Imagens das páginas

bookseller named Ridgeway then imprisoned in Newgate; but the work was not published at that time. For three-and-twenty years the author had not heard of it, and great therefore was his astonishment and indignation, at seeing it after the lapse of such a period, and after such a complete change had taken place in his opinions, thus unscrupidously given to the world. Of course the publication attracted attention, and called forth many remarks. One of Southcy's most persevering opponents drew attention to it in the House of Commons, and quoting from it the following lines, (which we cite as a specimen of its style and matter,) inquired why the author was not prosecuted for sedition :—

"My brethren, these are truths, and weighty ones:
Ye are all equal; Nature made ye so.
Equality is your birthright; when 1 gaze
On the proud palace, and behold one man,
In the blood-purpled robes of royalty,
Feasting at case and lording over millions;
Then turn me to the hut of poverty,
And see the wretched labourer, worn with toil,
Divide his scanty morsel with his infants,
I sicken, and, indignant at the sight,
Blush fur the patience of humanity."

To this attack Mr. Southey replied in a spirited pamphlet, and by the advice of his friends applied to the court of Chancery for an injunction to restrain the sale of the poem. The application, however, was refused by the Lord Chancellor (Eldon) on the ground, "that as the work was calculated to do an injury to society, the author could not reclaim his property in it."

We pass rapidly on to such other events of Southey's secluded life as appear to us to require notice. The Laurcateship continued for many years to be no sinecure. He was still required to furnish occasional odes, and this task-work was the more laborious, as unlike his predecessors, he was unable to satisfy himself with mere repetition and commonplace. The death of George, III. in January, 1820, seemed, says his son, to call for some more particular effort on his part than his previous official verses, and the event having been for some time expected, he had planned a poem of altogether novel structure and design.

More than once, it will be remembered, he had attempted to reconcile the English language to the classical metres. His early Sapphics having been received with ridicule are now only remembered from Canning's witty and admirable parody on them in the Anti-Jacobin1, but notwithstanding this failure, the poet held firm by his theory, and had frequently indulged the idea of making the experiment on a grand scale. Accordingly, having been for some time closely engaged on the work, in 1S21 he produced the Vision of Judgment, in English Hexameter verse, which, notwithstanding the labour it cost him, we must fain pronounce the most objectionable and least meritorious of all his poetical performances. It must always be regretted that he imported the violence of party

(1) See the "Knife-grind'.r." "Weary knife-grinder, whither art thou going t " &c.

politics into the most solemn speculations which the human mind can entertain; and making all allowances for warmth of disposition, and the circumstances of the period, it cannot be denied that he laid himself open to grave animadversion. Having made these remarks on the poem itself, we may add that its publication brought him into fierce collision with one of his most celebrated contemporaries. In the preface to his Vision, Southey had gone out of his way (though certaiidy not without provocation, as the early cantos of Don Juan prove,) to attack Lord Byron, and what he designated the Satanic school of poetry. "The school," he said, "which they have set up may properly be called the Satanic school, for though their productions breathe the spirit of Belial in their lascivious parts, and the spirit of Moloch in those loathsome images of atrocities and horrors which they delight to represent, they are more especially characterised by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety, which still betrays the wretched feeling of hopelessness wherewith it is allied." This strong language extorted from Lord Byron a reply of a virulent personal character, which called forth a rejoinder from Southey in the shape of a letter addressed to the editor of the Courier newspaper, which contained the following among other equally vehement expressions:—"Of the work which I hate done it becomes me not here to speak, save only as relates to the Satanic school, and its Coryphajus, 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 giveu them a designation to which their founder and leader answers. I have sent a stone from my sling vthicli has smitten their Goliath 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!" Upon the appearance of this letter, Lord Byron despatched a hostile message to his opponent, which was, however, prudently suppressed by the gentleman to whom it was entrusted for delivery; and thus ended the affair.

The productions which during the nex^ few years followed each other in quick succession from Southey s pen, were for the most part in prose, and secured a wider circle of readers than his poetry had done. The Life of Wesley, the History of the Peninsular War, and the Book of the Church,—all of them being more or less tinged with his political and religious views—belong to this period, and were received witu rapture and applause by a considerable portion of the public. His ■ prose style—originally formed by • careful study of the best masters—had attained «Hj unusual vigour and polish from the constant practice of composition, and in the trick of writing plcasantlj on a given subject he was certainly excelled by no contemporary scribe.

With regard to his personal history at this time. we find few incidents worth narrating. He passed his days amidst his books, (taking, for health's sale an occasional country stroll,) and it was only »t istervals, few and far between, that lie permitted tasself to be drawn from his seclusion. His letters, aoeed, are full of interesting information on literary ind other topics; but we must content ourselves with ray brief extracts from tliem. During a visit to Loudon in the winter of 1823-24, in a letter to Mrs. Southey, he thus sketches one of the most remarkable men of the period—the celebrated Rowland Hill:—

"Rowland, a fine tall old man, with strong features, Terr like his portrait, began by reading three verses for his text, stooping to the book in a very peculiar manner. Having done this, he stood up erect and said, 'Why, the text is a sermon, and a very weighty one too.' I eonid not always follow his delivery, the loss of his teeth rendering his words sometimes indistinct, and the more so because his pronunciation is peculiar, generally giving e the sound of ai, like the French. His manner 1 was animated and striking, sometimes impressive and 'dignified, always remarkable; and so powerful a voice 1 hive rarely or never heard. Sometimes he took off his spectacles, frequently stooped down to read a text, »nd on these occasions he seemed to double his body, so high did he stand. He told one or two familiar stories, and used some odd expressions, such as—' A murrain so those who preach that when we are sanctified we do not grow in grace !' and again, ' I had almost said that I had rather see the devil in the pulpit than an Antinomian!' The purport of his sermon was good; nothing fanatical, nothing enthusiastic, and the CalviuUm which it expressed was so qualified as to be hinnlefs; the manner that of a performer, as great in his line as Kean or Kcinhle; and the manner it is Thtch has attracted so large a congregation about him, lil ef the better order of persons in business."

It the end of the year 1S24, Mr. Gifford retired from the editorship of the Quarterly Review, and it »js then placed under the. management of Mr. John Taylor Coleridge, (now Mr. Justice Coleridge,) of whose judgment aud ability Southey entertained a high opinion. Writing from Keswick in January 1S25, he thus counsels the new editor on the conduct of the Review:—

"The Quarterly Review has bceu overlaid with statistics, as it was once with Greek criticism. It is the disease of the age—the way in which verbose dulness spends itself. The journal wants more of ilie litirai kumaniores, and in a humancr lone than it has been wuut to observe. 1 think a great deal of good may be doije by conciliating young writers who arc going wrong, by leading them with a friendly hand into the right path, giving them all the praise they deserve, and advising or insinuating rather than reprehending. Keats might have been won in that manner, and perhaps have been saved. So 1 have been assured.... Do not overwork yuurself, nor tit up too late, and never continue at any one mental employment after yvu are tired of it. Take I this advice Irom one who has attained to great selfmanagement in this respect."

In the summer of 1825 Southey was enabled to carry into execution a design which he had long entertained of paying a visit to Holland. Having \ reached Leyden, his further progress was for some lime delayed by a troublesome wound in his foot, which proved to be one of those disagreeable occurrences that he could hardly regret, as it introduced him to the household of an amiable and accomplished Ban of letters whom he ever afterwards held in high

esteem,—by name Bildcrdijk. Some time before, Southey had received a Dutch translation of his poem of Roderick, from the pen of Madam Bildcrdijk, accompanied by a Latin letter from her husband, and he had visited Leyden principally for the purpose of seeing them. Upon his arrival, finding that he was an invalid, they insisted on his taking up his abode with them. He availed himself of the offer, and remained under their hospitable roof three weeks, treated with marked attention, and becoming every day more attached to them. So great was the impression which their kindness made upon him, that the next year, as he could not prevail on them to visit him at Keswick, he undertook another journey to Leyden. In communicating this intention to his friend Dr. Jebb, (Bishop of Limerick,) in April 1826, he thus speaks of the attention he had received in Bildcrdijk's house. "Here I was nursed," he writes, " as if I had been their brother; and tliilher, as they cannot come and visit me, I am going to sec them once more. Were Leyden ten times as distant as it is, I would take the journey, for the pleasure which I shall give and receive. I knew him only by letter till I was cast upon their compassion. But Bilderdijk is one of those men whose openness of heart you perceive at first sight; aud when I came to know them both, if I had sought the world over, it wotdd not have been possible for me to have found two persons with whom I should have felt myself more entirely in unison; except indeed that my host stands up, like a true Hollander of the old stamp, for the Synod of Dort." Bilderdijk was at this time upwards of seventy years of age, aud of weakly constitution. His only means of subsistence was a pension of about 140/. a-year, and his wife, a woman of great talent, was twenty-four years his junior. They had one son,—a poor sickly boy of twelve,—but a happier family, according to the Laureate's testimony, the world never saw.

During his second absence in Holland a curious circumstance took place, which might have had an important influence on Southey's fortunes. As he passed through Brussels, on his return home, he learnt that he had been put iu nomination, and elected a Member of Parliament for the borough of Downton in Wiltshire. The strange occurrence was partially explained by the following noie, which he found awaiting him iu London, and which was afterwards discovered to have been written by Lord Radnor:—

"July 10th. 1826." "A zealous admirer of the British Constitution in Church and State, being generally pleased with Mr. Southey's ' Book of the Church,' and professing himself quite delighted with the summary on the last page of that work, and entertaining no doubt that the writer of that page really felt what he wrote, and, consequently, would be ready, if he had an opportunity, to support the sentiments there set forth, has therefore been anxious that Mr. Southey should have a seat in the ensuing Parliament; and having a little interest, has so managed that he is at this moment in possession of that seat under this single injunction:—L't sustineat firmiter, strenue et contiuuo, qua; ipse bene docuit esse subtinenda."


This unexpected honour Southey had the good sense fo decline, being well aware that it was a position for which his habits and feelings entirely unfitted him; and to this resolution he firmly adhered, though his friends seriously proposed to purchase a qualification for him, in the shape of an estate of 300/. a-year.

As we approach the concluding years of Southey's life, we cannot refrain from quoting, as a proper introduction, the following summary of his personal character by his friend Mr. Henry Taylor, the accomplished author of " Philip van Arteveldc:"—

"His sixty summers—what arc they in truth?
By Providence peculiarly blest,
With him the strong hilarity of youth
Abides despite grey hairs, a constant guest.
His sun has vcer'd a point towards the west,
But light as dawn his heart is glowing yet,—
That heart the simplest, gentlest, kindliest, best,
Where truth and manly tenderness are met
With faith and heavenward hope, the suns that
never set."

His industry at this period, we may remark, was most exemplary. All his life long he had leaned on literature as his main support; but in the autumn of his days his assiduity was greater even than in their spring-time and summer. Although "his whole pleasure and happiness was centred in his home,"— notwithstanding his thoroughly domestic habits— "his family," observes the Rev. Mr. Southcy, "necessarily saw but little of him. He could not, however he might wish it, join the summer eveniug walk, or make one of the circle round the winter hearth, or even spare time for conversation after the family meals. . . . Every day, every hour had its allotted employment; always were there engagements to publishers imperatively requiring punctual fulfilment; always the current expenses of a large household to take anxious thought for: he had no crops growing while he was idle. 'My ways,' he used to say, ' are as broad as the kiug's highroad, and my means lie in an inkstand.'" It is pleasant to know that he went about his daily tasks in a cheerful and uurepiuiug mood, and that he regarded a life of toil as a fair payment for the many blessings by which he was surrounded. His library, which consisted at his death of something like 14,000 volumes, contained nearly all the works which he required in the course of his varied reading, and it was especially rich in Spanish and Portuguese books and MSS. The room which he constantly occupied was filled with his handsomest and most precious volumes, "arranged," says his son, "with much taste, according to his own fashion, with due regard to size, colour, and condition; and he used to contemplate, these, his carefully accumulated and much prized treasures, with even more pleasure and pride than the greatest connoisseur his finest specimens of the old masters: and justly, for they were both the necessaries and luxuries of life to him; both the very instruments whereby he won, hardly enough, his daily bread, and the source of all his pleasures and recreations—the pride of his eyes and the joy of his heart."

We will not attempt to touch on the various topics embraced by his correspondence in these later years. It is enough to say that some of his letters to his intimate friends display his usual playfulness and buoyancy of disposition; whilst others abound with shrewd remarks on the politics and literature of the period. As a specimen of his later epistolary style, we arc tempted to find space for the following sketch of Barry the painter, from a letter addressed to Allan Cunningham, who was then engaged on his "Lives of the Painters," for Murray's Family Library:—

"I knew Barry, and have been admitted into his den in liis worst (that is to say, in his maddest) days, when he was employed upon his Pandora. He wore at that time an old coat of green Laize, but from which time had taken all the green that incrustations of paint and dirt had not covered. His wig was one which you might suppose he had borrowed from a scarecrow; all round it there projected a fringe of his own grey hair. He lived alone, in a house which was never cleaned; and he slept on a bedstead with no other furniture than a blanket nailed on the one side. I wanted him to visit me. 'No,' he said, 'he would not go out by day, because he could not spare time from his great picture; and if he went out in the evening the Academicians would waylay him and murder him.' In this solitary, sullen life he continued till he fell ill, very probably for want of food sufficiently nourishing; and after lying two or three days under his blanket, he had just strength enough left to crawl to his own door, open it, and lay himself down with a paper in his baud, on which he had written his wish to bo carried to the house of Hr. Carlisle (Sir Anthony) in Soho Square. There he was taken care of; and the danger from which he had thus escaped seems to have cured his mental hallucinations. Ho cast his slough afterwards; appeared decently dressed and in his own grey hair, and mixed in such Eociety as he liked. I should have told you that, a little before bis illness, ho had with much persuasion been induced to pass a night at some person's house in the country. When he came down to breakfast the next morning, and was asked how he had rested, he said, remarkably well; he had not slept in sheets for many years, and really he thought it was a very comfortable thing."

During a visit to London in the autumn of 1830, tempted partly by the stirring nature of the times, Southey mixed more in general society than he had been accustomed to do on similar occasions, and was introduced to many distinguished personages. Amongst other engagements he dined with the Duchess of Kent, and was much gratified, says his son, "by her bringing forward the Princess Victoria, then eleven years of age, to tell him she had lately read with pleasure his 'Life of Nelson.'" Political friends and political opponents whom he had never seen flocked around him, and hastened to do him honour. *' The Duke of Wellington," he says, in one of his letters, "sent me a card; but I could not accept the invitation. But the oddest thing that befel me was that as I rose from my knee at the levee, my hand was unexpectedly caught hold of and shaken by Lord Brougham." With the latter learned lord, who was then Lord Chancellor, he had afterwards some interesting correspondence on the expediency oi extending a more liberal government patronage to the profession of literature.

Before we draw this biography to a conclusion, a ;'.i words may be said respecting the last great work, tod certainly not the least celebrated, which proceeded from Southey's pen: we allude to "The Doctor." This production formed at once the chief recreation aid employment of his declining years, and was intended as a receptacle for all the "odd knowledge and playful fancies" which he had been unable to embody a any of his former works. The first two volumes iere published anonymously in 1S31, and although the secret was known to a few of his most intimate friends, Southey took great pains to conceal it even from the members of his own family; and in order that his well-known handwriting (which, by the way, was neatness and elegance itself) might not be detected by the printers, the manuscript was copied by a friend's hand before it went to press.

The poet was enjoying the surprise created by the appearance of this strange book, and smiling at the comments of his friends, when he was stunned by the occurrence of a domestic calamity which summoned up all his fortitude. His faithful partner, who, in his o-rn words, had been for forty years the life of his life, was separated from him by a visitation worse than death itself, and his happy home was rendered desolate.

How acutely he felt this calamity, we need not say. Pur many months he laboured under the deepest despondency. His mind was unstrung; he was "shaken to the root," and knowing that his income mainij depended on his own exertions, he became seriously anxious about, the future. At this juncture, he received by the post one morning an official letter from Sir Robert Peel, who was then Prime Minister, o&ring him a baronetcy, as a reward for his literary txertions, accompanied by a private epistle from the same distinguished minister, enjoining him to state unreservedly whether there was anything that could be done for him by the Government which would be serviceable or acceptable to him. In reply to this communication, Southey made a frank statement of his circumstances and prospects. He drew attention to the only certain sources of income which he possessed, and to the provision which he had made for his family by means of life-assurances, lie stated —and truly stated—that the main dependence of his family had been, and must still continue to be, on his daily industry. As a literary man he had been hitherto not unsuccessful. "But the confidence I Hied to feel in myself," he went on to say, "is now failing. I was young, in health and heart, ou my last birth-day, when I completed my sixtieth year. Since then I have been shaken to the root. It litis pleased God to visit me with the severest of all domestic iSictions, those alone excepted into which sin enters. My wife, a true helpmate as ever man was blest with, lost her senses a few months ago. She is now in a lunatic asylum; and broken sleep and anxious thoughts, from which there is no escape in the night season, 1-sve made me feci how more than possible it is that i sudden stroke may deprive me of those faculties by

the exercise of which this poor family has been hitherto supported." The baronetcy he, of course, entirely declined.

About three months afterwards, Southey received another letter from Sir Robert, in which he informed him that he had had the gratification of attaching his name to a warrant which would add 300/. per annum to the amount of his existing pension. This munificent act was rendered still more graceful and more pleasing to the poet's feelings by the concluding words of the letter which communicated the welcome intelligence.

"I trust you can have no difficulty," wrote the premier, (whose kindness to men of letters must be numbered amongst the many virtues for which he is held in honour,) "in sanctioning what I have done with your consent, as 1 have acted on your suggestion, and granted the pension on a public principle—the recognition of literary and scientific eminence as a public claim. The other persons to whom I have addressed myself on the subject are—Professor Airey of Cambridge, the first of living mathematicians and astronomers,—the first of this country, at least,—Mrs. Somerville, Sharon Turner, and James Montgomery of Sheffield."

After three years of mental alienation, Mrs. Southey breathed her last in December 1S37. In the following summer, to recruit his health and spirits, a short tour on the Continent was proposed to the bereaved husband; and in the company of several friends he made an excursion through some of the most interesting parts of the nort'n of Trance. Only one more event of his life remains to be noticed. On the 5th of June, 1S39, he was married to Miss Bowles, a lady of some literary celebrity. His reasons for taking this step are thus detailed in a letter to his friend Walter Savage Laudor. "I have now," he writes, in March, 1S39, "only ouo daughter left, and my son divides the year between college and home. . . . Reduced in number as my family has been within the last few years, my spirits would hardly recover their habitual and healthy cheerfulness, if I had not prevailed upon Miss Bowles to share my lot for the remainder of our lives. There is just such a disparity of age as is fitting; wc have been well acquainted with each other more than twenty years, and a more perfect conformity of disposition could not exist; so that, in resolving upon what must he either the weakest or the wisest act of a sexagenarian's life, I am well assured that, accordiug to human foresight, I have judged well and acted wisely, both for myself and my remaining daughter."

Prom this period, however, his faculties failed him, or at any rate, their vigour and activity no longer remained. A few melancholy signs of his approaching disorder had long excited the apprehensions of his friends. A loss of memory, "a confusion of time, place, and person, the losing his way in well-known places," were too faithful indications of the sad blank which was doomed to follow. He sank at last into a hopeless mental lethargy, which is thus described by his son and biographer. "Iu the earlier stages of his disorder, (if the term may be fitly applied to a case which was not a perversion of the faculties, but their decay,) he could still converse at times with much of his old liveliness and energy. When the mind was, as it were, set going upon some familiar subject, for a little time you could not perceive much failure; but if the thread was broken, if it was a conversation in which new topics were started, or if any argument was commenced, his powers failed him at once, and a painful sense of this seemed to come over him for the moment. His recollection first failed as to recent events, and his thoughts appeared chiefly to dwell upon those long past, and as his mind grew weaker, these recollections seemed to recede still further back. Names he could rarely remember, and more than once, when trying to recall one which he felt he ought to know, I have seen him press his hand upon his brow, while he sadly exclaimed,—'Memory! memory! where art thou gone?'"

Such is the gloomy picture presented by his son of Southey's last days. At length, on the 21st. of March 1813, a brief attack of fever ended his mortal career. He was buried in Crosthwaite churchyard; Mr. Wordsworth being the only intimate friend who, besides the members of his own family, followed his remains to their last resting-place.



Author of " Letterl from tfir Bncktroods of Canada, by the wife

of a BrUUh OJicer."

I Remember being greatly amused by the description of a remarkably juvenile wedding among the

Yankees, which was sent mc by my friend M.

some years ago, shortly after her emigration to Canada; the parties alluded to being mere boys and girls, of thirteen and fifteen, who took iuto their wise heads to show their special love of independence, by marrying and setting up for themselves. But in our portion of the province the picture is often reversed; affairs matrimonial frequently wear a different aspect; many of our Bush marriages being more remarkable for the antiquity of the bride and bridegroom than their juvenility.

It is no unusual thing to see venerable greybeards or ancient grandsires, without a tooth in their heads, hobbling to church, not as might be supposed, to bestow their countenance and advice upon their blooming descendants on such an occasion, but on their own accounts, and, I am concerned to say, I cannot bear high testimuny to the disinterested motives that govern many of these unions.

If a woman happens to be left in a state of widowhood, with a few acres of land cleared and cropped, a yoke of oxen, two or three cows, a little poultry, and a fat hog iu the stye, there is sure to be a general race among the widowers, with or without fumilies, and needy bachelors, for her hand and worldly possessions.

Great and assiduous is the court paid to the owner of these same goods and chattels; be she ever so old or so ugly, it matters not a rush. The most vixenish old scold that ever tormented a worthy, meek-spirited spouse to death, will be sure to receive plenty of offers of marriage. The more important her worldly goods, the more numerous and importunate her suitors; every cow, or pig, or sheep, outbalances some notorious flaw in her temper, age, or reputation.

It is in fact the age and disposition of her yoke of oxen, the size and beauty of her swine, not her own size or beauty; the good character of her cows, not her own fair name, that is the matter under consideration. I heard of one old lady who received four offers in one week, on the reputation of a fine thrifty sow of a particular good breed; but, however gratified they may be by the flattering preference shown to their antiquated charms, they in their turns are apt to become cautious, and those who bid up the highest are sure to carry the day, unless the old fool should take it in her head to give the preference to some among her younger wooers, and take to herself a youthful spouse to tyrannize over her for the remainder of her days.

One buxom widow that I knew actually feigned to forget how many months she had been wearing her weeds for her poor dear husband; she could not tell whether she had been a widow six months or four, but she thought it must be six. It was barely four; but then her new suitor was so urgent to make sure of her hand against a host of rivals, and he was young and strong, and she thought would carry ou the labour of the farm for her and her two children so nicely, without any trouble on her part, that she married forthwith. Like many such speculations, hers proved a failure; and she only secured to herself a lazy, selfish tyrant, who came like a locust to devour the produce of her land, and lay his clutches upon her little property to the disadvantage of her children. This, however, he finds he cannot do. The law not allowing the children's property (and female children inherit on equal terms when the father dies intestate) to be alienated from them by a second marriage, nor can it be shared by the children of the widow by another husband. Small harmony, as you may imagine, exists between such a couple, and as a house divided against itself cannot stand, this most amiahle husband contemplates leaving his wife to scratch for her two chickens as she best can, and returning from whence he came.

Iwas once the unintentional witness to two weddings on the same day. It chanced that I was spending

the morning at the house of the clergyman of ,

when two parties of young people came to be married, accompanied by their parents and friends.

The marriage ceremony took place in the sittingroom where the family were assembled. I kuc\c something of the first couyle that were introduced. The bride was a good-humoured, ignorant Wiltshire lass of seventeen, adorned with blushes and grins, and

« AnteriorContinuar »