« PreviousContinue »
out of the fulness of a loving heart; like those from Cowper to Lady Hesketh, and Shenstone to Mr. Jago.
favorite sport so forcibly to his mind, that he could not help crying at the sight." The circumstance was the anticipation, as well as the fulfilment, of Wordsworth's reverie of Susan. In after years, and to preserve the impression, he took a hare for his commercial crest, and had it painted upon the window on each side the door, and engraved in the shop bills. Upon his master's death he was removed to a linen-draper's in Bristol, where he continued for twelve or fourteen years.
Johnson affirmed that the life of no literary man had ever been properly composed. An author's own pen is unlikely to fill up the blank. He will supply part, not a whole. The pleasantest illustrations of genius have been picked up by accident. In this light letters are invaluable, when they are sincere. That is seldom. Pope wrote for effect. So did Cowper sometimes compare his correspondence with Newton and Hill. The Robert Southey was born August 1, 1773. The writer can scarcely be identified. Horace Wal- twilight of his recollection began with his third pole made himself up for the Post, as for a theatre. year. He was gifted with the sensibility of You see at once that he is padded. The shape the poetical mind, and shed tears at the tale of of his thoughts is always artificial. Gray's crow- Chevy Chase. His first school was presided over quill was an emblem of his manner. Byron imi- by a dame, with intolerable features and no eyetated the worst style of Walpole and Gray. He is lashes. Under her rule he remained, with occanot himself for a hundred pages together. From sional intervals of absence, until his sixth year. this fault the letters of Southey appear to be The Utopia mania was already strong in him. remarkably free. They give the man, the Pan- With two school fellows he formed a plan of going tisocrat, the enthusiast, the self-opinionated. Each to an island and living by themselves. The miliis there. He sits before a glass and paints him-tary taste also showed itself in a walk with a self.
The Recollections have much of the grace and ease of his latest and happiest prose. Perhaps there is a slight excess of garrulity, and a disposition to enlarge upon trifles, that might, as he suggested, if carefully cultivated, have ripened him into a correspondent of Mr. Urban. But we confess to liking the minuteness of his description. We are not indisposed to hear of the migration from the blue bed to the brown. He gives us a domestic interior, as real and startling as the Apothecary's Shop of Mieris, with its one bewildering crack in the counter. The things and persons may be worth nothing in themselves, but they derive interest and value from the describer; like the wicker basket, or string of onions, in pictures by Teniers or Ostade. The stream of his family did not lead him into very ancient times. He was unable to trace it beyond 1696. Wellington, in Somersetshire, was the well-head. In the church registers the Southeys are styled yeomen or far
His grandfather's wife was a Locke, of the same family as the philosopher (so called) of that name," who, we are pleasantly informed, "is still held in more estimation than he deserves." Their descendant was willing to reckon them of gentle blood, as using armorial bearings in an age when they were very rarely assumed without a title. The arms had a religious character, and he was anxious to believe that one of his "ancestors had served in the crusades, or made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem."
neighboring barber, who promised him a sword. But it speedily retreated before the prompt and liberal application of the horsewhip. Many of his holydays were spent with his aunt, Miss Tyler, who occupied a house in what was then an agreeable suburb of Bath. It looked into a garden abounding in fruit trees, and the parlor steps were embowered by jessamine. This was a favorite seat of the child-poet. The furniture was old and picturesque. In the parlor hung the lady's portrait, by Gainsborough, with a curtain before it to keep off the flies. Among the most curious articles were a cabinet of ivory, ebony, and tortoise shell, and an arm-chair made of cherrywood, which seems to have had a particular interest attached to it; "if any visitor who was not in her especial favor sat thereon, the leathern cushion was always sent into the garden, to be aired and purified, before she would use it again." A confidential man-servant was as odd as his mistress, and every night fed the crickets. In this strange garden-house the larger portion of four years glided away-to a child heavily enough. He had no playmates, was kept inviolate from dust, and slept with his aunt. This was the severest chapter of the lesson. Miss Tyler was a late riser; and the little Robert did not dare to make the slightest movement for fear of disturbing her. During those wearisome hours his wits were at work, "fancying figures and combinations of forms in the curtains, wondering at the motes in the slant sunbeam, and watching the light from the crevices of the window shutters." By degrees the progress of the shadow stood him in the stead of a clock.
His grandfather was bred a dissenter, but afterwards came over to the church. Marrying at forty-five, he had two daughters and three sons, of whom the second was Robert, the poet's father, At two years of age he was inoculated, and who was an enthusiast in all country pleasures. attributed his subsequent thinness to the preparaHaving been placed with a grocer in London, he tory regimen. His aunt had one friend whose gave a curious proof of the strength of the passion. name will ever possess a kind of juvenile celebAs he was standing at the shop door, "a porter rity-this was the wife of Mr. F. Newberry, went by carrying a hare. This brought his of St. Paul's. As soon as he could read the
Bibliopole presented him with a set-twenty in folly, and fire-water. Some brighter streaks divernumber—of those astonishing productions, which sify the picture. We have already mentioned the have so often amazed the slumbers of three years. Orchard ; the boys were the appointed gatherers ; To this gift he traced some of his literary tastes; and their labor was lightened and recommended by but other circumstances helped them forward. a very liberal permission to eat of the produce. The Bath theatre was then in its zenith. The They were also allowed to players divided the week between it and Bristol. Squail at the bannets, that is, being interpreted, Miss Tyler was generally supplied with orders, to throw at his walnuts when it was time to bring and always availed herself of them. Her talk them down ; there were four or five fine trees on was dramatic. Her nephew soon caught the the hill-side above the brook. I was too little to tone of expression, and once, returning from bear a part in this, which required considerable church on Sunday morning, called down an angry gleaning among the leaves and broken twigs with
strength ; but for many days afterwards I had the rebuke by saying that it had been a very full which the ground was covered, and the fragrance house. Healthier aids to reflection were not want of these leaves, in their incipient decay, is one of ing. He delighted in fieldwalks, and the ferry- those odors which I can smell at will, and which, boat at Walcot was a great resource. The first whenever it occurs, brings with it the vivid rememdistinction of life came slowly upon the poet. He brances of past times. saw his sixth year before he was “ breeched” in But even these orchard gatherings had a cona complete suit of forester's green. He was then stant check and contrast in the Sunday evenings, sent as a day-scholar to a school at Bristol, kept when the astronomer collected his youthful conby a Baptist minister, an old man and cruel. gregation into the hall, and read a dreary sermon, However, he died in twelve months, and was suc- or a scarcely less alarming chapter from Stackceeded by a Socinian, of more learning and heresy. house's History of the Bible. The poet's seat was But the poet reaped no advantage from the change. at the extremity of a long form, within the faintest His father, for some cause unexplained, removed gleam of the fire. All troubles come to an end. him to Corston, about nine miles from Bristol : So did those at Corston ; an intestine commotion,
The stage was to drop me at the public house, resulting in the flight of the master and the disand my father to accompany it on horseback, and colored eyes of his son, unexpectedly turned all consign me to the master's care. When the time the pupils adrift. for our departure drew nigh, I found my mother While the father of Southey was casting his weeping in her chamber ; it was the first time I eyes round in search of another school, he took up had ever seen her shed tears. The room, (that his abode with his relatives at Bedminster, a dirty wherein I was born,) with all its furniture, and village of colliers. The house had been built by her position and look at that moment, are as dis
“ It stood in a lane. his grandfather.
You tinct in my memory as if the scene had occurred but yesterday ; and I can call to mind with how ascended by several circular steps into a flower strong and painful an effort it was that I subdued garden. The porch was in great part lined, as my own emotions. I allude to this in the Hymn well as covered, with white jessamine.” Here he to the Penates, as
often sat with his sister, threading fallen blossoms The first grief I felt,
upon grass stalks. We think that the following And the first painful smile that clothed my front With feelings not its own.
description of the interior might have won the
praise of Richardson :What follows also is from the life :Sadly at night
On the right hand was the parlor, which had a I sat me down beside a stranger's hearth,
brown or black boarded floor, covered with a LisAnd when the lingering hour of rest was come, bon mat, and a handsome timepiece over the fireFirst wet with tears my pillow.
place; on the left was the best kitchen, in which The school-house was noticeable for its staircase the family lived. The best kitchen is an apartof black oak, and rooms hung with faded tapestry ; longer to be seen, except in houses which, having
ment that belongs to other days, and is now no its shady garden, summer-house, gate-pillars, sur- remained unaltered for the last half century, are mounted with huge stone balls, a paddock, orchard, inhabited by persons a degree lower in society and walnut-trees. The master was a mathemati-than their former possessors. The one which ) cian, who usually lived in the stars. The desk am now calling to mind after an interval of more disenchanted him. Not that the scholastic prom
than forty years, was a cheerful room, with an air ises were large; they only embraced writing and of such country comfort about it, that my little arithmetic. But twice in the week a French
heart was always gladdened when I entered it durteacher from Bristol instructed a few ambitious which I believe was the chief distinction between a
ing my grandmother's life. It had a stone floor. students, of whom the poet was one, in Latin. best kitchen and a parlor. The furniture consisted Penmanship was the great fact of Corston ; it was of a clock, a large oval oak table with two flaps, excellent, including what is called the Italian, (over which two or three fowling-pieces had their engrossing, and some varieties of German text. place,) a round tea-table of cherry wood, Windsor Mr. Flower, that was the name of the pedagogue, chairs of the same, and two large armed ones of that had other instruments of confusion besides his easy make, (of all makes it is the easiest,) in one of urrery. With the reckless wisdom of " fifty” he of the fireplace the china was displayed in a buffet
which my grandmother always sat. On one side had married his housemaid. Of course, everything that is, a cupboard with glass doors ; on the went wrong under the guidance of astronomy, other were closets for articles less ornamental, but
more in use. The room was wainscotted and orna-(mant sense awakened. It was called forth by a mented with some old maps, and with a long look- bed of stocks in full bloom, at a house which he ing-glass over the chimney-piece, and a tall one inhabited in Dorsetshire some five-and-twenty between the windows, both in white frames. The
He windows opened into the fore-court, and were as dise to him ; but it lasted only a few minutes,
says it was like a vision of Paracheerful and fragrant in the season of flowers as roses and jessamine, which grew luxuriantly with- and the faculty has continued torpid since that out, could make them. There was a passage be- time.” Coleridge resembled Southey in his quick tfeen this apartment and the kitchen, long enough perception and enjoyment of perfumes; and we to admit of a large airy pantry, and a larder on the think of him at this moment sitting at his cottageleft hand, the windows of both opening into the door, in Clevedon, and saying to Sarabarton, as did those of the kitchen; on the right was a door into the back court. There was a rack
How exquisite the scents
Snatched from yon bean-field ! in the kitchen well furnished with bacon, and a mistletoe bush always suspended from the middle In this quiet home young Southey found many of the ceiling.
pleasures. Beauty of scenery was not ; but he The green room,
which was my uncle Edward's, had stillness, light and shadow, green lanes, counwas over the parlor. Over the hall was a smaller try sounds, and flowers. He passed most of his apartment, which had been my grandfather's office, time in the garden, and knew where to look for and still contained his desk and his pigeon-holes ; I remember it well, and the large-patterned, dark, every variety of grass blossom. Forty years afterflock paper, with its faded ground. The yellow wards he remembered with particular love three room, over the best kitchen, was the visitor's flowers of those early days—the syringa, the everchamber; and this my mother occupied whenever lasting pea, and the evening primrose. she slept there. There was no way to my grand- At length another academy was found, and he mother's, the blue room over the kitchen, but was placed a day-boarder at Bristol, under one through this and an intervening passage, where, Williams, a Welshman, who professed to teach on the left, was a store-room. The blue room had a thorough light, one window looking into the bar- little, and kept his promise. But the poet was ton, the other into the back court. The squire unconsciously educating himself. He had already slept in the garret ; his room was on one side, the dabbled in rhyme, and Shakspeare was his poetical servants' on the other; and there was a large open primer. Beaumont and Fletcher he read through space between, at the top of the stairs, used for before he was eight years old, mindful only of the lumber and stores.
story, but gradually tuning his ear, and acquiring A door from the hall, opposite to the entrance, that wonderful facility of versification which soon opened upon the cellar stairs, to which there was enabled him to pour out Joan of Arc and Mado. another door from the back court.
This was a square, having the house on two sides, the wash- What he saw and heard of literary people inhouse and brewhouse on the third, and walled on creased his growing veneration for the craft. So the fourth. A vine covered one side of the house phia Lee, then in the full glow of her Recess, was here, and grew round my grandmother's window, an acquaintance of his aunt. His school lessons, out of which I have often reached the grapes. too, had more of literature, for he was taughi Here also was the pigeon-house, and the pump, Latin every day. under which the fatal dipping was performed.
In one of his holyday absences a friend presentThe yard or barton was of considerable size ; the entrance to it was from the lane, through large ed him with Hoole’s translation of Tasso. His folding-gates, with a horse-chestnut on each side. curiosity had been previously excited by versified And here another building fronted you, as large as fragments of the story in Mrs. Rowe; but he the house, containing the dairy and laundry, both supposed the original to be in the Hebrew tongue, large and excellent in their kind, seed-rooms, as it related to Jerusalem. Hoole was not quite stable, haylofts, &c. The front of this outhouse the author whom the future singer of Thelas was almost clothed with yew, clipt to the shape of the windows. Opposite the oue gable-end were might be expected to honor. But it was water in the coal and stick houses; and on the left side of a dry place. The boy read and re-read; nor did the barton was a shed for the cart, and, while my forty years and the treasures of European imagigrandfather lived, for an open carriage, which after nation in any degree extinguish the remembrance his death was no longer kept. Here too was the of his delight. In the paternal home poetry and horse-block, beautifully overhung with ivy, from prose were very humbly represented. A small an old wall against which it was placed. The other gable-end was covered with fruit trees, and cupboard in the back parlor contained the glasses
and library at the bottom was a raised camomile bed.
But there lived in the town a book
seller, named Bull, who lent out volumes; a The garden-ground was in the old English fash- chance discovery among the miscellanies of his ion, combining use and pleasure in its sunny walls, counter first conducted young Southey to Spenser green with cherry, peach, and nectarine trees; and the Faërie Queene—an author and a poem grassy walks, espaliers, and flowers. An apricot that have probably influenced, in a greater or less tree grew in the fore-court, and a barberry bush by degree, the finest minds in English literature. the orchard-gate. We have seen Southey's love He realized the truthful saying of Pope about and quick perception of rural odors; but we were Spenser's truthfulness :not acquainted with Wordsworth's singular priva
The delicious landscapes which he luxuriates in tion of that delightful faculty. His friend tells describing brought everything before my eyes. I
once, and once only in his life, the dor- I could fancy such scenes as his lakes, and forests,
us, that "
and gardens, and fountains presented ; and I felt, / place. The history of his academic career is though I did not understand, the truth and purity gathered from letters addressed to his friend, Mr. of his feelings, and that love of the beautiful and Bedford, and written in a style which cannot be the good which pervades his poetry.
more accurately described than by saying, that it One of Robert's earliest anticipations of author- is deficient in every quality for which he aftership appeared at Williams' academy, in the shape wards became conspicuous. The following letter of an extempore letter on Stonehenge, written on gives a picture of his feelings at this time :a slate. It procured for him a high reputation
April 4, 1793. among his companions, which an untoward accident soon melted away A conspiracy was
My dear Grosvenor,—My philosophy, which has formed to dethrone the new monarch, and it suc- of the school of Plato, Aristotle, Westminster, or
so long been of a kind peculiar to myself-neither ceeded in this manner. Some half-dozen of the the Miller-is at length_settled; I am become a seniors confronted him, one morning, with the peripatetic philosopher. Far, however, from adoptquestion, “What the letters i. e. stood for?”ing the tenets of any self-sufficient cynic or puzThe future historian, not at all terrified by the zling sophist, my sentiments will be found more cabalistic nature of the inquiry, immediately re- enlivened by the brilliant colors of fancy, nature, plied that he supposed they represented John the and Rousseau, than the positive dogmas of the Evangelist.
Stagyrite, or the metaphysical refinements of his
antagonist. I aspire not to the honorary titles of Between his twelfth and thirteenth years, in subtle disputant or divine doctor ; I wish to found addition to more epical visions, he wrote three no school, to drive no scholars mad ; ideas rise up heroic letters in rhyme, and translated passages with the scenes I view; some pass away with the of Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. He also tried his momentary glance, some are engraved upon the hand in a different and homelier style, and pro- tablet of memory, and some impressed upon the duced two descriptive sketches on the model of heart. You have told me what philosophy is not,
and I can give you a little more information upon Cunningham. A grander effort was the exhibi- the subject. It is not reading Johannes Secundus tion of the Trojan war, of which the fourth book because he may have some poetical lines ; it is not was advancing to completion when the author went wearing the hair undressed, in opposition to custom to Westminster ; but, like an equally magnificent perhaps (this I feel the severity of, and blush for); undertaking of Pope at nearly the same age, it it is not rejecting Lucan lest he should vitiate the was finally burnt. ' He set out for Westminster taste, and reading without fear what may corrupt school in the February of 1788, and arrived after the heart; it is not clapt on with a wig, or com
municated by the fashionable hand of the barber. a journey of three days. His want of skill in It had nothing to do with Watson when he burnt making Latin verses was a considerable obstacle his books; it does not sit upon a woolsack; honor to distinction, and prevented him from climbing cannot bestow it, persecution cannot take it away. into a higher form than the fourth. However, the It illumined the prison of Socrates, but fled the atmosphere had something in it bracing and stim- triumph of Octavius; it shrank from the savage ulating, and unlike any he had breathed at Cors- murderer, Constantine : it dignified the tent of ton. Following the example of Eton, the West- crowds it is alone, in solitude most engaged; it
Julian. It has no particular love for colleges; in minster boys had got up a periodical paper called renders life agreeable, and death enviable. * The Trifler, which expired in its fortieth number. I have lately read the Man of Feeling; if you have The poet became a candidate for admission under never yet read it, do now from my recommendation ; the signature of “B." His elegy was acknowl- few works have ever pleased me so painfully or so edged, but never published.
much. It is very strange that man should be deAt this period the autobiography abruptly ends, lighted with the highest pain that can be produced. and the son of the poet takes up the thread. The exist only in idea. But this must not be affirmed ;
I even begin to think that both pain and pleasure repulse from The Trifler did not discourage him. the first iwinge of the toothache, or retrospective In conjunction with several friends he started The glance, will undeceive me with a vengeance. Flagellant, which might have prospered, if its Purity of mind is something like snow, best in growth had not been stopped, in the ninth number, the shade. Gibraltar is on a rock, but it would be by the indignation of the head-master, who con- imprudent to defy her enemies, and call them to sidered the constitution of Pedagogism to be in the charge. My heart is equally easy of impressulted and endangered by an attack upon flogging. of it. Refinement I adore, but to me the highest
sion with Rousseau, and perhaps more tenacious The writer was Southey, and the result his dis- delicacy appears so intimately connected with it, missal ; the mildest shape, we suppose, of expul- that the union is like body and soul. sion. This catastrophe happened in the spring of 1792. The remainder of that year he spent In some of his college letters we pick up a few with his aunt at Bristol. But his escapade at fragments of criticism, not without relish. GloWestminster was not forgotten. Its fame pre- ver’s Leonidas was a favorite book which he often ceded him to Oxford ; and Dr. Jackson, the im- read, but liked chiefly for its subject, more interperial Dean of Christ Church, refused to receive esting, he thought, than any poet's, except Milton. him into the college. He accordingly entered Southey was now twenty years old ; of his years, himself of Balliol, and began to reside in January, and out of Spain, the swiftest rhymer on record. 1793. Perhaps no student ever kept a term, with The catalogue of his metrical labors shows the a mind or temper less suited to the genius of the prodigious amount of 10,000 verses burnt or lost;
15,000 put aside as worthless; and 10,000 pre- the generalization of individual property. Everyserved.
What do your common blue trousers cost? Let me know, as I shall get two or three pairs for my winter working-dress, and as many jackets, either blue or gray; so my wardrobe will consist of two good coats, two cloth jackets, four linen ones, six brown holland pantaloons, and two nankeen ditto
The last touch about dressing for dinner is quite as daring as anything in Kehama.
body remembers the marvellous items of bloomThese were assuredly symptoms of the disease colored coats and crimson continuations, which in its most malignant and confluent form. It is Mr. Prior disinterred from the buried ledgers of scarcely necessary to add, that the producer of Goldsmith's tailor; but we imagine that the such heaps of couplets was extremely self-willed," outfit" of a Pantisocratist and Aspheteist will indifferently furnished with graver learning, and be scarcely less surprising and interesting. We a holder of all deep scholarship in considerable have a list of the necessary articles, in the letter scorn. "Every blade of grass and every atom of from Southey to his brother, who was to be the matter" he thought "worth all the Fathers." admiral of the expedition :— This feeling was the more unfortunate, as the church was the destination which his uncle, Mr. Hill, had marked out for him. This gentleman, then chaplain to the British Factory at Lisbon, provided for the university expenses of his nephew. He seems to have borne the disappointment of his plans with much kindness and consideration. Medicine was to supply the vacancy left by theology. But the dissecting-room proved quite as unsavory as the Critici Sacri. He was all at sea, For a time Fortune smiled on the forlorn hope. driving hither and thither, and wanting nothing The numbers increased. Twenty-five Pantisobut love to complete the unsettlement of his mind. crats waited, axe in hand, for the descent on the It came at his call, in the pleasing face of Miss back settlements. Their thoughts by day and Edith Fricker. His desire of a small independ-visions by night centred in America. The Castle ence and the cottage-he had the occupant already of Indolence was a log-hut, and the true genii -grew every day stronger. But where was he were the squatters. There was only one diffito find it? Certainly not in the advice and ex-culty between the conception of this magnificent ample of the remarkable person with whom he now established a lasting friendship, and whose name, for praise and censure, has been so often blended with his own. There happened to be residing at Jesus College, Cambridge, an undergraduate, not then known to fame. This young man, going up in 1791, soon displayed the powers and oddities of his wide-reaching intellect. He won a gold medal, stood for the "Craven," wrote again for the Greek ode, got into debt, fell in love, proposed, was rejected, became desperate, quitted the university, went to London, enlisted in the 15th Light Dragoons under the rather Puritanical name of Mr. Silas Tomken Cumberbatch, could not rub down his horse, dismayed his officers with a Latin exclamation and Greek criticism, and was at last released by his friends from the regiment at Hounslow, April, 1794. We speak of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the summer of that year he visited Oxford, and fell in with Southey. The congenial spirits took to each other. Southey wrote of his new friend with enthusiasm :-" He is of uncommon merit, of the strongest genius, the clearest judgment, the best heart."
vision and its fulfilment-the want of money. The whole force of Pantisocracy could not club ten pounds. There was an enormous breadth of sail, but not a breath of air even to flutter it. At this moment a storm broke out which threatened to sweep Pantisocracy from the face of the earth. Southey's aunt-the lady of the cherry arm-chair with the aired cushion-was in a frenzy at the discovery of the combined horrors of Aspheteism and Matrimony. Miss Tyler's anger continued after "Pantisocracy had died a natural death, and the marriage had taken place." "The aunt and nephew never met again."
The poet was now without a home; full of hope, intellect, and love, but altogether destitute of any support more solid. America began to recede into blue distance, before the unmistakable reality of a purse with nothing in it. Pantisocracy was not abandoned. Wales seemed to offer an easier site for an experiment than the Alleghany Mountains. But the new scheme did not prosper more than the old. Even Coleridge began to open his eyes. "For God's sake, my dear fellow," he wrote, "tell me what we are to gain by taking a Welsh farm. Supposing that we have found the preponderating utility of our aspheterizing in Wales, let us by our speedy and united inquiries discover the sum of money necessary. Whether such a farm with so very large a house is to be procured, without launching our frail and unpiloted bark on a rough sea of anxieties? How much money will be necessary for furnishing such a house? How much necessary for the maintenance of so large a family-eighteen people for a year at least?"
Such an alliance was peculiarly favorable to the emigration project. It revived under the euphonious title of Pantisocracy. Nothing could be simpler than the outline. A society was to be formed the larger the better-having money and labor in common; each member taking his allotment of toil; and ladies-for bachelors were excluded-discharging the domestic duties and
The Pantisocratists were likewise Aspheteists; two words of which the chief hierophant has favored us with a definition. Pantisocracy signified the equal government of all; and Aspheteism,
The head of the Pantisocratists was not in a condition to reply convincingly. His accomplish