« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
lands of the settlement, and were to embark in March, 1795. Twelve men were easily to clear 300 acres in four or five months, and 6007. were to purchase 1,000 acres, and build houses upon them! The chief actors in this notable scheme were Robert Lovell, the son of a wealthy quaker; George Burnett, a fellow-collegian; Robert Allen, of Corpus Christi College; Edmund Seward, also a fellow-collegian, but who soon declared off; and a poor servant boy, called Shadrach Weeks, was deemed such an acquisition, that Coleridge almost went out of his mind at the idea of his company, and in his letters wrote in huge characters-"SHAD GOES WITH US! HE IS MY BROTHER!!"
The ladies who figured in the foreground of the Pantisocratic enterprise were the three Miss Frickers. Their father, like Southey's, had been unfortunate in his trade of a sugar-baker, and they had honourably supported themselves in business. Lovell had married one, and Coleridge and Southey married the two others. But the scheme began to look rather hopeless from want of the necessary money; and, at length, coming to the ears of Miss Tyler, from whom it had been carefully kept, it was blown up at once by the fierce outbreak of her indignation. Southey was turned out of her comfortable house on College-green, and poor Shadrach, her servant-boy, was left to endure the full force of her wrath. Nothing could ever turn her heart again towards Southey. Houseless and friendless, Southey and Coleridge now planned lectures and magazines for a livelihood; and then quarrelled because Southey abandoned the idea of the Pantisocracy. He married Miss Fricker, however, in September, 1795; and immediately afterwards accompanied his maternal uncle, Hill, who was chaplain to the Factory at Lisbon. He was absent six months, and returned to find his friend Lovell dead, and his widow and one child left destitute. Though miserably poor himself, and not knowing how to live, Southey, with that generosity of character which always distinguished him, at once took Mrs. Lovell home to him, and she continued a regular inmate of his house while he lived; as did Mrs. Coleridge and her daughter, till the daughter's marriage.
From this time to 1801, Southey resided at various places. For some time he was at Bristol, where Cottle, the publisher and poet, published his Joan of Arc, for which he gave him one hundred guineas; as he also boldly risked the publication of the earliest poems of Coleridge and Wordsworth. Southey now resolved to study the law, being enabled to do this by an allowance of 160%. a-year by his generous old schoolfellow, Wynn. But his head was running more on literature than law. He was actually teeming with literary projects-tragedies, suggested by his Portuguese studies-of Sebastian; of Inez de Castro; of the Revenge of Don Pedro; a poem on Madoc, in twenty books; a novel of Edmund Oliver; a Romance; a Norwegian Tale; an Oriental poem; the Destruction of the Dom Daniel. In fact, he had conceived the idea of various works, which he afterwards completed, and others which he never commenced. He was also publishing his Letters from Spain and Portugal.
During the time that he occasionally visited London, in pursuit of his legal studies, his home was successively at Burton, near Christchurch, Hampshire; at Bath; and at Westbury, about two miles from Bristol, where he resided a year; and then again at Christchurch, where he made the acquaintance of one of his best friends, John Rickman.
Southey's health failing, and the study of the law having disgusted him, he went again to Lisbon, taking his wife with him, and passed a very delightful year at Cintra. On his return, Coleridge induced him to go down to Keswick, which, however, at that time did not please him, appearing cold after his southern sojourn.
On 1801, Southey obtained the appointment of secretary to the Right Hon. Isaac Corry, Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland. On retiring from office with his patron, our author, after returning a while to Bristol, and planning a settlement in Wales, went to reside at Keswick, where also dwelt, under the same roof, the widow of his friend Lovell, and the wife of Mr. Coleridge. Such were the movements of Southey till he settled down at Keswick, and there, busy as a bee in its hive, worked out the forty years of his then remaining life. The mere list of his works attests a wonderful industry:Poems by Southey and Cottle, 1 vol, 1794. Joan of Arc, 1 vol, quarto, 1795. Letters from Spain and Portugal, 1 vol, 1797. Minor Poems, 2 vols, 1797 and 1799. Annual Anthology, 2 vols, 1799-1800. Thalaba, 2 vols, 1801. Chatterton's works, edited, 1802. Amadis of Gaul, 4 vols, 1803. Metrical Tales, 1805. Madoc, 1 vol, quarto, 1807. Espriella's Letters, 1807. Specimens of later Poets, 3 vols, 1807. Remains of H. K. White, 2 vols, 1807. Chronicle of the Cid, 1 vol, 1808. Curse of Kehama, 1810. Omniana, 2 vols, 1812. Life of Nelson, 2 vols, 1813. Roderick, the Last of the Goths, 1 vol, 1814. Carmen Triumphale, &c., 1814. Lay of the Laureate, 1 vol, 1816. Pilgrimage to Waterloo, 1 vol, 1816. Morte d' Arthur, 2 vols, 1817. History of Brazil, 3 vols, quarto, 1810 to 1819. Life of Wesley, 2 vols, 1820. Expedition of Orsua, 1 vol, 1821. A Vision of Judg ment, 1 vol, 1821. Book of the Church, 2 vols, 1824. Tale of Paraguay, 1 vol, 1825. Vindiciae Ecclesiæ Anglicana, 1 vol, 1826. History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols, 1822 to 1832. Lives of Uneducated Poets, 1 vol, 1829. All for Love, or a Sinner Well Saved, 1 vol, 1829. Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 1829. Life of Bunyan, 1830. Select Works of British Poets, from Chaucer to Johnson, with Biographical Notices, 1 vol, 1831. Naval History of England, 4 vols, 1833-40. The Doctor, 7 vols, 1834 to 1847. Life and Works of Cowper, 15 vols, 1835-1837. Common-Place Book, 4 vols. Oliver Newman, &c., 1 vol, 1845.
This is a striking list of the works of one man, though he took nearly fifty years of almost unexampled health and industry to complete it. But this does not include the large amount of his contributions to the Quarterly and other periodicals; nor does the mere bulk of the work thrown off convey any idea of the bulk of work gone through. The immense and patient research necessary for his histories was scarcely less than that which he bestowed on the
subject-matter and illustrative notes of his poems. The whole of his writings abound with evidences of learning and laborious reading that have been rarely equalled. But the variety of talents and humour displayed in his different writings is equally extraordinary. The love of fun, and the keenness of satire, which distinguished his smaller poems, are enough to make a very brilliant reputation. The Devil's Walk, so long attributed to Porson, but, as testified by themselves, conceived and written by Southey, with some touches and additions from the hand of Coleridge; the Old Woman of Berkeley; The Surgeon's Warning; The Pig; Gooseberry Pie; Roprecht the Robber; The Cataract of Lodore; Bishop Hatto; The Pious Painter; St. Antidius, the Pope, and the Devil; The March to Moscow;-these and others of the like kind would make a volume, that might be attributed to a man who had lived only for joke and quiz. Then the wild and wandering imagination of Thalaba and Kehama; the grave beauty of Madoc; the fine youthful glow of liberty and love in Joan of Arc; and the vivid fire and vigour of Roderick the last of the Goths are little less in contrast to the jocose productions just mentioned, than they are to the grave judgment displayed in his histories, or the keenness with which he enters, in his Book of the Church, the Colloquies, and his critiques, into the questions and interests of the day, and puts forth all the acumen and often the acidity of the partizan.
With all our admiration of the genius and varied powers of Southey, and with all our esteem for his many virtues, and the peculiar amiability of his domestic life, we cannot, however, read him without a feeling of deep melancholy. The contrast between the beginning and the end of his career, the glorious and high path entered upon, and so soon and suddenly quitted for the pay of the placeman and the bitterness of the bigot, cling to his memory with a lamentable effect.
Deploring this grand error of Southey's life-for we bear no resentment to the dead-more especially as England has gone on advancing and liberalizing, spite of his slavish dogmas, and thus rendered his most zealous advocacy of narrow notions perfectly innoxious, we would ask, whether this peculiar change of his original opinions may not have had a peculiar effect on his poetry? Much and beautifully as he has written, yet, if I may be allowed the expres sion, he never seems to be at home in his poetry, any more than in the country which, with his new opinions, he adopted. We can read once, especially in our youth, his poems, even the longest-but it is rarely more than once. We are charmed, sometimes a little wearied, but we never wish to recur to them again. There are a few of his smaller poems, as the Penates, the Bee, Blenheim, and a few others, which are exceptions, with some exquisite passages, as that oftenquoted one on love in Kehama. But, on the whole, we are quite satisfied with one reading. There is a want, somehow, of the spiritual in his writing. Beautiful fancy, and tender feeling, and sometimes deep devotion, there are; but still there lacks that spirit, that essence of the soul, which makes Wordsworth and many of the poeme
of Lord Byron a never-satiating aliment and refreshment, a divine substance on which you live and grow, and by its influence seem to draw nearer to the world of mind and of eternity. Southey's poetry seems a beautiful manufacture, not a part of himself. He carries you in it, as in an enchanted cloud, to Arabia, India, or America; to the celestial Meru, to the dolorous depths of Padalon, or to the Domdaniel caves under the roots of the ocean; but he does not seem to entertain you at home; to take you down into himself. He does not seem to be at rest there, or to have there "his abiding city."
It is exactly the same in regard to the country in which he lived. He seemed to live there as a stranger and a sojourner. That he loved the lakes and mountains around, there can be no question; but has he linked his poetry with them? Has he, like Wordsworth, woven his verse into almost every crevice of every rock? Cast the spell of his enchantment upon every stream? Made the hills, the waters, the hamlets, and the people, part and parcel of his life and his fame? We seek in vain for any such amalgamation. With the exception of the cataract of Lodore, there is scarcely a line of his poetry which localizes itself in the fairy region where he lived forty years When Wordsworth died, he left on the mountains, and in all the vales of Cumberland, an everlasting people of his creation. The Wanderer, and the Clergyman of the Excursion, Michael, and Matthew, and the Wagoner, and Peter Bell, Ruth, and many a picturesque vagrant, will linger there for ever. The Shepherd Lord will haunt his ancient hills and castles, and the White Doe will still cross Rylston Fells. A thousand associations will start up in the mind of many a future generation, as they hear the names of Helvellyn, Blencathra, or Langdale Pikes. But when you seek for evidences of the poetic existence of Southey in Cumberland, you are carried at once to Greta hall, at Keswick, and there you remain. I suppose the phrenologists would say it was owing to his idiosyncrasy-that he had much imitativeness, but very little locality. It is most singular, that look over the contents of his voluminous poems, and you find them connected with almost every region of the world, and every quarter of these kingdoms, except with the neighbourhood of his abode. He would seem like a man flying from the face of the world, and brushing out all traces of his retreat as he goes. In Spain, France, America, India, Arabia, Africa, the West Indies, in Ireland, Wales, England, and Scotland, you perceive his poetical habitations and resting-places; but not in Cumberland. He has commemorated Pultowa, Jerusalem, Alentejo, Oxford, Blenheim, Dreux, Moscow, the Rhine. He has epitaphs and inscriptions for numbers of places in England, Spain, and Portugal. In his Madoc, Wales; in his Roderick, Spain; in his Joan of Arc, France, find abundance of their localities celebrated. In his Pilgrimage to Waterloo, Flanders has its commemorations; but Cumberlandno! You would think it was some district not glorious with mountain, lake and legend, but some fenny flat on which a poetic spirit could not dwell.
Almost the only clues that we get are to be found in the Colloquies and his private letters. Here we learn that the poet and his family did sometimes walk to Skiddaw, Causey Pike, and Watenlath. At page 119 of vol. i., where these names occur, we find the poet proposing an excursion to Walla Crag, on the borders of the Derwentwater. "I, who perhaps would more willingly have sat at home, was yet in a mood to suffer violence, and making a sort of compromise between their exuberant activity and my own inclination for the chair and the fireside, fixed on Walla Crag." Besides this mention, you have in Colloquy XII. pages 59 to 69, a preface to a long history of the Clifford family, in which you are introduced to Threlkeld farm and village. This peep into the mountains makes you wonder that Southey did not give you more of them; but no, that is all. It is evident that his heart was, as he hinted just above, "at home in the chair by the fireside." It was in his library that he really lived; and there is little question that when his children did get him out, on the plea that it was necessary for his health, his mind was otherwise occupied.
To Keswick we must then betake ourselves as the main haunt of Robert Southey. Here he settled down in the autumn of 1803, and instantly commenced that life of incessant labour which we have described, and which never ceased till his intellectual constitution gave way under it. The poet tried to secure an abode in Wales, in the Vale of Neath, but had been disappointed, and next was on the point of fixing his residence at Richmond, and was about to commence a gigantic work called Bibliotheca Britannica. But Richmond and the Bibliotheca both drifted away, and 1803 saw him hard at work on his Madoc. Incessant literary labour, buying and arranging fresh books, with an occasional trip to London or elsewhere, and a daily walk, constituted the life of Robert Southey from that time to his death. To the very latest years he was constantly conceiving new and enormous labours, many of which he never completed, many were commenced, and he was generally working on four or five at the same time, every day being divided into sections, each of which was appropriated to one particular work. The works which he intended to write were nearly as numerous, and would have been laborious as those he really executed-A History of Monachism; the Age of George III., being a History of Modern Revolutions; a Book of the State, on the principle of his Book of the Church; a Life of George Fox; a continuation of Warton's History of English Poetry, &c. &c.
Of his daily work he gives this account himself in a letter to a friend. "I get out of bed as the clock strikes six, and shut the house-door after me as the clock strikes seven. After two hours with Davies, (arranging Dr. Bell's papers,) home to breakfast, after which Cuthbert (his son) engages me till about half-past ten; and when the post brings me letters that either interest or trouble me, for of the latter I have many, by eleven I have done with the newspaper, and can then set about what is properly the business of the day. But I can scarcely command two or three unbroken hours at the desk. At two I take my daily walk, be the weather what it