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■ r.V in his condition, and the misery of the first night viiich lie passed at school is thus described in the same poem:—
"Sadly at night
Tbe school to which he had been transferred was i very indifferent one, and the master, though a man of considerable attainments as a mathematician, utterly unfit for his profession. But little attention »as paid to the pupils, eithe 'n or out of school, and the domestic arrangements were most defective. Ose of the discomforts of the place made a strong impression upon poor Southey, and is thus spoken of in tbe letters to his friend May. "I dreaded nothing si much," he says, "as Sunday evening in winter; *c were then assembled in the hall, to hear the mister read a sermon, or a portion of Stackhouse's History of the Bible. Here I sat at the end of a long form, in sight but not within feeling of the fire, mj feet cold, my eyelids heavy as lead, and yet not . taring to close them, kept, awake by fear alone, in total inaction, and under the operation of a lecture more soporific than the strongest sleeping dose. Heaven help the wits of those good people who think that children arc to be edified by having sermons read to them!" : At this school Southey remained another twelvc'mmta, Trhen he was removed, and sent on a visit to his grandfather at Bed minster. This was a delightful change. A large garden was attached to his grandfather's house, which appeared to the emancipated school-boy quite a paradise, and in which he spent some 'A the happiest days of his childhood. The poet has favoured us with a minute description of this majric spot, in the course of which he refers to s constitutional peculiarity in his friend Wordsworth which may not be generally known :—
"Tbe side of the house," he says, "in the forecourt also was covered with an apricot-trcc, so that every luxury of this kind which an English sun can rpen, was there in abundance. Just by the orchardrate was a fine barberry-bush; and that peculiar Ogw of its blossoms, which is supposed to injure the •beat within its reach, is still fresh in my remembrance. JFordsicorth has no sense of smell. Once, ifc.l once only in his life, the dormant power aliened. It was by a bed of stocks in full bloom, . »t a house which he inhabited in Dorsetshire, some !' iwe-and-twenty years ago; and he says it was like a vision of paradise to him; but it lasted only a few I minutes, and the faculty has continued torpid from that time. The fact is remarkable in itself, and *ould be worthy of notice, even if it did not relate "to a man of whom posterity will desire to know all I that can be remembered. He ha3 often expressed to | ne his regret for this privation. I, on the contrary, possess the sense in such acuteness, that I can remember an odour and call up the ghost of one that is departed."
After staying at Bcdminstcr sonic time, Southey was taken home, and placed as a day-boarder at a school in Bristol, kept by a Welshman named Williams, where he remained between four and five years, "which, if not profitably, were at least," he says, "not unhappily spent." For the first two years of this period he lived at. his father's; but his holidays were always spent with Miss Tyler at Bath. Upon that lady, however, coining to reside at Bristol, he took up his abode with her altogether; and his early taste for literature was naturally directed into a dramatic channel from the associations he formed at this period. Shakspcre was put into his hands as soon as he could read, and before he was eight years old he had gone through all the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher. He was likewise, as in the days of his childhood, frequently taken by his aunt to the Bristol theatre; and in imitation of what he had seen passing on the stage, he soon began to compose dramas of his own. The first subject he attempted was the Continence of Scipio, in which battles were plentifully introduced, because the battle in Cymbeline was then one of his favourite scenes. Of this production, his patience only enabled him to finish about an act and a half; but he set to work upon other subjects, and whilst his dramatic passion lasted, teazed his playmates to engage in the same occupation, and was much surprised to find they were not able "to write plays as well as to do their lessons."
It had been decided by Southcy's uncle, the Rev. Mr. Hill, that he should be sent to Westminster, as soon as he was old enough to enter a public school; but the following incident led to his leaving Williams's seminary somewhat earlier, perhaps, than he might otherwise have done. "Williams," he says, "who read well himself, and prided himself upon it, was one day very much offended with my reading, and asked me scornfully who taught me to read. I answered, 'My aunt.' 'Then,' said he,' give my compliments to your aunt; and tell her that my old horse that has been dead these twenty years could have taught you as well.' I delivered the message faithfully, to her great indignation. It was never forgotten or forgiven, and perhaps it accelerated the very proper resolution of removing me." Upon being taken from the guardianship of Williams, he was placed for a twelvemonth, under a clergyman named Lewis, at whose house he attended for a few hours every day as a private pupil. The profit he derived from this year's tuition was very small, and it was found at the end that Lewis's assistance had enabled him to add but little to his stock of school-learning. On the other hand, aided by solitary and congenial studies, he became conscious of the growth of his intellectual nature, and the poetical spirit, which, like a plant, "required no forcing, nor artificial culture, only air and sunshine, and the rains and the dews of heaven," was gradually maturing itself within him. In the thirteenth and fourteenth years of his age, the frequent perusal of Tasso, Ariosto, and Spenser, had filled his mind with visions of romance, which entirely superscded his dramatic furor. At this period, also he wrote some heroic epistles in rhyme, and made translations from Virgil, Ovid, and Horace, besides projecting more ambitious works in imitation of his new models.
In his fifteenth year, Southey was placed at Westminster, being at the time, as he confesses, in every way ill qualified for the discipline of a public school. Nor was his career there very fortunate. He formed, it is true, many valuable friendships, which were of signal service to him in after life, but his stay was shortened by a disagreeable occurrence which attended his first appearance in print. "With some of his school friends, he had joined in the publication of a little periodical, called "The Flagellant," which had reached its ninth number, when a sarcastic article appeared, on the subject of corporal punishment. This paper gave great offence to Dr. Vincent, the head-master of Westminster, who proceeded so far as to prosecute the printer for a libel. Upon this, Southey promptly acknowledged the authorship of the article, and offered to make an apology; but Dr. Vincent was inexorable, and he was in consequence compelled to quit the school.
On leaving Westminster, Southey returned to Bristol, and for some months resided with his aunt, Miss Tyler. It had been long resolved to send him to Oxford, with the view of his entering the church, and accordingly, after some delay, arising out of family troubles, he was entered at Balliol College, having been previously rejected by the Dean of Christ Church, (Cyril Jackson,) on account, it is said, of the part he had taken at Westminster in the publication of the "Flagellant." In January, 1793, he began his residence at the University, with an ardent thirst for knowledge, and a genuine taste for literary pursuits, but with little prepossession in favour of college discipline. Almost immediately on his arrival, he thus wrote to a Westminster friend, Mr. Qrosvenor Bedford. "Behold me, my friend, entered under the banners of science or stupidity, which you please, and like a recruit got sober, looking to the days that are past, and feeling something like regret. ... I feel myself entered upon a new scene of life, and, whatever the generality of Oxonians conceive, it appears to me a very serious one. Four years hence I am to be called into orders, and during that time, (short for the attainment of the requisite knowledge,) how much have I to learn! 1 must learn to break a rebellious spirit, which neither authority nor oppression could ever bow; it would be easier to break my neck. I must learn to work a problem, instead of writing an ode. I must learn to pay respect to men remarkable only for great wigs and little wisdom."
At this period of his life Southey was an ardent and sincere republican. The French Revolution had excited in his young mind feelings of enthusiastic sympathy and admiration, and although its excesses served to moderate his democratic views, he could not easily forget his early dreams of human perfectibility. His religious views were also unsettled, and
were far too widely removed from strict orthodoxy to permit him sincerely to entertain the notion of becoming a minister of the Church of England. Under these circumstances, with little practical knowledge of the world, he began to look around for some occupation which might furnish him with the means of subsistence, without requiring the sacrifice of his opinions. Whilst he was making inquiries upon this subject, and meeting with disappointment at every turn, he made the acquaintance of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, then an undergraduate of Jesus College, Cambridge; and this incident led to some of the most important events of his life.
At the time that Southey was introduced to Coleridge, the latter was on a visit to an old schoolfellow at Oxford. A marked similarity in their religious and political views made them close friends from the beginning; and whilst they were declaiming together on the abuses in the social system, and on the misery and injustice that prevailed in their native country, Mr. Coleridge started the idea of a new scheme of colonization, to which he proposed to give the name of "Pantisocracy." The writings of English and foreign socialists have made us familiar with similar Utopias, and their pretensions would now appear trite and stale, but in the days of Southey's early manhood such schemes were well calculated to attract the] attention of the earnest visionary. The details of the plan were soon arranged, and the cooperation of some congenial spirits readily promised. Among the first converts were Mr. Robert Lovell, the son of a rich Quaker, and three of Southey's fellowcollegians, of good family, named Burnett, Allen, and Seward. Mr. Lovell, it may be necessary to state, had married a Miss Fricker, of Bristol, and to one of that lady's sisters Southey had recently engaged himself. For a time the young enthusiast contrived to prevent the news both of his intended marriage and of the scheme of Pantisocracy from reaching the ears of his aunt; but at length all was discovered, and a storm ensued which rendered him a homeless adventurer.
The Pantisocratic scheme soon failed, from the vulgar want of funds to carry it into execution, and Southey and Coleridge found themselves under the necessity of doing something for a livelihood. Some literary engagements were at length obtained, and a course of historical lectures delivered at Bristol by the two friends, which proved, it appears, highly successful. In his own words, the young poet had "cut his cable, and was drifting on the ocean of life." Whilst engaged in this manful struggle, the death of his friend Seward plunged him into the deepest distress, and the mode in which he lamented his loss, both in poetry and in prose, will convey some idea of the intensity of his sufferings. "Bedford—he is dead; my dear Edmund Seward! after six weeks' suffering. ... In that room where I have so often seen him, he now lies in his coffin! It is like a dream, the idea that he is dead—that his heart is cold —that he, whom but yesterday morning I thought and talked of as alive—as the friend I knew and ioved—;s dead! . . . . There is a strange vacancy in itv heart. The suu shines as usual, but there is a b.ank in existence to me." From the beautiful poem in which, four years later, he commemorated his loss, we will extract two stanzas, which from their intrinsic eieellence are well worthy of quotation:—
"Often together have we talk'd of death;
Such as the cherubim,
O Kdmund ! thou hast first
I look upon the stars.
>'ot to the grave, not to the grave, my soul,
The arrival in England of Southey's uncle, Mr. Hill, who had been long resident in Portugal, and who has been mentioned as taking so much interest in his cepbew's education, occasioned a fresh change in the poet's fortunes. Southey had looked forward with dread to an interview with his uncle, but the good min treated him with exemplary and unexpected forbearance. Finding that his nephew had determined wit to enter the church, he proposed to him to return with him to Lisbon for six months, and then, if he aw no objection, prepare for the legal profession. The generous offer was promptly accepted; but on the day fixed for his departure, the poet was united to Edith Flicker, at Redcliffe Church, Bristol. The young couple parted after the ceremony, and the bride wore her wedding ring hung round her neck, •&1 kept her maiden name, till the report of the aarriage rendered concealment useless.
Oa his return from Portugal, Southey began to '"ink seriously of devoting himself to the study and practice of the law. Without abandoning literature, tewas sanguine enongh to hope that he might master the drudgeries of his new profession. Having for a short time established himself at Bristol, with his young »ite,he thus writes to his friend, Mr.Bedford:—"I hare told you what I am about; writing letters to the »or!d is not, however, quite so agreeable as writing to joo, and I do not love shaping a good thing into a
?wd sentence Then for a volume of poems, and
Ihea for the Abridgment of the Laws, or the Lawyer's docket Companion, in fifty-two volumes folio! Is it &'jt a pity, Grosvenor, that I should not execute my wtention of writing more verses than Lope de Vega, more tragedies than Dryden, and more epic poems than Blackmore? The more I write, the more I have ■v *nte. I have a Helicon kind of dropsy upon me, «AcnteU indulgent Mi'.".
The letters alluded to in the foregoing extract were the "Letters from Spain and Portugal," which contained the impressions of his recent tour in those countries. At the beginning of 1797, (in the twenty-third year of his age,) Southey left Bristol, and came up to London to pursue his legal studies. Having paid the necessary fees, he was admitted a student-at-law at Gray's Inn; and, though hating the metropolis with an intense hatred, he made up his mind for a time to reside there with his wife. His mornings he resolved to devote to law, and his evenings to his poem of Madoc, on which he was then hard at work. With noble self-denial, he determined to resist the attractions of literary society; —paying more regard to the happiness of the woman who was to share his home than many in his position might have done. "I have declined," he says, in a letter written at this period to Mr. Joseph Cottle, "being a member of a Literary Club which meets weekly, and of which I have been elected a member. Surely a man does not do his duty who leaves his wife to evenings of solitude; and I feel duty and happiness to be inseparable. I am happier at home than any other society can possibly make me."
The poet's detestation of London increased with the length of his acquaintance^ Green fields were his delight, and bricks and mortar his abhorrence. He adopted, as his favourite quotation, the emphatic words of John Donne:—
"Sir,—I do thank God for it—I do hato
He found also, after a time, that he could pursue his studies with equal or greater advantage in the country. It is not surprising, therefore, that he soon withdrew from the metropolis, residing in various country places which suited his convenience or pleased his fancy. In a metrical letter to Mrs. Southey, dated June 4, 179S, he thus emphatically expresses his horror of London life:—
"To dwell in that foul city,—to endure
As may be imagined, the study of the law became more and more distasteful to him, and, as his literary avocations increased, Coke and Blackstone were almost wholly thrown aside. About this time, also, he began to suffer severely from the results of mental labour; and, by way of necessary relaxation, he made a pedestrian excursion into Wales, and spent a few weeks in Herefordshire. In a letter from Hereford to Mr. Wynn, he encloses a curious specimen of epistolary correspondence, being the copy of a genuine note from a west-country farmer's daughter to a female acquaintance, which we cannot resist the temptation of transcribing:—
"Dear Miss,—The energy of the races prompts me to assure you that my request is forbidden; the idea
of which I had awkwardly nourished, notwithstanding my propensity to reserve. Mr. T. will be there; let me with confidence assure you that him and brothers will be very happy to meet you and brothers. Us girls cannot go for reasons; the attention of the cows claims our assistance in the evening.
As literary occupation flowed in upon him, and engrossed all his time, Southey felt himself placed in a position of some embarrassment. All his tastes and wishes disposed him to p»efer the peaceful cultivation of literature to any other employment, and he felt, moreover, that his delicate constitutiou was unfitted to sustain the wear and tear of a lawyer's life. But he still, says his son, thought it right Co continue to keep his terms at Gray's Inn: though every day he became more convinced of his peculiar inaptitude for the legal profession. On the 21st of December, 1799, he thus writes from Bristol to his friend Mr. Bedford: "Grosvenor, 1 have nothing of what the world calls ambition. I never thought it possible that I could be a great lawyer; I should as soon expect to be the man in the moon. My views were bounded —my hopes—to an income of 500/. a-year, of which I could lay by half to effect my escape with .... I am not indolent; I loathe indolence; but, indeed, reading law is laborious indolence—it is thrashing straw. I have read, and read, and read; but the devil a bit can I remember. I have given all possible attention, and attempted to command volition. No! The eye read, the lips pronounced, I understood and re-read it; it was very clear; I remembered the page, the sentence,—but close the book, and all was gone! Were I an independent man, even on less than I now possess, I should long since have made the blessed bonfire, and rejoiced that I was free and contented."
His health continuing " in a most, unsatisfactory state," he now made up his mind to try the air of Lisbon for a short time. Meanwhile his hands were full of work, and his brain constantly employed. He had commenced his poem of Thalaba—the most original and successful of his poetical productions—and was rapidly proceeding with it. He also found time for some nobler speculations. Willing to lend his aid to any project of practical benevolence, he meditated, at the suggestion of a friend, " an essay upon the state of womeu in society; and its possible amelioration by means, at first, of institutions similar to the Flemish Bcguinages." . . . . "The object," he says, (writing to his friend Mr. John May,) "is to provide for the numerous class of women who want employment the means of respectable independence, by restoring to them those branches of business which the men have mischievously usurped or monopolised, when they ought only to have shared. Oh! what a country might this Eugland become, did its government but wisely direct the strength, and wealth, and activity of the people! Every profession, every trade is overstocked; (this was in February 1S00] there are more adven
turers in each than can possibly find employment; hence poverty and crime. Do not misunderstand nie as asserting this to be the sole cause, but it is the most frequent one. A system of colonization, that should offer an outlet for the superfluous activity of the country, would convert this into a cause of general good; and the blessings of civilization might be extended over the deserts that, to the disgrace of man, occupy so great a part of the world! Assuredly poverty and the dread of poverty are the great sources of guilt." This extract—which is as full of good feeling as of good sense—shows that the poet was still actuated by the same philanthropic ardour and the same earnest anxiety for the welfare of his species which, in early life, had hurried him into some extravagances.
In the spring of 1S00, Southey departed with his wife for Lisbon. A series of letters written during his residence there to friends in England, are included in the present biography, and abound with lively and interesting descriptions of the place and people. The following characteristic passages are from a letter to Lieutenant Southey, written May 23d, 1S00: "Lisbon has twice beeu clean since the creation; Noah's flood washed it once, and the fire after the earthquake purified it Government will neither cleanse the
city themselves, nor suffer any one else to do it. An English merchant applied lately for permission to clear the street in which he lived, and it was refused. . . . No doubt this is a regular government; it is an old monarchy, and has an established church. ... An acquaintance of mine (Tennant, well known for some famous chemical experiments on the diamond) met an Irishman in Switzerland, who had been at Rome. He said it was the most laineant government in the world; you might kill a man in the streets, and nobody would take the laist notice of it. This also is a laineant government: a man stabs his antagonist, wipes the knife in his cloak, and walks quietly away. It is a pointof honour in the spectators togive no information. If one servant robs his master, it is a point of honour in his fellow-servants never to inform of him. Both these points of honour arc inviolable from prudence, for a stab would be the consequence. One method of revenge used in the provinces is ingeniously wicked: they beat a man with sand-bags. These do not inflict so much immediate pain as a cane would do, but they so bruise all the fine vessels, that, unless the poor wretch be immediately scarified, a lingering death is the consequence." In another letter to Lieutenant Southey, he thus describes some of the drawbacks to the fine climate of Lisbon. "The warm weather is come; we shut our windows to exclude the heated air, and our shutters to darken the room: if half the money expended upon the souls in purgatory were employed in watering the street, we should be relieved from the torment of burning. Yet is the heat more endurable than the intense light; this is insufferably painful: the houses are white, the stones in the street white, the very dust bleached, and all reflect back upon us the scorching sun; the light is like the quivering of a furnace fire; it dazzles and makes the eyes ache, and blindness is very common. . . . Everlasting noise is another characteristic of Lisbon. Their Monday fireworks, their cannonading on every fool's pretext, their bells to every goat in a flock, and every mule in a drove, prove this ; above all, their everlasting bell-ding-donging,—for bell-ringing would convey the English idea of music, and here it is only noise."
Having afterwards removed to Cintra, the poet began to feel the good effects of the climate; and though " longing to see the faces of friends, and huncfring after the bread-and-butter comforts and green fields of England," he was thoroughly enraptured with the luxuries and beauties of this favoured soil. "The spot I am in," he says, in a letter to his friend Wynn, ,; is the most beautiful I have ever seen or imagined. I ride a jackass, a fine lazy way of travelling; you have even a boy to beat old Dapple when he is slow. I eat oranges, figs, and delicious pears,—drink Colareswine, i sort of half-way excellence between port and claret, —read all I can lay my hands on,—dream of poem after poem, and play after play,—take a siesta of two hears, and am as happy as if life were one everlasting to-day, and that to-morrow was not to be provided for." Attributing the degraded condition of the mass of the Portuguese nation to the blighting effect of superstition, Southey often dwelt, in his letters to absent friends, on the absurdities of the Romish faith, and the ignorance and indolence both of the laity and c'ltrsj. In a letter to his mother, he gives the following '. sittcfi of a religious drama, designed for the amusement I sad edification of the faithful, which appears to us unI peraiied by anything we have seen for ingenuity and blasphemy:—
"Too like the Catholics; shall I give you an account of one of their Lent plays upon Transubstantiation which U lying on the table? It begins by the Father turning Adim oot of doom. 'Get out of my house, you rascal!' Adam goes a-begging, and bitterly does he complain ti»t he can find no house, no Tillage, nobody to beg of. At last, he meets the Four Seasons, and they give him a ipade, and a plough, &c., but nothing to eat. Then comes Reason, and tells him to go to law with his Father, vho U obliged to find him in victual-. Adam goes to ter; an Angel is his counsel, and the Devil pleads against ja He wins his cause: and the Father settles upon £ub oil—for extreme unction; lamb; and bread and rise. Up comes the Sacrament, and there is an end of the play. This is written by a priest, one of the best •Spanish writers, who has written seventy-two of these plivs, all upon the body and blood, and all in the same strain of quaint and pious blasphemy."
To return, however, to the events of Southey's life, la June 1801, he returned to England, and once more took up his residence at Bristol. Thalaba had been finished by him during his stay in Portugal, and the copyright of the first edition was purchased by Messrs. I/ingman for 115/. He had given up all thoughts of the law, and his hopes were now fixed on obtaining sj-rae permanent appointment in a southern climate. A prospect was opened to him by his friend Wynn, of becoming private secretary to a gentleman who had hern nominated ambassador to Palermo, and who was thence to proceed to Constantinople. A very small alary was attached to the post, but it was thought it
might lead to a consulship. Southey was pleased with the idea; and, in his usual cheerful and playful style, wrote to Coleridge to express his satisfaction, and to tempt his friend to expatriate himself likewise. "I feel here," he says, "as a stranger. . . . What tic have I in England? My London friends? There, indeed, I have friends. But if you and yours were with me, eating dates in a garden at Constantinople, you might assert that wc were in the best of all possible places; and I should answer, Amen: and if our wives rebelled, we would send for the chief of the black eunuchs, and sell them to the Seraglio. Then should Moses learn Arabic, and we would know whether there was anything in the language or not. Wc would drink Cyprus wine and mocha coffee, and smoke more tranquilly than ever we did in the Ship in Small Street."
This scheme, however, came to nothing; but in the autumn, Southey proceeded to Keswick in Cumberland—destined to be his residence for so many years in after life, and the place of his final repose—on a visit to his friend Coleridge. On leaving the Lake district,—of which, it appears, his first impressions were by no means favourable,—he received intelligence that he had been appointed, through the influence of his friend Wynn, private secretary to Mr. Corry, then Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland, at a salary of 350/. a-year. He immediately repaired to Dublin, where he remained only for a short time, as the duties of his office required him to reside in London during the winter. His position in life was now altered, and he found many new friends eager to hail the dawn of his prosperity. "The civilities which have already been shown mc," he says, in a letter to Mr. William Taylor, "discover how much I have been abhorred for all that is valuable in my nature; such civilities excite more contempt than anger, but they make me think more despicably of the world than I could wish to do. As if this were a baptism that purified me of all sins—a regeneration; and the one congratulates me, and the other visits me, as if the author of Joan of Arc and Thalaba were made a great man by scribbling for the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer."
At the beginning of the following year, the poet's feelings sustained a severe shock from the death of his mother, the last remaining friend of his infancy and childhood. A short time after this sad event, he resigned his secretaryship. It appears that the specific duties of his office were not sufficient to find him employment, upon which Mr. Corry suggested that he should undertake the tuition of his son, to fill up the time. This Southey refused to do, and gave up his appointment, "losing thereby," in his own words, "a foolish office and a good salary." In the autumn his first child was born to him, a daughter, whom he named Margaret. Nati' dly enough, this event made him more anxious to seu,e himself in some permanent residence, which he might reasonably call a home. At one time his attention was turned to Wales, and he was actually in treaty for a house in Glamorganshire, in the Vale of Neath, which ne considered "one of