LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811

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 reader may probably have observed, that for a considerable period comparatively but little mention has occurred in my father’s letters of his long projected History of Portugal, the materials for which had been collected with so much pains and expense, and which he had fondly hoped to make one of the chief pillars of his reputation.

For this there were several causes; but the chief one, and the one which lasted till his labours closed,
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 271
was the necessity of his giving up the chief of his time to periodical writing,—the only literary labour which could be said to be in any way adequately and fairly remunerated. The
Quarterly Review had taken the place of the Annual, and he now entered upon another engagement of much greater magnitude.

At the close of the year 1808, James Ballantyne, the Edinburgh publisher, with whom he had previously had some communication, sent him the prospectus of an Annual Register, which was about to be commenced under favourable auspices, and with a fair list of literary contributors, soliciting his cooperation both in verse and prose.

He accordingly sent some trifling contributions of the former kind, and the matter rested thus until the following August, when Ballantyne again wrote to him, at first wishing him to write the history of Spanish affairs for the past year, and very shortly afterwards, being disappointed by the person who had engaged to write the History of Europe, he urged him to take the historical department generally, at the annual payment of 400l.

This was a work of no small labour, and the year already so far advanced, that more than common industry and speed were required; on this head, however, the publishers had no cause to complain, and, indeed, they appeared well satisfied with their “historiographer” in every way, though sometimes a little startled with the fearless manner in which he expressed his opinions on the various political subjects that came before him; and they were very desirous
of securing his further services in the miscellaneous volume.

This engagement, while it lasted, was the most profitable which had yet been offered to him; neither was it as distasteful to him then as it would have been in less stirring times, the events in Spain being a subject in which he took “as deep an interest as the heart of man is capable of;” and he moreover contemplated the compilation of an accurate body of contemporaneous history, which might hereafter become a standard work of reference, and which would thus have a value far beyond that of the ordinary periodical literature of the day.

Still, however this might be, he could not but feel that, with works demanding far deeper research, admitting the fullest exercise of his powers, and requiring literary stores which at that time he alone possessed, lying on his shelves half finished, the time thus taken up was but unworthily occupied. But he lived in hope,—in hopes that in time he would be enabled to live by the worthier labours of his busy pen, that works of solid and lasting merit would take their fitting place in the estimation of the public, and that his unrelenting studies would at length find their reward. How far these hopes were fulfilled or disappointed we have yet to see.

Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 273
To John Rickman, Esq.
“Jan. 21. 1810.
“My dear Rickman.

“I am one of those lucky people who find their business their amusement, and contrive to do more by having half a dozen things in hand at once than if employed upon any single one of them. . . . . You will like what I have said concerning the Catholic question*, and not dislike the way in which I have discharged a little of my gall upon the Foxites, the place-mongers, and Mr. Whitbread. This is a very profitable engagement. They give me 400l. for it; and if it continues two or three years (which I believe rests wholly with myself), it will make me altogether at ease in my circumstances, for by that time my property in Longman’s hands will have cleared itself, the constable will come up with me, and we shall travel on, I trust, to the end of our journey cheek by jowl, even if I should not be able to send him forward like a running footman.

“The Quarterly pays me well—ten guineas per sheet: at the same measure, the Annual was only four. I have the bulky Life of Nelson in hand, and am to be paid double. This must be for the sake of saying they give twenty guineas per sheet, as I should have been well satisfied with ten, and have taken exactly the same pains. . . . .

“The next news of my grey goose quill is, that I have one quarto just coming out of the press for you.

* In the Edinburgh Annual Register.

I have another just going in for
Mrs. Rickman, though I suspect it will be less to her taste than any of my former poems. Kehama has been finished these two months, is more than half transcribed, and the first part ought to have reached Ballantyne’s a month ago, but those rascally carriers have delayed or lost it. The days are now sufficiently lengthened to give me some half hour before breakfast, and I have begun Pelayo, conquered the difficulty of the opening, and am fairly afloat. Add to all this, that from the overflowings of my notes and notanda I am putting together some volumes of Omniana (which will, I have no doubt, pay better than any of the works of which they are in the main, as it were, the crumbs and leavings), and then you will have the catalogue of my works in hand. . . . .

Mathetes is not De Quincey, but a Mr. Wilson,—De Quincey is a singular man, but better informed than any person almost that I ever met at his age. The vice of the Friend is its roundaboutness. Sometimes it is of the highest merit both in matter and manner: more frequently its turnings, and windings, and twistings, and doublings provoke my greyhound propensity of pointing straightforward to the mark.

“The Coalition* which you seem to look on, is

* “If Lord Grenville consent to leave the experiment (of establishing Romanism in Ireland) untried, I do not see what should hinder him from joining with Lord Wellesley, Perceval, and Canning in forming a stronger government than the present; and I should the less wonder at it, as one may suppose that all the Tantarararas . . . . are bodily frightened at the remarkable progress of Cobbetism, built on the late disasters of our armies, though I cannot consent to wish the battle of Talavera unfought, that having established that there is some truth in the old opinion of the bravery of the British, who that day, even by confession of the enemy, were not half their numbers.”—J. R. to R. S., Jan. 14. 1810.

Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 275
likely enough to take place; if it should, and
Dutens were to die, I might be the better for it; the country would not. The journey to Falmouth seems the best prospect; and yet, at my time of life (the grey hairs are coming), and with my habits, it would be much more agreeable to me to stay at home. I have no hope from chopping and changing, while the materials must remain the same. It signifies little who plays the first fiddle. Tantararara will always be the tune, till there be an entirely new set of performers.

God bless you!
R. S.”
To Mr. Ebenezer Elliott.
“Keswick, Feb. 9. 1810.

“The objections which have been made to the style of Madoc are ill-founded. It has no other peculiarity than that of being pure English, which, unhappily, in these times renders it peculiar. My rule of writing, whether for prose or verse, is the same, and may very shortly be stated. It is, to express myself, 1st, as perspicuously as possible; 2nd, as concisely as possible; 3rd, as impressively as possible. This is the way to be understood, and felt, and remembered. But there is an obtuseness of heart and understanding, which it is impossible to reach; and if you have seen the reviewals of Madoc, after having read the poem, you will perceive that almost in every part or passage which they have selected for censure, they have missed the meaning. For instance, the
Edinburgh sneers at the beginning of the 3d section, part II.*, and the words ‘my own dear mother’s child,’ as inane.

“Now, as for the speech itself. If —— had not good feeling enough in his nature to feel its dramatic truth and fitness in that place, it is his misfortune; but that particular expression would, to any person who reflected upon its meaning with a moment’s due attention, give it peculiar force; for in that state of society, most of the king’s children were by different mothers. Of course, when Madoc addressed his sister as his mother’s child, more affecting remembrances and more love were implied in that single expression, than a whole speech could convey with equal expressiveness. The Eclectic ridicules ‘Wilt thou come hither, prince, and let me feel thy face?’† I am utterly ignorant of the nature and essence of poetry, if that be not one of the finest scenes that I have ever been able to produce.

“The metre has been criticised with equal incapacity on the port of the critics. Milton and Shakspeare are the standards of blank verse: in these writers every variety of it is to be found, and by this standard I desire to be measured. The redundant verses (when the redundant syllable is anywhere but “

* “‘Not yet at rest, my sister!’ quoth the prince,
As at her dwelling door he saw the maid
Sit gazing on that lovely moonlight scene;
‘To bed, Goervyl! Dearest, what hast thou
To keep thee wakeful here at this late hour,
When even I shall bid a truce to thought,
And lay me down in peace? Good night, Goervyl,
Dear sister mine, my own dear mother’s child!’”

Madoc, Part I. Section 3. This passage is too long for extraction here.

Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 277
at the end of a line) are formed upon the admitted principle, that two short syllables are equal in time to one long one. The truth is, that though the knack of versifying is a gift, the art is an acquirement. I versified more rapidly at the age of sixteen, than now at six-and-thirty. But it requires a knowledge of that art to criticise upon the structure of verse; nor is it sufficient to understand the regular turn of the metre: a parrot might be taught that. In the sweep of blank verse, the whole paragraph must be taken into consideration before the merit or demerit of a single line, or sometimes of a single word, can be understood. Yet these critics are everlastingly picking out single lines, and condemning their cadence as bad. This might be true if the line could possibly stand alone. But were I to cut off one of the critic’s fingers, and tell him it was only fit for a tobacco-stopper, that would be true also, because the act of amputation made it so.

“You appreciate the story with true judgment, and have laid your finger upon the faulty parts. This it is to have the inborn feeling of a poet. Of the language you are not so good a judge, because you have not mastered the art, and are not well read in the poets of Shakspeare’s age. You cannot read Shakspeare, Spenser, Milton, and the Elizabethan dramatists too much. There is no danger of catching their faults.

Yours very truly,
R. Southey.”
To Mr. Neville White.
“Keswick, March 11. 1810.
“My dear Sir,

“Your account of the Monthly Review interested me very much. If they rest the truth of their criticism upon that school poem in plain, direct, tangible language, I will most assuredly favour them with a few lines, first through the medium of as many magazines as we can get access to, and ultimately in a note to the Life. With regard to my own works, I am a perfect Quaker, and fools and rogues may misrepresent and libel them in perfect security; but upon the subject of Henry, the M. Review shall find me a very Tartar.

“Till you informed me of it, I did not know that Lord Byron had amused himself with lampooning me. It is safe game, and he may go on till he is tired. Every apprentice in satire and scandal for the last dozen years has tried his hand upon me. I got hold of the Simpliciad the other day, and wrote as a motto in it these lines, from one of Davenant’s plays which I happened to have just been reading:—
Libels of such weak fancy and composure,
That we do all esteem it greater wrong
To have our names extant in such paltry rhyme
Than in the slanderous sense.’

“The manner in which these rhymesters and prosesters misunderstand what they criticise, would be altogether ludicrous, if it did not proceed as often from want of feeling as from want of intellect.

Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 279

“I want your assistance in a business in which I am sure it will interest you to give it. A youth of Bristol, by name William Roberts, died of consumption about two years ago, at the age of nineteen. He was employed in a bank, and his salary, 70l. a year (I believe), was materially useful in assisting towards the support of his father and mother, and a grandmother, and one only sister. The family had known better days . . . . . and one calamity following another, has reduced them very greatly. Yet still there remains that feeling which, if I call it pride, it is only for want of a better word to express something noble in its nature. William was a youth of great genius, and a few days before his death he bequeathed his poems in trust to his two intimate friends to be published for the benefit of his sister, that being all he had to bequeath, and his passionate desire (like that of Chatterton) was to provide for her. You must remember that at that time he did not foresee the subsequent distresses of his father and mother. These friends were a young physician of the name of Hogg, settled somewhere near London, and James, a banker of Birmingham, an acquaintance of mine, the author of that sweet poem upon the Otaheitean Girl, of which some stanzas were quoted in the third Quarterly Review. James has arranged the poems and letters of the poor fellow for the press, and will draw up a biographical memoir. He has consulted me upon the subject, and the plain statement which I have here made of the circumstances has interested me very deeply . . . . . My
opinion is that great things might have been done by William Roberts; that every one will acknowledge this; but that his Remains will not obtain a general sale. Of
Henry’s I foresaw the success as much as such a thing could be foreseen. But Roberts has left nothing so good as Henry’s best pieces; in fact he died younger, and was precluded from the possibility of advancing himself as Henry did, in choosing a learned profession because his salary was wanted at home. There is another reason too against their general sale; though he was most exemplary in all his duties, and, as far as I can discover, absolutely without a spot or blemish upon his character, and a regular and sincere churchman, there is nothing of that kind of piety in his writings to which the Remains are mostly indebted for their popularity. . . . .

“My hope is that such a sum may be raised as will be sufficient to place Eliza Roberts in a situation respectably to support herself and her parents. I do not yet know what extent the publication will run to, but as soon as this is settled, I will beg you to beg subscriptions. . . . . This whole account is written with such a cautious fear of saying too much, that I fear I have said too little, and may unwittingly have led you to think slightingly of what poor William Roberts has left behind him. If I have done this I have done wrong, for certainly he was a youth of great genius and most uncommon promise, which it is my firm belief, founded upon the purity of his life and principles and the rectitude of his feelings, that he would amply have fulfilled, if it had not
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 281
pleased God to remove him so early from this sphere of existence.

“God bless you!

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To Sharon Turner, Esq.
“March 20. 1810.
“Dear Turner,

“I thank you for your little volume, which I have read with pleasure, as the faithful transcript of a good man’s mind. It contains ample proof that you possess the perceptions of a poet; and if the diction in which they are clothed has sometimes its defects, it is because you have been too laboriously employed in more dignified pursuits to have had leisure for maturing the mechanical part of an art which, of all other trades or professions, requires the longest apprenticeship.

“What I have written upon the Missionaries I well knew would accord with your feelings and opinions. I have not yet done with the subject, meaning, so soon as my many occupations will allow, to prepare an article upon the South African missions; and, perhaps, to go on at intervals till I have given a view of all the existing Protestant missions; proved my own firm belief that there are but two methods of extending civilisation,—conquest and conversion,—the latter the only certain one; entered fully into the difficulties which oppose the
reception of Christianity; and, finally, connected this subject with that of civilisation.

“I had given Canning credit for the Austrian article, though half suspecting that it was giving him credit for too much, because there was a reference to the principles of human nature and a sense of its dignity rarely, or never, to be found in a politician by trade. The Quarterly does well; but it would do far better if it was emancipated from the shackles of party. It wants also some recondite learning: you should give them an account of the Welsh Archaeology; or, if that be too laborious, should take some of the Welshmen’s publications, Davies or Roberts, for your text, and pour out from your full stores. . . . .

“You will receive the first volume of my greatest labours very shortly; for, after many provoking delays, it has at last got out of the printer’s hands. It is less interesting perhaps than the second volume will prove, or than the history of the mother country; but it will repay perusal, and you will find many valuable hints respecting savage life. I have a poem also in the press, which you will wonder at and abuse. It is, in my own judgment, a successful attempt at giving to rhyme the whole freedom, and more than the variety, of blank verse. But in all its structure and story it is so wholly unlike anything else, that I expect to have very few admirers. This has been a sort of episode to my main employments. . . . . What I am busied upon most intently is the historical part of Ballantyne’s new Annual Register. The perfect freedom and perfect
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 283
sincerity with which I am discharging this task has astonished Ballantyne, and I dare say he will find his account in it; for, sure I am, the veriest knave will feel that it is written with honesty. . . . . This evening I have finished the siege of Zaragoza, and my pulse has not yet recovered its usual regularity. The death of
Sir John Moore will conclude the volume. . . . .

Believe me,
Yours very truly,
Robert Southey.”
To Walter Savage Landor, Esq.
“March 26. 1810.

“Is it a mark of strength or of weakness, of maturity or of incipient decay, that it is more delightful to me to compose history than poetry? not, perhaps, that I feel more pleasure in the act of composition, but that I go to it with more complacency as to an employment which suits my temperament. I am loth to ascribe this lack of inclination to any deficiency of power, and certainly am not conscious of any; still I have an ominous feeling that there are poets enough in the world without me, and that my best chance of being remembered will be as an historian. A proof sheet of Kehama, or a second sight scene in Pelayo, disperses this cloud; such, however, is my habitual feeling. It did not use to be the case in those days when I thought of nothing but poetry, and lived, as it were, in an atmosphere of nitrous
oxyde,—in a state of perpetual excitement, which I yet produced no exhaustion.

“The first volume of my History of Brazil makes its appearance in a few days; perhaps at this time it may have been published. This is the commencement of a long series; the History of Portugal is to follow, then that of Portuguese Asia, then a supplementary volume concerning the African possessions. Lastly, if I have life, health, and eye-sight permitted me, the history of the Monastic Orders; sufficient employment for a life, which I should think well employed in completing them. . . . .

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To Walter Scott, Esq.
“Durham, May 11. 1810.
“My dear Scott,

“Yesterday evening, on my return from the raceground, I found your poem* lying on the table. A provoking engagement called me from it for two or three hours; but notwithstanding this, and my obstinate habit of getting early to bed, I did not go to rest till I had finished the book. Every reader’s first thought, when he begins to think at all, will be to compare you with yourself. If I may judge from my own feelings, the Lady will be a greater favourite than either of her elder brethren. There is in all,

* The Lady of the Lake.

Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 285
the same skilful inscrutability of story till the artist is pleased to touch the spring which lays the whole machine open; but while the plot is thus well wound up in the new poem, I think the narrative is more uniformly perspicuous than in the two former. There is in all, the like originality and beauty of circumstances. I am not willing to admit that some of the situations in the
Lay and Marmion can be outdone, and if I thought they were outdone last night, and still incline to think so, it is probably because new impressions are more vivid than the strongest recollection.

“I wished most of the songs away on the first perusal; on recurring to them, I was glad they were there; yet, wherever they interrupt the narrative, without in any way tending to carry on the business of the story, my admiration of the things themselves does not prevent me from thinking them misplaced. Your title is likely to be a popular one; and for that very reason, I wish it had not been chosen. Of course it led me to expect some tale of Merlin or King Arthur’s days; but what is of real consequence to one who loves old lays is, that whenever hereafter the Lady of the Lake will be mentioned, most readers will suppose your Ellen is intended; and in this way a sort of offence against antiquity has been committed. This is something in the manner of Momus’s criticism, to find fault with the trinkets of the Lady and with her name. But I heartily give you joy of the poem, and congratulate you with perfect confidence upon the success which you have a right to expect, which you deserve, and which you will find. The
portrait seems more like the more I look at it; and my friend Camp is now doubly immortalised. This reminds me of the dog in the poem,—an incident so fine that it bears as well as courts comparison with one of the most affecting passages in

Longman was instructed to send you my Brazil. I hope to get a long spell at the concluding volume before it is necessary to fall seriously to work upon the second Register. What you will think of Kehama I am not quite sure,—of what the public will think, I can have, and never have had, the slightest doubt. No subject could have been devised more remote from human sympathies; and there are so few persons who are capable of standing aloof from them, that the subject must be admitted to have been imprudently chosen, if in choosing it I had had any other motive than that of pleasing myself and some half a dozen others. If it had been my intention to provoke censure, I could not have done it more effectually; for without intending any innovation, or being at first sensible of any, I have fallen into a style of versification as unusual as the ground-work of the story; with this, however, I am well satisfied. I have written the first canto of Pelayo in blank verse, and without machinery. This promises to be a striking poem, and, if it were ready now, might perhaps, in some degree, be a useful one.

“The metre of the Lady is to me less agreeable than the more varied measure. There is an advantage in writing in a metre to which one has been little accustomed; it necessarily induces a certain change of style, and thus enables the writer to clothe his old
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 287
conceptions in so different a garb, that they appear new even to himself. The alteration which you have made is not sufficiently great to obtain this advantage,—and there is a loss of variety, from which I should have predicted a loss of freedom and a loss of power. This, however, is amply confuted by the poem, which certainly is never deficient either in force or freedom.

“I shall return home in the course of a fortnight; a short interval of idleness makes me feel impatient to get once more to my books and my desk. Pray remember me to Mrs. Scott, and believe me,

Very affectionately yours,
Robert Southey.”
To the Rev. Herbert Hill.
“Keswick, May 30. 1810.
“My dear Uncle,

“. . . . . My Register work was finished before I left home. . . . . An interval of idleness, which is to me more wearisome than any labour, has given me new appetite for employment, and I am now busily occupied with my second volume*, to which, with such alternations of work for the Review as are always wholesome as well as convenient (for over-application to any one subject disturbs my sleep, and I have long learnt by neutralising as it were, one set of thoughts with another, to sleep as sweetly as a child), I shall

* Of the “History of Brazil,”

devote the next three months uninterruptedly. My first volume seems to be well liked by my friends; they all speak of it as amusing, which I was at one time apprehensive it would not be.

Murray the bookseller, with whom the Quarterly has led me into a correspondence, promises to procure for me a MS. history of Lima, written by one of its viceroys. I shall be glad to see it, and am a good deal obliged by this mark of attention on his part; but those books upon Paraguay would be far more useful at this time, for I have no other guides than Charlevoix, and the mutilated translation of Techo, in Churchill. Luckily, a very brief summary of events is all that I am called upon, or indeed, consistently with the main purpose and plan of the work, ought to give; still it is impossible to do this to my own satisfaction, unless I feel myself thoroughly acquainted with the whole series of events. . . . .

Scott sent me his poem to Durham. I like it better than either Marmion or the Lay, though its measure is less agreeable; but the story has finer parts, and is better conceived. The portraits both of Camp and his master are remarkably good. He talks of a journey to the Hebrides; but, if that does not take place, of a visit southward; in which case, Keswick will be taken on his way, and we are to concoct some plan for employing Ballantyne’s press.

“The old Douay establishment is removed to England, to a place called Ushaw, about four miles from Durham. They began it upon a Bank of Faith system, after Huntingdon’s manner, having only 2000l. to begin with. The 2000l. have already been
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 289
expended, and pretty near as much more will go before it is completed. There are 100 students there already, chiefly boys; and preparations are making for doubling the number. I rode over with
Henry, and one of his Catholic friends, to look after the library. The philosophical tutor showed me a volume of the Acta Sanct. Benedictorum,—‘Saints, as they choose to call them,’ said he. In the evening, however, the Ecclesiastical Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxons, by this very Mr. ——, were put into my hands; and there he relates miracles, and abuses Turner for what he calls his Romance of St. Dunstan! These fellows are all alike. I asked what the number of the English Catholics was supposed to be, and was told 300,000. This is most likely exaggerated. I should not have guessed them at half. God bless you!

R. S.”
To John May, Esq.
“Keswick, August 5. 1810.
“My dear Friend,

“Whatever you may think of my part in the Register in other respects, you will, I am sure, be well-pleased with the perfect freedom which inspires it. It will offend many persons and will please no party: but my own heart is satisfied, and that feeling would always be to me a sufficient reward. And even if it should injure me in a political point of view (as it probably may), by cutting off the prospect of
obtaining anything from Government beyond the pension . . . . . still I believe that even the balance of selfish prudence, though Mr. Worldy-wiseman himself were to adjust the scales, would prove in my favour. For I confidently expect that this work will materially increase my reputation among the booksellers; and, indeed, as long as I continue to be engaged in it, I shall need no other means of support. In the second part of the volume you will see me abundantly praised and most respectfully censured. I know not who the critic is, nor can I guess; he is very showy and sufficiently shallow. . . . . . As for my contempt of the received rules of poetry, I hold the same rules which
Shakspeare, Spenser, and Milton held before me, and desire to be judged by those rules; nor have I proceeded upon any principle of taste which is not to be found in all the great masters of the art of every age and country wherein the art has been understood. When the critic specifies parts of my writings to justify his praise, he overlooks every thing which displays either a knowledge of human nature, or a power of affecting the passions, and merely looks for a specimen of able versification. . . . .

“God bless you!

Yours very affectionately,
R. S.”
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 291
To Walter Scott, Esq.
“Keswick, Sept. 17. 1810.
“My dear Scott,

“In the Courier of the 15th (which has this evening reached us) is an article pretending to exhibit imitations from your poems, and signed S. T. C. At the first sight of this I was certain that S. T. Coleridge had nothing to do with it; and upon putting the paper into his hands, his astonishment was equal to mine. What may be the motive of this dirty trick Heaven knows. I can only conjecture that the fellow who has practised it, designs in some other paper or magazine to build up a charge of jealousy and envy in Coleridge, founded upon his own forgery. Coleridge declares he will write to the Courier disavowing the signature. I know he means to do it; but his actions so little correspond to his intentions, that I fear he will delay doing it, very probably, till it is too late. Therefore I lose no time in assuring you that he knows nothing of this petty and paltry attack, which I have no doubt, from whatever quarter it may have come, originates more in malice towards him than towards you.

“I was not without hopes of seeing you in this land of lakes, on your way from the Yorkshire Greta; but happening to see Jeffrey about a fortnight ago, he told me that you were settled at Ashiestiel for the autumn. I say happening to see him, because his visit was to Coleridge, not to me; and he told C. that he had not called immediately on me, as he did not know what my feelings might be towards him, &c.


“You have probably seen my labours in the Register. Upon almost all points of present politics I believe there is little difference of opinion between us; and every where, I think, you will give me credit for fair dealing as well as plain speaking. At present I am working very hard upon the second volume; it is an employment which interests me very much, and I complain of nothing but the want sometimes of sufficient documents respecting the Spanish war. Particularly I regret the want of detailed accounts of the second siege of Zaragoza and the siege of Gerona, that I might be enabled to present a full record of those glorious events. I suppose you know the whole secret history of the Register, otherwise I would tell you how liberally the Ballantynes have behaved to me. They will probably find their account in having engaged a man who writes with such perfect freedom; for though parts of the work may, and indeed will, offend all parties in turn, still there is a decided character of impartiality about it, which will prove the surest recommendation.

Kehama has travelled so slowly through the press, that, instead of appearing at the end of one season, it will be ready about the beginning of the next. I expect every body to admire my new fashion of printing (though unfortunately the printers did not fall into it for the first three or four sheets); if any thing else is admired—ponamus lucro. My unknown critic in the Register will think that I am going against wind and tide with a vengeance, instead of sailing, according to his advice, with the stream. But if he or any body else should imagine
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that I purposely set myself in opposition to public opinion, they are very much mistaken. I do not think enough about public opinion for this to be possible. In planning and executing a poem no other thought ever occurs to me than that of making it as good as I can. When it is finished the ostrich does not commit her eggs with more confidence to the sand and the sun, and to mother nature, than I ‘cast it upon the waters,’—sure if it be good that it will be found after many days.

“It gratified me much to hear that you had been interested with my first volume of Brazil. The second will contain more stimulating matter; but it is from the history of Portugal that I think you will derive most amusement, so full will it be of high chivalrous matter and beautiful costume. Pelayo comes on slow and sure, thoroughly to my own mind as far as it has advanced.

Yours very truly,
R. Southey.”
To Walter Savage Landor, Esq.
“Keswick, Jan. 11. 1811.

“I am brooding a poem upon Philip’s War with the New Englanders, which was the decisive struggle between the red and white races in America. Nothing can be more anti-heroic than stiff puritan manners; but these may be kept sufficiently out of sight; and high puritan principles are fine elements to work with. One of my main characters is a
Quaker, an (ideal) son of
Goffe the regicide. A good deal of original conception is floating in my mind, and there is no subject in which my own favourite feelings and opinions could be so fully displayed. It has taken strong hold on me, and if my mind was but made up as to the fittest form of metre, I should probably begin it forthwith, and continue it and Pelayo together, having the one to turn to when the way was not plain before me in the other. Hexameters would not be more difficult than any other metre, but they will not allow of the necessary transition from the narrative to the dramatic style without too great a discrepancy. The manner of Kehama would not do: the narrative is pitched too high, the dialogue too low, for a poem in which the circumstances will be less elevated than the passion. For this very reason rhyme I fear is required.

“You have done wonders with C. Julian. 1200 lines in a week were the quickest run (in sailors’ phrase) that I ever made. But this is nothing to what you have accomplished; and your manner involves so much thought (excess of meaning being its fault), that the same number of lines must cost thrice as much expense of passion and of the reasoning faculty to you than they would to me. I am impatient to see this tragedy. I hear nothing of Kehama except that forty copies have been sold at Edinburgh, and that Scott has reviewed it for the next Quarterly.

“What is the meaning of the monogram in the title-page of your Ode to Gustavus? I never read your Latin without wishing it were English, and
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 295
regretting that you were ever taught a language so much inferior to your own.

“Your abhorrence of Spenser is a strange heresy, I admit that he is inferior to Chaucer (who for variety of power has no competitor except Shakspeare), but he is the great master of English versification, incomparably the greatest master in our language. Without being insensible to the defects of the Fairy Queen, I am never weary of reading it. Surely Chaucer is as much a poet as it was possible for him to be when the language was in so rude a state. There seems to be this material point of difference between us,—you think we have little poetry which was good for any thing before Milton; I, that we have little since, except in our own immediate days. I do not say there was much before, but what there was, was sterling verse in sterling English. It had thought and feeling in it. At present, the surest way to become popular is to have as little of either ingredient as possible.

“Have you read Captain Pasley’s book? I take it for my text in the next Quarterly, and would fain make it our political Bible.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To John Rickman, Esq.
“Jan. 25. 1811.
“My dear Rickman,

“Thank you for the East India Report and for the Burdett papers. Your notes upon Parliamentary
Reform are now lying in my desk to be introduced immediately after the foolish plan which he proposed in 1805,—a plan which could do no possible good. It is downright absurdity to suppose that the House of Commons can be a pure representative body, when there is always a regular party organised against the government of the country, and consequently in semi-alliance with the enemy; Such a state of things (which never existed anywhere else, and, as you will say, could not exist here but by favour of old Neptune), was unknown to our old laws of Parliament; and it is therefore a manifest fallacy to argue from those laws against practices which are rendered necessary by the existing system, and without which there could be no government. The evil which I wish to see remedied is the aggregation of landed property, which gives to such a man as —— the command of whole counties, and enables such men as —— to sing ‘we are seven,’ like
Wordsworth’s little girl, into the ear of a minister, and demand for himself situations which he is unfit for. This is a worse evil than that which our mortmain statutes were enacted to remedy, for it is gradually rooting out the yeomanry of the country, and dwindling the gentry into complete political insignificance. It is not parliamentary reform which can touch this evil: some further limitation of entail, or a proper scheme of income taxation, might. Concerning parliamentary reform, indeed, my views are much changed; and Sir F. Burdett’s scheme has not a little contributed to the alteration, elucidated as it is by all his subsequent conduct. The phrase, in-
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deed, like Catholic Emancipation, is vox et præterea nihil.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To Mr. Ebenezer Elliott.
“Keswick, Feb. 7. 1811.

“I will willingly find fault with your play when you can find means of sending it me; that is, I will gladly, if it be in my power, point out in what manner it may be fitted for representation should it require alteration and appear capable of being so altered. Of managers and greenrooms I know nothing. Old Cumberland once said to me in his characteristic way, ‘Whatever you do, Sir, never write a play! the torments of the damned are nothing to it.’ I myself suspect that if a man suffers any thing like purgatory in a greenroom it must be his own fault. I would send my play there, and if it was accepted they might mutilate it as they pleased, because the actors, generally speaking, must be the best judges of what will tell on the stage, and because the author can always restore the piece to its original state when he prints it.

“I am sorry you should have suspected anything like a reproach upon ‘single blessedness ‘in women in what is said of Lorrinite.* Nothing could be farther from my thoughts. The passage has nothing beyond an individual reference to the witch herself,

* Curse of Kehama, canto XI. verse 3.

therein described as a ‘cankered rose.’ You may find abundant proof in my writings, and would require none if you knew me, that no man can be more innocent of such opinions as you seem to have suspected. So far am I from not regarding continence as a virtue.

“Those unaccountable clicks as you call them in the middle of the lines, are, as you must have seen, too frequent to be accidental. I went upon the system of rhyming to the ear regardless of the eye, and have throughout availed myself of the power which this gave me. The verse was no bondage to me. If I do not greatly deceive myself, it unites the advantages of rhyme with the strength and freedom of blank verse in a manner peculiar to itself. As far as I can judge (which is of course and must be from very imperfect and partial means) the story seems not to have shocked people as much as I expected, but that it should become popular is impossible. Many years must elapse before the opinion of the few can become the law of the many.

“I have fallen in love with the American subject which did not strike your fancy, and have half mounted it into a story of which a primitive Quaker is the hero; a curious character you will say for heroic poetry,—certainly an original one.

“If ever you think upon political subjects, I beseech you read Capt. Pasley’s Essay on Military Policy,—a book which ought to be not only in the hands but in the heart of every Englishman. Farewell!

Yours very truly,
R. Southey.”
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 299
To Walter Savage Landor, Esq.
“Keswick, Feb. 12. 1811.

“I am not disappointed in Count Julian; it is too Greek for representation in these times, but it is altogether worthy of you. The thought and feeling which you have frequently condensed in a single line, is unlike anything in modern composition. The conclusion too is Greek. I should have known this play to be yours had it fallen in my way without a name. There was one written ten years ago by Rough which aimed at being what this is; this has the profundity which was attempted there. I see nothing to be expunged, but I see many of what a school-boy would call hard passages. Sometimes they are like water, which however beautifully pellucid, may become dark by its very depth. Your own vase of tarnished gold is a better illustration; the very richness of the metal occasions its darkness. Sometimes they are like pictures,—unless you get them in precisely the right point of view, their expression is lost. I cannot tell how this is to be remedied if it is remediable; it is what makes the difference between difficult and easy authors. I will not yet specify what the passages are which are obscure, because, upon every fresh perusal, some of them will flash upon me.

“Never was a character more finely conceived than Julian. That image of his seizing the horses is in the very first rank of sublimity; it is the grandest image of power that ever poet produced.


“You could not have placed the story in a finer dramatic light; but it has made you elevate some vile renegadoes into respectability. In my plan Sisabert will die by Florinda’s hand, and Orpas will be cut down by Rodrigo’s own hand. I go on very slowly; what I have done is too good to be sacrificed; but it will make the poem as faulty in structure as Shakspeare’s Julius Cæsar; and I shall be a third of the way through it before Pelayo appears. My pace will soon be quickened; the way opens before me; hitherto there has been but one personage in view; to-morrow I introduce others, and shall soon get into the business of the poem. You wonder that I can think of two poems at once; it proceeds from weakness, not from strength. I could not stand the continuous excitement which you have gone through in your tragedy: in me it would not work itself off in tears; the tears would flow while in the act of composition, and would leave behind a throbbing head and a whole system in the highest state of nervous excitability, which would soon induce disease in one of its most fearful forms. From such a state I recovered in 1800 by going to Portugal, and suddenly changing climate, occupation, and all internal objects: and I have kept it off since by a good intellectual regimen.

“When I have read Count Julian again and again, I will then make out a list of the passages which appear so difficult that ordinary readers may be supposed incapable of understanding them. When you perceive that they may be difficult to others, it will be easy, in most instances, to make the meaning
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 301
more obvious. Then you must print the tragedy. It will not have many more admirers than
Gebir; but they will be of the same class and cast; and with Gebir it will be known hereafter, when all the rubbish of our generation shall have been swept away.

“What will you do next? Narrative is better than dramatic poetry, because it admits of the highest beauties of the drama; there are two characters in Roman history which are admirably fit for either; but in both cases their history suits the drama better than the epic—Sertorius and Spartacus. When I was a boy, the abortive attempt at restoring the republic by Caligula’s death was one of my dramatic attempts. Another was that impressive story in Tacitus of 300 slaves (I think that was the number) put to death for not preventing the murder of their master, whom one of them had killed. The Emperor Majorian is a fine character. I wish I could throw out a subject that would tempt you, but rather to a poem than a play; for though your powers for both are equal, and the play the more difficult work of the two, yet In my judgment the poem is the preferable species of composition.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, Feb. 16. 1811.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“If I had not heard of you from Gifford at the beginning of the month, I should have been very uneasy about you. Thank you for your letter, and for your serviceable interpolation of the review*, which is just what it should be,—that is to say, just what I would wish it, only I wish you would not call me the most sublime poet of the age, because, in this point, both Wordsworth and Landor are at least my equals. You will not suspect me of any mock-modesty in this. On the whole, I shall have done greater things than either, but not because I possess greater powers.

“My abode under Skiddaw will have been more unfavourable to my first year’s Annals than to any other, because I had fewer channels of information opened, and because of home politics I was very ignorant, never liking them well enough to feel any interest beyond that of an election feeling. Now that it becomes my business to be better informed, I have spared no pains to become so; and the probability is, that I learn as much political news to my purpose by letters, as I should do by that intercourse which would be compatible with my way of life. Of three points I have now convinced myself, that the great

* This refers to a reviewal of Kehama, which Mr. Bedford had written for the Quarterly, not knowing that Sir Walter Scott had one in preparation. The latter was the one inserted.

Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 303
desideratum in our own government is a Premier instead of a Cabinet,—that a regular opposition is an absurdity which could not exist anywhere but in an island, without destroying the government,—and that parliamentary reform is the shortest road to anarchy.

“I am sincerely obliged to Gifford for his desire to serve me, and sincerely glad that I stand in need of no services,—not that I am by any means above being served, or feel any ways uncomfortable under an obligation. On the contrary, I should hold myself in the highest degree obliged to any person who would promote Tom for my sake; but for this we must wait till the First Lord is in power. For myself, I am in a fair way of wanting nothing; and if great men will but give me their praise*, they may keep their promises for others; their praise would prove actual puddings; let them only make it the fashion to buy my books, and in seven years’ time I will purchase a house and ground enough for the use of a dairy within a day’s journey of London. Scott had 2000 guineas for the Lady of the Lake. If Canning would but compare Bonaparte to Kehama in the House of Commons, I might get half as much by my next poem.

“I am reviewing Pasley’s book—the most important political work that ever appeared in any country.

* “Your article on the Evangelical Sects is much admired, and a few days ago, Perceval mentioned it in terms of the highest praise at his own table. Herries, who was present, told him that you were the author of it, and he did not praise it one whit the less on that account, but said it was the fairest, most candid, and comprehensive view he had ever seen of any subject”—G. C. B. to R. S., Feb. 6. 1811.

The minister who shall first become a believer in that book, and act upon its unanswerable principles, will obtain a higher reputation than ever statesman did before him. My review will be conciliatory towards the husbanding politicians, that is, it will endeavour to make them ashamed without making them angry. The blistering plaister for
Whitbread goes all into the Register.

Abella supplies me well with Spanish papers. I have found him excellently useful. He writes to me in —issimos of esteem, and I outstep a little the usual pace of English compliments in return, and am his friend and servant in superlatives—with a good conscience, believe me, for I really like him, and am very sensible of his services. Of course I have sent him my best works, and no doubt my name will soon be in high odour in the Isle of Leon. It was a mortification to me to hear he was about to return before I could see him in London. . . . .

“I have again taken to Pelayo, after a long interval, and the third section is nearly finished. It will bring me into busier scenes, and the story will begin to open. I am afraid that, having thus begun ab ovo, I must change the title of the poem, and call it Spain restored, for Pelayo cannot appear till I have got on a thousand lines. If I cared about rules, this would be a fault; but the structure must depend upon the materials, and I have not too much of Roderick in the beginning, considering the part he has to play in the end.

“The capture of the Isle of France is a good thing. We must now look to the Persian Gulf and
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 305
the Red Sea, and take especial care to keep the French out of those important points—important as to the means they afford of annoying us in their hands, or of spreading civilisation in ours. Next year I purpose to give a whole chapter to the French intrigues with Persia, and their views in that quarter. I have neither time nor room for it in the present volume.

“I most heartily rejoice that the Outs are Outs still.

R. S.”
To John Rickman, Esq.
“Feb, 20. 1811.
My dear Rickman,

“. . . . . I have it under the hand of —— that any new ministry must recall our troops from Spain and Portugal,—to which I replied by praying that he might stay out of place so long as he thought so. . . . .

“. . . . . When I read L. Goldsmid’s* book about France, the impression it made upon me was, that he was sent over by Bonaparte to further his purposes here. God knows by what other means, but specially by publishing such outrageous and absurd stories against him as should give his good friends a plea for disbelieving anything against a man who was so palpably calumniated. For instance, that B.,

* L. Goldsmid was editor of the Argus in 1801; and was at this time editing the Antigallican Monitor.

when at the military college, poisoned a woman who was with child by him; that this is a lie, I know, because I happen to know a person resident in the same town, at whose house B. was in the habit of visiting, and from whom I learnt that his character was exactly what you would suppose—very studious and very correct. That it must be a lie is obvious, because such things could not be done with more impunity in France than in England; and to say that it might have been concealed, leads to the obvious question, ‘If so, how came L. Goldsmid to know it?’ A still grosser and more ridiculous story is, that Bonaparte makes his poison by giving arsenic to a pig, and tying the pig up by the hind legs, and collecting what runs from his mouth. . . . .

“Now, the man is no fool, and it is not possible that he can believe this himself, or that he can suppose it can be believed by any person of common sense. For what purpose, then, can he publish such lies?

“If he be the rascal which I take him to be, his newspaper shows what is the main purpose for which he has been sent over—to put the Bourbons into Bonaparte’s hands. He recommends a Bourbon to be at the head of the army in Spain—a Bourbon to land in France. Now, there can be no doubt this is what B. would above all things desire. . . . .

R. S.”
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 307
To Walter Scott, Esq.
“Keswick, April 2. 1811.
“My dear Scott,

“You can probably tell me how I could transmit a copy of Kehama to your friend Leyden, for whom, though I do not personally know him, I have always felt a very high respect, regarding him, with one only exception (which might be more properly expressed to any person than to you,) as a man of more true genius and far higher promise than any of his contemporary countrymen.

“No doubt you have seen Pasley’s Essay. It will be, in the main, a book after your own heart, as it is after mine. He talks sometimes of conquest when he should talk of emancipation. A system of unlimited conquest leads at last to the consequences which we have seen exemplified in the fate of the Roman empire. For ourselves, I would wish no other accession of dominion than Danish Zealand and Holland in the North, with as many islands as you please in the Mediterranean; Italy to be formed into one independent state under our protection, as long as it needed it. I believe, that the Ministry do not want the inclination to act vigorously; but they want public opinion to go before and protect them against the opposition. These men, and their coadjutors, the Morning Chronicle and the Edinburgh Review, have neither patriotism, nor principle, nor feeling, nor shame, to stand in their way. They go on predicting the total conquest of the Peninsula, with as much effrontery as if they had not predicted it two
years ago,—nay, even asserted that it was then completed; and they deliver their predictions in such a way, that it requires more charity than I possess not to believe that they wish to see them fulfilled; for this is the last and worst, yet the necessary, effect of party spirit, when carried so far as these politicians carry it. I do not know that I ever regretted being alone so much as when the news of
Graham’s victory arrived. It gave me more delight than I could well hold, and I wanted somebody to share it with me. We shall have great news, too, from Portugal. Massena has no lines to fall back upon; and if Lord Wellington can but bring him to action, we know what the result must be. How happy his retreat must make Lord Grenville, who had just delivered so wise an opinion upon the state of Portugal in the House of Lords!

Longman’s new Review will interfere with the Quarterly; and so far as it succeeds, so far will it prevent the extension of our sale. I have not learnt who are the proprietors of it,—not Longman himself, for he wrote to me some eight or ten weeks ago, wishing me to bear a part in it, and giving me to understand that it was set on foot by some independent M.Ps., so at least I understood his language. Of course I returned a refusal, upon the ground of my previous connection with the Quarterly. They have set out better than we did, though they have a considerable portion of heavy matter, and their first article ought to have been in a very different tone.

Yours ever truly,
R. Southey.”
Ætat. 36. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 309
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, April 21. 1811
“My dear Grosvenor,

“I have some news to tell you of my own family. Mr. T. Southey is dead: about half his property he has left to the son of a friend of his at Bristol, and the rest to his man Tom, and a few other such objects of his regard. This conduct towards me and my brothers is neither very surprising nor very blameable; we lived at a distance from him, and, when he did see us, he saw animals of so very different a nature from himself, that the wonder would have been if he had taken any pleasure in their society. But he has a sister, now advanced in life, and ill provided for; and she kept his house till he turned her out of it, for no other reason than that she discovered some regret at seeing the foot-boy Tom preferred to her nephews; and he has not left her anything. This is wicked and unnatural conduct. My account comes from her. She says nothing of herself, and, I verily believe, thinks nothing upon that score; but her letter is an affecting one. ‘I hope God will forgive him (these are her concluding words). John made himself a slave to get this trash: Thomas has made himself a fool to give it away.* I hope neither you nor yours will ever want it.’ The property thus disposed of is about 1000l. a-year. An estate of half that value was left by the elder brother

* This property had been left to Thomas Southey by his elder brother John.

to a farmer’s son, whom the father used to send sometimes with a hare.

“You know me well enough to know that no man living more thoroughly understands what Shenstone called the flocci-nauci-nihili-pilification of money. I had no expectations, and, consequently, have experienced no disappointment. God be praised for it! I have, also, no want. My employment (provided I write prose) is sufficiently paid; I have plenty of it; and like it as well as if it were merely the amusement of leisure hours. And, in case of my death before I shall have been able to make a provision for my family, my life is insured for 1000l.; and the world must be worse than I believe it to be if my operas should not produce enough in addition to that. . . . .

“I have another piece of news, which did surprise me. Brougham has been commissioned to apply to my uncle for the purpose of discovering whether I would undertake to translate Lucien Bonaparte’s poem. My uncle replied, he supposed not, but referred the plenipotentiary to me; and no further proceedings have taken place. When I hear from B. I shall recommend Elton for the task, who translates well, and will, probably, be glad of a task which is likely to be so well paid. This has amused me very much; but it has rather lowered Lucien in my opinion, by the vanity which it implies. If his poem be good for anything, he may be sure it will find translators: it looks ill to be so impatient for fame as to look about for one, and pay him for his work. From whom the application to my worship came I do not know; Lucien has probably applied
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to some friend to recommend him to the best hand; and, dispatch being one thing required, the preference has, perhaps, on this score, been given to me over
Mr. Thomas Campbell; by which, no doubt, I am greatly flattered.—To Grosvenor Bedford I may say that, if the poem in question be a bad one, it will not be worth translating; and, if it be otherwise, I humbly conceive that the time which would be required to translate it may quite as worthily be bestowed upon some work of my own.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, June 9. 1811.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“I completed the Register last night. Its enormous length has cost me at least three months’ labour more than the former volume, the whole of which is dead loss of the only capital I possess in the world. This is considerably inconvenient; half that time would have sufficed for the Life of Nelson, the other half have set me forward for the next three numbers of the Quarterly. My ways and means, therefore, are considerably deranged. . . . .

“So —— lectures to-morrow upon the Curse of Kehama! I like for the same reason for which Dr. Johnson liked Mrs. Mary Cobb. ‘I love Moll,’ said he; ‘I love Moll Cobb for her impudence.’ I like ——, however, for something else; for though he is
impudentissimus homo and the very emperor of coxcombs, yet, nevertheless, —— —— is an honest fellow, and has a good heart. He is a clever fellow, too, in the midst of his quackery. And so partly because I like him for the aforesaid reasons, partly because half an hour’s conversation with him will afford mirth for half a year afterwards, I will certainly call upon —— when I go to town, and shake hands with him once more. Ah,
Grosvenor I people may say what they will about good company, or what Sharpe, more suo, denominates the ‘very best’ society,—the ‘very best,’—there is no company like that of an odd fellow whom you can laugh with and laugh at, and laugh about, till your eyes overflow with the very oil of gladness.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To Walter Savage Landor, Esq.
“London, July 15. 1811.

“It is utterly unaccountable to me why you of all men should care either for good or evil report of your poems, certain as you must be of their sterling value. I look upon Gebir as I do upon Dante’s long poem in the Italian, not as a good poem, but as containing the finest poetry in the language; so it is with C. Julian, and so no doubt it was with the play which you have so provokingly destroyed.

“In about three weeks I hope to see you in your turret. We leave London this day week, and I will
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write from Bristol as soon as I can say when we shall depart from it. I was at Llanthony in 1798, and forded the Hondy on foot, because I could not find the bridge. Have you found St. David’s cavern, which
Drayton places there, and for which I inquired in vain?

“I am no botanist; but, like you, my earliest and deepest recollections are connected with flowers, and they always carry me back to other days. Perhaps this is because they are the only things which affect our senses precisely in the same manner as they did in childhood. The sweetness of the violet is always the same, and when you rifle a rose, and drink as it were its fragrance, the refreshment is the same to the old man as to the boy. We see with different eyes in proportion as we learn to discriminate, and, therefore, this effect is not so certainly produced by visual objects. Sounds recall the past in the same manner, but do not bring with them individual scenes, like the cowslip-field or the bank of violets, or the corner of the garden to which we have transplanted field flowers. Oh, what a happy season is childhood, if our modes of life and education will let it be so! It were enough to make one misanthropical when we consider how great a portion of the evil of this world is man’s own making, if the knowledge of this truth did not imply that the evil is removable; and, therefore, the prime duty of a good man is by all means in his power to assist in removing it. God bless you!

R. S.”