LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Ch. XXI. 1816

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

The cessation of the war, as it put an end to some of the great public interests which had for so long a time filled my father’s thoughts and imagination, so left him more free to brood over a new class of subjects, not less important in themselves, and pressing, if possible, still more closely upon his personal hopes and fears. He viewed with great alarm the internal condition of England, and the danger arising from anarchical principles among the poor. Upon this subject, as we have seen, he had already written in the Quarterly Review, and his letters to Mr. Rickman have shown in brief some of his reflections. I
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 199
conceive that no one who reads the records of his mind given in this work, can need be told that in all expressed opinions he was sincerity itself. That changes took place in his political views, no man was more ready to acknowledge; but they were not so many nor of such importance as has been fancied and pretended by his opponents. In his youth he was an abstract Republican, theoretically conceiving (I know not with what limitations) that men ought to be equal in government and rank, but practically caring very little for his own share in such things, leaving Government to take care of itself, and devoting himself almost entirely to other pursuits. It is plain, from the whole course of the letters of his early life, that political discussion made no part of his every-day existence; and it is more than probable, that had he not been impelled by necessity to employ himself in periodical writings, after his first feverish enthusiasm had passed away, he would have continued tranquilly employed in his poetical or historical labours, and have left the field of politics to busier and more ambitious spirits than himself.

At a period much earlier than that which we are now speaking of, he had contracted a gloomy misanthropical way of speaking, because circumstances had forced upon his unwilling mind the fact that human nature was not so good as he had fancied it,—that, in short, men in general were not qualified to be worthy members of his Republic. Like many other ardent spirits, he had been dreaming of a Respublica Platonis, and waking he had found himself in fæce Romuli. In a letter of January, 1814, he says,
“I was a Republican; I should be so still, if I thought we were advanced enough in civilisation for such a form of society.” His whole habit of mind was changed in the progress from youth to middle age; but on many of the details of political questions which occupied his pen, he cannot be said to have undergone alteration, because they had not presented themselves at all to him during his youthful and enthusiastic state.

The thoughts which made him a political writer were roused wholly by a fear of revolution in England. This feeling was not an unnatural one. He was deeply impressed with the horrors of the French Revolution, and having contemplated the progress and operation in England of the same causes which had led to those horrors in France, he inferred that similar consequences must ensue at home, unless prompt measures were taken to avert them. He accordingly devoted himself to the task of using that power which he had obtained as a periodical writer for this object—a higher object could hardly be named—of exposing the evils in the social condition of the poor,—of rousing his countrymen to acknowledge them,—of patiently seeking out and suggesting, where practicable, the proper remedies. Among the first and foremost of which may be named, the general education of the lower classes based upon sound religious principles, of which he was one of the earliest and most active advocates.

As one of these evils which he wrote against was the incessant corrupting of men’s minds by the revolutionary, the infidel, and the immoral part of
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 201
the press, he unavoidably stirred up a host of enemies. But the work itself upon which he was engaged, taken as a whole, places him in the front rank of those who have laboured for the benefit of mankind; and very many of the particular measures he laboured to bring about are now generally acknowledged to be undoubted improvements. In uttering his sentiments, he was then, as we see, a leader of men in power, instead of a follower; and in later days his services were amply acknowledged by men whose good opinion was praise indeed.

In the summer of this year (1816) a circumstance occurred, which showed he had not written wholly in vain, and which, had he been less scrupulous, he might doubtless have turned to good account as respected his worldly circumstances, whatever might have been the effect upon his present comfort or his permanent reputation.

It appears that some of his papers in the Quarterly Review had attracted the especial notice of the Ministry of that day, and a communication was privately made to him through various channels, and finally by Mr. Bedford, to the effect that Lord Liverpool wished to have an interview with him, for which purpose he was requested to go immediately to London.

This was certainly as high a compliment as could be paid to his powers as a political writer. He was, however, as the reader will see, too prudent hastily to catch at what most persons would have deemed a golden opportunity, and too independent to place himself unreservedly under the orders of the Govern-
ment. He was, indeed, ready enough, at any risk of unpopularity, to state the line of policy and the sort of measures he considered necessary at that time; but he preferred, like the bold Smith in “
the Fair Maid of Perth,” to “fight for his own hand;” and he took care not to afford the shadow of a foundation for those accusations which were often falsely brought against him, of “purchased principles and hireling advocacy.”

To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Sept. 8. 1816.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“I have seldom taken up a pen with so little knowledge of what was to proceed from it as on this occasion; for after sleeping upon your letters, and thinking on them, and breakfasting upon them, I am at a loss how to reply or how to act. If it be necessary, I will certainly go to London. Do you, after what I may say, talk with Herries, and determine whether it be so. . . . .

“It is very obvious that a sense of danger has occasioned this step. Look at my first Paper upon the Poor in the 16th Quarterly; had the ministry opened their eyes four years ago, had they seen what was passing before their eyes, the evil might then have been checked. The events of a successful war would have enabled them to pursue a vigorous policy at home. It will be more difficult now, and requires more courage. And less is to be done by administering antidotes, than by preventing the dis-
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 203
tribution of the poison. Make by all means the utmost use of the press in directing the public opinion, but impose some curb upon its license, or all efforts will be in vain.

“In any way that may be thought desirable I will do my best; but alas, Grosvenor, what can I do that I have not been doing? A journal with the same object in view as the Anti-Jacobin, but conducted upon better principles, might be of service. I could contribute to it from a distance. But to you it must be obvious, that as my head and hands are not, like Kehama’s, multipliable at pleasure, I can exert myself only in one place at a time, and Government would gain nothing by transferring me from the Quarterly to anything else which they might be willing to launch. It may be said that the Q. R. is established; that this engine is at work, and will go on, and that it is desirable to have more engines than one. I admit this. . . . . In short, whatever ought to be done I am ready to do, and to do it fearlessly. The best thing seems to write a small book or large pamphlet upon the state of the nation.

“In all this I see nothing which would require a change of residence; that measure would induce a great sacrifice of feeling, of comfort, and of expense, and draw on a heavily increased expenditure. They would provide for this; but in what manner? A man is easily provided for who is in a profession, or is capable of holding any official character; this is not my case. . . . .

“You will understand that I will hasten to London
if it be thought necessary, but that in my own calm judgment it is quite unnecessary, and I even believe that any conversation which the men in power might have with me would operate to my disadvantage. I should appear confused and visionary; an impracticable sort of man. On the whole, too, I do not think I could leave this country, where I am now in a manner attached to the soil by a sort of moral and intellectual serfage, which I could not break if I would,—and would not, if I could. And
Edith is to be considered even more than myself.

“It is better that I should write either to you or Herries a letter to be shown, than that I should show myself. Good may undoubtedly be done by exposing the anarchists, and awakening the sound part of the country to a sense of their danger. This I can do; but it will be of no avail unless it be followed by effective measures. . . . . The immediate distress can best be alleviated by finding employment for the poor. . . . . I am very desirous that Mr. Owen’s plan for employing paupers in agriculture should be tried: he writes like a madman, but his practice ought not to be confounded with his metaphysics; the experiment is worth trying, I do not doubt its success; and the consequences which he so foolishly anticipates will triumph should be regarded as the dreams of an enthusiast, not as reasons to deter Government from the most plausible means of abolishing the poor-rates which has been (or in my judgment can be) proposed. I have seen Owen, and talked with him at great length.

“God bless you!

Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 205
To John Rickman, Esq.
“Sept. 9. 1816.
“My dear R.,

“About manufactures we shall not differ much, when we fully understand each other. I have no time now to explain; there are strangers coming to tea, and I seize the interval after dinner to say something relative to your prognostics,—a subject which lies as heavy at my heart as any public concerns can do, for I fully and entirely partake your fears.*

“Four years ago I wrote in the Q. R. to explain the state of Jacobinism in the country, and with the hope of alarming the Government. At present they are alarmed; they want to oppose pen to pen, and I have just been desired to go up to town and confer with Lord Liverpool. God help them, and is it come to this! It is well that the press should be employed in their favour; but if they rely upon influencing public opinion by such means, it becomes us rather to look abroad where we may rest our heads in safety, or to make ready for taking leave of them at home.

* “I am in a bad state of mind, sorely disgusted at the prevalence of that mock humanity, which is now becoming the instrument of dis solving all authority, government, and, I apprehend, human society itself. Again we shall have to go through chaos and all its stages. It is of no use to think, or to try to act for the benefit of mankind, while this agreeable poison is in full operation, as at present. I retire hopeless into my nutshell till I am disturbed there, which will not be long if the humanity men prevail; the revolution will not, I expect, be less tremendous, or less mischievous than that of France—the mock humanity being only a mode of exalting the majesty of the people and putting all things into the power of the mob. I wish I may be wrong in my prognostics on this subject.”—J. R. to R. S., Sept. 7. 1816.


“I wish to avoid a conference which will only sink me in Lord Liverpool’s judgment: what there may be in me is not payable at sight; give me leisure and I feel my strength. So I shall write to Bedford (through whom, via Herries, the application has been made) such a letter as may be laid before him, and by this means I shall be able to state my opinion of the danger in broader terms than I could well do perhaps in conversation. The only remedy (if even that be not too late) is to check the press; and I offer myself to point out the necessity in a manner which may waken the sound part of the country from their sleep. My measures would be to make transportation the punishment for sedition, and to suspend the Habeas Corpus; and thus I would either have the anarchists under weigh for Botany Bay or in prison within a month after the meeting of Parliament. Irresolution will not do.

“I suppose they will set up a sort of Anti-Jacobin journal, and desire me to write upon the state of the nation before the session opens. If they would—but act as I will write,—I mean as much in earnest and as fearlessly—the country would be saved, and I would stake my head upon the issue, which very possibly may be staked upon it without my consent.

“Of course no person knows of this application except my wife. By the time my letter (which will go to-morrow) can be answered, I shall be able to start for London, if it be still required. Most likely it will be. Meantime I should like to know your opinion of my views. They want you for their
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 207
adviser. They who tremble must inevitably be lost.

R. S.”
To the Rev. James White.
“Keswick, Sept. 17. 1816.
“My dear James,

“Never, I entreat you, think it necessary to apologise for, or to explain any long interval of correspondence on your part, lest it should seem to require a like formality on mine, and make that be regarded in the irksome character of a debt, which is only valuable in proportion as it is voluntary. We have both of us business always to stand in our excuse, nor can any excuses ever be needed between you and me. I thank you for your letter and your inquiries. Time is passing on, and it does its healing work slowly, but will do it effectually at last. As much as I was sensible of the happiness which I possessed, so much must I unavoidably feel the change which the privation of that happiness produces. My hopes and prospects in life are all altered, and my spirits never again can be what they have been. But I have a living faith, I am resigned to what is (if I know my own heart, truly and perfectly resigned), thankful for what has been, and happy in the sure and certain hope of what will be, when this scene of probation shall be over.

“I shall be glad to receive your communications upon the distresses of the manufacturers; they might probably have been of great use had they reached
me when the last
Quarterly was in the press. But I may, perhaps, still turn them to some account. There is another paper of mine upon the poor in the sixteenth number of the Quarterly, written when the Luddites, after their greatest outrages, seemed for a time to be quiet. In that paper I had recommended, as one means of employing hands that were out of work, the fitness of forming good footpaths along the road side, wherever the nature of the soil was not such as to render it unnecessary. This was (foolish enough) cut out by the editor; but when the great object is to discover means of employing willing industry, the hint might be of some service wherever it is applicable. In the way of palliating an evil of which the roots lie deeper than has yet, perhaps, been stated, your efforts should be directed towards finding employment, and making the small wages that can be afforded go as far as possible; the reports of the Bettering Society show what may be done by saving the poor from the exactions of petty shopkeepers; and as winter approaches great relief may be given, by obtaining through the London Association supplies of fish. Believe me, that person who should instruct the poor how to prepare cheap food in the most savoury manner would confer upon them a benefit of the greatest importance, both to their comfort, health, and habits; for comforts produce good habits, unless there be a strong predisposition to evil. I have much yet to say upon this subject, which may perhaps furnish matter for a third paper in the Review. Sooner or later I trust we shall get the national schools placed upon a na-
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 209
tional establishment; this measure I shall never cease to recommend till it be effected.

“I believe I have never congratulated you on your emancipation from mathematics, and on your ordination. This latter event has placed you in an active situation; you have duties enough to perform, and no man who performs his duty conscientiously can be unhappy. He may endure distress of mind as well as of body, but under any imaginable suffering he may look on to the end with hope and with joy.

Believe me, my dear James,
Yours very truly,
Robert Southey.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, Sept. 11. 1816.
“My dear Bedford,

“Upon mature deliberation, I am clearly of opinion that it would be very imprudent and impolitic for me to receive anything in the nature of emolument from Government at this time, in any shape whatsoever. Such a circumstance would lessen the worth of my services (I mean it would render them less serviceable), for whatever might come from me would be received with suspicion, which no means would be spared to excite. As it concerns myself personally, this ought to be of some weight; but it is entitled infinitely to greater consideration if you reflect how greatly my influence (whatever it may be) over a good part of the public would be diminished, if I
were looked upon as a salaried writer. I must, therefore, in the most explicit and determined manner, decline all offers of this kind; but at the same time I repeat my offer to exert myself in any way that may be thought best. The whole fabric of social order* in this country is in great danger; the Revolution, should it be effected, will not be less bloody nor less ferocious than it was in France. It will be effected unless vigorous measures be taken to arrest its progress; and I have the strongest motives, both of duty and prudence, say even self-preservation, for standing forward to oppose it. Let me write upon the State of Affairs (the freer I am the better I shall write), and let there be a weekly journal established, where the villanies and misrepresentations of the Anarchists and Malignants may be detected and exposed. But all will be in vain unless there be some check given to the licentiousness of the press, by one or two convictions, and an adequate (that is to say) an effectual punishment.

“It would be superfluous to assure you that, in declining any immediate remuneration, I act from no false pride or false delicacy. Proof enough of this is, that at first I was willing to accept it. But I feel convinced that it would (however undeservedly) discredit me with the public. Every effort, even now, is making to discredit me, as if I had sold myself for the Laureateship. While I am as I am, these efforts recoil upon the enemy, and I even derive advantage

* “What think you of a club of Atheists meeting twice a week at an ale-house in Keswick, and the landlady of their way of thinking?”—To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq., Sept. 11. 1816.

Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 211
from them. Do not argue that I suffer them to injure me if I refuse what might be offered me for fear of their censures. It is not their censures; it is the loss of ostensible independence, however really independent I should be. At present, in defiance of all that malignity can effect, I have a weight of character, and the rascals fear me while they hate me.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To John Rickman, Esq.
“Sept. 20. 1816.
“My dear R.,

“If I am again desired to come to London, it will be very foolish, after the letters I have written. They are to this purport, to express my full opinion upon the real state of things, and expose the actual danger in broad terms; to recommend, as the only means of averting it, that the batteries which arc now playing in breach upon the Government, be silenced; in other words, that the punishment for sedition be made such as to prevent a repetition of the offence. . . . . I have endeavoured to make the necessity of these measures felt, and show that, for my own part, I cannot be better employed anywhere than here; and that if it be thought advisable that I should either covertly or openly give up some time to political writing, it would counteract, in great measure, the effect of anything, if I were to accept of anything in shape of office or augmented pension. This, therefore, I have decidedly
declined, but have offered to employ my pen zealously in recommendation and defence of vigorous measures. Should I therefore be again desired to visit London, my journey will pass as an ordinary occurrence, and nothing extraordinary will occur in it, except that I shall be introduced to some of the first officers of Government, instead of the second, to whom my acquaintance has hitherto been limited, and this may pass for a very natural occurrence. I can only repeat in conversation what I have already said in writing, and perhaps concur in arranging a journal, of which most certainly I will not undertake the management. That office is beneath me, and would require a sacrifice of character as well as time. The matter of danger is one which could not fail to present itself; and for that matter I know very well what I have at stake in the event of a Revolution, were the
Hunts and Hazlitts to have the upper hand. There is no man whom the Whigs and the Anarchists hate more inveterately, because there is none whom they fear so much. Nothing that I could do could increase the good disposition towards me, and it would be folly to dream of abating it. If the Government will but act vigorously and promptly, all may yet be well; if they will not, I shall have no time to spare from my History of Brazil. . . . .

“I heartily wish you were in an efficient situation. Everything may be done with foresight and intention; without them, everything must go to ruin.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 213
To John Rickman, Esq.
“Keswick, Oct. 2. 1816.
“My dear R.,

“I have received no further communication from Bedford, which is very well, as I must finish some few things, and rid my hands of them, before I set seriously to work in the good cause. Meantime the subject occupies my mind in all intervals of employment. . . . . I shall take a wide range; and I feel just now as if it were in my power to produce a work which, whatever might be its immediate effect, should be referred to hereafter as a faithful estimate of these times.

Davy was here last week, and told me a valuable fact. A friend of his who, applying philosophical knowledge to practical purposes, has turned manufacturer at Clitheroe, went abroad immediately after the peace, not to seek for orders, but to examine with his own eyes the state of the manufacturers on the Continent. He returned with a conviction that it was necessary to draw in; reduced his produce in time, and in consequence is doing well, while his neighbours are breaking all around. Certain it is that manufactures depending upon machinery advanced very rapidly during the last war. No prohibition or penalties, however severe, can prevent machinery and workmen from finding their way abroad; to this we must make up our mind, and it is better that it should be so. A little time sets these things to rights.


“I incline to think there will come a time when public opinion will no more tolerate the extreme of poverty in a large class of the community, than it now tolerates slavery in Europe. Meantime it is perfectly clear that the more we can improve the condition of the lower classes, the greater number of customers we procure for the home market; and that if we can make people pay taxes instead of claiming poor-rates, the wealth as well as security of the State is increased. The poor-rates are a momentous subject, and I have long believed you were the only man who could grapple with it. I see, or think I see, palliatives and alteratives, in providing the labourers with garden and grass land, in establishing saving banks, in national education, and in affording all possible facilities and encouragement for emigration, and in colonising at home upon our waste lands.

“The state of the Church is another important question, assailed as it is on all sides. I think it would be possible to take in the Methodists as a sort of Cossacks, or certainly to employ those persons henceforward in aid of the Establishment, who, if not thus employed, will swell the numbers of the Methodists and act against it. There are no differences of doctrine in the way; it is but to let the licence come from the clergyman instead of the magistrate, to invent some such name as coadjutor for those who have a ‘call;’ let them catechise the children, convert the women, reclaim the reprobates, and meet on week days, or at extra hours on Sundays in the church, to expound or sing psalms;
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 215
a little condescension, a little pay, and a little flattery.

“By nature I am a poet, by deliberate choice an historian, and a political writer I know not how; by accident, or the course of events. Yet I think I can do something towards awakening the country, and that I can obtain the confidence of well-disposed minds by writing honestly and sincerely upon things in which all persons are concerned.

“Were I to accept a good berth, which is held out to me, it would very much counteract the impression which I am aiming to produce. Instead of attempting to answer my arguments and assertions, the anarchists would then become the assailants, and attack me as one who had sold himself.

“God bless you!

R. Southey.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, Oct. 5. 1816.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“I have not looked with impatience for further news from you, because, whatever news you might have to send, I must needs finish a paper in time for the present number,—for the love of 100l. I have no intention of going to London unless there be a necessity for it. Application was made to me, some months ago, to revise a great book by Raffles upon the Island of Java before it goes to press;
I lent ear to it for the lucre of gain, but have heard nothing more. Had it come to anything it might have brought me to town in November; but if I could be as well employed, quoad money, at home (which seems likely), in other respects home employment would be better. I could wish myself independent of such considerations, if it were worth a wish as long as our necessities are supplied. It is my fate to have more claimants upon me than usually fall to the share of a man who has a family of his own; and if
Tom’s circumstances could be mended by a lift in his profession, it would be a relief to me as well as to him.

“That I shall make an appeal to the good sense of the country upon the existing state of things, and the prospect before us, is very likely, since my attention has been thus called to it. Indeed, if there be a probability of doing good, there seems little reason for any further stimulus, and the thing may be done certainly as well, and perhaps more becomingly, without any further intimation from the powers above. I incline at present to write anonymously, or under some fictitious name; for were the book to attract notice (and if it does not it will be useless), a mystery about the author would very much increase its sale. In that case a change of publishers would contribute to keep the secret; and, if I seek a new one, Nicoll would obviously be the man. In meditating upon this work I grow ambitious, and think of presenting such a view of things, as, whether it produce immediate benefit or not, may have a permanent value both for matter and composition.

Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 217

“Pray Inform me with the least possible delay whether, as P. L., I am exempt from serving parish offices, the people of Keswick having this day thrust honour upon me in the office of surveyor (what it means they best know); my appeal against the appointment must be made on the 12th of this month. Whatever the office be, I have neither knowledge, leisure, or inclination for it.

“Abuse does good, and of that I have plenty; but praise is more useful, and is not so liberally bestowed. I have seen a number of the Champion, in which my name stands for text to a sermon nothing relating to me; but at the conclusion it is said that the change in my opinions, as implied in my last writings, is that I recommend implicit submission; hence it should appear that the said Champion had not read those writings. Hunt and Hazlitt, I know, incessantly attack me; this barking makes a noise, and noise calls attention; so that as long as they have it not in their power to pass sentence upon me as a counter-revolutionist, such enmity is in its degree useful.

“The children, thank God, are well, and so am I as far as the husk is concerned; but the interior is as unlike what it was twelvemonths ago, as the darkest November day Is unlike the bright sunshine of a genial May morning. And, whenever I relapse into recollections of what has been (and every hour brings with it something that calls up these thoughts), it is an effort to refrain from tears. I go about my business as usual, perform the ordinary functions of life, see company, go out visit-
ing, take
Nash up the mountains, talk, reason, jest, but my heart, meanwhile, is haunted; and though, thank God, I neither undervalue the uses of this world, nor wish in any way to shrink from my part in it, I could be right willing to say Valete.

“This is too deep a strain. Give me my cap and Bells. . . . .

“Can you send me some money? I am pauper et inops. The next number will float me. I have a thousand things to say to you if you were here; and have planned many expeditions into the vales and up the mountains when next you come. Remember me to all at home. God bless you!

R. Southey.”
To John Rickman, Esq.
“Keswick, Nov. 20. 1816.
“My dear R.,

“. . . . . About the poor I am very anxious to be informed thoroughly, and very sensible how deficient I am in the right sort of knowledge on this subject; that is, how the great evil is to be remedied—that of the poor-rates. My present views can reach no further than to the slow alterations and preventives, of good instruction in youth and encouragement to frugality and industry afterwards by means of hope. Concerning immediate alleviations, I entirely agree with you in the great advantage of undertaking great public works, and stated it strongly some years ago
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 219
in the first paper about the poor, which is in some respects better than the last, and which, if it had wrought duly upon the men in power, would have prevented all danger now. The anarchists felt its force, and for that reason have been spitting their venom at me ever since. . . . .

“My scheme is something of this kind; (but though I am always long even to dilatoriness in planning whatever I write, the plan is very much altered in the course of execution;) 1st. State in which the war has left us, political and moral. 2nd. Necessity of that war, and Bonaparte drawn to the life, as the Perfect Emperor of the English friends of freedom. 3rd. Sketch of the history of anarchical opinions in this country from Charles the First’s time. Wilkes and Junius the root in modern times—the first fruit was the American war; the French revolution the second. This leads to, 4th. A view of the united reformers, i. e. the enemies of Government, under their several classes; their modes of operation; their various plans of reform, and the sure consequences of each. . . . .

“All this will be well liked, and if I looked for favour it would be prudent to stop here; but it is not from any such motive that I put myself in the front of the battle. But here I wish to begin upon an exposure of the evils which exist in our state of society, and which it is the duty and interest of Government, as far as possible, to mitigate and remove. Some things should be got rid of as matters of scandal. To destroy influence in elections would be neither
wise if it were possible, nor possible if it were wise; but it is not fit that men should sell seats in parliament; though very fit that they should be bought. I would have these bought openly, like commissions in the army, and the money applied to form a fund for public works, either national or provincial: a scandal is got rid of and a good produced, and the species of property which would be touched by it is one which ought not to have existed, as having always been contrary to positive law. I think, too, that the few great sinecures which still exist should be given up, and applied during the lives of the present incumbents to some purposes of public splendour, that they may give them up with a grace. I would also give members to the great towns which have none, restricting the voters by such qualifications as should, as far as may be, disqualify the mere mob. I would lay no stress on these things, further than as depriving the anarchists of the only topics which give a shadow of plausibility to their harangues.

“The great evil is the state of the poor, which, with our press and our means of communication, constantly exposes us to the horrors of a bellum servile, and sooner or later, if not remedied, will end in one. . . . .

“There are also great evils in the delays of law, which are surely capable of remedy, and in the expense of criminal law. . . . . A greater still in the condition of women; here we are upon your old ground: and passing from morals to religion, I think I could show how a great comprehension is practicable,—that is, how the Church might
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 221
employ those who would else be enlisted against her. And if there be a mode by which the tithes could be placed upon such a footing, or so commuted as to get rid of that perpetual cause of litigation, you are, of all men, most likely to point it out.

“One topic more, which is not introduced here in its proper place, may conclude this long outline. All professions, trades, and means of getting a livelihood among us are over-stocked. We must create a new layer of customers at home by bettering the condition of the lower classes, and giving them more wants, with more means of gratifying them. We must extend establishments instead of diminishing them,—more clergymen, more colleges, more courts of law; and lastly, we must colonise upon the true principle of colonisation, and cultivate every available acre at home. God bless you!

Yours very truly,
R. S.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Nov. 23. 1816.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“I want to raise 30l. a year for four years from this time, and for this purpose:—

“There is a lad at Richmond school (Yorkshire), by name Herbert Knowles, picked out from a humble situation for his genius (he has neither father nor mother), and sent to this school (a very excellent one) by Dr. Andrews, Dean of Canterbury, and a
clergyman, by name D’Oyle (so the name is written to me); if it should turn out to be
D’Oyley, of the Bartlett’s Buildings Society and the Quarterly, so much the better. From these and another clergyman he was promised 20l. a year, his relations promised 30l., and Tate the schoolmaster, a good and an able man, gave him the run of his school (more he could not do, for this valid reason, that he has a wife and ten children); so his boarding, &c. were to be provided for. The plan was, that when qualified here, he was to go as a Sizar to St. John’s; and this has been defeated by the inability of his relations to fulfil their engagements, owing to unforeseen circumstances, connected, I suppose, with the pressure of the times.

“In this state of things, Herbert Knowles, God help him, thought the sure way to help himself was to publish a poem. Accordingly, he writes one, and introduces himself by letter to me, requesting leave to dedicate it to my worship, if, upon perusal, I think it worthy, and so forth. Of course I represented to him the folly of such a scheme, but the poem is brimful of power and of promise. I have written to his master, and received the highest possible character of him both as to disposition and conduct; and now I want to secure for him that trifling assistance, which may put him in the right path, and give him at least a fair chance of rendering the talents, with which God has endowed him, useful to himself and beneficial to others.

“Of the 30l. which are wanting for the purpose, I will give 10l., and it is not for want of will that I do
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 223
not supply the whole. Perhaps if you were to mention the circumstance to —— and to ——, it might not be necessary to go further. He must remain where he is till October next, and by that time will be qualified for St. John’s. God bless you!

R. S.”

It does not appear that Mr. Bedford’s applications were successful, and my father then applied to Mr. Rogers, with whose willingness to give assistance to struggling genius he was well acquainted, and who promptly and most kindly expressed his pleasure at this opportunity being afforded him, and also conveyed the promise of the third portion of the sum required from Lord Spencer, whose guest he chanced to be at the time my father’s letter reached him. All difficulties now seemed removed, and the tidings were gladly communicated by my father to Herbert Knowles, whose grateful and sensible reply will, I think, not be deemed misplaced here.

Herbert Knowles to R. Southey, Esq.
“Gomersal, near Leeds, Dec. 28. 1816.
“My dear Sir,

“I have duly received your two last letters, both of which have filled me with pleasure and gratitude, not so much for the solid advantage which your kindness affords and has obtained for me, as for the tender
manifestation which it gives me of your concern for my welfare.

“And now, my dear Sir, I will freely state to you my feelings and my sentiments at the present hour. Upon reading the Life of Kirke White, I was struck with surprise at the distinguished success which he met with at the University; and from his inordinate anxiety and immoderate exertions* to obtain it, I was insensibly led into the opinion, not that his success at college was considered as a sine quâ non for the benevolence of his patrons, but that that benevolence was given under the impression, and accompanied with the expectation, that he would make a corresponding

* I extract here the melancholy record of some of these exertions, “During his first term, one of the university scholarships became vacant; and Henry, young as he was in college, and almost self-taught, was advised by those who were best able to estimate his chance of success to offer himself as a competitor for it. He passed the whole term in preparing himself for this; reading for college subjects in bed, in his walks, or, as he says, where, when, and how he could; never having a moment to spare, and often going to his tutor without having read at all. His strength sunk under this; and though he had declared himself a candidate, he was compelled to decline: but this was not the only misfortune. The general college examination came on; he was utterly unprepared to meet it, and believed that a failure here would have ruined his prospects for ever. He had only about a fortnight to read what other men had been the whole term reading. Once more he exerted himself beyond what his shattered health could bear; the disorder returned; and he went to his tutor, Mr. Catton, with tears in his eyes, and told him that he could not go into the hall to be examined. Mr. Catton, however, thought his success here of so much importance, that he exhorted him, with all possible earnestness, to hold out the six days of the examination. Strong medicines were given him to enable him to support it, and he was pronounced the first man of his year. But life was the price which he was to pay for such honours as this; and Henry is not the first young man to whom such honours have proved fatal. He said to his most intimate friend, almost the last time he saw him, that were he to paint a picture of Fame, crowning a distinguished undergraduate after the senate-house examination, he would represent her as concealing a death’s head under a mask of beauty.”—Remains of H. K. White, vol. i. p. 46.

Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 225
compensation in the credit reflected upon them from his distinction at college.

“I will not deceive. If I thought the bounty of my friends was offered under the same impression, I would immediately decline it. Far be it from me to foster expectations which I feel I cannot gratify. My constitution is not able to bear half the exertion under which Kirke White sunk; double those exertions would be insufficient to obtain before October next his attainments, or insure his success at St. John’s. Two years ago I came to Richmond, totally ignorant of classical and mathematical literature. Out of that time, during three months and two long vacations, I have made but a retrograde course; during the remaining part of the time, having nothing to look forward to, I had nothing to exert myself for, and wrapped in visionary thought, and immersed in cares and sorrows peculiarly my own, I was diverted from the regular pursuit of those qualifications which are requisite for University distinction. . . . . I need not say much more. If I enter into competition for University honours, I shall kill myself. Could I twine (to gratify my friends) a Laurel with the Cypress, I would not repine; but to sacrifice the little inward peace which the wreck of passion has left behind, and relinquish every hope of future excellence and future usefulness in one wild and unavailing pursuit, were indeed a madman’s act, and worthy of a madman’s fate.

“Yet will I not be idle; but as far as health and strength allow, I will strive that my passage through the University, if not splendid, shall be respectable;
and if it reflect no extraordinary credit on my benefactors, it will, I trust, incur them no disgrace. . . . .

“I am at a loss to convey to you the high sense I feel of your proffered kindness, and that of your friends. The common professions of gratitude all can use, and extraordinary ones are unnecessary. Suffice it, then, to say, I thank you from my heart; let time and my future conduct tell the rest.

“I know not how I should act with respect to Lord Spencer and Mr. Rogers. Will you direct me? Should I write to them? If so, will you give me their respective addresses? With the highest esteem for your character, profound veneration for your talents, and the warmest gratitude for your kindness, I have the honour to be,

My dear Sir,
Affectionately yours,
Herbert Knowles.”

Alas! as in the case of Kirke White and young Dusautoy, the fair promise which high principle, talent, and good sense combined, seemed to hold forth, was blighted in the bud, and not two months from the date of this letter, Herbert Knowles was laid in his early grave. Too truly had he prognosticated that his feeble body and ardent mind could not have borne the requirements of hard study, for the mere excitement of his improved and now hopeful prospects, seems to have hastened the close of a life which, we might suppose, under no circumstances, could have been a long one.

Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 227

His kind friend, Mr. Tate, communicated the event to my father; and after speaking of him with the greatest affection, and saying that all that the kind attention of friends and medical skill could do, had been done, he adds, “But with ardour and genius, encouraged by the most flattering patronage, the stamina of his constitution could not support the anxious energies of such a mind; and before we were well aware of the danger that impended, the lamp was consumed by the fire which burned in it. . . . . Poor Herbert had in prospect commenced his academical career. He died grateful to all his friends, and had longed for recovery the more earnestly, that he might redeem his unwilling silence by the expression of his gratitude.”

To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq., M. P.
“Keswick, Dec. 7. 1816.
“My dear Wynn,

“. . . . . Is there not something; monstrous in taking such a subject as the Plague in a Great City?* Surely it is out-Germanising the Germans. It is like bringing racks, wheels, and pincers upon the stage to excite pathos. No doubt but a very pathetic tragedy might be written upon “the Chamber of the Amputation,” cutting for the stone, or the Caesarean operation; but actual and tangible horrors do not belong to poetry.

* This allusion is to Wilson’sCity of the Plague.”

We do not exhibit George Barnwell upon the ladder to affect the gallery now, as was originally done; and the best picture of Apollo flaying Marsyas, or of the Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew would be regarded as more disgusting than one of a slaughterhouse or of a dissecting-room.

“What news to-morrow may bring of Monday’s riots, God knows,—the loss of some lives, I expect; and this I am sure of, that if Government refrain much longer from exerting those means which are intrusted to it for the preservation of public security, the alternative will be, ere long, between revolution and a military system.

“Dec. 8. 1816.

“I am more sorry than surprised to see so many sailors in the mob. It has always been the custom to disband as many men as possible at the conclusion of a war, but there has been often a great cruelty in this; and in the present instance a great and glaring impolicy. The immediate cause of that distress which was felt in the beginning of the year, was an enormous diminution of the national expenditure; the war, a customer of fifty millions, being taken out of the market, and consequently a great number of hands put out of employ, Now surely to spend less, and turn off more hands, is only an Irish way of remedying this.

“You, who know how much my thoughts have been led towards the subject, will not be surprised to hear that I am writing Observations upon the Moral and Political State of England. What I have
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 229
at different times written in the
Quarterly has sometimes been mutilated, and was always written under a certain degree of restraint to prevent mutilation. But I have heard of these things from many quarters, and seen that where the author was not suspected they have produced an impression. And I am disposed to think it not unlikely that I may do some present good, and almost certain that if the hope be disappointed for the present, it must sooner or later take effect. There is plenty of zeal in the country, and abundance of good intentions, which, if they were well directed, might be of infinite service. There are great and sore evils which may certainly be alleviated, if not removed; and there are dangers which we ought to look fairly in the face. I have nothing to hope or fear for myself, and the sole personal consideration that can influence me is the desire of acquitting myself at least of the sin of omission. Better that a candle should be blown out than that it should be placed under a bushel. Whether I am ripe in judgment must be for others to determine; this I know, that I am grown old at heart. I bore up under the freshness of my loss with surprising strength, and still carry a serene front; but it has changed me more than years of bodily disease could have done; and time enough has now elapsed to show how very little it will ever effect in restoring my former nature. It is a relief and a comfort to employ myself usefully, or at least in endeavouring to be useful. God bless you, my dear Wynn!

Yours most affectionately,
R. S.”
To John May, Esq.
“Keswick, Jan. 1. 1817.
“My dear Friend,

“Your last letter gave me great and most unexpected concern. I had indeed believed that you were sailing on a quiet sea, in no danger of shoals or tempests. By what principle, or what strange want of principle, is it that mercantile men so often, for the sake of the shortest reprieve from bankruptcy, involve their nearest friends and connexions with them? I write to you in a frame of mind which you will easily conceive, looking back upon the year which has just closed, and reflecting on the trials with which we have both been visited during its course. Your loss, I would fain hope, may not prove altogether so great as you apprehend; and I would hope also that some prize in the lottery of life, full of change as it is, may one day or other replace it. Even at the worst it leaves you heart-whole. It will be long before I shall find myself so; and if life had no duties, I should be very far from desiring its continuance for the sake of any enjoyments which it can possibly have in store. I have the same sort of feeling that a man who is fondly attached to his family has when absent from them,—as if I were on a journey. I yearn, perhaps more than I ought to do, to be at home and at rest. Yet what abundant cause have I for thankfulness, possessing as I do so many blessings, that I should think no man could possibly be happier, if I had not been so much happier myself. Do not think
Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 231
that I give way to such feelings; far less that I encourage them, or am weak enough to repine. What is lost in possession is given me in hope. I am now in my forty-third year: both my parents died in their fiftieth. Should my lease be continued to that term, there is a fair prospect of leaving my family well provided for; and let it fall when it may, a decent provision is secured. Before this object was attained, great natural cheerfulness saved me from any anxiety on this score, and there happily exists no cause for anxiety when I have no longer the same preservative. My house is in order, and whenever the summons may come I am ready to depart. Dearly as I love these children, my presence is by no means so necessary as it was to him who is gone. He drew in his intellectual life from me, and a large portion of mine is departed with him. It is best as it is, for he is gone in the perfection of his nature, and mine will not be the worse for the chastening which it has undergone. Hitherto the lapse of time only makes me feel the death of the wound. It will not be always thus. A few years (if they are in store for me) will alter the nature of my regret. I shall then be sensible how different a being
Herbert, were he living, would be from the Herbert whom I have lost, and the voices and circumstances which now so forcibly recall him, will have lost their power. Too much of this. But holidays are mournful days to persons in our situation, and the strong forefeeling which I have always experienced of such possibilities, has always made me dislike the observance of particular days. Your god-daughter is the only child
whose birthday I have not contrived to forget, and hers has been remembered from the accident of its being May-day. . . . .

“God bless you, my dear Friend!

Yours most affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, Jan. 4. 1817.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“The Courier of to-night tells me I am elected member of the Royal Institute of Amsterdam; now I put it to your feelings, Mr. Bedford, whether it be fitting that a man upon whom honour is thus thrust, should be without a decent pair of pantaloons to receive it in; such, however, is my condition; and unless you can prevail upon the Grand Hyde to send me some new clothes without delay, I shall very shortly become a sans culottes, however unwilling Minerva may be. Moreover, I have promised to pay a visit at Netherhall* toward the end of this month, and I must therefore supplicate for the said clothes in formâ pauperis.

“The packet wherein this will be enclosed carries up the conclusion of a rousing paper for Gifford, which, with some omissions and some insertions, will be shaped into the two first chapters of my book. It will not surprise me if in some parts it should

* The seat of his friend Humphrey Senhouse, Esq.

Ætat. 43. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 233
startle Gifford. Are the Government besotted in security? or are they rendered absolutely helpless by fear, like a fascinated bird, that they suffer things to go on? Are they so stupid as not to know that their throats as well as their places are at stake? As for accelerating my movements for the sake of holding a conversation which would end in nothing, though I have little prudence to ballast my sails, I have enough to prevent me from that. All that I possibly can do I am doing, under a secret apprehension that it is more likely to bring personal danger upon myself than to rouse them to exertion; but for that no matter: it is proper that the attempt should be made; the country will stand by them if they will stand by the country.

“Were I to see one of these personages, and he were to propose anything specific, it would probably be some scheme of conducting a journal à la mode the Anti-Jacobin. This is no work for me. They may find men who will like it, and are fitter for it.

“I think of being in town in April, si possum. My book, peradventure, may be ready by that time; but there is a large field before me, and many weighty subjects. Meantime, though I want nothing for myself, and certainly would not at this time accept of anything, I should nevertheless be very glad if they would remember that I have a brother in the navy. God bless you!

R. S.”