, and I had the unutterable pleasure of waking all of them by bellowing out for the coachman to stop. . . . . Would we were settled, aye, and for life, in some little sequestered valley! I would be content never to climb over the hills that sheltered me, and never to hear music or taste beverage but from the stream that ran beside my door. Let me have the sea, too, and now and then some pieces of a wreck to supply me with firewood, and remind me of commerce. This New Forest is very lovely; I should like to have a house in it, and dispeople the rest, like William the Conqueror. Of all land objects a forest is the finest. Gisborne has written a feeble poem on the subject. The feelings that fill me when I lie under one tree and contemplate another in all the majesty of years, are neither to be defined nor expressed, and their inde-
finable and inexpressible feelings are those of the highest delight. They pass over the mind like the clouds of the summer evening—too fine and too fleeting for memory to detain.

“And now, Grosvenor, would I wager sixpence that you are regretting my absence, because you feel inclined to come to tea with us. I could upbraid you*; but this is one of the follies of man, and I have my share of it, though, thank God, but a small share. What we can do at any time is most likely not to be done at all. We are more willing to make an effort. Is this because we feel uneasy at the prospect of labour and something to be done? and we are stimulated to industry by a love of indolence. I um a self-observer, and indeed this appears to me the secret spring,† God bless you.

R. Southey.”

Having succeeded in finding lodgings at Burton, near Christ Church, my father and mother settled themselves there for the summer months, which passed very happily. Here his mother joined them from Bath, and his brother Thomas, then a midshipman on board the Phoebe frigate, who, having lately been taken by the French, had just been released from a short imprisonment at Brest. They had also

* The two friends seem to have had less intercourse when both were in London than they had anticipated. I find a not uncommon reason hinted at. Mr. Bedford had been unsuccessful in some attachment; and the sight of domestic happiness, just at that time, brought back painful thoughts.

† May 25. 1797.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 315
at this time a young friend domesticated with them.
Mr. Charles Lloyd, son of a banker at Birmingham, who had been living for some time with Mr. Coleridge at Nether Stowey, in Somersetshire, and who subsequently became known as an author, and coming to reside in Westmoreland, was classed among the lake poets. Here also Mr. Cottle visited them, and here my father first became acquainted with Mr. Rickman (late one of the Clerks of the House of Commons), who will hereafter appear as one of his most constant correspondents and most valued friends.

The surrounding country seems to have afforded him great pleasure, keenly alive as he ever was to all natural beauties, and just at this time doubly inclined to enjoy them, coming from the ‘no prospect’ of Prospect Place, Newington Butts. The sea he delighted in; the New Forest was near at hand, and “a congregation of rivers, the clearest you ever saw.” The only drawbacks were his detested legal studies, and the idea of returning to London.

A few of his letters will fill up the present year. The first of these is addressed to Mr. May, whom he had met during his visit to Lisbon, and with whom he had already formed a friendship, as close as it was destined to be lasting. Mr. May, it seems, had promised to lend him the Pucelle of Chapelain.

To John May, Esq.
Burton, June 26. 1797

“. . . . . Neither the best friends or the bitterest enemies of Chapelain could have felt more curiosity than I do
to see his poem: good it cannot be, for though the habit of writing satire, as, indeed, the indulgence of any kind of wit, insensibly influences the moral character, and disposes it to sacrifice anything to a good point; yet
Boileau must have had some reason for the extreme contempt in which he held this unfortunate production. I am inclined to think it better, however, than it has always been represented. Chapelain stood high in poetical reputation when he published this, the work on which he meant to build his fame. He is said to have written good odes; certainly, then, his epic labours cannot be wholly void of merit; and for its characteristic fault, extreme harshness, it is very probable that a man of genius writing in so unmanly a language should become harsh by attempting to be strong. The French never can have a good epic poem till they have republicanised their language. It appears to me a thing impossible in their metre; and for the prose of Fenelon, Florian, and Betaube, I find it peculiarly unpleasant. I have sometimes read the works of Florian aloud: his stories are very interesting and well conducted; but in reading them I have felt obliged to simplify as I read, and omit most of the similes and apostrophes; they disgusted me, and I felt ashamed to pronounce them. Ossian is the only book bearable in this style; there is a melancholy obscurity in the history of Ossian, and of almost all his heroes, that must please. Ninety-nine readers in a hundred cannot understand Ossian, and therefore they like the book. I read it always with renewed pleasure.

“Have you read Madame Roland’s Appel a l’im-
Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 317
partiale Posterite? It is one of those books that make me love individuals, and yet dread, detest, and despise mankind in a mass. There was a time when I believed in the persuadibility of man, and had the mania of man-mending. Experience has taught me better. After a certain age the organs of voice cannot accommodate themselves to the utterance of a foreign pronunciation; so it is with the mind, it grows stiff and unyielding, like our sinews, as we grow older. The ablest physician can do little in the great lazar house of society; it is a pest-house that infects all within its atmosphere. He acts the wisest part who retires from the contagion; nor is that part either a selfish or a cowardly one; it is ascending the ark, like Noah, to preserve a remnant which may become the whole. As to what is the cause, of the incalculable wretchedness of society, and what is the panacea, I have long felt certified in my own mind. The rich are strangely ignorant of the miseries to which the lower and largest part of mankind are abandoned. . . . . The savage and civilised states are alike unnatural, alike unworthy of the origin and end of man. Hence the prevalence of scepticism and atheism, which, from being the effect, becomes the cause of vice. . . . .

“I have lived much among the friends of Priestley, and learnt from them many peculiar opinions of that man, who speaks all he thinks. No man has studied Christianity more, or believes it more sincerely; he thinks it not improbable that another revelation may be granted us, for the obstinacy and wickedness of mankind call for no less a remedy. The necessity of another revelation I do not see myself. What we
have, read with the right use of our own reasoning faculties, appears to me sufficient; but in a Millenarian this opinion is not ridiculous, and the many yet unfulfilled prophecies give it an appearance of probability. . . . .

“The slave trade has much disheartened me. That their traffic is supported by the consumption of sugar is demonstrable: I have demonstrated it to above fifty persons with temporary success; and not three of those persons have persevered in rejecting it. This is perfectly astonishing to me; and what can be expected from those, who will not remedy so horrible an iniquity, by so easy an exertion? The future presents a dreary prospect; but all will end in good, and I can contemplate it calmly without suffering it to cloud the present. I may not live to do good to mankind personally; but I will at least leave something behind me to strengthen those feelings and excite those reflections in others, from whence virtue must spring. In writing poetry with this end, I hope I am not uselessly employing my leisure hours. God bless you. . . . .

Affectionately yours,
Robert Southey.”
To John May, Esq.
“Burton, July 11. 1797.

“I thank you for Chapelain: I read his poem with the hope of finding something good, and would gladly have reversed the sentence of condemnation which I must, in common honesty, confirm; it is very bad indeed, and can please only by its absurdity. . . . .

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 319

“I thank you also for your good opinion of me: I would fain be thought well of by the ‘ten righteous men,’ and communicate frequently with you as one of them I suffer no gloomy presages to disturb the tranquil happiness with which God has blest me now, and which I know how to value, because I have felt what it is to want everything, except the pride of a well satisfied conscience.

“The sister and niece of Chatterton are now wholly destitute: on this occasion I appear as editor of all his works for their relief; this is an heinous sin against the world’s opinion, for a young lawyer, but it would have been a real crime to have refused it. We have a black scene to lay before the public: these poor women have been left in want, while a set of scoundrels have been reaping hundreds from the writings of Chatterton. I hope now to make the catastrophe to the history of the poor boy of Bristol; you shall see the proposals as soon as they are printed. Cottle has been with me a few days, and we have arranged everything relative to this business; he is the publisher, and means to get the paper at prime cost, and not receive the usual profit from what he sells. The accounts will be published, and we hope and expect to place Mrs. Newton in comfort during the last years of her life.

Cottle brought with him the new edition of Coleridge’s poems: they are dedicated to his brother George in one of the most beautiful poems I ever read. . . . . It contains all the poems of Lloyd and Lamb, and I know no volume that can be compared to it. You know not how infinitely my happiness is
increased by residing in the country. I have not a wish beyond the quietness I enjoy; everything is tranquil and beautiful; but sometimes I look forward with regret to the time when I must return to a city which I so heartily dislike. . . . .

“God bless you!

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To John May, Esq.
“July 15. 1799.
“My dear Friend,

“I sincerely thank you for your letter. . . . . I am inclined to think, when my uncle blamed me for not doing my utmost to relieve my family, he must have alluded to my repeated refusal of entering orders; a step which undoubtedly would almost instantly have relieved them, and which occasioned me great anguish and many conflicts of mind. To this I have been urged by him, and by my mother; but you know what my religious opinions are, and I need not ask whether I did rightly and honestly in refusing. Till Christmas last, I supported myself wholly by the profits of my writings. . . . . Thus you may see that the only means I have ever possessed of assisting my mother, was by entering the church. God knows I would exchange every intellectual gift which he has blessed me with, for implicit faith to have been able to do this. . . . . I care not for the opinion of the world, but I would willingly be thought justly of by a few individuals. I labour at a study which I very
Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 321
much dislike, to render myself independent, and I work for the bookseller whenever I can get employment, that I may have to spare for others. . . . . I now do all I can, perhaps I may some day be enabled to do all I wish; however, there is One who will accept the will for the deed. God bless you!

Robert Southey.”

The next letter refers to a proposal of Mr. Bedford’s, that, when my father and mother came again to reside in London, they should occupy the same house with him.

“August 2. 1797
“My dear Grosvenor,

“I like the plan you propose, and see no objection to it at present, but you know how feasible those things appear which we wish. One circumstance only may happen to prevent it. I have some hopes that my mother will come and live with me. This I very earnestly wish, and shall use every means to induce her, but it does not appear so probable as I could desire. This I shall know in a short time; and if then you have not changed your intentions, you know how gladly I should domesticate under the same roof with you. . . . .

“I think you would derive more good from Epictetus, than from studying yourself. There is a very proud independence in the Stoic Philosophy, which has always much pleased me. You would find certain sentences in the Enchiridion, which would occur to the mind when such maxims were wanted, and operate as motives: besides, when you are ex-
amining yourself, you ought to have a certain standard whereby to measure yourself; and however far an old stoic may be from perfection, he is almost a god when compared to the present race, who libel that nature which appeared with such exceeding lustre at Athens, at Lacedæmon, and in Rome. I could send you to a better system than that of the bondsman Epictetus, where you would find a better model on which to form your conduct. But the mind should have arrived at a certain stage to profit properly by that book which few have attained;—it should be cool and confirmed God bless you!

Robert Southey.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Bath, Sept. 22. 1797.

“Me voici then at Bath! And why had you not your birthday poem? In plain downright sincere sincerity, I totally forgot it, till on the morning of the 11th of September, when I found myself on Poole Heath, walking through desolation*, with that gloomy capability which my nativity-caster marks as among the prominent features of my character. We left Burton yesterday morning: the place was very quiet and I was very comfortable, nor know I when to expect again so pleasant a summer. We live in odd times, Grosvenor; and even in the best periods of this bad society, the straightest path is most cursedly crooked.

“I shall be with you in November; send me my Coke, I pray you. I want law food, and though not over hungry, yet must I eat and execrate like Pistol.

* See antè, p. 23.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 323
. . . . . Something odd came into my head a few hours since. I was feeling that the love of letter writing had greatly gone from me, and, enquiring why; my mind is no longer agitated by hopes and fears, no longer doubtful, no longer possessed with such ardent enthusiasm: it is quiet, and repels all feelings that would disturb that state. When I write I have nothing to communicate, for you know all my opinions and feelings; and no incidents can occur to one settled as I am. . . . .

Yours sincerely,
R. S.”
“Bath, Nov. 19. 1797.

Grosvenor, I have found out a better fence for our Utopia than Carlisle’s plantation of vipers and rattlesnakes, it is,—to surround it with a vacuum; for you know, Grosvenor, this would so puzzle the philosophers on the other side; and we might see them making experiments on the atmosphere, to the great annoyance of dogs, whom they would scientifically torture. Besides, if we had any refractory inmate, we might push him into the void.

“. . . . . I hate the journey; and yet going to London I may say with Quarles,
“‘My journey’s better than my journey’s end.’
A little home, Grosvenor, near the sea, or in any quiet country where there is water to bathe in, and what should I wish for in this life? and how could I be so honourably or so happily employed as in writing?

“If Buonaparte should come before I look like
Sir John Comyns! Oh that fine chuckle head was made for the law! I am too old to have my skull moulded.

“. . . . . Why not trust the settled quietness to which my mind has arrived? It is wisdom to avoid all violent emotions. I would not annihilate my feelings, but I would have them under a most Spartan despotism. Grosvenor, Inveni portum, spes et fortuna valete.
“‘Tu quoque, si vis
Lumine claro
Cernere rectum,
Gaudia pelle,
Pelle timorem,
Spemque fugato,
Nec dolor adsit.’
I have laid up the advice of
Boëthius in my heart, and prescribe it to you,—so fare you well.

Robert Southey.”

The beautiful and affecting lines contained in the next letter would have found a fitting place in Mr. Justice Talfourd’sFinal Memorials” of Charles Lamb, where all the circumstances of this domestic tragedy are detailed. I may here add that they would have been sent to him, had they come into my hands prior to the publication of those most interesting volumes.

To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq.
“Bath, Nov. 20. 1797.
“My dear Wynn,

“. . . . . You will be surprised perhaps at hearing that Cowper’s poem does not at all please me: you
Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 325
must have taken it up in some moment when your mind was predisposed to be pleased, and the first impression has remained; indeed I think it not above mediocrity. I cannot trace the author of the ‘
Task’ in one line. I know that our tastes differ much in poetry, and yet I think you must like these lines by Charles Lamb. I believe you know his history, and the dreadful death of his mother.—

“‘Thou should’st have longer lived, and to the grave
Have peacefully gone down in full old age;
Thy children would have tended thy gray hairs.
We might have sat, as we have often done,
By our fire-side, and talk’d whole nights away,
Old tune, old friends, and old events recalling,
With many a circumstance of trivial note,
To memory dear, and of importance grown.
How shall we tell them in a stranger’s ear!
“‘A wayward son oft times was I to thee:
And yet, in all our little bickerings,
Domestic jars, there was I know not what
Of tender feeling that were ill exchanged
For this world’s chilling friendships, and their smiles
Familiar whom the heart calls strangers still.
“‘A heavy lot hath he, most wretched man,
Who lives the last of all his family!
He looks around him, and his eye discerns
The face of the stranger; and his heart is sick.
Man of the world, what can’st thou do for him?
Wealth is a burthen which he could not bear;
Mirth a strange crime, the which he dares not act;
And generous wines no cordial to his soul.
For wounds like his, Christ is the only cure.
Go, preach thou to him of a world to come,
Where friends shall meet and know each other’s face;
Say less than this, and say it to the winds.’

“I am aware of the danger of studying simplicity of language—but you will find in my blank verse a fulness of phrase when the subject requires it; these lines may instance:—
“‘It was a goodly sight
To see the embattled pomp, as with the step
Of stateliness the barbed steeds came on;
To see the pennons rolling their long waves
Before the gale; and banners broad and bright
Tossing their blazomy; and high-plumed chiefs,
Vidames, and Seneschals, and Chastellains,
Gay with their bucklers’ gorgeous heraldry,
And silken surcoats on the buoyant wind
God bless you!

Yours affectionately,
R. Southey.”

A few days after the date of this letter, my father and mother again took up their abode in London; but the plan of occupying lodgings conjointly with Mr. Bedford was not accomplished, chiefly on account of Charles Lloyd being still with them. From thence he writes to his brother Thomas.

To Thomas Southey.
“London, Dec. 24. 1797.
“My dear Tom,

“. . . . . I have also another motive for wishing to live out of the town, to avoid the swarms of acquaintances who buzz about me and sadly waste my time,—an article I can but little afford to throw away. I have my law, which will soon occupy me from ten in the morning till eight in an office, excepting the dinner-time. My Joan of Arc* takes

* He was at present engaged in revising Joan of Arc for a second edition, in which all that part which had been written by Mr. Coleridge was omitted.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 327
up more time than you would suppose, for I have had a mine of riches laid open to me in a library belonging to the Dissenters, and have been disturbing the spiders; add to this that I write now for the ‘
Critical Review,’ and you will see that I cannot afford to keep levee days. . . . . I keep a large copy of my poems for you. They have sold uncommonly well; 1000 were printed, and I hear 750 are already gone. The Joan of Arc is scandalously delayed at Bristol. I have had only five proofs in all, and this delay, as the book is wanted, is a serious loss. A print of the Maid will be prefixed, solely for the sake of giving Robert Hancock some employment, and making his name known as an engraver. I have got a promise of having him introduced to Alderman Boydell, the great publisher of engravings; he is still at Bath, and I am in hopes I shall be the means of essentially serving him.

“You will be surprised to hear that I have been planning a charitable institution, which will in all probability be established. It was planned with John May and Carlisle, and the outline is simply this,—many poor victims perish after they have been healed at the hospitals, by returning to unwholesome air, scanty and bad food, cold and filth. We mean to employ them in a large garden, for many persons may be usefully employed in some manner there. When in good order, the produce of the garden will support the institution; in the long winter evenings the people will be employed in making nets, baskets, or matting; and the women in making sheeting—all things that will be wanted at
home, and for the overplus a ready sale will be had among the supporters of the Convalescent Asylum. My name will not appear in the business: I leave the credit to Lords and Esquires. I will send you our printed plan as soon as it is ready. Six hours’ labour is all that will be required from the strongest persons: for extra work they will be paid; then they may leave the Asylum with some little money, and with some useful knowledge.

“We are much pleased with this scheme, as it will make every body useful whom it benefits; a man with one leg may make holes for cabbages with his wooden leg, and a fellow with one arm follow and put in the plants

“Would you were here to-morrow! we would keep holiday: but ’tis very long since Christmas has been a festival with us. God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
R. Southey.”

My father remained in London only a very short time, when, finding it extremely prejudicial both to his own health and my mother’s, he determined to seek some other place of residence, and went down to Bristol with that intention. Soon afterwards he writes to his friend, Mr. Wynn, in somewhat depressed spirits.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 329
To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq.
“Bath, Wednesday, April 4. 1798.
“My dear Wynn,

“I should have thought you would have liked the Merida Inscription. It was designed for my Letters, but on consideration the point appears more applicable to our own country, and as one martyr is as good as another, Señora Eulalia must give place to old Latimer and Ridley. Its appearance in the Oracle makes me let out what I intended not to have told you till Christmas. I then thought to have taken you into a house of my own, and shown you the chairs and tables into which I had transmuted bad verses. Immediately before I left town I agreed to furnish the Morning Post with occasional verses, without a signature.* My end in view was to settle in a house as soon as possible, which this, with the Review, would enable me at Christmas to do. I told no person whatever but Edith. I signed the Inscription because I meant to insert it in my letters. Of all the rest Lord William is the only piece that bears the mark of the beast. I did not tell you, because you would not like it now, and it would have amused you at Christmas: Lord William’s is certainly a good story, and will, when corrected, make the best of my Ballads. I am glad you like it. There is one other, which if you have not seen I will send you; it is ludicrous, in the Alonzo metre, called the ‘Ring,’†—a true story, and, like the ‘Humorous

* For this he was to receive a guinea a week. A similar offer was made about this time by the editor of the Morning Chronicle to Burns, and refused.

† This ballad is called “King Charlemagne” in the later editions of his poems.

Lieutenant,’* it is not good for much, and yet one or two stanzas may amuse you.

“I write this from Bath, where I was summoned in consequence of my mother’s state of health. She is very ill; and I hope to remove her to Lisbon speedily,—the climate would, I am certain, restore her, though I fear nothing else can.

“You call me lazy for not writing; is it not the same with you? Do you feel the same inclination for filling a folio sheet now, as when in ’90 and ’91 we wrote to each other so fully and so frequently? The inclination is gone from me. I have nothing to communicate—no new feelings—no new opinions. We move no longer in the same circles, and no longer see things in the same point of view. I never now write a long letter to those who think with me,—it is useless to express what they also feel; and as for reasoning with those who differ from me, I have never seen any good result from argument. I write not in the best of spirits; my mother’s state of health depresses me,—the more so as I have to make her cheerful. Edith is likewise very unwell; indeed so declining as to make me somewhat apprehensive for the future. A few months will determine all these uncertainties,—and perhaps change my views in life—or rather destroy them. This is the first time that I have expressed the feelings that often will rise. Take no notice of them when you write.

“God bless you. If nothing intervene I shall see you in May. I wish indeed that month were over.

* This was probably one of his early poems, which was never republished.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 331
Few men have ever more subdued their feelings than myself,—and yet I have more left than are consistent with happiness.

“Once more, God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq.
“Bristol, May 5. 1798.
“My dear Wynn,

“. . . . . You have seen my brother in the Gazette I suppose; mentioned honourably, and in the wounded list. His wounds are slight, but his escape has been wonderful. The boatswain came to know if they should board the enemy forwards, and was told, by all means. Tom took a pike, and ran forwards. He found them in great confusion, and, as he thought, only wanting a leader; he asked if they would follow him, and one poor fellow answered ‘Aye.’ On this Tom got into the French ship, followed, as he thought, by the rest, but, in fact, only by this man. Just as he had made good his footing, he received two thrusts with a pike in his right thigh, and fell. They made a third thrust as he fell, which glanced from his shoulder-blade, and took a small piece of flesh out of his back. He fell between the two ships, and this saved his life, for he caught a rope, and regained the deck of the Mars.* . . . . I do not know whether it would be prudent in Tom to accompany Lord Proby to Lisbon, as Lord Brid-

* This was in the engagement between the Mars and L’Hercule.

port has sent him word that he would not forget him when he has served his time, and offered him a berth on board his own ship. He will use his own judgment, and probably, I think, follow the fortunes of Butterfield, the first lieutenant. When I saw him so noticed by Butterfield, I felt, as he says of himself during the engagement, ‘something that I never felt before.’ I felt more proud of my brother when he received ten pounds prize-money and sent his mother half: and yet it gave me something like exultation that he would now be respected by his acquaintance, though not for his best virtues. He is an excellent young man, and, moreover, a good seaman. God bless him, and you also.

Yours affectionately,
R. Southey.”

Among my father’s college friends, and as forming one of the enthusiastic party who were to have formed a “model republic” on the banks of the Susquehannah, has been mentioned George Burnett, who, of all the number, suffered most permanently from having taken up those visionary views. He had intended to enter the Church of England, and, had he not been tempted to quit the beaten track, would probably have become a steady, conscientious, and useful clergyman. Carried away by the influence chiefly of my father and Mr. Coleridge, he imbibed first their political and then their religious opinions; and thus, being led to abandon the intention with which he had entered Oxford, he became so completely unsettled as to render his short life a series
Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 333
of unsuccessful attempts in many professions. Much of this was, indeed, owing to the vacillating character of his mind; but it was not the less through life a subject of regret to my father, not unmixed with self-reproach.

At the present time he was minister to a Unitarian congregation at Yarmouth, whither my father now went for a short visit, having the additional motive of seeing his brother Henry, whom, some time previously, he had placed with Burnett as a private pupil. Through Burnett’s means he was now introduced to William Taylor, of Norwich, with whose writings he was already acquainted, and towards whom he found himself immediately and strongly drawn by the similarity of their tastes and pursuits. This meeting led to a correspondence (chiefly upon literary subjects), which has been already given to the public, and to a friendship, which would have been a very close one had there not, unhappily, been a total want of sympathy between the parties on the most important of all subjects,—William Taylor’s religious opinions being of the most extravagant and rationalistic kind. This difference my father felt much in later life, as his own religious feelings deepened and strengthened, although he always entertained towards him the sincerest regard, and a great respect for his many good qualities.

The other incidents of this visit may be gathered from the following letters, the latter of which, if there is nothing particularly striking in the versification, yet affords too pleasing a picture of his mind to be omitted.

To Mrs. Southey.
“May 29. 1798.

. . . . . “I am writing from Ormsby, the dwelling-place of Mr. Manning, distant six miles from Yarmouth. We came here yesterday to dinner, and leave it to-morrow evening. I have begun some blank verse to you and laid it aside, because, if I do not tell you something about this place now, I shall not do it at all. . . . . This part of England looks as if Nature had wearied herself with adorning the rest with hill and dale, and squatted down here to rest herself. You must even suppose a very Dutch-looking Nature to have made it of such pancake flatness. An unpromising country, and yet, Edith, I could be very happy with such a home as this. I am looking through the window over green fields, as far as I can see,—no great distance; the hedges are all grubbed up in sight of the house, which produces a very good effect. A few fine acacias, whitethorns, and other trees, are scattered about; a walk goes all round, with a beautiful hedge of lilacs, laburnums, the Gueldres rose, Barbary shrubs, &c. &c. Edith, you would not wish a sweeter scene, and being here, I wish for nothing but you; half an hour’s walk would reach the sea-shore.

“I had almost forgot one with whom I am more intimate than any other part of the family. Rover,—a noble dog, something of the spaniel, but huge as a mastiff, and his black and brindled hair curling close, almost like a lady’s wig. A very sympathising dog, I assure you, for he will not only shake
Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 335
hands, but if I press his paw return the pressure. Moreover, there is excellent Nottingham ale, sent annually by
Mr. Manning’s son-in-law from Nottingham; what my uncle would call ‘fine stuff,’ such as Robin Hood and his outlaws used to drink under the greenwood tree. Robin Hood’s beverage! how could I choose but like it? It is sweet and strong,—very strong,—a little made me feel this. . . . . The cows in this country have no horns; this, I think, a great improvement in the breed of horned cattle, and this kind is found more productive. Another peculiarity about Yarmouth is the number of arches formed by the jawbones of a whale: they trade much with Greenland there. The old walls and old gates of the town are yet standing; the town is certainly a pleasing one. I left it, however, with pleasure, to enjoy the society of Ormsby, and I shall leave Ormsby with pleasure for the society of Norwich. In short, every movement is agreeable, because it brings me homewards.


“We went yesterday in the morning to the ruins of Caister Castle, once the seat of Fastolffe, where, after wasting a great part of his fortune in the French wars, and being defeated at Patay, and disgraced in consequence of his flight, he retired to quarrel with his neighbours. The ruin is by no means fine, compared with several I have seen, but all these things produce a pleasant effect upon the mind; and besides, it is well when I am writing about the man, to have some knowledge of everything knowable respecting
him. In the evening we returned with
William Taylor to Norwich; on the way we left the chaise, and crossed a moor on foot, in hopes of hearing the bittern cry. It was not till we were just quitting the moor, that one of these birds thought proper to gratify us; then he began, and presently we saw one, so that I re-entered the chaise highly satisfied. . . . .

God bless you.
Your affectionate,
Robert Southey.”
To Mrs. Southey.
“June 4. 1798.
Edith, it ever was thy husband’s wish,
Since he hath known in what is happiness,
To find some little home, some low retreat,
Where the vain uproar of the worthless world
Might never reach his ear; and where, if chance
The tidings of its horrible strifes arrived,
They would endear retirement, as the blast
Of winter makes the shelter’d traveller
Draw closer to the hearth-side, every nerve
Awake to the warm comfort. Quietness
Should be his inmate there; and he would live
To thee, and to himself, and to our God.
To dwell in that foul city,—to endure
The common, hollow, cold, lip-intercourse
Of life; to walk abroad and never see
Green field, or running brook, or setting sun!
Will it not wither up my faculties,
Like some poor myrtle that in the town air
Pines on the parlour-window?
Nature is lovely: on the mountain height,
Or where the embosom’d mountain-glen displays
Secure sublimity, or where around
The undulated surface gently slopes
With mingled hill and valley;—everywhere
Nature is lovely; even in scenes like these,
Where not a hillock breaks the unvaried plain,
The eye may find new charms that seeks delight.
Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 337
“At eve I walk abroad; the setting sun
Hath soften’d with a calm and mellow hue
The cool fresh air; below, a bright expanse,
The waters of the Broad* lie luminous.
I gaze around; the unbounded plain presents
Ocean immensity, whose circling line
The bending heaven shuts in. So even here
Methinks I could be well content to fix
My sojourn; grow familiar with these scenes
Till time and memory make them dear to me;
And wish no other home.
“There have been hours
When I have long’d to mount the winged bark
And seek those better climes, where orange groves
Breathe on the evening gale voluptuous joy.
And, Edith! though I heard from thee alone
The pleasant accents of my native tongue,
And saw no wonted countenance but thine,
I could be happy in the stranger’s land,
Possessing all in thee. O best beloved!
Companion, friend, and yet a dearer name!
I trod those better climes a heartless thing,
Cintra’s cool rocks, and where Arrabida
Lifts from the ocean its sublimer heights,
Thine image wander’d with me, and one wish
Disturb’d the deep delight.
“Even now that wish,
Making short absence painful, still recurs.
The voice of friendship, that familiar voice,
From which in other scenes I daily heard
First greeting, poorly satisfies the heart.
And wanting thee, tho’ in best intercourse,
Such as in after year’s remembrance oft
Will love to dwell upon; yet when the sun
Goes down, I see his setting beams with joy,
And count again the allotted days, and think
The hour will soon arrive when I shall meet
The eager greeting of affection’s eye,
And hear the welcome of the voice I love.

“What have I to tell you? Can you be interested in the intercourse I have had with people whose very

* So they call the wide spread of a river in Norfolk.

names are new to you? On Sunday I went to dine with
Sir Lambert Blackwell. . . . . He has a very pretty house, and the finest picture I ever saw; it is St. Cecilia at the moment when the heads of her parents are brought in to terrify her into an abandonment of Christianity. I never saw a countenance so full of hope, and resignation, and purity, and holy grief; it is by Carlo Dolce. I have seen many fine pictures, but never one so perfect, so sublime, so interesting, irresistibly interesting, as this. . . . .

God bless you.
Robert Southey.”

Upon my father’s return from this visit to Norfolk, he rejoined my mother at Bristol, and very shortly afterwards he took a small house at Westbury, a beautiful village about two miles distant from thence. Here they resided for twelve months. “This,” he says in one of the prefaces to the collected edition of his poems, “was one of the happiest portions of my life.* I have never, before or since, produced so much poetry in the same space of time. The smaller pieces were communicated by letter to Charles Lamb, and had the advantage of his animadversions. I was

“To me the past presents
No object for regret;
To me the present gives
All cause for full content.
The future? It is now the cheerful noon,
And on the sunny smiling fields I gaze,
With eyes alive to joy;
When the dark night descends,
I willingly shall close my weary lids
In sure and certain hope to wake again.”
Minor Poems, Westbury, 1798,

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 339
then also in habits of the most frequent and familiar intercourse with
Davy, then in the flower and freshness of his youth. We were within an easy walk of each other over some of the most beautiful ground in that beautiful part of England. When I went to the Pneumatic Institution, he had to tell me of some new experiment or discovery, and of the views which it opened for him; and when he came to Westbury, there was a fresh portion of ‘Madoc’ for his hearing. Davy encouraged me with his hearty approbation during Its progress; and the bag of nitrous oxide with which he generally regaled me upon my visit to him, was not required for raising my spirits to the degree of settled fair, and keeping them at that elevation.”

In addition to “Madoc,” my father was at this time preparing for the press a second volume of his minor poems, and a second edition of his “Letters from Spain and Portugal”; and he was also engaged in editing the first volume of the “Annual Anthology,” which was published in Bristol in the course of the following year. Other literary employments are mentioned In his letters, but Blackstone, and Coke upon Littleton, seem to have been almost wholly thrown aside; the study of the law was daily becoming more and more distasteful to him, and he was beginning to find, that however he might command his attention, and bring the full force of his understanding to bear upon the subject, the memory was not to be controuled by the will; and that the time and trouble so employed not being upon a “labour of love,” was purely “labour lost.”


His mother was now residing with him, and also the “Cousin Margaret” mentioned in the Autobiography.

To Thomas Southey.
“Martin Hall, Westbury; June 27. 1798.
“My dear Tom,

“Here we are, and you see have christened the house properly, I assure you, as the martins have colonized all round it, and doubly lucky must the house be on which they so build and bemire. We hesitated between the appropriate names of Rat Hall, Mouse Mansion, Vermin Villa, Cockroach Castle, Cobweb Cottage, and Spider Lodge; but, as we routed out the spiders, brushed away the cobwebs, stopped the rat holes, and found no cockroaches, we bethought us of the animals without, and dubbed it Martin Hall.

“I am sorry, Tom, you could not have seen us settled,—you would like the old house; and the view from the drawing-room and garden is delightful; we have turned to most notably. But once the house was an inn, or alehouse, so we have had application to sell beer, and buy a stock of tobacco-pipes. Much has been done, and much is yet to do. The rooms are large, the garden well stocked; we cut our own cabbages, live upon currant puddings, and shall soon be comfortably settled. . . . .

“I wish you had been here, you might have been up to your eyes in dirt and rubbish. . . . . We have bespoke a cat, a great carroty cat.”

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 341
To H. H. Southey.
“Martin Hall, July 14. 1798.
“My dear Harry,

“I thank you for your ode of Anacreon; the Greek metre in which you have translated it, is certainly the best that could be chosen, but, perhaps, the most difficult, as the accent should flow so easily that a bad reader may not be able to spoil them. This is the case with your fourth and fifth lines: an old woman can’t read them out of the proper cadence. . . . . I think this metre much improved to an English ear, by sometimes ending a line with a long syllable instead of a trochee. This you will see regularly done in the following translation from the Spanish of Villegas. The original metre is that of Θεγω λεγειν Ατρειδας, and the verses flow as harmoniously as those of Anacreon.

‘The maidens thus address me:—
How is it, Don Esteban,
That you of love sing always,
And never sing of war?
I answer thus the question,
Ye bachelor* young damsels:
It is that men are ugly,
It is that you are fair.
‘For what would it avail me
To sing to drums and trumpets,
Whilst marching sorely onward,
Encumber’d by my shield?

* This is literal. The original is muchachas bachilleras—bachelor girls.

“‘Think you the tree of glory
Delights the common soldier;
That tree so full of blossoms
That never bears a fruit?
“‘Let him who gains in battles
His glorious wounds, enjoy them;
Let him praise war who knows not
The happiness of peace.
“‘I will not sing of soldiers,
I will not sing of combats,
But only of the damsels,—
My combats are with them.’

“. . . . . We are now tolerably settled at Martin Hall. I have laboured much in making it comfortable, and comfortable it now is. Our sitting-room is large, with three windows and two recesses—once windows, but now converted into book-cases, with green baize hanging half-way down the books, as in the College Green. The room is papered with cartridge paper, bordered with yellow Vandykes edged with black. I have a good many books, but not all I want, as many of my most valuable ones are lying in London. I shall be very glad to get settled in a house at London, where I may collect all my chattels together, and move on contentedly for some dozen years in my profession. You will find little difficulty either in Anacreon or in Homer; the language will soon become familiar to you, and you will, I hope, apply yourself to it with assiduity. I remember William Taylor promising to give you some instruction in German when you were well enough acquainted with the ancient languages to begin the modern ones. I need not tell you how valuable such instruction would be, or how
Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 343
gladly I should avail myself of such an opportunity were it in my power. It is of very great advantage to a young man to be a good linguist; he is more respected, and may be more useful; his sources of pleasure are increased; and, what in the present state of the world is to be considered, in case of necessity he has additional means of supporting himself. The languages,
Harry—which I learnt almost as an amusement—have considerably contributed and do contribute to my support.

“You will send me your other translations from Anacreon, and in return I will always send you some piece which you had not before seen. I wish you would sometimes, on a fine evening, walk out, and write as exact a description of the sunset, and the appearance of everything around, as you can. You would find it a pleasant employment, and I can assure you it would be a very useful one. I should like you to send me some of these sketches; not of sunset only, but of any natural scene. If you have Ossian at hand, you may see what I mean in the description of night by five Scotch bards. Your neighbourhood to the sea gives you opportunities of seeing the finest effects of sunrise—fine weather, or storms; or you may contrast it with inland views and forest scenery, of which I believe you will see much in Nottinghamshire.

“Let me hear from you soon, and often, and regularly.

God bless you!
Your affectionate brother,
Robert Southey.”

A few weeks spent in Herefordshire, and a pedestrian excursion into Wales, accompanied by his friend Mr. Danvers, were the chief variations in my father’s life during this summer. In these journeys he found temporary relief from a state of ill health, which was beginning gradually to creep over him, partly induced, probably, by his ordinary sedentary habits, and intense mental application, and that anxiety about his “ways and means” which necessarily followed him through life, and of which he had already a full share, from the various relations who were wholly or chiefly dependent on him. The two following letters were written during these excursions.

To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq,
“Hereford, August 15. 1798.
“My dear Wynn,

“You will, I think, be somewhat amused at this copy of a note from a west-country farmer’s daughter: it is genuine I assure you:—

“’Dear Miss,

“’The energy of the Races prompts me to assure you that my request is forbidden; the idea of which I had awkwardly nourished, notwithstanding my propensity to reserve. Mr. T. will be there; let me with confidence assure you that him and brothers will be very happy to meet you and brothers. Us girls cannot go for reasons; the attention of the cows claims our assistance in the evening.

Unalterably yours.’

Is it not admirable?

“I have seen myself Bedfordized*, and it has been a subject of much amusement. Holcroft’s likeness is

* This is explained in the next letter.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 345
admirably preserved. I know not what poor
Lamb has done to be croaking there. What I think the worst part of the anti-Jacobine abuse, is the lumping together men of such opposite principles; this was stupid. We should have all been welcoming the Director, not the Theophilanthrope. The conductors of the Anti-Jacobine will have much to answer for in thus inflaming the animosities of this country. They are labouring to produce the deadly hatred of Irish faction; perhaps to produce the same end. Such an address as you mention might probably be of great use; that I could assist you in it is less certain. I do not feel myself at all calculated for anything that requires methodical reasoning; and though you and I should agree in the main object of the pamphlet, our opinions are at root different. The old systems of government I think must fall; but in this country the immediate danger is on the other hand,—from an unconstitutional and unlimited power. Burleigh saw how a parliament might be employed against the people, and Montesquieu prophesied the fall of English liberty when the legislature should become corrupt. You will not agree with me in thinking his prophecy fulfilled.

“Violent men there undoubtedly are among the democrats, as they are always called, but is there any one among them whom the ministerialists will allow to be moderate? The Anti-Jacobine certainly speaks the sentiments of government.

Heywood’s Hierarchie is a most lamentable poem, but the notes are very amusing. I fancy it is in most old libraries. I do not see anything that promises
well for ballads. There are some fine Arabic traditions that would make noble poems. I was about to write one upon the Garden of Irem; the city and garden still exist in the deserts invisibly, and one man only has seen them. This is the tradition, and I had made it the groundwork of what I thought a very fine story; but it seemed too great for a poem of 300 or 400 lines.

“I do not much like Don Carlos: it is by far the worst of Schiller’s plays.

Yours affectionately,
R. Southey.”
To Thomas Southey.
“Hereford, Aug. 29. 1798.
“My dear Tom,

“Your letter was very agreeable, for we began to doubt whether or no you were in the land of the living. We have been a fortnight in this part of the world, part of the time at Dilwyn, the original seat of the Tylers; and Shobdon was one of the places we visited. Our absence from home will not exceed a month, and though the time has passed pleasantly, I shall not be sorry to sit quietly down once more at Martin Hall. . . . . I have heard high commendation of you, somewhat in a round-about way, from a Taunton lady, who writes to a friend of hers, ‘The gallant Southey for me.’ Now, Tom, who the devil this Taunton damsel is, I could not find out, for the name was dropt by the way, so you must guess if you can.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 347

“My Letters* are in the press, and my volume will soon,—it will include the ‘Vision.’ I have begun my English Eclogues, and written two which I rather like. My Kalendar also is greatly advanced since you left us; it now extends to some 1400 lines, and much of the remainder is planned out. I have learnt to rise early when at home, and written two new books of ‘Madoc’ wholly, before any one else in the house was up.

“Do you know that I have been caricatured in the Anti-Jacobin Magazine, together with Lloyd, Lamb, the Duke of Bedford, Fox, &c. &c. The fellow has not, however, libelled my likeness, because he did not know it, so he clapped an ass’s head on my shoulders.

“I have done a great deal in the planning way since I have been in Herefordshire; you would, I think, be pleased with the skeleton of a long poem upon the destruction of the Dom Daniel, of which the outline is almost completed; when it will get farther I know not. I have much on my hands,—my Kalendar will probably fill three volumes, and the more the work gets on, the better does it please me.

Edith has learnt to ride; she thinks of entering among the light horsewomen, and I hope to get her the rank of a Corporella.

“Did you hear of the glorious take in about Buonaparte at Bristol? Oh, Tom, I saw the newspaper boy pass by Martin Hall with a paper cap, inscribed Buonaparte taken! and the bells rung Sunday, and all day Monday. Tuesday I was at Cottle’s when

* Letters from Spain and Portugal 2d edit.

the mail was expected; the volunteers were ready to strike up, two men kneeling on the church and post-office with the flags ready to let fly. N. B.—It rained very hard. The four streets full of people, all assembled to see the triumphal entry of the mail coach, as it was to be crowned with laurels; you never saw so total a blank as when all proved to be false. . . . . “I shall now do better one year than the last, so,
Tom, let us hope all things, for we have weathered worse times than we shall ever know again I trust.

God bless you,
R. S.”
To Mrs. Southey.
“Bwlch, Brecknockshire, Oct. 14. 1798.

“Without a map, my dear Edith will know nothing of the place I date from, and if she have a map to refer to, very probably she may miss the name. . . . . What have we seen? Woods, mountains, and mountain glens and streams. In those words are comprehended all imaginable beauty. Sometimes we have been winding up the dingle side, and every minute catching the stream below through the wood that half hid it, always hearing its roar; then over mountains, where nothing was to be seen but hill and sky, their sides rent by the winter streams; sometimes a little tract of cultivation appeared up some coomb-place, so lonely, so beautiful: they looked as though no tax-gatherer ever visited them. I have longed to dwell in these solitary houses in a mountain vale,
Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 349
sheltered by the hills and the trees that grow finely round the houses; the vale rich by the soil swept down the hills; a stream before the door, rolling over large stones—pure water, so musical, too! and a child might cross it; yet at wet seasons it must thunder down a torrent. In such scenes there is a simpleness of sublimity fit to feed imagination. . . . Yesterday at two we reached Brecon, a distance of eighteen miles. A little but clean ale-house afforded us eight pennyworth of bread, cheese, and ale, and we departed for Crickhowel, a stage of thirteen more. A woman whom we met, and of whom we asked the distance, measured it by the ‘great Inn,’ at Bwlch, on the way, and we determined to halt there. Before we got there, heavy rain overtook us, and we were wet the lower half when we reached the great Inn, at Bwlch, which is not quite so good as the memorable ale-house at Tintern. However, we have very good beds here; the cream was good, and the tea excellent.

“So we have eat, drunk, dried ourselves, and grown comfortable; also we have had the pleasure of the landlord’s company, who, being somewhat communicative and somewhat tipsy, gave us the history of himself and family. . . . . I much like the appearance of the Welsh women; they have all a character in their countenances, an intelligence which is very pleasant. Their round shrewd national physiognomy is certainly better than that of the English peasantry, and we have uniformly met with civility. There is none of the insolence and brutality which characterise our colliers and milk-women.


“At Merthyr we witnessed the very interesting custom of strewing the graves. They are fenced round with little white stones, and the earth in the coffin shape planted with herbs and flowers, and strewn with flowers. Two women were thus decorating a grave—the one a middle-aged woman, and much affected. This affected me a good deal; the custom is so congenial to one’s heart; it prolongs the memory of the dead, and links the affections to them. . . . . This part of Brecknockshire is most beautiful. The Usk rolling through a rich and cultivated vale, and mountains rising on every side: we feel no fatigue, and I get more comfortable every day now our faces are turned homewards.

“God bless you, my dear Edith. Farewell. Now for the Black Mountain and St. David’s.

To John May, Esq.
“Westbury, Dec. 14. 1798.
“My dear Friend,

“We are enduring something like a Kamtschatkan winter here. I am obliged to take my daily walk, and, though I go wrapped up in my great coat, almost like a dancing bear in hirsute appearance, still the wind pierces me. We are very deficient in having no winter dress for such weather as this. I am busy upon the Grecian history, or, rather, it is the employment of all my leisure. The escape of my Pythoness* was in the early ages, and they, I believe,

* My father had been urged by several friends to try his hand at dramatic composition; and this refers to one of the subjects on which he had purposed to write a play.

Ætat. 23. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 351
will suit me best. I must have the Pythian games celebrated; for the story, I have only invention to trust to. The costume of Greece will be new to the English drama, owing to the defects of our theatres; but I had rather get to some country and some people less known. Among the many thoughts that have passed over my mind upon this subject, I have had the idea of grounding stories, upon the oppression exercised at different periods of time upon particular classes of people; the Helots, for instance, the Albigenses, or the Jews. The idea of a tragedy upon one of the early martyrs has for some years been among my crude plans; but it would not suit the stage, because it would not suit the times. There is something more noble in such a character than I can conceive in any other; firm to the defiance of death in avowing the truth, and patient under all oppression, without enthusiasm, supported by the calm conviction that this is his duty. Among the Helots, something may be made of the infernal Crypteia; but I am afraid to meddle with a Spartan; there is neither feeling, thinking nor speaking like one who has been educated according to the laws of
Lycurgus; knowledge of human nature is not knowledge of Lacedæmonian nature. The state of slavery among our own countrymen at an early period is better; the grievances of wardship, and the situation of a fief or villain. Dramatists and novelists have ransacked early history, and we have as many crusaders on the stage, and in the circulating library, as ever sailed to Palestine: but they only pay attention
to the chronology, and not to the manners or mind of the period. . . . .

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”

With one brief extract referring to his health I will conclude this chapter. It is from a letter to William Taylor, of Norwich, who had now become one of his regular correspondents, and to whom he was in the habit of submitting many of his minor pieces for criticism as he wrote them.

“I was very glad to see your handwriting again. I have been much indisposed, and my recovery, I fear, will be slow. My heart is affected, and this at first alarmed me, because I could not understand it; however, I am scientifically satisfied it is only a nervous affection. Sedentary habits have injured my health; the prescription of exercise prevents me from proceeding with the work that interests me, and only allows time for the task labour, which is neither pleasant to look at nor to remember. My leisure is quite destroyed: had it not been for this I should, ere this, have sent you the remainder of my Eclogues.”*

* Westbury, Dec. 27. 1798.

Spottiswoodes and Shaw,