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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Ch. VI. 1799-1800

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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The commencement of the year l799 found my father still at Westbury, and still employed at some one or other of his many literary avocations. I have not thought it needful to notice particularly the reception which his writings had hitherto met with from the public, because it was not of that peculiarly marked character which materially influences an author’s career. He had, however, been gradually “working his way up the hill,” and the booksellers
were ready enough to find him abundant periodical employment, which, though it “frittered away his time,” and was but indifferently remunerated, he still found more profitable than any other way in which he could employ his pen. I cannot but regret that no list of his many contributions to magazines and reviews, and other periodicals, during his early life, can be found. Although the articles themselves might not be worth preservation, still, could the number of them be added to the rest of his works, especially taking into account his very numerous writings in the
Annual and Quarterly Reviews, he would unquestionably be found to have been one of the most voluminous writers of any age or of any country. The following letters will give some idea of his untiring industry:—

To Thomas Southey.

“Ever since you left us have I been hurried from one job to another. You know I expected a parcel of books when you went away. They came, and I had immediately to kill off one detachment; that was but just done, when down came a bundle of French books, to be returned with all possible speed. This was not only unexpected work, but double work, because all extracts were to be translated. Well; that I did, and by that time the end of the month came round, and I am now busy upon English books
again. What with this and my weekly communications with
Stuart*, and my plaguy regimen of exercise, I have actually no time for any voluntary employment. In a few days I hope to breathe a little in leisure.

“I am sorry it is low water with you, and that we cannot set you afloat. We are heavily laden, and can, with hard work, barely keep above water. I have been obliged to borrow; by and by we shall do better; but we are just now at the worst, and these vile taxes will take twenty pounds from me, at the least.

“We had an odd circumstance happened to us on Wednesday. Just as we were beginning breakfast, a well-dressed woman, in a silk gown and muff, entered the room. ‘I am come to take a little breakfast,’ said she. Down she laid her muff, took a chair, and sat down by the fire. We thought she was mad, but she looked so stupid, that we soon found that was not the case. Sure enough, breakfast she did. I was obliged once to go down and laugh. My mother and Edith behaved very well, but Margery could not come into the room. When the good lady had done, she rose, and asked what she had to pay? ‘Nothing, ma’am,’ said my mother. ‘Nothing! why how is this?’ ‘I don’t know how it is,’ said my mother, and smiled; ‘but so it is.’ ‘What, don’t you keep a public?’ ‘No, indeed, ma’am;’ so we had half a hundred apologies, and the servant had a shilling. We had a good morning’s laugh for our-

* Editor of the Morning Post.

selves, and a good story for our friends, and she had a very good breakfast. I wish you had been here.

Harry is going to a Mr. Maurice, a gentleman who takes only a few pupils, at Normanston, near Lowestoff, Suffolk. You may, perhaps, know Lowestoff, as the more easterly point of the island. It is a very fortunate situation for him.

“The frost has stopt the pump and the press. My letters are just done, but not yet published. Our bread has been so hard frozen, that no one in the house except myself could cut it, and it made my arm ache for the whole day.

“I do not know where Lloyd is; it is a long time since I have heard from him. Indeed, my own employments make me a vile correspondent.

“The Old Woman of Berkeley cuts a very respectable figure on horseback; and Beelzebub is so admirably done, that one would suppose he had sat for the picture.* . . . . I know not how you exist this weather. My great coat is a lovely garment, my mother says; and but for it I should, I believe, be found on Durdham Down in the shape of a great icicle. At home the wind comes in so cuttingly in the evenings, that I have taken to wear my Welsh wig, to the great improvement of my personal charms! Edith says, I may say that.

“I shall make a ballad upon the story of your shipmate the marine†, who kept the fifth commandment so well. By the help of the Devil it will do;

* This engraving was copied from the Nuremberg Chronicle.

† This man persuaded his father to murder his mother, and then turned king’s evidences and brought his father to the gallows.

and there can be no harm in introducing him to the Devil a little before his time. God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.

“A happy new year.”

To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq.

“As for the verses upon Mr. Pitt, I never wrote any. Possibly Lewis may have seen a poem by Coleridge, which I have heard of, but have never seen—a dialogue between Blood, Fire, and Famine, or some such interlocutors.* Strangers are perpetually confounding us.

“My Eclogues, varying in subject, are yet too monotonous, in being all rather upon melancholy subjects.

“I have some play plots maturing in my head, but none ripe. My wish is to make something better than love the mainspring; and I have one or two sketches, but all my plots seem rather calculated to produce one or two great scenes, rather than a general effect. My mind has been turned too much to the epic, which admits a longer action, and passes over the uninteresting parts.

“The escape of the Pythoness with a young Thesealian seems to afford most spectacle. If you have Diodorus Siculus at hand, and will refer to lib. 16.

* “Fire, Famine, Slaughter,” was the title of this poem.

p. 428., you may find all the story, for I know no more than the fact.

Pedro the Just pleases me best. This is my outline—You know one of Inez’ murderers escaped—Pacheco. This man has, by lightning or in battle, lost his sight, and labours under the agony of remorse. The priest, to whom he has confessed, enjoins him to say certain prayers where he committed the murder. Thus disfigured, he ran little danger of discovery; what he did run, enhanced their merits. A high reward has been offered for Pacheco, and the confessor sends somebody to inform against him and receive it.

“Leonora, his daughter, comes to Coimbra to demand justice. Her mother’s little property has been seized by a neighbouring noble, who trusts to the hatred Pedro bears the family, and their depressed state, for impunity. This, too, may partly proceed from Leonora having refused to be his mistress. A good scene may be made when she sees the king, and he thinks she is going to intreat for her father; but Pedro was inflexibly just, and he summons the nobleman.

“Pacheco is thrown into prison. The nobleman, irritated at the king, is still attached to Leonora. He is not a bad man, though a violent one. He offers to force the prison, deliver Pacheco, and retire into Castille, if she will be his. The king’s confessor intercedes for Pacheco, but his execution is fixed for the day when Inez is to be crowned. At the decisive moment, Leonora brings the children of Inez to intercede, and is successful. She refuses to marry the
noble, and expresses her intention of entering a nunnery after her mother’s death.

“This is a half plot—you see capable of powerful scenes—but defective in general interest, I fear.

“I have thought of a domestic story, founded on the persecution under Queen Mary. To this my objection is, that I cannot well conclude it without either burning my hero, or making the queen die very à propos—which is cutting the knot, and not letting the catastrophe necessarily arise from previous circumstances. However, the story pleases me, because I have a fine Catholic woman and her confessor in it.

“For feudal times, something may be made, perhaps, of a feif with a wicked lord, or of the wardship oppressions; but what will young Colman’s play be? It may forestall me.

“Then I have thought of Sparta, of the Crypteia, and a Helot hero; but this would be interpreted into sedition. Of Florida, and the customary sacrifice of the first-born male: in this case to have a European father, and an escape. Sebastian comes into my thoughts; and Beatrix of Milan, accused by Orombello on the rack, and executed. A Welsh or English story would be better; but, fix where I will, I will be well acquainted with country, manners, &c. God bless you. You have these views as they float before me, and will be as little satisfied with any as myself. Help me if you can.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.

“You ask me why the Devil rides on horseback.* The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman, and that would be reason enough; but, moreover, the history doth aver that he came on horseback for the old woman, and rode before her, and that the colour of the horse was black. Should I falsify the history, and make Apollyon a pedestrian? Besides, Grosvenor, Apollyon is cloven-footed; and I humbly conceive that a biped—and I never understood his dark majesty to be otherwise—that a biped, I say, would walk clumsily upon cloven feet. Neither hath Apollyon wings, according to the best representations; and, indeed, how should he? For were they of feathers, like the angels, they would be burned in the everlasting fire; and were they of leather, like a bat’s, they would be shrivelled. I conclude, therefore, that wings he hath not. Yet do we find, from sundry reputable authors and divers histories, that he transporteth himself from place to place with exceeding rapidity. Now, as he cannot walk fast or fly, he must have some conveyance. Stage coaches to the infernal regions there are none,

* The allusion here is to the illustration of my father’s pithy and profitable “ballad of the “Old Woman of Berkeley,” which is referred to in the last letter but one. It seems that Mr. Bedford, whose humour on such subjects tallied exactly with his own, had questioned the propriety of the portraiture.

though the road be much frequented. Balloons would burst at setting out, the air would be so rarified with the heat; but horses he may have of a particular breed.

“I am learned in Daemonology, and could say more; but this sufficeth. I should advise you not to copy the ballad, because the volume will soon be finished. I expect to bring it with me on Ash-Wednesday to town. . . . .

“I am better, but they tell me that constant exercise is indispensable, and that at my age, and with my constitution, I must either throw off the complaint now, or it will stick to me for ever. Edith’s health requires care; our medical friend dreads the effect of London upon both. When my time is out in our present house (at Midsummer), we must go to the sea awhile. I thought I was like a Scotch fir, and could grow anywhere, but I am sadly altered, and my nerves are in a vile state. I am almost ashamed of my own feelings, but they depend not upon volition. These things throw a fog over the prospect of life. I cannot see my way; it is time to be in an office, but the confinement would be ruinous. You know not the alteration I feel. I could once have slept with the seven sleepers without a miracle; now the least sound wakes me, and with alarm. However, I am better. . . . . God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
R. Southey.”
To John May, Esq.
“Jan. 22. 1799.
“My dear Friend,

“Since my last my dramatic ideas have been fermenting, and have now, perhaps, settled—at least, among my various thoughts and outlines there is one which pleases me, and with which Wynn seems well satisfied. I am not willing to labour in vain, and before I begin I would consult well with him and you, the only friends who know my intention. The time chosen is the latter part of Queen Mary’s reign: the characters,—Sir Walter, a young convert to the Reformation; Gilbert, the man who has converted him; Stephen, the cousin of Sir Walter, and his heir in default of issue, a bigoted Catholic; Mary, the betrothed of Walter, an amiable Catholic; and her Confessor, a pious excellent man. Gilbert is burnt, and Walter, by his own enthusiasm, and the bigotry and interested hopes of his cousin, condemned, but saved by the Queen’s death. The story thus divides itself:—1. To the discovery of Walter’s principles to Mary and the Confessor. 2. The danger he runs by his attentions to the accused Gilbert. 3. Gilbert’s death. 4. Walter’s arrest. 5. The death of the Queen. In Mary and her Confessor I design Catholics of the most enlarged minds, sincere but tolerating, and earnest to save Walter, even to hastening his marriage, that the union with a woman of such known sentiments might divert suspicion. Gilbert is a sincere but bigoted man, one of the old reformers, ready to suffer death for his opinions, or
to inflict it. Stephen, so violent in his hate of heresy as half to be ignorant of his own interested motives in seeking Walter’s death. But it is from delineating the progress of Walter’s mind that I expect success. At first he is restless and unhappy, dreading the sacrifices which his principles require; the danger of his friend and his death excite an increasing enthusiasm; the kindness of the priest, and Mary’s love, overcome him; he consents to temporise, and is arrested; then he settles into the suffering and steady courage of a Christian. To this I feel equal, and long to be about it. I expect a good effect from the evening hymn to be sung by Mary, and from the death of Gilbert. From the great window, Mary and the Confessor see the procession to the stake, and hear the Te Deum; they turn away when the fire is kindled, and kneel together to pray for his soul; the light of the fire appears through the window, and Walter Is described as performing the last office of kindness to his martyred friend. You will perceive that such a story can excite only good feelings; its main tendency will be to occasion charity towards each other’s opinions. The story has the advantage of novelty; the only martyrdom-plays I know are mixed with much nonsense—the best is Corneille’s ‘
Polyeucte;’ in English we have two bad ones from Massinger and Dryden. When I see you I will tell you more; the little thoughts for minute parts, which are almost too minute to relate formally in a letter.

“I come to town the week after next again: the thought of the journey is more tolerable, as I expect relief from the exercise, for very great exercise is
necessary. I do not, and will not, neglect my health, though it requires a very inconvenient attention. My medical guide tells me that, with my habits, the disorder must be flung off now, or it will adhere to me through life. God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”

My father’s health still continued in a very unsatisfactory state, although he was less alarmed about it himself than he had been a short time previously. In reply to some anxious inquiries from his friend William Taylor, who, with a singular misapprehension of his character, tells him that he has “a mimosa sensibility, an imagination excessively accustomed to summon up trains of melancholy ideas, and marshal funeral processions; a mind too fond by half, for its own comfort, of sighs and sadness, of pathetic emotion and heart-rending woe;” he says:—“Burnett has mistaken my complaint, and you have mistaken my disposition. I was apprehensive of some local complaint of the heart, but there is no danger of its growing too hard, and the affection is merely nervous. The only consequence which there is any reason to dread is, that it may totally unfit me for the confinement of London and a lawyer’s office. I shall make the attempt somewhat heartlessly, and discouraged by the prognostics of my medical advisers. If my health suffer, I will abandon it at once. The world will be again before me, and the prospect sufficiently comfortable. I have no wants, and few wishes. Literary exertion id almost as necessary to me as meat and
drink, and with an undivided attention I could do much.

“Once, indeed, I had a mimosa sensibility, but it has long ago been rooted out. Five years ago I counteracted Rousseau by dieting upon Godwin and Epictetus; they did me some good, but time has done more. I have a dislike to all strong emotion, and avoid whatever could excite it. A book like Werter gives me now unmingled pain. In my own writings you may observe I dwell rather upon what affects than what agitates.”*

Notwithstanding the little encouragement my father found to continuing the study of the law, both from the state of his health, and the peculiar inaptitude of his mind to retain its technicalities, even though, at the time of reading, it fully apprehended them, he still thought it right to continue to keep his terms at Gray’s Inn, and early in May went up to London for that purpose. Here his friends had now become numerous, and he had to hurry from one to another with so little cessation, that his visits there were always a source of more fatigue than pleasure. His great delight was the old book-stalls, and his chief anxiety to be at home again.

“At last, my dear Edith,” he writes the day after his arrival, “I sit down to write to you in quiet and with something like comfort. . . . . My morning has been spent pleasantly, for it has been spent alone in the library; the hours so employed pass rapidly enough, but I grow more and more homesick like a

* March 12. 1799.

spoilt child. On the 29th you may expect me. Term opens on the 26th; after eating my third dinner I can drive to the mail, and thirteen shillings will be well bestowed in bringing me home four-and-twenty hours earlier—it is not above sixpence an hour, Edith, and I would gladly purchase an hour at home now at a much higher price. . . . . My stall-hunting, the great and only source of my enjoyment in London, has been tolerably successful. I have picked up an epic poem in French, on the Discovery of America, which will help out the notes of
Madoc; another on the American Revolution, the Alaric, and an Italian one, of which I do not know the subject, for the title does not explain it; also I have got Astraea, the whole romance, a new folio, almost a load for a porter, and the print delightfully small—fine winter evenings’ work: and I have had self-denial enough—admire me, Edith!—to abstain from these books till my return, that I may lose no time in ransacking the library.

“I met Stuart one day, luckily, as it saved me a visit. To-morrow must be given up to writing for him, as he has had nothing since I came to town. The more regularly these periodical works are done, the easier they are to do. I have had no time since I left home: in fact I can do nothing as it should be done anywhere else.

“. . . . . Do not suppose I have forgotten to look out for a book for you; to-day I saw a set of Florian, which pleases me, unless a better can be found. . . . .
Do you know that I am truly and actually learning Dutch, to read
Jacob Cats, You will, perhaps, be amused at a characteristic trait in that language: other people say, I pity; but the Dutch verb is, I pity myself.”

The two following letters were also written during this absence from home.

To Mrs. Southey.
“Brixton, May 9. 1799.

“Your letter, my dear Edith, reached me not till late last evening, and it could hardly have arrived more opportunely, for it was on my return from a visit to Mr. ——, that I found it. We had dined there; B., and C., and I, with fourteen people, all of whom were completely strange to me, and most of whom I hope and trust will remain so. There were some blockheads there, one of whom chose to be exposed, by engaging in some classical and historical disputes with me; another gave as a toast General Suwarrow, the man who massacred men, women and children for three successive days at Warsaw, who slew at Ockzakow thirty thousand persons in cold blood, and thirty thousand at Ismael. I was so astonished at hearing this demon’s name, as only to repeat it in the tone of wonder; but, before I had time to think or to reply, C. turned to the man who gave the toast, and said he would not drink General Suwarrow, and off we set, describing the man’s actions till they gave up all defence, and asked for some substituted
name; and
Carlisle changed him for Count Rumford. It was a hateful day; the fellows would talk politics, of which they knew nothing. . . . . After being so put to the torture for five hours, your letter was doubly welcome.

G. Dyer is foraging for my Almanac, and promises pieces from Mrs. Opie, Mr. Mott of Cambridge, and Miss Christall. I then went to Arch’s, a pleasant place for half an hour’s book news: you know he purchased the edition of the Lyrical Ballads; he told me he believed he should lose by them, as they sold very heavily. . . . . My books sell very well. Other book news have I none, except, indeed, that John Thelwall is writing an epic poem, and Samuel Rogers is also writing an epic poem; George Dyer, also, hath similar thoughts. . . . . William Taylor has written to me from Norwich, and sent me Bodmer’s Noah, the book that I wanted to poke through and learn German by. He tempts me to write upon the subject, and take my seat with Milton and Klopstock; and in my to-day’s walk so many noble thoughts for such a poem presented themselves, that I am half tempted, and have the Deluge floating in my brain with the Dom Daniel and the rest of my unborn family.

“. . . . . As we went to dinner yesterday a coachful of women drew up to the door at the moment we arrived there; it rained merrily, and Carlisle offered his umbrella, but the prim gentry were somewhat rudely shy of him and me too, for his hair was a little ragged, and
I had not silk stockings on. He made them ashamed of this at dinner. Never did you see anything so hideous as their dresses; they were pink muslin, with round little white spots, waists ever so far down, and buttoned from the neck down to the end of the waist. . . . .
Horne Tooke’s letter to the Income Commissioners has amused me very much: he had stated his under sixty pounds a year; they said they were not satisfied; and his reply begins by saying he has much more reason to be dissatisfied with the smallness of his income than they have. . . . .

“God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”

My father was now, much to his regret, compelled to quit his house at Westbury; and Burton, in Hampshire, being the place which, next to Bristol, he had found in all respects best suited to him, he went thither to look for a house, and with some difficulty succeeded in procuring one, but not being able to obtain immediate possession, the intervening time, after a short interval, was passed in an excursion into Devonshire. Of these movements the following letters give an account:—

To Grosvenor Bedford, Esq.
“Bristol, June 5. 1799.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“Here is de koele June—we have a March wind howling, and a March fire burning—it is diabolus diei. On my journey I learnt one piece of information, which you may profit by: that on Sunday nights they put the new horses into the mail always, because, as they carry no letters, an accident is of less consequence as to the delay it occasions. This nearly broke our necks, for we narrowly escaped an overturn; so I travel no more on a Sunday night in the mail.

“. . . . . I am the better for my journey, and inclined to attribute it to the greater quantity of wine I drank at Brixton than I had previously done; therefore I have supplied the place of æther by the grape-juice, and supplied the place of the tablespoon by the corkscrew. I find printer’s faith as bad as Punic faith. New types have been promised from London for some weeks, and are not yet arrived, therefore I am still out of the press. I pray you to send me the old woman who was circularised. [figure of a circle] who saw her own back, whose head was like the title-page of a Jew’s prayer-book, who was an emblem of eternity, the omikron of old women. You will make a good ballad of this quaint tale; it is for subjects
allied to humour or oddity that you possess most power. . . . . Find such subjects, and you will find pleasure in writing in proportion as you feel your own strength. I will at my first leisure transcribe for you St. Anthony and the Devil.

“The time of removal is so near at hand, that I begin to wish every thing were settled and over. This is a place which I leave with some reluctance after taking root here for twenty-five years, and now our society is so infinitely mended.

Davy, the Pneumatic Institution experimentalist, is a first-rate man, conversable on all subjects, and learnable-from (which, by the by, is as fine a Germanly compounded word as you may expect to see). I am going to breathe some wonder-working gas, which excites all possible mental and muscular energy, and induces almost a delirium of pleasurable sensations without any subsequent dejection.

“. . . . . I was fortunate enough to meet Sharpe, of whom you said so much, on the Sunday that I left Brixton. I was with Johnson in the King’s Bench when he came in; I missed his name as he entered, but was quite surprised at the novelty and good sense of all his remarks. He talked on many subjects, and on all with a strength and justness of thought which I have seldom heard; the meeting pleased me much. I wish much to see more of Sharpe; he seems a man whom it would be impossible not to profit by. He talked of Combe, who is in the King’s Bench. You said that Combe wrote books which were not known to be his.
Sharpe mentioned as his,
Lord Lyttleton’s Letters, many of Sterne’s Letters, and Æneas Anderson’s Account of China. God bless you!

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To Thomas Southey.
“Friday, July 12. 1799.
“My dear Tom,

“I write to you from Danvers’s, where we are and have been since we left Westbury. I have been to Biddlecombe’s*, and surveyed Southey Palace that is to be. We shall not get possession till Michaelmas. The place will be comfortable; the garden is large, but unstocked, with a fish-pond and a pigeon-house. My mother is in the College Green. Edith and I are going into Devonshire, first to the north coast, Minehead, the Valley of Stones, and Ilfracombe, the wildest part of the country; perhaps we may cross over to the south on our way to Burton. I wish to see Lightfoot at Kingsbridge, and there would be a likelihood of seeing you.

“My miscellaneous volume, which is to be christened Annual Poems, comes on rapidly; they are now striking off the eleventh sheet.

“Yesterday I finished Madoc, thank God! and thoroughly to my own satisfaction; but I have resolved on one great, laborious, and radical alteration. It was my design to identify Madoc with Mango

* The name of a friend residing at Christchorch, Hampshire.

Capac, the legislator of Peru: in this I have totally failed, therefore Mango Capac is to be the hero of another poem; and instead of carrying Madoc down the Marañon, I shall follow the more probable opinion and land him in Florida: here, instead of the Peruvians, who have no striking manners for my poem, we get among the wild North American Indians; on their customs and superstitions, facts must be grounded, and woven into the work, spliced so neatly as not to betray the junction. These alterations I delay. . . . . So much for Madoc; it is a great work done, and my brain is now ready to receive the
Dom Daniel, the next labour in succession. Of the metre of this poem I have thought much, and my final resolution is to write it irregularly, without rhymes: for this I could give you reasons in plenty; but, as you cannot lend me your ear, we will defer it till you hear the poem. This work is intended for immediate publication.

“My first poems are going to press for a third edition; by the time they are completed, I shall probably have a second volume of the Annual Poems ready; and so I and the printers go merrily on.

“Oh, Tom! such a gas has Davy discovered, the gaseous oxyde! Oh, Tom! I have had some; it made me laugh and tingle in every toe and finger tip. Davy has actually invented a new pleasure, for which language has no name. Oh, Tom! I am going for more this evening; it makes one strong, and so happy I so gloriously happy I and without any after-debility, but, instead of it, increased strength of mind and body. Oh, excellent air-bag! Tom, I am
sure the air in heaven must be this wonder-working gas of delight!

Robert Southey.”
To John May, Esq.
“Stowey, August, 1799.
“My dear Friend,

“. . . . . My walk to Ilfracombe led me through Lynmouth, the finest spot, except Cintra and the Arrabida, that I ever saw. Two rivers join at Lynmouth, You probably know the hill streams of Devonshire: each of these flows down a coombe, rolling down over huge stones like a long waterfall; immediately at their junction they enter the sea, and the rivers and the sea make but one sound of uproar. Of these coombes the one is richly wooded, the other runs between two high, bare, stony hills. From the hill between the two is a prospect most magnificent; on either hand, the coombes and the river before the little village. The beautiful little village, which, I am assured by one who is familiar with Switzerland, resembles a Swiss village,—this alone would constitute a view beautiful enough to repay the weariness of a long journey; but, to complete it, there is the blue and boundless sea, for the faint and feeble line of the Welsh coast is only to be seen on the right hand if the day be perfectly clear. Ascending from Lynmouth up a road of serpentining perpendicularity,
you reach a lane which by a slight descent leads to the Valley of Stones, a spot which, as one of the greatest wonders indeed in the West of England, would attract many visitors if the roads were passable by carriages. Imagine a narrow vale between two ridges of hills somewhat steep: the southern hill turfed; the vale which runs from east to west, covered with huge stones and fragments of stones among the fern that fills it; the northern ridge completely bare, excoriated of all turf and all soil, the very bones and skeleton of the earth; rock reclining upon rock, stone piled upon stone, a huge and terrific mass. A palace of the Preadamite kings, a city of the Anakim, must have appeared so shapeless, and yet so like the ruins of what had been shaped after the waters of the flood subsided. I ascended with some toil the highest point; two large stones inclining on each other formed a rude portal on the summit: here I sat down; a little level platform, about two yards long, lay before me, and then the eye immediately fell upon the sea, far, very far below. I never felt the sublimity of solitude before. . . . .

“Of Beddoes you seem to entertain an erroneous opinion. Beddoes is an experimentalist in cases where the ordinary remedies are notoriously, and fatally, inefficacious: if you will read his late book on consumption, you will see his opinion upon this subject; and the book is calculated to interest unscientific readers, and to be of use to them. The faculty dislike Beddoes, because he is more able, and more successful, and more celebrated, than themselves, and because he labours to reconcile the art of
healing with common sense, instead of all the parade of mystery with which it is usually enveloped. Beddoes is a candid man, trusting more to facts than reasonings: I understand him when he talks to me, and, in case of illness, should rather trust myself to his experiments than be killed off secundem artem, and in the ordinary course of practice. . . . .

“God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
R. Southey.”
To Joseph Cottle.

“You will, I hope, soon have a cargo to send me of your own (for the 2d vol. of the Anthology), and some from Davy. If poor Mrs. Yearsley were well, I should like much to have her name there. . . . . As yet, I have only Coleridge’s pieces and my own, amounting in the whole to some eighty or one hundred pages.

Thalaba the Destroyer is progressive. There is a poem called ‘Gebir,’ of which I know not whether my review be yet printed (in the Critical), but in that review you will find some of the most exquisite poetry in the language. The poem is such as Gilbert*, if he were only half as mad as he is, could have written. I would go an hundred miles to see the anonymous author.

* Author of “The Hurricane.”


“My other hard work now is gutting the libraries here, and laying in a good stock of notes and materials, arranged in a way that would do honour to any old batchelor. Thalaba will be very rich in notes. . . . .

“There are some Johnobines in Exeter, with whom I have passed some pleasant days. It is the filthiest place in England; a gutter running down the middle of every street and lane. We leave it on Monday week, and I shall rejoice to taste fresh air and feel settled. Exeter, however, has the very best collection of books for sale of any place out of London; and that made by a man who some few years back was worth nothing: Dyer,—not Woolmer, whose catalogue you showed me. Dyer himself is a thinking, extraordinary man, of liberal and extraordinary talents for his circumstances. I congratulate you on being out of bookselling; it did not suit you. Would that we authors had one bookseller at our direction, instead of one bookseller directing so many authors!

“My list of title-pages increases. I have lately made up my mind to undertake one great historical work, the History of Portugal; but for this, and for many other noble plans, I want uninterrupted leisure time, wholly my own, and not frittered away by little periodical employments. . . . .

“God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To S. T. Coleridge.
“Exeter, Oct 3. 1799.

Bonaparte was remarkably studious, and mathematics his particular study. He associated little, or not at all, with the other officers, and in company was reserved and silent. This is Mrs. Keenan’s account, to whom I looked up with more respect because the light of his countenance had shone upon her. Banfill tells me that the mathematical tutor of Bonaparte is in Exeter—an emigrant. He says that he was an excellent mathematician—in the military branch chiefly—and that he was always the great man, always the first, always Bonaparte. . . . .

Jackson has taste to a certain extent. . . . . His music I take for granted: his pictures are always well conceived, the creations of a man of genius; but he cannot execute; his trees are like the rustic work in a porter’s lodge, sea-weed landscapes, cavern drippings chiselled into ramifications—cold, cramp, stiff, stony. I thank him for his ‘Four Ages.’ A man with a name may publish such a book; but when a book is merely a lounging collection of scraps, the common-place book printed, one wishes it to hold more than half an hour’s turning over, a little turtle soup and a little pine-apple; but one wants a huge basin of broth and plenty of filberts. . . . . I soon talked of Bampfylde*, and Jackson rose in my

* I might have hesitated in publishing this melancholy account of poor Bampfylde’s private history, had it not already been related in the Autobiography of Sir Egerton Brydges.

esteem, for he talked of him till I saw the tears. I have copied one ode, in imitation of
Gray’s Alcaic, and nineteen sonnets. After I had done, Jackson required a promise that I would communicate no copy, as he was going to publish them. He read me the preface; it will tell you what a miraculous musician Bampfylde was, and that he died insane; but it will not tell you Bampfylde’s history.

“His wish was to live in solitude and write a play. From his former lodging near Chudley, often would he come to town in winter before Jackson was up—and Jackson is an early riser—ungloved, open-breasted, with a pocket-full of music, and poems, to know how he liked them. His friends—plague on the word—his relations, I mean, thought this was a sad life for a man of family, so they drove him to London. ‘Poor fellow!’ said Jackson, ‘there did not live a purer creature; and if they would have let him alone, he might have been alive now. In London his feelings took a wrong course, and he paid the price of debauchery.’

“His sixteen printed sonnets are dedicated to Miss Palmer, now Lady Inchiquin, a niece of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Her he was madly in love with. Whether Sir J. opposed this match on account of Bampfylde’s own irregularities in London, or of the hereditary insanity, I know not; but this was the commencement of his madness. On being refused admittance at Sir Joshua’s, he broke the windows, and was taken to Newgate! Some weeks after, Jackson, on knowing of what had passed, went to London, and inquired
for Bampfylde.
Lady B., his mother, said she knew little of him; she had got him out of Newgate; he was in some beggarly place. ‘Where?’ In King Street, Holborn, she believed, but did not know the number. Away went Jackson, and knocked at every door till he found the right. It was a miserable place. The woman of the house was one of the worst class of women in London. She knew B. had no money, and that he had been there three days without food. Jackson found him with the levity of derangement; his shirt-collar black and ragged—his beard of two months’ growth. He said he was come to breakfast, and turned to a harpsichord in the room, literally, he said, to let B. gorge himself without being noticed. He took him away, gave his mother a severe lecture, and left him in decent lodgings and with a decent allowance, earnestly begging him to write. He never wrote. The next news was his confinement, and Jackson never saw him more. Almost the last time they met, he showed him several poems; among others a ballad on the murder of David Rizzio. ‘Such a ballad!’ said J. He came to J. to dinner, and was asked for copies. ‘I burnt them,’ was the reply; ‘you did not seem to like them, and I wrote them to please you, so I burnt them.’ After twenty years’ confinement his senses returned, but he was dying in a consumption. He was urged by his apothecary to leave the house in Sloane Street, where he was well treated, and go into Devonshire. ‘Your Devonshire friends will be very glad to see you.’ He immediately hid his face. ‘No, sir,’ said he, ‘they who
knew me what I was, shall never see me what I am.’ . . . .

Yours affectionately,
R. S.”
To S. T. Coleridge.
” Christ Church. [No date.]

“. . . . . I went to the Chapter Coffee-house Club. A man read an essay upon the comparative evils of savage and civilised society; and he preferred the first because it had not the curses of government and religion! He had never read Rousseau. What amused me was to find him mistaken in every fact he adduced respecting savage manners. I was going to attack him, but perceived that a visitor was expected to be silent. They elected me a member of one of these meetings, which I declined. . . . .

“A friend of Wordsworth’s has been uncommonly kind to me—Basil Montague. He offered me his assistance as a special pleader, and said, if he could save me 100 guineas, it would give him more than 100 guineas’ worth of pleasure. I did thank him, which was no easy matter; but I have been told that I never thank anybody for a civility, and there are very few in this world who can understand silence. However, I do not expect to use his offer: his papers which he offered me to copy will be of high service. Tell Wordsworth this.

“I commit wilful murder on my own intellect by
drudging at law; but trust the guilt is partly expiated by the candle-light hours allotted to
Madoc. That poem advances very slowly. I am convinced that the best way of writing is, to write rapidly, and correct at leisure. Madoc would be a better poem if written in six months, than if six years were devoted to it. However, I am satisfied with what is done, and my outline for the whole is good. . . . .

“God bless you,
To Thomas Southey.
Sylph Brig.

“For these last three weeks you have been ‘poor Tom,’ and we have been lamenting the capture of the Sylph, and expecting a letter from you, dated ‘Ferrol.’ The newspapers said you had been captured and carried in there; and I have written word to Lisbon, and my uncle was to write to Jardine, at Corunna; and my mother has been frightened lest you should have been killed in an action previous to your capture;—and after all it is a lie!

“Five weeks were we at Exeter. I wrote to you, directing Torbay, and I walked round Torbay. You cruised at an unlucky time. However, if you have picked up an hundred pounds, I am glad we did not meet. We are in Hampshire, and shall get into our
palace on Wednesday next. You will direct as formerly—Burton, near Ringwood. So much hope had I of seeing you when I walked down to Dartmouth, and round by Brixham and the bay, that I put the
Annual Anthology and the concluding books of Madoc in my knapsack for you.

“Our dwelling is now in a revolutionary state, and will, I hope, be comfortable. Small it is, and somewhat quaint, but it will be clean; and there is a spare bed-room, and a fish-pond, and a garden, in which I mean to work wonders: and then my bookroom is such a room, that, like the Chapter House at Salisbury, it requires a column to support the roof. . . . .

“But you ought to have been taken, Tom; for consider how much uneasiness has been thrown away; and here were we, on seeing your hand-writing, expecting a long and lamentable, true and particular, account of the loss of the Ville de Paris, the lapelles, the new shirts, books, and all the lieutenant paraphernalia; and then comes a pitiful account of a cruise, and 100l. prize-money, instead of all these adventures!

“There was my mother working away to make a new shirt, thinking you would come home shirtless, breechesless, all oil, one great flea-bite, and able to talk Spanish.

“I have no news to tell, except that we expect Harry home for the Christmas holidays. Concerning my own employment, the Dom Daniel romance is rechristened, anabaptized Thalaba the Destroyer,
and the fifth book is begun; this I should like to show you. . . . . God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”

My father had now, as he hoped, fairly settled himself for a time. He had revolutionised two adjoining cottages into a dwelling-house, and, at some inconvenience, had got his books about him, for already he had collected far more than were easily either moved or accommodated, though far fewer than he either wished or required. In this respect, indeed, the old proverb of “a rolling stone” was wholly inapplicable to him; and the number that accumulated made every new movement more troublesome and more expensive.

But he was not yet destined to find a “rest for the sole of his foot.” Hardly was his new home cleared from “the deal shavings and the brick and mortar,” than he was laid prostrate by severe illness—“so reduced by a nervous fever as to be able neither to read nor write;” and, on partially recovering from this attack, the uneasy feelings about his heart which he had before experienced, returned with so much force, as to compel him at once to repair to Bristol, for abler advice than the retired neighbourhood of Burton afforded. From thence he writes to Mr. Bedford and Mr. Coleridge.

To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Kingsdown, Bristol, Dec 21. 1799.

Grosvenor, I think seriously of going abroad. My complaint, so I am told by the opinion of many medical men, is wholly a diseased sensibility (mind you, physical sensibility), disordering the functions, now of the heart, now of the intestines, and gradually debilitating me. Climate is the obvious remedy. In my present state, to attempt to undergo the confinement of legal application were actual suicide. I am anxious to be well, and to attempt the profession: much in it I shall never do: sometimes my principles stand in my way, sometimes the want of readiness which I felt from the first—a want which I always know in company, and never in solitude and silence. Howbeit, I will make the attempt; but mark you, if by stage writing, or any other writing, I can acquire independence, I will not make the sacrifice of happiness it will inevitably cost me. I love the country, I love study—devotedly I love it; but in legal studies it is only the subtlety of the mind that is exercised. However, I need not philippicise, and it is too late to veer about. In ’96 I might have chosen physic, and succeeded in it. I caught at the first plank, and missed the great mast in my reach; perhaps I may enable myself to swim by and by. Grosvenor, I have nothing of what the world calls ambition. I never thought it possible that I could be a great lawyer; I should as soon expect to be the man
in the moon. My views were bounded—my hopes to an income of 500l. a year, of which I could lay by half to effect my escape with. Possibly the stage may exceed this. . . . . I am not indolent; I loathe indolence; but, indeed, reading law is laborious indolence—it is thrashing straw. I have read, and read, and read; but the devil a bit can I remember. I have given all possible attention, and attempted to command volition. No! The eye read, the lips pronounced, I understood and re-read it; it was very clear; I remembered the page, the sentence,—‘but close the book, and all was gone! Were I an independent man, even on less than I now possess, I should long since have made the blessed bonfire, and rejoiced that I was free and contented. . . . .

“I suffer a good deal from illness, and in a way, hardly understandable by those in health. I start from sleep as if death had seized me. I am sensible of every pulsation, and compelled to attend to the motion of my heart till that attention disturbs it The pain in my side is, I think, lessened, nor do I at all think it was consumption; organic affection it could not have been, else it had been constant; and a heart disease would not have been perceived there. I must go abroad, and recruit under better skies. Not to Lisbon: I will see something new, and something better than the Portuguese. Ask Duppa about Italy, about Trieste, and the way through Vienna, and say something to him on my part expressive of respect—of a wish one day to see more of him.

“But of these plans you shall know more when they are more moulded into form. In the meantime
I must raise the supplies, and for this purpose there is
Thalaba. My expedition will not be a ruinous one, and it shall be as economical as it ought. I will at least return wiser, if not better.

“But now for more immediate affairs. The Anthology prospers. Send me something. O for another parody, such as ‘The Rhedycinian Barbers’—a ballad good as ‘The Circular Old Woman.’* There is a poem called Gebir, written by God knows who, sold for a shilling: it has miraculous beauties; and the Bishop of St Giles’s said the best poems in the Anthology were by Mrs. Opie and George Dyer! and he writes reviews!

“I expect to see my brother Henry to-morrow, after twenty months’ absence. He is now sixteen, and promises much. If I go abroad, I shall make every effort to take him with me. Tom is cruising, and, I think, likely to rise in his profession. . . . .

Yours, ever the same,
Robert Southey.”
To S. T. Coleridge, Esq.
“Bristol, Dec 27. 1799.

“Geese were made to grow feathers, and farmers’ wives to pluck them. I suspect booksellers and

* There is no trace of this ballad to be found. Who can tell the history of this mysterious rotundity? See p. 18.

authors were made with something of the like first cause. With
Thalaba I must make sure work and speedy, for abroad I must go. Complaints of immediate danger I have none, but increased and increasing nervous affections threaten much remote. I have rushes of feeling nightly, like fainting or death, and induced, I believe, wholly by the dread of them. Even by day they menace me, and an effort of mind is required to dispel them. . . . . So I must go, and I will go. Now, then, the sooner the better. Some progress is made in the sixth book of Thalaba; my notes are ready for the whole, at least there is only the trouble of arranging and seasoning them. If the bargain were made, it would be time to think of beginning to print, for the preliminaries are usually full of delays, and time with me is of importance. I must have the summer to travel in, and ought to be in Germany by the beginning of June. Treaty therefore, with Longman, or any man, for me.

“The W.’s* are at Clifton: if they saw the probable advantages of a journey to Italy,—of the possible reach to Constantinople, the Greek Islands, and Egypt,—in a light as strong as I do, they would, I think, wish to delay the new birth of Lessing: but this is, on your part, a matter of feeling; and when I spoke of your joining us, it was with the conviction that it was a vain wish, but it is a very earnest one. Together we might do so much; and we could leave the women for excursions—now into Hungary, now

* The Messrs. Wedgewood.

into Poland, and see the Turks. Zounds! who knows but, like
Sir John Maundeville, we might have gone where the Devil’s head is always above ground! Go I must, but it would be a great satisfaction to have a companion. . . . .

“But Lessing’s life—and I half wish he had never lived—how long after the first of April (an ominous day) will that confine you? Or if you come here to do it, cannot I raise mortar and carry bricks to the edifice? . . . . For Stuart I must make out another quarter. I have huge drains, like the Pontic marshes—a leech hanging on every limb. . . . .

“God bless you.

R. Southey.”
To G. C. Bedford, Esq.
“Bristol, Jan. 1. 1800.

“We shall be very glad to see you, my dear Grosvenor, if you can come. There is a bed in the house, and I am of necessity an idle man, and can show you all things worth seeing, and get you a dose of the beatifying gas, which is a pleasure worth the labour of a longer journey. . . . .

“I have often thought of the Chancery line. . . . . —— did not seem to like it: he is ambitious for me, and perhaps hardly understands how utterly I am without that stimulus. I shall write to him a serious
letter about it. Do not suppose that I feel burthened or uneasy; all I feel is, that were I possessed of the same income in another way, I would never stir a finger to increase it in a way to which self-gratification was not the immediate motive, instead of self-interest. It is enough for all my wants, and just leaves motive enough not to be idle, that I may have to spare for my relatives. This, Grosvenor, I do feel; practically I know my own wants, and can therefore speculate upon them securely.

“Come to Bristol, I pray and beseech you. Winter as it is, I can show you some fine scenes and some pleasant people. You shall see Davy, the young chemist, the young everything, the man least ostentatious, of first talent that I have ever known; and you may experimentalise, if you like, and arrange my Anthology papers, and be as boyish as your heart can wish, . . . . and I can give you Laver for supper. O rare Laver! . . . .

“Perhaps the closest friendships will be found among men of inferior intellect, for such most completely accord with each other. There is scarcely any man with whom the whole of my being comes in contact; and thus with different people I exist another and yet the same. With ——, for instance, the school-boy feelings revive; I have no other associations in common with him. With some I am the moral and intellectual agent; with others I partake the daily and hourly occurrences of life. You and I, when we would see alike, must put on younger spectacles. Whatever is most important in society, appears to us under different points of view. The man in
Xenophon blundered when he said he had two souls,—my life for it he had twenty! God bless you.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To S. T. Coleridge, Esq.
“Jan. 8. 1800.
“My dear Coleridge,

“I have thought much, and talked much, and advised much about Thalaba, and will endeavour to travel without publishing it: because I am in no mood for running races, and because I like what is done to be done so well, that I am not willing to let it go raggedly into the world. Six books are written, and the two first have undergone their first correction.

“I have the whim of making a Darwinish note at the close of the poem, upon the effects produced in our globe by the destruction of the Dom Daniel. Imprimis, the sudden falling in of the sea’s roots necessarily made the maelstrom; then the cold of the north is accounted for by the water that rushed into the caverns, putting out a great part of the central fire; the sudden generation of steam shattered the southern and south-east continents into archipelagos of islands; also the boiling spring of Geyser has its scarce here,—who knows what it did not occasion!

Thomas Wedgewood has obtained a passport to go to France. I shall attempt to do the same, but am not very anxious for success, as Italy seems cer-
tainly accessible, or at least Trieste is. Is it quite impossible that you can go? Surely a life of
Lessing may be as well written in Germany as in England, and little time lost I shall be ready to go as soon as you please: we should just make a carriage-full, and you and I would often make plenty of room by walking. You cannot begin Lessing before May, and you allow yourself ten months for the work. Well, we will be in Germany before June; at the towns where we make a halt of any time, something may be done, and the actual travelling will not consume more than two months; thus three months only will be lost, and it is worth this price: we can return through France, and, in the interim, Italy offers a society almost as interesting. Duppa will fortify me with all necessary directions for travelling, &c.: and Moses* will be a very mock-bird as to languages; he shall talk German with you and me, Italian. with the servants, and English with his mother and aunt; so the young Israelite will become learned without knowing how.

“. . . . . Beddoes advertised, at least six weeks ago, certain cases of consumption, treated in a cow-house; and the press has been standing till now, in expectation of—what think you? only waiting till the patients be cured! This is beginning to print a book sooner than even I should venture. Davy is in the high career of experience, and will soon new-christen (if the word be a chemical one), the calumniated azote.

* This appellation was given to Hartley Coleridge in his infancy and childhood.

They have a new palsied patient, a complete case, certainly recovering by the use of the beatifying gas.

“Perhaps when you are at a pinch for a paragraph*, you may manufacture an anti-ministerial one oat of this passage in Bacon’s Essays:—

“‘You shall see a bold fellow many times do Mahomet’s miracle. Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers for the observers of his law. The people assembled; Mahomet called the hill to come to him again and again, and when the hill stood still, he was never a bit abashed, but said, If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill. So these men, when they have promised great matters and failed most shamefully, yet (if they have the perfection of boldness), they will but slight it over, make a turne, and no more adoe.’

“I am glad I copied the passage, for, in so doing, I have found how to make this a fine incident in the poem.†

Maracci’s Refutation of the Koran, or rather his preliminaries to it, have afforded me much amusement, and much matter. I am qualified in doctrinals to be a Mufti. The old father groups together all the Mohammedan miracles: some, he says, are nonsense; some he calls lies; some are true, but then the Devil did them; but there is one that tickled his fancy, and he says it must be true of some Christian saint, and so stolen by the Turks. After this he

* For the Morning Post, to which Mr. C. was then a contributor.

† See p. 48.

gives, by way of contrast, a specimen of Christian miracles, and chooses out St. Januarius’s blood and the Chapel of Loretto! God bless you.

Robert Southey,”

It has already been mentioned, that during my father’s residence at Burton, in Hampshire, he had made the acquaintance of Mr. Rickman, at that time residing there. This had soon ripened into an intimacy, and a friendship and correspondence had now commenced, which continued through life; Mr. Rickman being not only, as Mr. Justice Talfourd well names him, “the sturdiest of jovial companions,”* and, as Charles Lamb equally well describes him, “fullest of matter with least verbosity,” but also a man of vast and varied practical knowledge upon almost all subjects, of the kindest heart, and unwearied in offices of friendship.

Two men more different in most respects than Mr. Rickman and my father could hardly be founds—and yet the points of agreement proved stronger than the points of difference,—both were preeminently straightforward men; and they had what is perhaps the closest bond of real friendship,—a high respect for each other’s talents, an admiration of each other’s character, and a similarity of opinion on almost all the leading questions of the day. Mr. Rickman had, however, been cast in somewhat the rougher mould of the two, and was made of “sterner stuff,” and consequently sympathised less with his friend in his “poetic fancies” than on other subjects;

* Final Memorials of Charles Lamb, vol. ii. p. 206,

and, in now writing to urge him to take up a subject in which he had always felt much interested, he commences by a recommendation which was acted upon fully to his satisfaction in after-years. I quote the greater part of this letter, that the reply to it may be the better understood:—

“Poetry has its use and its place, and, like some human superfluities, we should feel awkward without it; but when I have sometimes considered, with some surprise, the facility with which you compose verse, I have always wished to see that facility exerted to more useful purpose. The objects I propose for your investigation are, therefore, the employment and consequent amelioration of womankind, the consequences on the welfare of society, and some illustration of the possibility of these things. You think it too good an alteration to be expected,—and so do I, from virtue; but if the vanity of any leading women could be interested, it might become fashionable to promote certain establishments for this purpose, and then it might go down. Besides, the glory of the proposal will remain; and if Mary Wolstonecroft had lived, she would have recommended something like this to the world. Magnis tamen excidit ausis! Are you aware that female fraternities exist (or did exist) in all the great towns of Holland and Flanders, called Beguinages? Employment enough would be found for females: I would take upon me to furnish you with an ample list. Any dry deductions on the head of political economy which might occur, I would also attempt in the service. This is my
favourite study, and nothing could there operate more beneficially than an increased utility of the fair half of our species. You like women better than I do; therefore I think it likely that you may take as much trouble to benefit the sex, as I to benefit the community by their means. For all this, I have been in love these ten years. . . . .

“How do you and Bonaparte agree at present? I never liked the Corsican, and now he has given me new offence by his absurd misnomers, which go to confound all the fixed ideas of consuls, tribunes, and senate. . . . .

“I begin to be almost tired of staying in this obscure place so long; I imagine I was born for better purposes than to vegetate at Christchurch. . . . . I long to see you in prose; I think your conscience would keep you careful, and your imagination make you rapid, and consequently easy and fluent, in composition. I suppose you are in the enjoyment of much enlightened society at Bristol. I do not understand your taste for retirement; no man’s contemplation can be so spirited as when encouraged by the information and applause of literary friends.”* . . . .

To John Rickman, Esq.
“Bristol, Jan. 9. 1800.

“The subject of your letter is important. I had considered it cursorily, for my mind has been more occupied by the possible establishment of a different

* J. R. to R. S., Jan. 4. J800.

state of society, than by plans for improving the present. To my undertaking the work you propose, I wish there were no obstacles, but a very important one exists in the nature of my own powers. The compositions in which I have indulged have encouraged rapidity of feeling, a sudden combination of ideas, but they have been unfavourable to regular deduction and methodical arrangement. Another objection arises from my present plans. . . . . However, I am impressed by your letter, and should much like to talk with you upon the subject, and map out the country before us. Have you not leisure for a visit to Bristol? . . .

“Poetry does not wholly engross my attention; the history of Spanish and Portuguese literature is a subject on which I design to bestow much labour, and in which much useful matter may be conveyed. But poetry is my province, and at present no unimportant one; it makes its way where weighter books would not penetrate, and becomes a good mental manure.

“I shall be selfishly sorry if you leave Christchurch: the prospect of haying you my neighbour, considerably influenced me in taking the Burton House. However, if I recover my health, London must be my place of residence; and you probably will be drawn into that great vortex,—a place which you and I see with widely different eyes. Much as I enjoy society, rather than purchase it by residing in that huge denaturalised city, I would prefer dwelling on Poole Heath. Bristol allows of country enjoyments and magnificent scenery, and an open sky view,
for in London you neither see earthy air, or water, undisguised. We have men of talent here also, but they are not gregarious, at least not regularly so as in Norwich and London. I mingle among them, and am in habits of intimacy with
Davy, by far the first in intellect: with him you would be much pleased. . . . . Certainly this place has in my memory greatly advanced; ten years ago, Bristol man was synonymous with Bœotian in Greece, and now we are before any of the provincial towns.

The Corsican has offended me, and even his turning out the Mamelukes will not atone for his rascally constitution. The French are children, with the physical force of men; unworthy, and therefore incapable, of freedom. Once I had hopes; the Jacobins might have done much, but the base of morality was wanting, and where could the corner-stone be laid? They have retarded our progress for a century to come. Literature is suspected and discouraged; Methodism, and the Catholic system of persecution and slavery, gaining ground. Our only hope is from more expeditions, and the duke commander; new disgrace and new taxes may bring the nation to their senses, as bleeding will tame a madman Still, however, the English are the first people, the only men. Buonaparte has made me Anti-Gallican; and I remember Alfred, and the two Bacons, and Hartley, and Milton, and Shakespeare, with more patriotic pride than ever.

“The Beguines I had looked upon as a religious establishment, and the only good one of its kind. When my brother was a prisoner at Brest, the sick
and wounded were attended by nuns, and these women had made themselves greatly beloved and respected. I think they had been regularly professed, and were not of the lay order. I think I see the whole importance of your speculation.
Mary Wollstonecroft was but beginning to reason when she died; her volume is mere feeling, and its only possible effect to awaken a few female minds more excitable than the common run. The one you propose, would go on different grounds and enter into detail: the more nay mind dwells upon it, the stronger interest it takes; I could work under your directions, and would work willingly at least, if not well. Come, I pray you, to Bristol; talk over the plan, and map it out, and methodise my rambling intellect. I will submit to any drilling that shall discipline it to good purpose. . . . .

Yours with respect and esteem,
Robert Southey.”

The two following months were passed in lodging, at Bristol, in a very unsettled state as to his future movements. Meantime he was engaged in editing another volume of the Annual Anthology, in pursuing the composition of Thalaba with unabated ardour, and in making various attempts in English hexameters. In this measure he had contemplated a “long and important poem,” Mohammed the subject, of the plan of which he thus speaks at this time in one of his published letters to Mr. William Taylor,
to whom he had sent a portion for his criticism:—‘From
Coleridge I am promised the half, and we divided the book according as the subject suited us, but I expect to have nearly the whole work! His ardour is not lasting, and the only inconvenience that his dereliction can occasion will be that I shall write the poem in fragments, and have to seam them together at the last. The action ends with the capture of Mecca; the mob of his wives are kept out of sight, and only Mary, the Egyptian, introduced. Ali is of course my hero; and if you will recollect the prominent characters of Omar and Abubeker and Hamza, you will see variety enough. Among the Koreiah are Amrou and Caled. From Maracci’s curious prolegomena to his Refutation of the Koran I have collected many obscure facts for the narrative. Still, however, though the plan is well formed and interesting, I fear it would not give the hexameters a fair chance. A more popular story, and one requiring not the elevation of thought and language which this demands, would probably succeed better; a sort of pastoral epic, which is one of my boy-plans yet unexecuted.”*

A fragment only of “Mohammed” was ever written, which may be found in the latest edition of the Poems.

My father’s health still continuing in a most unsatisfactory state, and change of climate being both the prescription of his physician (Dr. Beddoes) and the remedy in which he had himself the greatest faith,

* Feb. 3. 1800.

he was very desirous of again visiting Lisbon, and had written to his
uncle on the subject, whose residence there, and his own desire to collect materials for a History of Portugal, combined to fix his choice. To this, as well as to other subjects of interest, he alludes in the following letter.

To John May, Esq.
“Feb. 18. 1800.
“My dear Friend,

“Your last letter entered into an interesting subject. A young man entering into the world is exposed to hourly danger—and what more important than to discover the best preservative? To have a friend dear enough, and respectable enough, to hold the place of a confessor, would assuredly be the best; and if the office of confessor could always be well filled, I would give up half the Reformation to restore it. In my moments of reverie I have sometimes imagined myself such a character—the obscure instrument in promoting virtue and happiness, but it is obvious that more evil than good results from the power being, like other power, often in improper hands. I have wandered from the subject. It is not likely I shall ever gain the confidence of my brothers to the desired extent: whatever affection they may feel for me, a sort of fear is mixed with it; I am more the object of their esteem than love: there has been no equality between us; we have been rarely domesticated together, and when that has been the case, they have been
accustomed, if they were faulty, to understand my silent disapprobation.* No;
—— will never intrust his feelings to me: and as to precepts of warning, indeed I doubt their propriety; I doubt lest, from the strange perverting power of the mind, they should be made to minister to temptation. Indirect admonition, example,—are not these better means? Feelings almost romantically refined were my preservation, and with these I amalgamated afterwards an almost stoical morality. . . . .

“My health fluctuates, and the necessity of changing climate is sadly and sufficiently obvious, lest, though my disease should prove of no serious danger, the worst habits of hypochondriasm fasten upon me and palsy all intellectual power. I look with anxiety for my uncle’s letter; and think so much of Lisbon, that to abandon the thought would be a considerable disappointment. It would highly gratify me to see my uncle, and I have associations with Lisbon that give me a friendship for the place—recollected feelings and hopes, pleasures and anxieties—all now mellowed into remembrances that endear the associated scenes. But that my uncle should approve,—that is perhaps little probable; a few weeks will de-

* In later life, in his intercourse with his children, to whom he was indeed “the father, teacher, playmate,” his own beautifully expressed wish was fully realised:—

“And should my youth, as youth is apt I know,
Some harshness show,
All vain asperities I day by day
Would wear away,
Till the smooth temper of my age should be
Like the high leaves upon the holly tree.”
The Holly Tree: Poems, p. 129.

cide; and if I do not go to Portugal, I have no choice but Italy, for Madeira is a prison, and the voyage to the West Indies of a terrifying length. This detestable war! if they would make peace upon motives as light as they made war, there would be cause enough, because I want to cross from Dover to Calais: it would save me some sea-sickness, and the wealth and blood of the nation into the bargain.

“I have busied myself in idleness already in the History of Portugal, and the interest which I take in this employment will make me visit the field of Ourique aod the banks of Mondeyo and the grave of Inez. The Indian transactions are too much for an episode, and must be separately related. The manners and literature of the country should accompany the chronological order of events. I should disturb the spiders of the Necessidades, and leave no convent library unransacked. Should Italy be my destination, no definite object of research presents itself: the literature of that country is too vast a field to be harvested by one labourer; the history split into fifty channels; the petty broils of petty states infinitely perplexed, infinitely insignificant.

“You have heard me mention Rickman, as one whose society was my great motive for taking the cottage at Burton. He is coming to Bristol to assist me in an undertaking which he proposed and pressed upon me,—an essay upon the state of women in society; and its possible amelioration by means, at first, of institutions similar to the Flemish beguinages. You will feel an interest in this subject. I shall be little more than mason in this business, under the
master architect. Rickman is a man of uncommon talents and knowledge, and political economy has been his favourite study: all calculations and facts requiring this knowledge he will execute. The part intended to impress upon the reader the necessity of alleviating the evil which he sees enforced, will be mine; for Rickman would write too strictly and too closely for the public taste. You probably know the nature of the beguinages; they were female fraternities, where the members were engaged in some useful employments, and bound by no religious obligations. The object is to provide for the numerous class of women who want employment the means of respectable independence, by restoring to them those branches of business, which the men have mischievously usurped, or monopolised, when they ought only to have shared.

“O! what a country might this England become, did its government but wisely direct the strength, and wealth, and activity of the people! Every profession, every trade, is overstocked; there are more adventurers in each, than possibly can find employment; hence poverty and crime. Do not misunderstand me as asserting this to be the sole cause, but it is the most frequent one. A system of colonisation, that should offer an outlet for the superfluous activity of the country, would convert this into a cause of general good; and the blessings of civilisation might be extended over the deserts that, to the disgrace of man, occupy so great a part of the world! Assuredly, poverty and the dread of poverty are the great sources of guilt. . . . . That country cannot be well regulated where marriage is imprudence, where children
are a burthen and a misfortune. A very, very small portion of this evil our plan, if established, will remove; but of great magnitude if separately considered. I am not very sanguine in my expectations of success, bat I will do my best, in examining the evil and imposing a remedy. God bless you!

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”

In the course of the following month a letter from his uncle reached him, cordially approving of his wish to try the effect of Lisbon air, and urging him to leave England as soon as possible. His arrangements were quickly completed, and in the following letter to Mr. Coleridge he provides against all possible contingencies:—

To S. T. Coleridge, Esq.

“The day of our departure is now definitely fixed. We leave Bristol next week, on Thursday. I do not wish to see you before we go; the time is too short, and, moreover, the company of a friend who is soon to be left for a long absence is not desirable. A few words upon business. For the Third Anthology Davy and Danvers will be my delegates: should you be in Bristol, of course the plenipotentiaryship is vested in you. The Chatterton subscription will not fill in less than twelve months: if illness or aught
more cogent detain me beyond that period, I pray you to let that duty devolve upon you; there will be nothing but the task of arrangement. Danvers has a copy of
Madoc. The written books of Thalaba will be left with Wynn, A man when he goes abroad should make his will; and this is all my wealth: be my executor, in case I am summoned upon the grand tour of the universe, and do with them, and with whatever you may find of mine, what may be most advantageous for Edith, for my brothers Henry and Edward, and for my mother.

“There is not much danger in a voyage to Lisbon; my illness threatens little, and faith will probably render the proposed remedy efficacious. In Portugal I shall have but little society; with the English there I have no common feeling. Of course I shall enjoy enough leisure for all my employments. My uncle has a good library, and I shall not find retirement irksome.

“Our summer will probably be passed at Cintra, a place which may be deemed a cool paradise in that climate. I do not look forward to any circumstance with so much emotion as to hearing again the brook which runs by my uncle’s door. I never beheld a spot that invited to so deep tranquillity. My purposed employments you know. The History will be a great and serious work, and I shall labour at preparing the materials assiduously. The various journies necessary in that pursuit will fill a journals and grow into a saleable volume. On this I calculate: this is a harvest which may be expected; perhaps also a few mushrooms may spring up.


“If peace will permit me, I shall return along the south of Spain and over the Pyrenees. Edith little likes her expedition; she wants a female companion, but this cannot be had, and she must learn to be contented without one: moreover, there is at Lisbon a lady of her own age, for whom I have a considerable regard, and who will not be sorry to see once more an acquaintance with more brains than a calf. She will be our neighbour. My uncle also is a man for whom it is impossible not to feel affection. I wish we were there; the journey is troublesome, and the voyage shockingly unpleasant, from sickness and the constant feeling of insecurity: however, if we have but mild weather, I shall not be displeased at one more lesson in sea scenery. . . .

“I should willingly have seen Moses again: when I return he will be a new being, and I shall not find the queer boy whom I have been remembering. God bless him! We are all changing; one wishes sometimes that God had bestowed upon us something of his immutability. Age, infirmities, blunted feelings, blunted intellect, these are but comfortless expectancies! but we shall be boys again in the next world.

Coleridge, write often to me. As you must pay English postage, write upon large paper; as I must pay Portuguese by weight, let it be thin. My direction need only be, with the Rev. Herbert Hill, Lisbon; he has taken a house for us. We shall thus govern ourselves, and the plea of illness will guarantee me from cards and company and ball-rooms! No!
no! I do not wear my old cocked hat again! it cannot, certainly, fit me now.

“I take with me for the voyage your poems, the Lyrics, the Lyrical Ballads, and Gebir; and, except a few books designed for presents, these make all my library. I like Gebir more and more: if you ever meet its author, tell him I took it with me on a voyage. . . . .

“God bless you!

Yours affectionately,
R. S.”