Page images

was dismissed for contributing a sarcastic article on corporal punishment to a publication the boys had set on foot. In 1792 he returned to Bristol, having formed some most enduring friendships at Westminster: one was a Mr. Grosvenor Bedford, and another Mr. C. W. Wynn. By the latter an annuity of 1607. was for many years generously allowed Southey-in fact, until provision was made for him by the government. His father died shortly after he had left Westminster, ruined and broken-hearted.

The kindness of a maternal uncle, the Rev. Mr. Hill, supplied his father's place, and provided for entering him at Baliol College, Oxford, where he proceeded in 1793; it was his uncle's wish he should go into the church, but Southey had no religious opinions to justify this:-he, however, was assiduous in his studies, and at first turned his attention to medicine, but the dissecting-room turned his stomach from that direction. At Easter, 1794, Coleridge, who had just abandoned Cambridge, came on a visit to Oxford, where his fame for extraordinary powers of conversation and his stupendous talents had preceded him. He was visited by the young Oxonians, more particularly those who were admirers of the French revolution, and among them the author of the Satire on corporal punishment, who had gone to Oxford an honest republican. These young and ardent lovers of liberty formed a society among themselves, mutually addressing each other by the title of Citizen, and set up a club to debate questions, meeting at each other's rooms. This jacobinical assembly created great alarm among the heads of the university, and the more so, as the exemplary moral conduct of the members prevented notice being taken of their proceedings. Southey soon after abandoned his studies at the

university, and joined Coleridge at Bristol. The result of this intimacy was the suggestion of a wild scheme for the regeneration of society. In conjunction with Robert Lovell a young quaker, Robert Allen, George Burnett, and some few others, they formed a plan-worthy of Robert Owen-to establish a pantisocratical society on the banks of the Ohio, and there in the New World establish a community on a thoroughly social basis. The intended colonists were all to marry, and as Southey had become acquainted with a family of the name of Fricker, in which there were three daughters of a marriageable age, it was proposed that Lovell should be united to the elder, that Coleridge should marry Sara, and Southey Edith. The ladies were to cook and perform all household work, and the men cultivate the land, everything being in common; but as money—that huge evil, as Southey calls it—was needed, Lovell engaged to supply it. In this poetical paradise they were to live without either kings or priests, or any of the other evils of the Old World society, and to renew the patriarchal or golden age. However, Lovell's death shortly afterwards put an end to this grand scheme, which Idied where it was born-in the heads of its concoctors. Miss Tyler, when she became acquainted with her nephew's intended marriage and his socialist opinions, shut the door in his face, and never opened it to him again.

In 1795 was published a post 8vo volume of 125 pages: "Poems; containing The Retrospect, Odes, Sonnets, Elegies, &c. By Robert Lovell, and Robert Southey, of Baliol College, Oxford. Printed by R. Cruttwell, Bath." At the end of the preface there is a note: the signature of Bion distinguishes the pieces of R. Southey; Moschus, R. Lovell.

Southey, Coleridge, and Burnett lived together with great simplicity in Bristol, in 1795, and to obtain means for existence, they started as public lecturers, Southey on History, and Coleridge on Politics and Ethics; the lectures are said to have been well attended. Southey had two years before written Joan of Arc, an epic of considerable length, but had not means to get it printed. He however became acquainted with Joseph Cottle, a bookseller in Bristol, who, to his praise be it recorded, not only assisted Coleridge with money, but offered fifty guineas for Joan of Arc, and fifty copies for the author's subscribers. Joan of Arc was published in 1796; a work," says Mr. Hazlitt, "in which the love of liberty is inhaled like the breath of Spring, mild, balmy, heaven-born—that is, full of fears, and virgin-sighs, and yearnings of affection after truth and good, gushing warm and crimsoned from the heart."

Soon after the sale of the copyright of his poems, Southey's uncle, the Rev. Mr. Hill, who held the appointment of a chaplain in Portugal, arrived in England. He found his nephew with but little belief in revealed religion, and with political sentiments of the wildest order. Acting the part of a father, Mr. Hill proposed a visit to Portugal, to wean him from what was supposed to be an imprudent attachment; and to gratify his mother, who urged the removal, Southey consented, but on the morning of the day of his departure, he was married to Edith Fricker. They parted immediately after the ceremony, and the wife retired, wearing her wedding-ring attached to a ribbon round her neck. After a stay of six months in Lisbon, Southey returned, and, accompanied by his wife, went to London, and entered himself a student at Gray's Inn, to begin the study of the law, by the wish of his uncle, who

had agreed to furnish the required funds. After a year's torture, Southey gave up this-to him-irksome toil. He had become an occasional contributor to the Monthly Magazine, and in conjunction with Charles Lamb, Humphrey Davy, Taylor of Norwich, and Coleridge, he published two volumes of poetry, under the title of The Annual Anthology. In 1800-1 he again visited Portugal for the benefit of his health, accompanied by his wife; and on his return at the latter end of 1801, through the interest of, we believe, Sir James Macintosh, he obtained the appointment of Private Secretary to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland, with a salary of 4007. a year. On his arrival in Dublin, he not only found that in his office he had nothing to do, but that the minister was so sensible of the fact, that he proposed that Southey should undertake the tuition of his son. This proposition Southey manfully rejected, and threw up his appointment a few months after. He returned to Bristol, and ere long obtained a connexion with Messrs. Longman and Rees, producing the romance of Amadis de Gaul, from a Spanish version, and his metrical romance of Thalaba the Destroyer. At this time, while struggling for himself, he learnt the forlorn condition of Mrs. Newton, sister of the unfortunate Chatterton, and to aid her, he, in conjunction with Mr. Cottle, undertook to publish by subscription a complete edition of Chatterton's writings, and they were enabled by this means to hand over 300l. to the family. He had now settled himself at Greta, in Cumberland, where he resided to the end of his life: and here he afforded an asylum for his wife's sister, Mrs. Lovell, and her child, who had been left without the slightest provision; and the wife and children of Coleridge, whom he had in a wayward mood

deserted, were saved much of the knowledge of their hardships by finding a home in the Sanctuary of Robert Southey. His life exhibits many traits of his sympathy for misfortune; for in 1811, when William Taylor fell into distress, he offered to contribute a yearly 107., and the same thing he did for John Morgan; and in 1821 he directs his friend Bedford to transfer to Mr. May, who had in early life rendered Southey substantial service, 625l., in the 3 per cents,-his whole savings, and wishes it was more. When mentioning these circumstances, an able writer in the leading journal of our time says,-"If biography be not utterly worthless, these illustrations of Southey's character have an inestimable value. Look at him, pen in hand, the indefatigable day labourer in his literary seclusion, with no inheritance but his vigorous intellect, no revenue but such as his well-stored mind and matchless industry can furnish, perfect in the manifold relation of husband, brother, father, friend, and by his chosen labours delighting and instructing the world, as well as ministering to the daily happiness of his needy circle,-Look, we say, and confess that heroism is here which conquerors might envy.”

To another young and ardent poet-poor Henry Kirke White, whose volume had been most unmercifully attacked in a Review, Southey offered his kind assistance, and White's early death enabled him to prove his sympathy in collecting the scattered fragments, and in a memoir vindicated his title to genius. In fact, Southey's correspondence exhibits numerous instances of his kind-heartedness to all young aspirants for literary fame.

After he had fairly settled himself down amongst the mountains, he set to work for the booksellers, and what with prose and the result of his labours was really


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »