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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Early Life: III

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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Letter III.
Nov. 16th, 1820.

My grandmother’s jointure from her first husband was 200l. a year, which was probably equivalent to thrice that sum in these days. The Tylers had from their father 600l. each. Miss Tyler lived with her Uncle Bradford, of whom and of her I shall speak hereafter. I must now speak of the Hills. My uncle (it is so habitual to me to speak and write of him, and of him only by that name, κατ΄ έξοχήν,, that I will not constrain myself to use any farther designation)—my uncle, and his brother Joseph, and Edward Tyler went by day to a school in the village
kept by one of the strangest fellows that ever wore a cassock, or took up the trade of tuition. His name was
Collins, he was clever and profligate, and eked out his ways and means by authorship; scribbling for inclination, and publishing for gain. One of his works I recollect among my uncle’s books in Miss Tyler’s possession; its title is “Hell’s Gates open;” but not having looked into it since I was a mere boy, I only know that it is satirical, as the name may seem to import. I sent for another of his publications some years ago from a catalogue, not as any thing of value, but because he had been my uncle’s first schoolmaster, and I knew who and what he was; it is to be wished that every person who knew me would think that a good reason for buying my works: I should be very much obliged to them.—It is a little book in the unusual form of a foolscap quarto, and because it contains one fact which is really curious as matter of history, I give its title* at the bottom of the page. This publication is in no respect creditable to its author, and, on the score of decency, highly discreditable to him. But the fact, which is well worth the two shillings I gave for the book (though but a halfpenny fact), is, that, as late as the end of George the Second’s reign, or the beginning of

* Miscellanies in Prose and Verse; consisting of Essays, Abstracts, Original Poems, Letters, Tales, Translations, Panegyricks, Epigrams, and Epitaphs.
“Sunt bona, sunt quædam mediocria, sunt mala plura;
Quæ legis hic aliter non fit, abite, liber.”—Martial.
“Things good, things bad, things middling when you look,
You’ll find to constitute, my friends, this book.”
Emanuel Collins, A. B., late of Wadham College, Oxford. Bristol: printed by E. Farley, in Small Street. 1762.

George the Third’s, there were persons in Bristol, who, from political scruples of conscience, refused to take King William’s halfpence, and these persons were so numerous that the magistrates thought it necessary to interfere, because of the inconvenience which they occasioned in the common dealings of trade and of the markets. William’s copper money was then in common currency, and indeed I myself remember it, having, between the years 1786 and 1790, laid by some half dozen of his halfpence with the single or double head, among the foreign pieces and others of rare occurrence which came within my reach.

Devoid as his Miscellanies are of any merit. Parson Collins, as he was called (not in honour of the cloth), had some humour. In repairing the public road, the labourers came so near his garden wall, that they injured the foundations, and down it fell. He complained to the waywardens, and demanded reparation, which they would have evaded if they could, telling him it was but an old wall, and in a state of decay. “Gentlemen,” he replied, “old as the wall was it served my purpose. But, however, I have not the smallest objection to your putting up a second-hand one in its place.” This anecdote I heard full five-and-thirty years ago from one of my school-masters, who had been a rival of Collins, and was satirized by him in the Miscellanies. His school failed him, not because he was deficient in learning, of which he seems to have had a full share for his station, but because of his gross and scandalous misconduct. He afterwards kept something so like an alehouse, that he got into a scrape with his superiors.


One of his daughters kept a village shop at Chew Magna in Somersetshire, and dealt with my father for such things as were in his way. She used to dine with us whenever she came to Bristol, and was always a welcome guest for her blunt honest manners, and her comical oddity. Her face was broad and coarse, like a Tartar’s, but with quick dark eyes and a fierce expression. She was one of those persons who could say, quidlibet cuilibet de quolibet.

I perceive that I should make an excellent correspondent for Mr. Urban, and begin to suspect that I have mistaken my talent, and been writing histories and poems when I ought to have been following the rich veins of gossip and garrulity. All this, however, is not foreign to my purpose. For I wish not only to begin ab ovo, but to describe every thing relating to the nest. And he who paints a bird’s-nest ought not to represent it nakedly per se, but in situ, in its place, and with as many of its natural accompaniments as the canvas will admit. It is not manners and fashions alone that change and are perpetually changing with us. The very constitution of society is unstable; it may, and in all probability will, undergo as great alterations, in the course of the next two or three centuries, as it has undergone in the last. The transitions are likely to be more violent, and far more rapid. At no very distant time, these letters, if they escape the earthquake and the volcano, may derive no small part of their interest and value from the faithful sketches which they contain of a stage of society which has already passed away, and of a state of things which shall then have ceased to exist.