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Having fewer errors to plead guilty to, he is less lenient to those of others. He was born an age too late. Had he lived a century or two ago, he would have been a happy as well as blameless character. But the distraction of the time has unsettled him, and the multiplicity of his pretensions have jostled with each other. No man in our day (at least no man of genius) has led so uniformly and entirely the life of a scholar from boyhood to the present hour, devoting himself to learning with the enthusiasm of an early love, with the sincerity and constancy of a religious vow—and well would it have been for him if he had confined himself to this, and not undertaken to pull down or to patch up the State! However irregular in his opinions, Mr Southey is constant, unremitting, mechanical in his studies, and the performance of his duties. There is nothing Pindaric or Shandean here. In all the relations and charities of private life, he is correct, exemplary, generous, just. We never heard a single impropriety laid to his charge; and if he has many enemies, few men can boast more numerous or stauncher friends.
. The variety and piquancy of his writings form a striking contrast to the mode in which they are produced. He rises early, and writes or reads till near breakfast-time. He writes or reads after breakfast till dinner, after dinner till tea, and from tea till bed-time—
And follows so the ever-running year, with profitable labour to his grave—
on Derwent's banks, beneath the foot of Skiddaw. Study serves him for business, exercise, recreation. He passes from verse to prose, from history to poetry, from reading to writing, by a stop-watch. He writes a fair hand, without blots, sitting upright in his chair, leaves off when he comes to the bottom of the page, and changes the subject for another, as opposite as the antipodes. His mind is after all rather the recipient and transmitter of knowledge, than the originator of it. He has hardly grasp of thought enough to arrive at any great leading truth. His passions do not amount to more than irritability. with some gall in his pen, and coldness in his manner, he has a great deal of kindness in his heart. Rash in his opinions, he is steady in his attachments—and is a man in many particulars admirable, in all respectable—his political inconsistency alone excepted!"
such is the homage that even a political as well as a critical opponent of Robert Southey found himself constrained to pay to his exemplary and irreproachable private character—to his good and guileless heart:
Incoctum generoso pectus honesto.
The inveteracy with which Lord Byron satirised Mr Southey is a matter of equal regret and notoriety: we believe that the only answer Southey ever made to these criticisms, was in a letter addressed to the Editor of the Courier newspaper, which, with the provocatory remarks of his Lordship, we give here:– “Mr Southey, too, in his pious preface to a poem whose blasphemy is as harmless as the sedition of Wat Tyler, because it is equally absurd with that sincere production, calls upon the “legislature to look to it,' as the toleration of such writings led to the French Revolution: not such writings as Wat Tyler, but as those of the ‘Satanic School.' This is not true, and Mr Southey knows it to be not true. Every French writer of any freedom was persecuted; Voltaire and Rousseau were exiles; Marmontel and Diderot were sent to the Bastille; and a perpetual war was waged with the whole class by the existing despotism. In the next place, the French Revolution was not occasioned by any writings whatsoever, but must have occurred had no such writings ever existed. It is the fashion to attribute every thing to the French Revolution, and the French Revolution to every thing but its real cause. That cause is obvious—the government exacted too much, and the people could neither give nor bear more. Without this, the Encyclopedists might have written their fingers off without the occurrence of a single alteration. And the English Revolution (the first, I mean)—what was it occasioned by ? The Puritans were surely as pious and moral as Wesley or his biographer. Acts—acts on the part of government, and not writings against them, have caused the past convulsions, and are tending to the future. I look upon such as inevitable, though no revolutionist: I wish to see the English constitution restored, and not destroyed. Born an aristocrat, and naturally one by temper, with the greater part of my present property in the funds, what have I to gain by a revolution? Perhaps I have more to lose in every way than Mr Southey, with all his places and presents for panegyrics and abuse into the bargain. But that a revolution is inevitable, I repeat. The government may exult over the repression of petty tumults; these are the receding waves repulsed and broken for a moment on the shore, while the great tide is still rolling on and gaining with every breaker. Mr Southey accuses us of attacking the religion of the country; and is he abetting it by writing lives of Wesley? One mode of worship is merely destroyed by another. There never was, nor ever will be, a country without a religion. We shall be told of France again, but it was only Paris and a frantic party, which for a moment upheld
their dogmatic monsense of theophilanthropy. The Church of England, if overthrown, will be swept away by the sectarians, and not by the sceptics. People are too wise, too well informed, too certain of their own immense importance in the realms of space, ever to submit to the impiety of doubt. There may be a few such diffident speculators, like water in the pale sunbeam of human reason, but they are very few; and their opinions, without enthusiasm or appeal to the passions, can never gain proselytes—unless, indeed, they are persecuted—that, to be sure, will increase anything. Mr S., with a cowardly ferocity, exults over the anticipated death-bed repentance of the objects of his dislike; and indulges himself in a pleasant ‘Vision of Judgment, in prose as well as verse, full of impious impudence. What Mr S.'s sensations or ours may be in the awful moment of leaving this state of existence, neither he nor we can pretend to decide. In common, I presume, with most men of any reflection, I have not waited for a ‘ deathbed' to repent of many of my actions, notwithstanding the “ diabolical pride' which this pitiful renegade in his rancour would impute to those who scorn him. Whether, upon the whole, the good or evil of my deeds may preponderate, it is not for me to ascertain; but, as my means and opportunities have been greater, I shall limit my present defence to an assertion (easily proved, if necessary), that I, “in my degree, have done more real good in any one given year, since I was twenty, than Mr Southey in the whole course of his shifting and turncoat existence. There are several actions to which I can look back with an honest pride, not to be damped by the calumnies of a hireling. There are others to which I recur with sorrow and repentance; but the only act of my life of which Mr Southey can have any real knowledge, as it was one which brought me in contact with a near connexion of his own, did no dishonour to that connexion, nor to me. I am not ignorant of Mr Southey's calumnies on a different occasion, knowing them to be such, which he scattered abroad on his return from Switzerland against me and others: they have doue him no good in this world; and if his creed be the right one, they will do him less in the next. What his “death-bed' may be, it is not my province to predicate: let him settle it with his Maker, as I must do with mine. There is something at once ludicrous and blasphemous in this arrogant scribbler of all work sitting down to deal damnation and destruction upon his fellow-creatures, with Wat Tyler, the Apotheosis of George the Third, and the Elegy on Marten the regicide, all shuffled together in his writing-desk. One of his consolations appears to be a Latin
note from a work of a Mr Landor, the author of ‘Gebir, whose friendship for Robert Southey will, it seems, “be an honour to him when the ephemeral disputes and ephemeral reputations of the day are forgotten.' I for one neither envy him ‘the friendship, nor the glory in reversion which is to accrue from it, like Mr Thelluson's fortune, in the third and fourth generation. This friendship will probably be as memorable as his own epics, which (as I quoted to him ten or twelve years ago in “English Bards') Porson said “would be remembered when Homer and Virgil are forgotten, and not till then.' For the present, I leave him.”
MR SOUTHEY'S REPLY • Sir, • Having seen in the newspapers a note relating to myself, extracted from a recent publication of Lord Byron's," I request permission to reply through the medium of your journal. I come at once to his Lordship's charge against me, blowing away the abuse with which it is frothed, and evaporating a strong acid in which it is suspended. The residuum then appears to be, that ‘Mr Southey, on his return from Switzerland (in 1817), scattered abroad calumnies, knowing them to be such, against Lord Byron and others.' To this I reply with a direct and positive denial. If I had been told in that country that Lord Byron had turned Turk, or monk of La Trappe, that he had furnished a haram, or endowed an hospital, I might have thought the account, whichever it had been, possible, and repeated it accordingly; passing it, as it had been taken in the small change of conversation, for no more than what it was worth. In this manner I might have spoken of him, as of Baron Gerambe, the Green Man, the Indian Jugglers, or any other figurante of the time being. There was no reason for any particular delicacy on my part in speaking of his Lordship; and, indeed, I should have thought anything which might be reported of him, would have injured his character as little as the sto which so greatly annoyed Lord Keeper cio. that he had ridden a rhinoceros. He may ride a rhinoceros: and though every bo'y would stare, no one would wonder. • But making no inquiry concerning him when I was abroad, because I felt no curiosity, I heard nothing, and had nothing to repeat. When I spoke of wonders to my friends and acquaintance on my return, it was of the flying-tree at Alpuacht, and the eleven thousand virgins at Cologne —not of Lord Byron. I sought for no staler sub
* The Two Foscari.
ject than St Ursula. Once, and only once, in connexion with Switzerland, I have alluded to his Lordship; and as the passage was curtailed in the press, I take this opportunity of restoring it. In the Quarterly Review, speaking incidentally of the Jungfrau, I said, ‘It was the scene where Lord Byron's Manfred met the Devil and bullied him—though the Devil must have won his cause before any tribunal in this world or the next, if he had not pleaded more feebly for himself, than his advocate, in a cause of canonization, ever pleaded for him.' With regard to the “others,' whom his Lordship accuses me of calumniating, I suppose he alludes to a party of his friends, whose names I found written in the Album at Mont Auvert, with an avowal of atheism annexed in Greek, and an indignant comment in the same language underneath it. Those names, with that avowal and the comment, I transcribed in my note-book, and spoke of the circumstance on my return. If I had published it, the gentleman in question would not have thought himself slandered, by having that recorded of him which he has so often recorded of himself. The many opprobrious appellations which Lord Byron has bestowed upon me, 1 leave as I find them, with the praises which he has bestowed upon himself. How easily is a noble spirit discern'd From harsh and sulphurous matter, that flies out In contumelies, makes a noise, and stinks! B. Johnson. But I am accustomed to such things; and so far from irritating me are the enemies who use such weapons, that, when I hear of their attacks, it is some satisfaction to think they have thus employed the malignity which must have been employed somewhere, and could not have been directed against any person whom it could probably molest or injure less. The viper, however venomous in purpose, is harmless in effect while it is biting at the file. It is seldom, indeed, that I waste a word or a thought upon those who are perpetually assailing me. But abhorring, as I do, the personalities which disgrace our current literature, and averse from controversy as I am, both by principle and inclination, I make no profession of non-resistance. When the offence and the offender are such as to call for the whip and the branding-iron, it has been both seen and felt that I can inflict them. Lord Byron's present exacerbation is evidently produced by an infliction of this kind—not by hear-say reports of my conversation four years ago, transmitted him from England. The cause may be found in certain remarks upon the Satanic School of poetry, contained in my preface to the Vision of Judgment.
• Well would it be for Lord Byron if he could
look back upon any of his writings with as much
satisfaction as I shall always do upon what is there said of that flagitious school. Many persons, and parents especially, have expressed their gratitude to me for having applied the brandingiron where it was so richly deserved. The Edinburgh Reviewer, indeed, with that honourable feeling by which his criticisms are so peculiarly distinguished, suppressing the remarks them. selves, has imputed them wholly to envy on my part. I give him, in this instance, full credit for sincerity: I believe he was equally incapable of comprehending a worthier motive, or of inventing a worse; and as I have never condescended to expose, in any instance, his pitiful malevolence, I thank him for having in this stript it bare himself, and exhibited it in its bald, naked, and undisguised deformity. Lord Byron, like his encomiast, has not ventured to bring the matter of those animadversions into view. He conceals the fact, that they are directed against the authors of blasphemous and lascivious, books,— against men who, not content with indulging their own vices, labour to make others the slaves of sensuality like themselves,—against public panders, who, mingling impiety with lewdness, seek at once to destroy the cement of social order, and to carry profanation and pollution into private families, and into the hearts of individuals.
• His Lordship has thought it not unbecoming in him to call me a scribbler of all work. ... Let the word scribbler pass; it is not an appellation which will stick, like that of the Satanic School. But if a scribbler, how am I one of all work? I will tell Lord Byron what I have not scribbled,—what kind of work I have not done. I have never published libels upon my friends and acquaintance, expressed my sorrow for those libels, and called them in during a mood of better mind,—and then re-issued them, when the Evil Spirit, which for a time has been cast out, had returned and taken possession, with seven others more wicked than himself. I have never abused the power, of which every author is in some degree possessed, to wound the character of a man, or the heart of a woman. I have never sent into the world a book to which I did not dare affix my name, or which I feared to claim in a Court of Justice, if it were pirated by a knavish bookseller. I have never manufactured furniture for the brothel. None of these things have I done; none of the foul work by which literature is perverted to the injury of mankind. My hands are clean; there is no ‘damned spot' upon them—no taint, which “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten." Of the work which I have done, it becomes me not here to speak, save only as relates to the Satanic School, and its Coryphaeus, the author of Don Juan. I have held up that school to public detestation, as enemies to the religion, the institutions, and the domestic morals of the country. I have given them a designation to which their founder and leader answers. I have senta stone from my sling, which has smitten their Goliah in the forehead. I have fastened his name upon the gibbet for reproach and ignominy as long as it shall endure. Take it down who can 1–0ne word of advice to Lord Byron before I conclude. When he attacks me again, let it be in rhyme. For one who has so little command of himself, it will be a great advantage that his temper should be obliged to keep tune. And while he may still indulge in the same rankness and virulence of insult, the metre will, in some degree, seem to lessen its vulgarity.
o a ROBERT SOUTHEY. al, *, Keswick, Jan.5, 1822.” We shall now conclude our brief, and, we fear, very inadequate sketch, by introducing the following interesting particulars, the accuracy and authenticity of which may be fully relied on. .*. After Mr Southey had left college, he devoted himself principally to poetry. The facility and rapidity with which he composes is perhaps unequalled. Southey had burnt more verses between the age of twenty and thirty than any other poet of the present day has written during the course of his whole life. Another remarkable feature in his character is the pliability and versatility of his talents. His time is strictly ecomomized, and every part of the day has its appropriate employment. It is very seldom that he has not several literary undertakings in hand at the same time; and as soon as the hour allotted to one of them has elapsed, he transfers his attention, at pleasure, to that which succeeds it, and without any of that difficulty which men of genius generally experience in escaping from • the domination of their glorious themes," and diverting their attention from the train of imagery which their own imagination has conjured
Other persons read, and forget: — what Mr Southey has read may be said to belong to him, and to constitute a part of himself. This may probably arise from his habit of making extracts from books during their perusal; and we may cite his example against the assertion of Gibbon, • that what is twice read, is better remembered than what is once written.” We may also add that his neat and careful handwriting may have contributed something to the adoption and utility of his practice.
In large and mixed societies Mr Southey does not often assume the place to which his talents
and acquirements entitle him: he is more often a listener than a talker. In this respect he dif. fers from Wordsworth and Coleridge, who are remarkable for the nervous and overwhelming eloquence of their language. But the character of Mr Southey can only be fully estimated by those who are intimately acquainted with him, in the domestic circle, in those winter evenings so beautifully sketched by Cowper; then how delightful it is to hear him It was this love of retirement, and distaste for the hurry and fever of public life, that induced Mr Southey to refuse the unsolicited offer of a seat in the House of Commons, to which he had been previously elected. A similar feeling induced him to fix his residence in a country in which alike the Poet finds inexhaustible food for his imagination, and the Philosopher for reflection— 4. He, on his own green banks, in solitude, By his soft murmuring lake, wanders along; And to his mountains, and his forests rude, Chaunts in sweet melody his classic song; He makes our northern wilds a paradise, Since spirits all sublime inhabit there; For at his magic call what phantoms rise, And in his voice what music floats the air! So heavenly soothing and so softly wild, The peasant deems it more than mortal lay; .. The grey old hermit, and the rustic child, With beating heart, and timid footsteps stray To catch the notes the zephyr wafts away.'
But though Mr Southey lives at such a distance from the theatre of public affairs, yet few, very few persons in England have had such an influence over its tastes and opinions as he has. Opinions may differ as to the tendency of the Quarterly Review, but no one will question its efficacy; and to this the pen of Mr Southey has mainly contributed. For years his articles, on an infinite variety of subjects, have instructed and amused the British nation: and he has not only proved himself a Theologian, an Historian, a Politician, and a Poet, but he has also evinced himself a master in each of these different capacities.—There is no person who collects so much from reading with so little labour as Southey. His skill in picking out the wheat from the chaff, and in arranging and digesting what is valuable, is perfectly wonderful. While others are obliged to dig and wade through a book to select what is of any value, he, without any effort, and perhaps half asleep upon his sofa, tears out the heart of a book, of which he scarcely appears to skin the surface. Hence the wonderful compass of his knowledge upon all subjects.
1 The above lines were written, and addressed to Mr Southey, some years ago, by an English lady, of considerable taste and talent, resident in France.
Mr Southey's library, though not extensive, is Mr Southey's income proceeds almost entirely very curious, which may account in some degree from the productions of his pen. He writes both for his antiquarian knowledge. His acquaint- for the Quarterly Review and the Foreign Quarance with modern languages is extensive, but | terly, and receives a hundred pounds for every not accurate, as might be inferred from his man- article in each. It is a fact, which our feelings ner of reading. will not allow us to suppress, that Mrs Cole. It has been made matter of accusation against ridge, her daughter, and Mrs Lovel rely entirely our author, that his opinions on political sub- upon him for support. His kindness towards jects were formerly very different from what they them does him the highest honour, and can only are at present.' While we admit the truth of be appreciated by those who know him.—His the statement, we cannot acknowledge the jus- residence is on the banks of the Greta, and about tice of the charge. Whether he was right for- a quarter of a mile from the beautiful, and picmerly, and wrong now, or whether the con- turesque Derwentwater." Here he resides nearly trary is the case, is a question in which we all the year, except during the Spring, when an have no wish to interfere. But he has a right annual attack of asthma frequently obliges him to claim from his adversaries, that they convict to suspend his literary labours, and sometimes to him of some motive, by which he was, and ought | take refuge in Holland. Mr Southey and Mr not to have been, influenced,—some dream of Wordsworth have continued an uninterrupted ambition, some avenue to aggrandisement. Un-friendship since they were young men; and, as til they can do this, they may regret, but they their houses are within twelve miles of each other, cannot blame his determination.” the intercourse between the two families is con
1 The progress of the French revolution, with the in- Stant. - - toxicating and visionary hopes which attended its com- As a friend and a neighbour universally bemencement, and the violent re-action produced on his own loved; accessible and courteous to the many mind by the rapid and shifting succession of events, have strangers who are attracted to Keswick by the been powerfully sketched by Mr Wordsworth, in the third celebrity of his name; there exists not a man who,
and fourth books of the « Excursion,” and in them, also, . we may trace the causes which produced the change in the with all the greatness of genius, has fewer of
political principles of his friend, Mr Southey. its frailties than Robent Southey. • On this subject we cannot but refer to Mr Southev's spirited and eloquent letter to William Smith, Esq., M. P. Here he may often be seen in his small skiff, rowed
for the city of Norwich, by the fair hands of his two daughters.