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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819

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 following is the letter before alluded to, as showing so strong a contrast to that freedom from anxiety and confidence in himself, which seemed to possess him at the time he refused the offer of Librarian to the Advocates’ Library at Edinburgh. It is, indeed, no matter of wonder that, sensitively constituted as he was by nature, and compelled to such incessant mental occupation, such feelings should at tunes come over him; and we may see in them the sad forewarnings of that calamity by which his latest years were darkened.

Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 327

But if he was not altogether what he so well describes the stern American leader to have been—
“Lord of his own resolves, of his own heart absolute master;”*
he certainly possessed no common power over himself; and he here well describes how needful was its exercise.

To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq
“Keswick, Dec. 5. 1818.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“It is, between ourselves, a matter of surprise to me that this bodily machine of mine should have continued its operations with so few derangements, knowing, as I well do, its excessive susceptibility to many deranging causes. The nitrous oxyde approaches nearer to the notion of a neurometer than anything which perhaps could be devised; and I was acted upon by a far smaller dose than any person upon whom it had ever been tried, when I was in the habit of taking it. If I did not vary my pursuits and carry on many works of a totally different kind at once, I should soon be incapable of proceeding with any, so surely does it disturb my sleep and affect my dreams if I dwell upon one with any continuous attention. The truth is, that though some persons, whose knowledge of me is scarcely skin-deep, suppose I have no nerves, because I have great self-

* Vision of Judgment.

control as far as regards the surface; if it were not for great self-management, and what may be called a strict intellectual regimen, I should very soon be in a deplorable state of what is called nervous disease, and this would have been the case any time during the last twenty years.

“Thank God I am well at present, and well employed: Brazil and Wesley both at the press; a paper for the Quarterly Review in hand, and Oliver Newman now seriously resumed; while for light reading I am going through South’s Sermons and the whole British and Irish part of the Acta Sanctorum.

“In the MSS. of Wesley, which passed through Gifford’s hands while you were absent, there was a chapter which I wished you to have seen, because both in matter and manner it is among the best things I have written. It contained a view of our religious history down to the accession of the present family; not the facts but the spirit of the history. You will be pleased to see how I have relieved and diversified this book, which will be as elaborate as a Dutchman’s work and as entertaining as a Frenchman’s.

“I want now to provide against that inability which may any day or any moment overtake me. You are not mistaken in thinking that the last three years have considerably changed me; the outside remains pretty much the same, but it is far otherwise within. If hitherto the day has been sufficient for the labour, as well as the labour for the day, I now feel that it cannot always, and possibly may not
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 329
long be so. Were I dead there would be a provision for my family, which though not such as I yet hope to make it, would yet be a respectable one. But if I were unable to work, half my ways and means would instantly be cut off, and the whole of them are needed. Such thoughts did not use to visit me. My spirits retain their strength, but they have lost their buoyancy, and that for ever. I should be the better for travelling, but that is not in my power. At present the press fetters me, and if it did not, I could not afford to be spending money when I ought to be earning it. But I shall work the harder to enable me so to do.

“God bless you!

R. S.
To Chauncey H. Townshend, Esq.
“Keswick, Dec. 10. 1818.
“My dear Chauncey,

“You made the best use of your misfortune at Kendal. The most completely comfortless hours in a man’s life (abstracted from all real calamity) are those which he spends alone at an inn, waiting for a chance in a stage-coach. Time thus spent is so thoroughly disagreeable that the act of getting into the coach, and resigning yourself to be jumbled for four-and- twenty or eight-and-forty hours, like a mass of inert matter, becomes a positive pleasure. I always prepare myself for such occasions with some closely-printed pocket volume, of pregnant matter, for which I should not be likely to afford leisure at
other times.
ErasmusColloquies stood me in good stead for more than one journey; Sir Thomas More’s Utopia for another. When I was a school-boy I loved travelling, and enjoyed it, indeed, as long as I could say omnia mea mecum; that is, as long as I could carry with me an undivided heart and mind, and had nothing to make me wish myself in any other place than where I was. The journey from London to Bristol at the holidays was one of the pleasures which I looked for at breaking up; and I used generally to travel by day rather than by night, that I might lose none of the expected enjoyment I wish I had kept a journal of all those journeys; for some of the company into which I have fallen might have furnished matter worthy of preservation. Once I travelled with the keeper of a crimping-house at Charing Cross, who, meeting with an old acquaintance in the coach, told him his profession while I was supposed to be asleep in the corner. Once I formed an acquaintance with a young deaf and dumb man, and learnt to converse with him. Once I fell in with a man of a race now nearly extinct,—a village mathematician; a self-taught, iron-headed man, who, if he had been lucky enough to have been well educated and entered at Trinity Hall, might have been first wrangler, and perhaps have gone as near towards doubling the cube as any of the votaries of Mathesis. (Pray write a sonnet to that said personage.) This man was pleased with me, and (perhaps because I was flattered by perceiving it) I have a distinct recollection of his remarkable countenance after an interval of nearly thirty years. He laboured very
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 331
hard to give me a love of his own favourite pursuit; and it is my own fault that I cannot now take the altitude of a church tower by the help of a cocked hat, as he taught me, or would have taught, if I could have retained such lessons.

“It is an act, not absolutely of heroic virtue, but of something like it, my writing to you this evening. Four successive evenings I have been prevented from carrying into effect the fixed purpose of so doing; first by the General’s dropping in to pass the last evening with me before his departure, then by letters which required reply without delay. And this afternoon, just before the bell rang for tea, a huge parcel was brought up stairs, containing twenty volumes of the Gospel Magazine; in which dunghill I am now about to rake for wheat, or for wild oats, if you like the metaphor better.

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To John Rickman, Esq.
“Dec. 11. 1818.
“My dear R.,

“. . . . . I sometimes try to persuade myself that mine is a Turkish sort of constitution, and that exercise and out-of-door air are not needful for its well-being; but the body begins to require better management than It did; It will not take care of itself so well as it did twenty years ago, and I need not look in the
glass for a memento that I have begun the down-hill part of my journey. So be it. There is so much for my heart, and hope, and curiosity at the end of the stage, that if I thought only of myself in this world I should wish that I was there.

“It is a strange folly, a fatality, that men in power will not see the prudence of anticipating public feeling sometimes, and doing things with a grace for the sake of popularity, which must be done with ignominy upon compulsion. For instance, in Lord Cochrane’s affair, it was wrong to condemn him to the pillory; but if that part of the sentence had been annulled before popular opinion was expressed, the Prince would have gained credit, instead of being supposed to yield to the newspapers. There is another case in the suicide laws. . . . . And again in the matter of forgery; the law must be altered, and this not from the will of the legislature, but by the will of the London juries! The juries, however, if they go on in their present course, will do more than this,—they will prove that the very institution of juries, on which we have prided ourselves so long, is inconsistent not only with common sense, but with the safety of society and the security of Government. I wish when the question of forgery comes before the House (as it surely must do), that something may be said and done also for restoring that part of the system which makes the jurymen punishable for a false verdict.

“I have written shortly about the Copyright question for the Q. R., and put in a word, without any hope of a change in my time, upon the absurd in
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 333
justice of the existing laws. My own case hereafter will plead more strongly against them than it is in my power to do now, as, according to all appearances, my copyrights will be much more valuable property after my death than they have ever yet proved.

“God bless you!

Always and affectionately yours,
R. S.”
To John Rickman, Esq.
“Jan, 1. 1818.
“My dear R.,

“Many happy new years to you and yours, and may you go on well however the world goes. Go as it may, it is some satisfaction to think that it will not be the worse for anything that you and I have done in it. And it is to be hoped that our work is not done yet. I have a strong hope that something may be effected in our old scheme about the reformed convents, and that would be as great a step towards amending the condition of educated women as the establishment of savings’ banks has been for bettering the state of the lower classes.

“I am reading Coxe’s Memoirs of Marlborough, by far the best of his books. Marlborough appears to more advantage in all respects the more he is known. The reading is not gratuitous, for I am to review the work.

“Longman sent me Müller’s Universal History, a surprising work, though I find him deficient in
knowledge and in views in the points where I am competent to be his judge. Have you seen
Fearon’s Sketches of America? It is very amusing to see a man who hates all the institutions of his own country compelled to own that every thing is worse in America, and groan while he makes the confession; too honest to conceal the truth, and yet bringing it up as if it were got at by means of emetic tartar, sorely against his stomach. I wish I were not too busy to write a careful review of this book.

“Did I tell you concerning Morris Birbeck, that he sunk 8000l. by a speculation in soap, and was Lord Onslow’s tenant, which said Lord Onslow indited upon him this epigram:—
‘Had you ta’en less delight in
Political writing,
Nor to vain speculations given scope,
You’d have paid me your rent,
Your time better spent,
And besides—washed your hands of the soap.’

“God bless you!
R. S.”
To Mr. Ebenezer Elliott, Jun.
“Keswick, Jan. 30. 1819.
“My dear Sir,

“I received your little volume yesterday.* You may rest assured that you ascribed the condemnation in the Monthly Magazine to the true cause.

“There are abundant evidences of power in it;’

* This volume of poems was entitled “Night.”

Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 335
its merits are of the most striking kind; and its defects are not less striking, both in plan and execution. The stories had better each have been separate, than linked together without any natural or necessary connection. The first consists of such grossly improbable circumstances, that it is altogether as incredible as if it were a supernatural tale. It is also a hateful story, presenting nothing but what is painful. In the second, the machinery is preposterously disproportionate to the occasion. And in all the poems there is too much ornament, too much effort, too much labour. You think you can never embroider your drapery too much; and that the more gold and jewels you can fasten on it the richer the effect must be. The consequence is, that there is a total want of what painters call breadth and keeping, and, therefore, the effect is lost.

“You will say that this opinion proceeds from the erroneous system which I have pursued in my own Writings, and which has prevented my poems from obtaining the same popularity as those of Lord Byron and Walter Scott. But look at those poets whose rank is established beyond all controversy. Look at the Homeric poems; at Virgil, Dante, Ariosto, Milton. Do not ask yourself what are the causes of the failure or success of your contemporaries; their failure or success is not determined yet,—a generation, an age, a century will not suffice to determine it. But see what it is by which those poets have rendered themselves immortal: who, after the lapse of centuries, are living and acting upon us still.


“I should not speak to you thus plainly of your fault,—the sin by which the angels fell,—if it were not for the great powers which are thus injured by misdirection. And it is for the sake of bearing testimony to those powers, and thereby endeavouring to lessen the effect which a rascally criticism may have produced upon your feelings, that I am now writing. That criticism may give you pain, because it may affect the minds of persons not very capable of forming an opinion for themselves, who may either be glad to be encouraged in despising your production, or grieved at seeing it condemned. But in any other point of view it is unworthy of a moment’s thought.

“You may do great things if you will cease to attempt so much; if you will learn to proportion your figures to your canvas. Cease to overlay your foregrounds with florid ornaments, and be persuaded that in a poem as well as in a picture there must both lights and shades; that the general effect can never be good unless the subordinate parts are kept down, and that the brilliancy of one part is brought out and heightened by the repose of the other. One word more.

“With your powers of thought and language, you need not seek to produce effect by monstrous incidents or exaggerated characters. These drams have been administered so often that they are beginning to lose their effect. And it is to truth and nature that we must come at last. Trust to them, and they will bear you through. You are now
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 337
squandering wealth with which, if it be properly disposed, you may purchase golden reputation.

“But you must reverence your elders more, and be less eager for immediate applause.

“You will judge of the sincerity of my praise by the frankness of my censure.

“Farewell! And believe me,

Yours faithfully,
R. Southey.”
To Walter Scott, Esq.
“March 11. 1819.
“My dear Scott,

“My conscience will not let me direct a letter to your care without directing one to yourself by the same post.

“A great event has happened to me within this fortnight,—the birth of a child, after an interval of nearly seven years, and that child a son. This was a chance to which I looked rather with dread than with hope, after having seen the flower of my earthly hopes and happiness cut down. But it is well that these things are not in our own disposal; and without building upon so frail a tenure as an infant’s life, or indulging in any vain dreams of what may be, I am thankful for him now that he is come.

“You would have heard from me ere long, even if Mr. Ticknor* had not given a spur to my tardy

* The accomplished author of “The History of Spanish Literature.” Murray, 1850.

intentions. I should soon have written to say that you will shortly receive the concluding volume of my
History of Brazil, for I am now drawing fast toward the close of that long labour. This volume has less of the kite and crow warfare than its predecessors, and is rich in information of various kinds, which has never till now come before the public in any shape. Indeed, when I think of the materials from which it has been composed, and how completely during great part of my course I have been without either chart or pilot to direct me, I look back with wonder upon what I have accomplished. I go to London in about seven weeks from this time, and as soon as I return the Peninsular War will be sent to press.

“Our successors (for you and I are now old enough in authorship to use this term) are falling into the same faults as the Roman poets after the Augustan age, and the Italians after the golden season of their poetry. They are overlabouring their productions, and overloading them with ornament, so that all parts are equally prominent, everywhere glare and glitter, and no keeping and no repose. Henry Milman has spoilt his Samor in this way. It is full of power and of beauty, but too full of them. There is another striking example in a little volume called Night, where some of the most uncouth stories imaginable are told in a strain of continued tip-toe effort; and you are vexed to see such uncommon talents so oddly applied, and such Herculean strength wasted in preposterous exertions. The author’s name is Elliott, a self-taught man, in business
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 339
(the iron trade, I believe) at Rotherham. He sends play after play to the London theatres, and has always that sort of refusal which gives him encouragement to try another.
Sheridan said of one of them that it was “a comical tragedy, but he did not know any man who could have written such a one.” I have given him good advice, which he takes as it is meant, and something may come or him yet.

“It was reported that you were about to bring forth a play, and I was greatly in hopes it might be true; for I am verily persuaded that in this course you would run as brilliant a career as you have already done in narrative, both in prose and rhyme, for as for believing that you have a double in the field,—not I! Those same powers would be equally certain of success in the drama; and were you to give them a dramatic direction, and reign for a third seven years upon the stage, you would stand alone in literary history. Indeed, already I believe that no man ever afforded so much delight to so great a number of his contemporaries in this or any other country.

“God bless you, my dear Scott! Remember me to Mrs. S. and your daughter, and believe me,

Ever yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, April 9. 1819.
“My dear G.,

“. . . . . Even if I were in town, I certainly should not go to the Westminster meeting. The chance of seeing some half dozen men with whom I might exchange a few words of recognition and shake hands, would not make amends for the melancholy recollection of those whom I loved better and used to see at the same time. Moreover, I have an absolute hatred of all public meetings, and would rather go without a dinner than eat it in such an assembly. I went to the Academy’s dinner for the sake of facing William Smith; but I go to no more such.

“My wish will be to see as much of my friends as I can, and as little of my acquaintance; and, therefore, I mean to refuse all such invitations as would throw me among strangers or indifferent persons, except in cases where I owe something for civilities received. For I do not want to see Lions, and still less do I desire to be exhibited as one, and go where I should be expected to open my mouth and roar.

“There is another reason* why I would not at-

* “Of your reasons for declining to be present at the Westminster meeting, one class I do not approve, and the other I do not admit. How it will look that you go to it after Vincent’s death, never having gone to it during his life, is no question, for it will have no look at all, for nobody will look at it. This is just one of the feelings that a man has when he knows that he has a hole in his stocking, and fancies, of course, that the attention of all the company is attracted to it. The last

Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 341
tend the Westminster meeting. As I never went during
Vincent’s life, it might seem as if I felt myself at liberty to go there now, and had not done so before. Whereas, so far was I from harbouring any resentment towards Vincent, or any unpleasant feeling of any kind, that I have long and with good reason looked upon my expulsion from Westminster as having been in its consequences the luckiest event of my life; and for many years I should have been glad to have met the old man, in full persuasion that he would have not been sorry to have met with me.

“I had a beautiful letter* yesterday from poor Walter Scott, who has been on the very brink of the grave, and feels how likely it is that any day or hour may send him there. If he is sufficiently recovered I shall meet him in London; but his health is broken beyond all prospect or hope of complete recovery. He entreats me to take warning, and beware of overworking myself. I am afraid no person ever took that advice who stood in need of it; and still more afraid that the surest way of bringing on the anticipated evil would be to apprehend it. But I believe that I manage myself well by frequent change of employment, frequent idling, and keeping my mind as free as I can from any strong excitement.

“God bless you, my dear Grosvenor!

R. S.”

time I ever saw the old dean, he spoke of you with kindness and approbation, and, I thought, with pride. . . . . If I were to have you here on that day, I should tie a string round your leg and pull you in an opposite direction to that in which I meant to drive you. Swallow that and digest it.”—G. C. B. to R. S., April 12. 1819.

* See Life of Sir Walter Scott, 2d edit. vol. vi. p. 41.

To the Rev. Nicholas Lightfoot.
“Keswick, May 29. 1819.
“My dear Lightfoot,

“So long a time had elapsed without my hearing from you, or by any accident of you, that I began to fear what might have been the cause of this long silence, and was almost afraid to inquire. I am very sorry that Mr. Bush did not make use of your name when he was at Keswick last summer; he could have brought with him no better introduction, and I have always time to perform offices of attention and hospitality to those who are entitled to them. He left a good impression here as an excellent preacher; indeed, I have seldom or never heard a more judicious one. The account which he gave you of my way of life is not altogether correct. I have no allotted quantum of exercise, but, as at Oxford, sometimes go a long while without any, and sometimes take walks that would try the mettle of a younger man. And a great deal more of my time is employed in reading than in writing; if it were not, what I write would be of very little value. But that I am a close student is very true, and such I shall continue to be as long as my eyes and other faculties last.

“You must apply in time if you design to place your son at Oriel; it is now no easy matter to obtain admission there, nor indeed at any college which is in good reputation. I almost wonder that you do not give the preference to old Balliol for the sake of old times, now that the college has fairly
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 343
obtained a new character, and is no longer the seat of drunkenness, raffery and indiscipline, as it was in our days. It is even doubtful whether, if I were an undergraduate now, I should be permitted to try my skill in throwing stones for the pleasure of hearing them knock against your door. Seriously, however, altered as the college is, there would be an advantage in sending your son there, where you have left a good name and a good example. Poor
Thomas Howe* I believe led but a melancholy life after he left college; without neighbours, without a family, without a pursuit, he must have felt dismally the want of his old routine, and sorely have missed his pupils, the chapel bells, and the Common Room. A monk is much happier than an old fellow of a college who retires to reside upon a country living. And how much happier are you at this day, with all the tedium which your daily occupation must bring with it, than if you had obtained a fellowship, and then waited twenty years for preferment.

“Believe me, my dear Lightfoot, yours affectionately as in old times,

Robert Southey.”

The following letter I found copied among my father’s papers, but without name or date; it evidently, however, belongs to this period, and is, I think, worthy of insertion here, as showing his aptness to

* His college tutor. See vol. i. p. 215.

suggest religious thoughts whenever an occasion presented itself, and the judicious manner in which he does so.

“Keswick, 1819.

“I have behaved very ill in having so long delayed replying to a lady’s letter, and that letter, too, one which deserved a ready and a thankful acknowledgment. Forgive me. I am not wont to be thus discourteous; and in the present instance there is some excuse for it, for your letter arrived at a time of much anxiety. My wife had a three months’ illness after the birth of a son; and during that time it was as much as I could do to force my attention to business which could not be left undone. My heart was not enough at ease to be addressing you.

“The number of unknown correspondents whom I have had in my time does not lessen my desire of seeing you, nor abate that curiosity which men feel as strongly as women; except that they have not the same leisure for thinking of it. . . . .

“You tell me that the whole of your happiness is dependent upon literary pursuits and recreations. It is well that you have these resources; but were we near each other, and were I to like you half as well upon a nearer acquaintance, as it appears to me at this distance that I should do, I think that when I had won your confidence I should venture to tell you that something better than literature is necessary for happiness.

Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 345

“To confess the truth, one of the causes which have prevented me from writing to you earlier, has been the wish and half intention of touching upon this theme; checked by that sort of hesitation which sometimes, (and that too often) prevents us from doing what we ought for fear of singularity. That you are a woman of talents I know; and I think you would not have given me the preference over more fashionable poets, if there had not been something in the general character of my writings which accorded with your feelings, and which you did not find in theirs. But you have lived in high life; you move in circles of gaiety and fashion; and though you sympathise with me when I express myself in verse, it is more than probable that the direct mention of religion may startle you, as something unwarranted as well as unexpected.

“I am no Methodist, no sectarian, no bigot, no formalist. My natural spirits are buoyant beyond those of any person, man, woman, or child, whom I ever saw or heard of. They have had enough to try them and to sink them, and it is by religion alone that I shall be enabled to pass the remainder of my days In cheerfulness and in hope. Without hope there can be no happiness; and without religion no hope but such as deceives us. Your heart seems to want an object; and this would satisfy it: and if it has been wounded, this, and this only, is the cure.

“Are you displeased with this freedom? Or do you receive it as a proof that I am disposed to become something more than a mere literary ac-
quaintance; and that you have made me feel an interest concerning you which an ordinary person could not have excited? . . . . .

Scott is very ill. He suffers dreadfully; but bears his sufferings with admirable equanimity, and looks on to the probable termination of them with calmness and well-founded hope. God grant that he may recover! He is a noble and generous-hearted creature, whose like we shall not look upon again.”

To Wade Browne, Esq.
“Keswick, June 15. 1819.
“My dear Sir,

“When you hear that my journey to the south must be postponed till the fall of the leaf, I fear you will think me infirm of purpose, and as little to be depended on as the wind and weather in this our mutable climate. Its cause, however, lies rather in a good obstinate principle of perseverance, than in any fickleness of temper. This history, of which the hundredth sheet is now upon my desk, will confine me here so far into the summer (beyond all previous or possible calculation), that if I went into the south as soon as it is completed, I should be under the necessity of shortening my stay there, and leaving part of my business undone. In order to return in time for a long-standing engagement, which in the autumn will take me into the Highlands. All things duly considered, it seemed best to put off my journey
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 347
to London till November, by which tune all my running accounts with the press will be settled. . . . .

Cuthbert, who is now four months old, is beginning to serve me as well as his sisters for a plaything. The country is in its full beauty at this time; perhaps in greater than I may ever again see it, for it is reported that the woods on Castelet are condemned to come down next year; this, if it be true, is the greatest loss that Keswick could possibly sustain, and in no place will the loss be more conspicuous than from the room wherein I am now writing. But this neighbourhood has suffered much from the axe since you were here.* The woods about Lodore are gone; so are those under Castle-Crag; so is the little knot of fir trees on the way to church, which were so placed as to make one of the features of the vale; and worst of all, so is that beautiful birch grove on the side of the lake between Barrow and Lodore. Not a single sucker is springing up in its place; and, indeed, it would require a full century before another grove could be reared which would equal it in beauty. It is lucky that they cannot level the mountains nor drain the lake; but they are doing what they can to lower it, and have succeeded so fir as to render all the old landing-places useless. If the effect of this should be to drain the marshy land at the head and foot of the lake, without leaving as much more swamp uncovered, it will do good rather than harm. The

* See the beginning of Colloquy X., On the Progress and Prospects of Society.

islands, however, will be deformed for a few years by the naked belt which is thus made around them.

“Two cases so extraordinary as to appear almost incredible occurred in the course of last month in this country. A child four years old wandered from its mother, who was cutting peat among the Ennerdale Mountains, and after four days was found alive. A man upon the Eskdale Fells was found after eighteen, still living, and able to wave his hand as a signal, by which he was discovered. He had fallen in a fit, and was incapable of moving when he recovered his senses; in both cases there was water close by, by which life was preserved. The child is doing well. Of the man I have heard nothing since the day after he was found, when Wordsworth was in Eskdale, and learnt the story; at that time there seemed to be no apprehension that his life was in danger.

“I think you will be pleased with Wordsworth’sWaggoner,’ if it were only for the line of road* which it describes. The master of the waggon was my poor landlord Jackson; and the cause of his exchanging it for the one-horse-cart was just as is represented in the poem; nobody but Benjamin could manage it upon these hills, and Benjamin could not resist the temptations by the way-side. . . . .

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

* The road from Keswick to Ambleside.

Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 349

The following letter to Allan Cunningham, in reply to one which sought for an opinion as to the publication of his poem of the Maid of Eloar, will be read with interest, as another proof among the many my father’s letters afford, of his frank sincerity as an adviser; and it may also well serve as a type of the kind of counsel few young authors will do wrong in laying to heart. It is interesting to add, that Mr. Cunningham’s son (Peter Cunningham, Esq.) informs me that this letter “confirmed his father in his love for literature as an idle trade, and in his situation at Chantrey’s as a means of livelihood.”

Other letters will show that the acquaintance thus commenced continued through life; and that it was productive on both sides of a sincere esteem and a very friendly regard.

To Allan Cunningham, Esq.
“Keswick, July 10. 1819.

“It is no easy task, Mr. Cunningham, to answer a letter like yours. I am unwilling to excite hopes which are but too likely to end in severe disappointment; and equally unwilling to say anything which might depress a noble spirit. The frankest course is the best. Patience and prudence are among the characteristic virtues of your countrymen: the progress which you have made proves that you possess the first in no common degree; and if you possess a good share of the latter also, what I have to say will neither be discouraging nor useless.


“Your poem* contains incurable defects, but not such as proceed from any want of power. You have aimed at too much, and failed in the structure of the story, the incidents of which are impossible for the time and place in which they are laid. This is of little consequence if you are of the right mould. Your language has an original stamp, and could you succeed in the choice of subjects,—I dare not say that you would obtain the applause of which you are ambitious,—but I believe you would deserve it.

“Let me make myself clearly understood. In poetry, as in painting, and music, and architecture, it is far more difficult to design than to execute. A long tale should be everywhere consistent, and every-where perspicuous. The incidents should depend upon each other, and the event appear like the necessary result, so that no sense of improbability in any part of the narration should force itself upon the hearer. I advise you to exercise yourself in shorter tales,—and these have the advantage of being more to the taste of the age.

“But whatever you do, be prepared for disappointment. Crowded as this age is with candidates for public favour, you will find it infinitely difficult to obtain a hearing. The booksellers look blank upon poetry, for they know that not one volume of poems out of a hundred pays its expenses; and they know also how much more the immediate success of a book depends upon accidental circumstances than upon its intrinsic merit. They of course must look to the chance of profit as the main object. If this

* The Maid of Eloar as originally written.

Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 351
first difficulty be overcome, the public read only what it is the fashion to read; and for one competent critic—one equitable one—there are twenty coxcombs who would blast the fortunes of an author for the sake of raising a laugh at his expense.

“Do not, therefore, rely upon your poetical powers as a means of bettering your worldly condition. This is the first and most momentous advice which I would impress upon you. If you can be contented to pursue poetry for its own reward, for the delight which you find in the pursuit, go on and prosper. But never let it tempt you to neglect the daily duties of life, never trust to it for profit, as you value your independence and your peace. To trust to it for support is misery and ruin. On the other hand, if you have that consciousness of strength that you can be satisfied with the expectation of fame, though you should never live to enjoy it, I know not how you can be more happily employed than in exercising the powers with which you are gifted. And if you like my advice well enough to wish for it on any future occasion, write to me freely; I would gladly be of use to you if I could.

Farewell, and believe me,
Your sincere well-wisher,
Robert Southey.”
To C. H. Townshend, Esq.
“Keswick, July 20. 1819.
“My dear Chauncey,

“. . . . . I have not seen more of Don Juan than some extracts in a country paper, wherein my own name is coupled with a rhyme which I thought would never be used by any person but myself when kissing one of my own children in infancy, and talking nonsense to it, which, whatever you may think of it at present as an exercise for the intellect, I hope you will one day have occasion to practise, and you will then find out its many and various excellencies. I do not yet know whether the printed poem is introduced by a dedication* to me, in a most hostile strain, which came over with it, or whether the person who has done Lord Byron the irreparable injury of sending into the world what his own publisher and his friends endeavoured, for his sake, to keep out

* This dedication, which is sufficiently scurrilous, is prefixed to the poem in the Collected Edition of Lord Byron’s Life and Works, with the following note by the Editor:—

“This Dedication was suppressed in 1815 with Lord Byron’s reluctant consent; but shortly after his death its existence became notorious, in consequence of an article in the Westminster Review, generally ascribed to Sir John Hobhouse; and for several years the verses have been selling in the streets as a broadside. It could, therefore, serve no purpose to exclude them on this occasion.”—Byron’s Life and Works, vol. xv. 101.

The editor seems by this to have felt some slight compunction at publishing this Dedication; but he publishes for the first time another attack upon my father a hundred-fold worse than this, contained in some “Observations upon an Article in Blackwood’s Magazine,” without any apology. This subject, however, will more properly fall to be noticed in the next volume.

Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 353
of it, has suppressed it. This is to me a matter of perfect unconcern. Lord Byron attacked me when he ran amuck as a satirist; he found it convenient to express himself sorry for that
satire, and to have such of the persons told so whom he had assailed in it as he was likely to fall in with in society; myself among the number. I met him three or four times on courteous terms, and saw enough of him to feel that he was rather to be shunned than sought. Attack me as he will, I shall not go out of my course to break a spear with him: but if it comes in my way to give him a passing touch, it will be one that will leave a scar.

“The third and last volume of my Opus Majus will be published in two or three weeks; they are printing the index. What effect will it produce? It may tend to sober the anticipations of a young author to hear the faithful anticipations of an experienced one. None that will be heard of. It will move quietly from the publishers to a certain number of reading societies, and a certain number of private libraries; enough between them to pay the expenses of the publication. Some twenty persons in England, and some half dozen in Portugal and Brazil will peruse it with avidity and delight. Some fifty, perhaps, will buy the book because of the subject, and ask one another if they have had time to look into it. A few of those who know me and love me, will wish that I had employed the time which it has cost in writing poems; and some of those who do not know me, will marvel that in the ripe season of my mind, and in the summer of reputation, I should have
bestowed so large a portion of life upon a work which could not possibly become either popular or profitable. And is this all? No,
Chauncey Townshend, it is not all; and I should deal insincerely with you if I did not add, that ages hence it will be found among those works which are not destined to perish; and secure for me a remembrance in other countries as well as in my own; that it will be read in the heart of S. America, and communicate to the Brazilians, when they shall have become a powerful nation, much of their own history which would otherwise have perished; and be to them what the work of Herodotus is to Europe. You will agree with me on ‘one point at least,—that I am in no danger of feeling disappointment. But you will agree also that no man can deserve or obtain the applause of after ages, if he is too solicitous about that of his own.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To C. W. W. Wynn, Esq., M. P.
“Keswick, July 22. 1819.
“My dear Wynn,

“I give you joy of your escape from late hours in the House of Commons and a summer in London. I congratulate you upon exchanging gas lights for the moon and stars, and the pavement of Whitehall for your noble terraces, which I never can think of without pleasure, because they are beautiful in themselves, and carry one back to old times,—any-
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 355
thing which does this does one good. Were I to build a mansion with the means of
Lord Lonsdale or Lord Grosvenor, I would certainly make hanging gardens if the ground permitted it. They have a character of grandeur and of permanence, without which nothing can be truly grand, and they are fine even in decay.

“I will come to you for a day or two, on my way to town, about the beginning of December. This will be a flying visit; but one of these summers or autumns, I should like dearly to finish the projected circuit with you which Mr. Curry cut short in the year 1801, when he sent for the most unfit man in the world to be his secretary, having nothing whatever for him to do; and many years must not be suffered to go by. My next birthday will be the forty-fifth, and every year will take something from the inclination to move, and perhaps also from the power of enjoyment.

“I was not disappointed with Crabbe’s Tales. He is a decided mannerist, but so are all original writers in all ages; nor is it possible for a poet to avoid it if he writes much in the same key and upon the same class of subjects. Crabbe’s poems will have a great and lasting value as pictures of domestic life, elucidating the moral history of these times,—times which must hold a most conspicuous place in history. He knows his own powers, and never aims above his reach. In this age, when the public are greedy for novelties, and abundantly supplied with them, an author may easily commit the error of giving them too much of the same kind.
of thing. But this will not be thought a fault hereafter, when the kind is good, or the thing good of its kind.

Peter Roberts is a great loss. I begin almost to despair of ever seeing more of the Mabinogion. And yet if some competent Welshman could be found to edit it carefully, with as literal a version as possible, I am sure it might be made worth his while by a subscription, printing a small edition at a high price, perhaps 200, at 5l. 5s. I myself would gladly subscribe at that price per volume for such an edition of the whole of your genuine remains in prose and verse. Till some such collection is made, the ‘gentlemen of Wales’ ought to be prohibited from wearing a leek; aye, and interdicted from toasted cheese also. Your bards would have met with better usage if they had been Scotchmen.

“Shall we see some legislatorial attorneys sent to Newgate next session? or will the likely conviction of —— damp the appetite for rebellion which is at present so sharp set? I heard the other day of a rider explaining at one of the inns in this town how well the starving manufacturers at Manchester might be settled, by parcelling out the Chatsworth estate among them. The savings’ banks will certainly prove a strong bulwark for property in general. And a great deal may be expected from a good system of colonisation; but it must necessarily be a long while before a good system can be formed (having no experience to guide us, for we have no knowledge how these things were managed by the ancients), and a long while also before the people can enter into it.
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 357
But that a regular and regulated emigration must become a part of our political system, is as certain as that nature shows us the necessity in every bee-hive. God bless you!

R. S.”

A large portion of the autumn of this year was occupied in a Scottish tour, to which the following letter refers. Of this, as of all his journeys, he kept a minute and interesting journal, and the time and attention required for this purpose prevented him from writing any but short and hurried letters.

To Mr. Neville White.
“Keswick, Oct. 14. 1819.
“My dear Neville,

“You need not be warned to remember that all other considerations ought to give way to that of health. A man had better break a bone, or even lose a limb, than shake his nervous system. I, who never talk about my nerves (and am supposed to have none by persons who see as far into me as they do into a stone wall), know this. Take care of yourself; and if you find your spirits fail, put off your ordination, and shorten your hours of study; Lord Coke requires only eight hours for a student of the law; and Sir Matthew Hale thought six hours a day as much as any one could well bear; eight, he said, was too much.

“I was about seven weeks absent from home.
My route was from Edinburgh, Loch Katrine, and thence to Dunkeld and Dundee, up the east coast to Aberdeen, then to Banff and Inverness, and up the coast as far as Fleet Mound, which is within sight of the Ord of Caithness. We crossed from Dingwall to the Western Sea, returned to Inverness, took the line of the Caledonian Canal, crossed Ballachulish Ferry, and so to Inverary, Lochlomond, Glasgow, and home. This took in the greatest and best part of Scotland; and I saw it under the most favourable circumstances of weather and season, in the midst of a joyous harvest, and with the best opportunities for seeing everything, and obtaining information. I travelled with my old friend
Mr. Rickman, and Mr. Telford, the former secretary, and the latter engineer to the two committees for the Caledonian Canal and the Highland Roads and Bridges. They also are the persons upon whom the appropriation of the money from the forfeited estates, for improving and creating harbours, has devolved. It was truly delightful to see how much Government has done and is doing for the improvement of that part of the kingdom, and how much, in consequence of that encouragement, the people are doing for themselves, which they would not have been able to do without it.

“So long an absence involves me, of course, in heavy arrears of business. I have to write half a volume of Wesley, and to prepare a long paper for the Q. R. (a Life of Marlborough) before I can set my face toward London. So I shall probably pass the months of February and March in and about
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 359
town. . . . A great many Cantabs have been summering here, where they go by the odd name of Cathedrals.* Several of them brought introductions to me, and were good specimens of the rising generation. . . . God bless you, my dear

Yours affectionately,
R. Southey.”
To Mr. Neville White.
“Keswick, Nov. 20. 1819.
“My dear Neville,

“I wish for your sake that the next few months were over—that you had passed your examination, and were quietly engaged in the regular course of parochial duty. In labore quies you know is the motto which I borrowed from my old predecessor Garibay. It is only in the discharge of duty that that deep and entire contentment which alone deserves to be called happiness is to be found, and you will go the way to find it. Were I a bishop, it would give me great satisfaction to lay hands upon a man like you, fitted as you are for the service of the altar by principle and disposition, almost beyond any man whom I have ever known. I have long regarded it as a great misfortune to the Church of England that men so seldom enter it at a mature age, when their characters are settled, when the glare of youth and hope has passed away; the things of the world are

* This was a Cumberland corruption of “Collegian.”

seen in their true colours, and a calm and sober piety has taken possession of the heart. The Romanists have a great advantage over us in this.

“You asked me some time ago what I thought about the Manchester business. I look upon it as an unfortunate business, because it has enabled factious and foolish men to raise an outcry, and divert public attention from the great course of events to a mere accidental occurrence. That the meeting was unlawful, and in terrorem populi is to me perfectly clear. The magistrates committed an error in employing the yeomanry instead of the regulars to support the civil power; for the yeomanry, after bearing a great deal, lost their temper, which disciplined troops would not have done. The cause of this error is obviously that the magistrates thought it less obnoxious to employ that species of force than the troops,—a natural and pardonable mistake.

“It is no longer a question between Ins and Outs, nor between Whigs and Tories. It is between those who have something to lose, and those who have everything to gain by a dissolution of society. There may be bloodshed, and I am inclined to think there will before the Radicals are suppressed, but suppressed they will be for the time. What may be in store for us afterwards, who can tell? According to all human appearances, I should expect the worst, were it not for an abiding trust in Providence, by whose wise will even our follies are overruled.

“God bless you, my dear Neville!

Yours affectionately,
Robert Southey.”
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 361
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, Dec. 3. 1819.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“. . . . . I must trespass on you farther, and request that you will seal up ten pounds, and leave it with Rickman, directed for Charles Lamb, Esq. from R. S. It is for poor John Morgan, whom you may remember some twenty years ago. This poor fellow, whom I knew at school, and whose mother has sometimes asked me to her table, when I should otherwise have gone without a dinner, was left with a fair fortune, from 10,000l. to 15,000l., and without any vice or extravagance of his own he has lost the whole of it. A stroke of the palsy has utterly disabled him from doing anything to maintain himself; his wife, a good-natured, kind-hearted woman, whom I knew in her bloom, beauty, and prosperity, has accepted a situation as mistress of a charity-school, with a miserable salary of 40l. a-year; and this is all they have. In this pitiable case, Lamb and I have promised him ten pounds a-year each, as long as he lives. I have got five pounds a-year for him from an excellent fellow, whom you do not know, and who chooses on this occasion to be called A. B., and I have written to his Bristol friends, who are able to do more for him than we are, and on whom he has stronger personal claims; so that I hope we shall secure him the decencies of life. You will understand that this is an explanation to you, not an application. In a case of this kind, contributions become
a matter of feeling and duty among those who know the party, but strangers are not to be looked to.

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, Dec. 20. 1819.
“My dear G.,

“. . . . . I have been obliged to complain to Gifford of the mutilations which he has made in this paper. Pray recover the manuscript if you can; or, what would be better, the set of proof sheets. It is very provoking to have an historical paper of that kind, which, perhaps, no person in England but myself could have written, treated like a schoolboy’s theme. Vexed however as I am, I have too much liking for Gifford to be angry with him, and have written to him in a manner which will prove this. . . . .

“Your godson, thank God, is going on well, and his father has nothing to complain of except indeed that he gets more praise than pudding. I had a letter last night which would amuse you. A certain H. Fisher, ‘printer in ordinary to his Majesty,’ of Caxton Printing Office, Liverpool, writes to bespeak of me a memoir of his present Majesty in one or two volumes octavo, pica type, longprimer notes, terms five guineas per sheet; and as the work will be sold principally among the middle class of society,
Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 363
mechanics and tradespeople, the language, observations, facts, &c. &c. to suit them.’ This is a fellow who employs hawkers to vend his books about the country. You see,
Grosvenor, ‘some have honour thrust upon them.’

“A Yankee also, who keeps an exhibition at Philadelphia, modestly asks me to send him my painted portrait, which, he says, is very worthy of a place in his collection. I am to have the pleasure of sitting for the picture and paying for it, and he is to show it in Yankee land, admittance so much!

“God bless you!

R. S.”
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Keswick, Dec. 22. 1819.
“My dear G.,

Shields’ note is a curiosity in its kind. It is so choicely phrased. But he is very civil, and I would willingly task myself rather than decline doing what he wishes me to do. If, however, by a general chorus he means one which is to recur at the end of every stanza, an ode must be framed with reference to such a burthen, or else it would be a burthen indeed; and indeed it would be impossible to fit one to stanzas of such different import as these. If, on the other hand, a concluding stanza is meant, more adapted for a ‘flourish of trumpets, &c.’ I am afraid
I cannot find one, but I will try.* The poem, as it now stands, is not a discreditable one; so far from it, indeed, that if I execute the scheme of my visionary dialogue (upon which my mind runs), I should introduce it—that upon the
Princess’s death, and a few pieces more to be written for the occasion, which would come in like the poems in Boethius.

“I thought I had explained to you my intentions about my journey. Being sufficiently master of my time, whether I set out a month sooner or later may be regulated solely by my own convenience, so that I return with the summer. I have to finish Wesley, which will be done in five weeks, taking it coolly and quietly. I have to finish the review of Marlborough, which will require three weeks. One of them is my mornings’, the other my evenings’ work. And if I am satisfied about the payment for my last paper, I shall recast the article upon the New Churches, and perhaps prepare one other also, in order to be beforehand with my ways and means for the spring and summer. But if there be any unhandsome treatment, I will not submit to it, but strike work as bravely as a radical weaver. In that case the time which would have been sold to the maximus homo of Albemarle Street will be far more worthily employed in finishing the Tale of Paraguay, which has proceeded more slowly than tortoise, sloth, or snail, but which, as far as it has gone, is good. Indeed, I

* “If I give the composer more trouble than poor Pye did, I am sorry for it, but I can no more write like Mr. Pye than Mr. Pye could write like me. His pyecrust and mine were not made of the same materials,”—R. S. to G. C. B.

Ætat. 45. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 365
must finish it for publication in the ensuing year, or I shall not be able to keep my head above water. The sum of all this is, that I intend to work closely at home till the end of February, to pass a few days at Ludlow on my way to town, arrive in London about the second week of March, pass five or six weeks, partly at Streatham, partly in town; go to
Sir H. Bunbury’s for a few days, and perhaps stretch on into Norfolk for another week or ten days, and find my way back to Keswick by the end of May.

“A merry Christmas to you! God bless you!

R. S.”