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kind and good heart, but he wanted energy; he jing on him one morning, the Chancellor inPoems, 8vo, 1804.—Madoc, a Poem, 4to, 1805; 2d created both his personages and the world which edit. 1809.-Specimens of the late English Poets, he has given them to inhabit, or set before us with preliminary notes, 3 vol. 8vo, 1807.-Pal- pictures of elevated humanity, his principle has merin of England, translated from the Portuguese, been true to nature, and his application of it con4 vol. 8vo, 1807.-Letters from England, 3 vol. sistent through even the wildest of his fables. 12mo, 1807; published under the fictitious name Other Poets may have drawn down the gods and of Don Manuel Velasquez Espriella.-The Remains mingled them in their story; but he has planted of Henry Kirke White, with an Account of his Life, a divinity in the very breasts of men, and, through 2 vol. 8vo, 1807; several editions. The Chro- the invisible agency of passion, moved them by
became a preacher at Yarmouth, and died in Marylebone workhouse, in 1811. Mr Southey's friends, hoping that absence would wean him from his intended match, persuaded him to accompany his maternal uncle, Mr Hill (then chaplain to the English factory at Lisbon), to Portugal; but the lovers, fearing that during their separation means might be taken to prevent their union, determined on a secret marriage, which took place towards the close of the autumn of 1795, and only an hour or two ere Mr Southey's departure. They separated at the church door, and the lady continued to bear her maiden name, wearing the wedding-ring concealed and suspended from a riband round her neck!— * How beautiful is life, in those young dreams Of joy and faith !—of love that never slics, Chain'd like the soul to truth !
When Mr Southey left England, the period fixed for his return was the end of six months; and almost to a day he kept the appointment he had made. After his arrival from Portugal, he for some years remained in Bristol and its vicinity, where he pursued his literary labours, or rather his literary pleasures, with great zeal and industry, and laid the foundation of several of the works he afterwards published. The year following that of Mr Southey's marriage, 1796, appeared his Joan of Arc: - that work,” says Mr Hazlitt, , in which the love of liberty is exhaled like the breath of spring, mild, balmy, heaven-born; that is full of tears, and virgin-sighs, and yearnings of affection after truth and good, gushing warm and crimsoned from the heart.” The letters which Southey wrote to his virgin-bride, during his residence in Portugal, were published in 1797, in one octavo volume, without any alterations or additions. On his return, he contributed to the Monthly Magazine, under the signatures of Joshua, T.Y., and S. In 1799-1800, conjointly with Mr C. Lamb, Mr (now Sir Humphrey) Davy, Mr Taylor, of Norwich, and Coleridge, he published two volumes of poems, called the Annual Anthology."
Towards the close of the year 1801, Mrsouthey was appointed Secretary to Mr Corry, then Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland, and this in a manner equally honourable to both parties.
Mr Corry, it appears, had an intimate friend,
whom he often consulted, and whose advice he frequently took. This Gentleman, a Mr M., call
' A third volume was published in 1802, but it was edited by Mr James Tobin, of Bristol, brother to the author of . The Honeymoon.”
* The present Sir James Mackintosh.
formed him that, in consequence of his secretary's demise, he was in want of a person to occupy the post; -I have no doubt," said Mr Corry, - but that were I to make known the vacancy, I should have my family relations, even to my seventh cousins, tormenting me to let one of them fill it; but since it is my wish to have a young man possessed both of talents and integrity, you will oblige me by recommending such a one." Mr M. candidly acknowledged that he did not immediately recollect any person, whose character and principles he was sufficiently acquainted with as to recommend him; but added, that he would reflect upon the subject, and inform the Chancellor of the result on the following morning. A second meeting accordingly took place, when Mr M. observed, that he thought no person so well qualified for the post as a Mr Southey, with whom he had formed a strict intimacy, but of whose situation in life he was utterly ignorant; he would however write to him immediately, and inquire whether the proposed establishment would be acceptable to him. It is not to be imagined that our author deliberated for a long time on what answer he should make; he determined to be the bearer of it in person. Arrived in Dublin, he waited on Mr Corry, and having, in the course of the conversation which took place between them, convinced that gentleman of his capacity to fill the vacant post, he added, that he could by no means think of accepting it, were he required to make a sacrifice of his political principles, by actively supporting the Irish Administration. Mr Corry had, however, by this time conceived so high an idea of his talents, and was so delighted with his ingenuous eloquence, that without making any terms, to use the political phraseology of the day, he immediately appointed him his secretary, with a salary of 5ool. sterling a year. Mr Southey continued to hold this place until his principal quitted the office, when, we believe, Mr Southey's talents and services received a reward which they eminently merited. Before, however, he entered upon the duties of this office, he had published his poem of Thalaba, the Destroyer, which excited a strong sensation in the literary community. Much learned dust was raised in disputes respecting the pre-eminence of its merits and defects, but the decision of the public was unquestionably in its favour. Mr Southey never meant to confine himself within the rigid rules prescribed to the Greek epic, and therefore by them it was unfair to judge him. As Pope says, in his preface to Shakspeare, it would be like deciding that a man was guilty of a crime in one country when
he acted under the laws of another. The greater part of Thalaba was written in Portugal. In 18ot also appeared a volume of miscellaneous pieces, none of which can be read without some degree of praise; it was followed by a second volume of the same kind a few years afterwards. In the autumn of 1802, or the spring cf 1803, Mr Southey retired to Keswick, in Cumberland. His dwelling there, a very pretty house (by no means a cottage), was divided in the centre;— one half being occupied by Mr Southey, his wife, and children, and the other half by Mrs Coleridge (sister to Mrs Southey), her two daughters, and Mrs Lovel, the widowed sister of Mrs Southey, who also found a welcome asylum under the roof. of her brother-in-law. Mr Southey's own family consists of one son, about ten years old, and three daughters, the eldest of whom is in her twenty-second year. He had the misfortune to lose a daughter about three years ago. In the month of September, 1813, Mr Southey accepted the office of Poet Laureat on the death of Mr Pye. The subjoined is a list of Mr Southey's works in verse and in prose:–Wat Tyler, a poem (afterwards suppressed). — Bion and Moschus, a Collection of Poems.-Joan of Arc, an epic Poem, 4to, 1796–Poems, 8vo, 1797; 4th edition, 1809. — Letters written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal, 8vo, 1797. The Annual Anthology, a miscellaneous Collection of Poetry, of which he was the editor and principal writer, 2 vol. 1 amo, 1799-1800.-Amadis de Gaul, from the Spanish Version, 4 vol. 12mo, 1803. – The Works of Chatterton, 3 vol. 8vo, 1803.—Thalaba the Destroyer, a metrical romance, a vol. 8vo,
1803; 2d edit. 1809. —Metrical Tales and other
The Lay of the Laureate, 12mo, 1816.-A Tale of Paraguay, 8vo, 1824. Besides the above, Mr Southey has written the annexed works, the dates of which we are not able accurately to ascertain:--The Vision of Judgment, a Poem, 4to.—Life of Wesley. —Book of the Church. —History of the Peninsular War.—Windicia: Ecclesiae Anglicanae. No Poet in our language, or perhaps in any other, has been more the object of contemporary criticism than Mr Southey. The frequency and boldness of his flights astonished those who could not follow him, and who, naturally enough, when they saw him enlarging the range of his art beyond their conception, solaced themselves with an opinion of his having deviated from its rules. If Poetry has any fundamental rules but those which best exhibit the feelings of the human heart, we confess that we are strangers to them. It is in proportion to his knowledge of these, and to his power of developing and delineating their action and effects, that the world in general bestow their tribute of approbation upon the Poet. Whether he lays his scene in heaven or earth, his business is with human sympathies, exalted perhaps by the grandeur of the objects which excite them, or called into existence by the circumstances which he creates, but still in their nature, progress, and ends, in every sense of the word, human. These must be the main springs and active principles of a poem; and, compared to them, the power of all other machinery is weak. Mr Southey has shown the validity of this system in his principal poems, particularly in the metrical romance of “Thalaba,” and - the Curse of Kehama ; , and whether he has drawn from the inexhaustible sources of his own imagination, and written so much as he has done, and still fewer have written so well. With a share of genius and fancy equalled but by few—an honesty surpassed by none—and an extent and vanety of information, marked with the stamp of that industrious and almost forgotten accuracy which brings us back to the severer days of Eng| lish study, he possesses a commanding knowledge of his mother-tongue, which, though the osten|tation of power sometimes produces pedantry, and its attendant negligence betrays him too often into antiquated homeliness, is strongly, however, and we think, advantageously contrast, ed with the monotonous and unbending dignity which distinguishes the greater part of modern historians. The severest critics on Mr Southey's poetical style allow him to be gifted with powers of fancy and of expression beyond almost any individual of his age; and that in the expression of all the tender and amiable and quiet affections, he has had but few rivals, either in past or in present times. But they accuse him of , a childish taste and an affected manner, which, if they cannot destroy genius, will infallibly deprive it of its glory.No Author in our days has been more the object of party criticism than Mr Southey. The charge of political inconsistency is continually reverted to and - thrown in his teeth • by his quoudam friends and associates, who never can forgive what they call his apostacy from the • right cause.” In evidence of this, we give the following extracts from Contemporary Portraits, a well-known work by a well-known writer. - Mr Southey,” says the critic, as we formerly remember to have seen him, had a hectic flush upon his cheek, a roving fire in his eye, a falcon glance, a look at once aspiring and dejected—it was the look that had been impressed upon his face by the events that marked the outset of his life; it was the dawn of Liberty that still tinged his cheek, a smile betwixt hope and sadness that still played upon his quivering lip. Mr Southey's mind is essentially sanguine, even to overweeningness. It is prophetic of good; it cordially embraces it; it casts a longing, lingering look after it, even when it is gone for ever. He cannot bear to give up the thought of happiness, his confidence in his fellow-man, when all else despair. It is the very element, ‘where he must live, or have no life at all.’ While he supposed it possile that a better form of society could be introduced than any that had hitherto existed, while the light of the French Revolution beamed into his soul, (and long after, it was seen reflected on
nicle of Cid Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, from the springs at once more natural and more powerful
Spanish, 4to, 1808. –The History of Brazil, 4to, than have ever been obtained from the incon1810.-The Curse of Kehama, a poem, 4to, 181 of sistent and treacherous aid of classical fictions. 3d edit, 2 vol. 12mo, 1813.-Oinniana, 2 vol. His march to fame has been regular, and he has 12mo, 1812.-Life of Nelson, 2 vol. small 8vo, made himself master of the ground over which he 1813–Carmen Triumphale, 4to, 1814.—Odes to has passed. Indeed, it is by no means easy to the Prince Regent, the Emperor of Russia, and mention a style of composition which Mr Southey the King of Prussia, 4to, 1814.—Roderick the has not attempted, and it would be still harder last of the Goths, 4to, 1814; 2d edit. 2 vol. 12mo, to point out one in which his talents might not 1815–Minor Poems, 3 vols. 12mo, 1815–1 he be expected to raise him to distinguished emiPoet's Pilgrimage to Waterloo, 12mo, 1816.- |nence;—few authors of the present age have
his brow, like the light of setting suns on the peak *some high mountain, or lonely range of clouds,
floating in purer ether!) while he had this hope, this faith in man left, he cherished it with childlike simplicity, he clung to it with the fondness of a lover; he was an enthusiast, a fanatic, a leveller; he stuck at nothing that he thought would banish all pain and misery from the world; in his impatience of the smallest error or injustice, he would have sacrificed himself and the existing generation (a holocaust) to his devotion to the right cause. But when he once believed, after many staggering doubts and painful struggles, that this was no longer possible, when his chineras and golden dreams of human perfectibility vanished from him, he turned suddenly round, and maintained that “whatever is, is right.' Mr Southey has not fortitude of mind, has not patience to think that evil is inseparable from the nature of things. His irritable sense rejects the alternative altogether, as a weak stomach rejects the food that is distasteful to it. He hopes on against hope, he believes in all unbelief. He must either repose on actual or on imaginary good. He missed his way in Utopia, he has found it at Old Sarum.—
His generous ardour no cold medium knows:
his eagerness admits of no doubt or delay. He is ever in extremes, and ever in the wrong! The reason is, that not truth, but self-opinion, is the ruling principle of Mr Southey's mind. The charm of novelty, the applause of the multitude, the sanction of power, the venerableness of antiquity, pique, resentment, the spirit of contradiction have a good deal to do with his preferences. His inquiries are partial and hasty: his conclusions raw and unconcocted, and with a considerable infusion of whim and humour, and a monkish spleen. His opinions are like certain wines, warm and generous when new ; but they will not keep, and soon turn flat or sour, for want of a stronger spirit of the understanding to give a lody to them. He wooed Liverty as a youthful lover; but it was perhaps more as a mistress than a bride; and he has since wedded with an elderly lady, called Legitimacy. We must say that “we relish Mr Southey more in the Reformer' than in his lately acquired, but by no means matural or becoming character of poet-laureat and courtier. He may rest assured that a garland of wild flowers suits him better than the laureat-wreath: that his pastoral odes and popular inscriptions were far more adapted to his genius than his presentation-poems. He is nothing akin to birth-day suits and drawingroom fopperies. ‘He is nothing, if not fantastical.’ In his figure, in his movements, in his sentiments, he is sharp and angular, quaint and eccentric. Mr Southey is not of the court, courtly.
Every thing of him and about him is from the people. He is not classical, he is not legitimate. He is not a man cast in the mould of other men's opinions: he is not shaped on any model: he bows to no authority, he yields only to his own wayward peculiarities. He is wild, irregular, singular, extreme. He is no formalist, not hel All is crude and chaotic, self-opinionated, vain. He wants proportion, keeping, system, standard rules. He is not teres et rotundus. Mr Southey walks with his chin erect through the streets of London, and with an umbrella sticking out under his arm in the finest weather. He has not sacrificed to the Graces, nor studied decorum. With him every thing is projecting, starting from its place, an episode, a digression, a poetic license. He does not move in any given orbit, but, like a falling star, shoots from his sphere. He is pragmatical, restless, unfixed, full of experiments, beginning every thing anew, wiser than his betters, judging for himself, dictating to others. * Look at Mr Southey's larger poems, his Kehama, his Thalaba, his Madoc, his Roderick. Who will deny the spirit, the scope, the splendid imagery, the hurried and startling interest that pervades them 2 Who will say that they are not sustained on fictions wilder than his own Glendoveer, that they are not the daring creations of a mind curbed by no law, tamed by no fear, that they are not rather like the trances than the waking dreams of genius, that they are not the very paradoxes of poetry? All this is very well, very intelligible, and very harmless, if we regard the rank excrescences of Mr Southey's poetry, like the red and blue flowers in corn, as the unweeded growth of a luxuriant and wandering fancy; or if we allow the yeasty workings of an ardent spirit to ferment and boil over—the variety, the boldness, the lively stimulus given to the mind, may then atone for the violation of rules and the offences to bed-rid authority; but not if our poetic libertine sets up for a law-giver and judge, or an apprehender of vagrants in the regions either of taste or opinion. Our motley gentleman deserves the strait-waistcoat, if he is for setting others in the stocks of servility, or condemning them to the pillory for a new mode of rhyme or reason. Or if a composer of sacred Dramas on classic models, or a translator of an old Latin author (that will hardly bear translation), or a vamper-up of vapid cantos and odes set to music, were to turn pander to prescription and palliator of every dull, incorrigible abuse, it would not be much to be wondered at or even regretted. But in Mr Southey, it was a lamentable falling off. It is indeed to be deplored, it is a stain on genius, a blow to humanity, that the author of Joan of Arc should ever after turn to folly, or become the advocate of a rotten cause.
After giving up his heart to that subject, he ought not (whatever others might do) ever to have set his foot within the threshold of a court. He might be sure that he would not gain forgiveness or favour by it, nor obtain a single cordial smile from greatness. All that Mr Southey is or that he does best, is independent, spontaneous, free as the vital air he draws—when he affects the courtier or the sophist, he is obliged to put a constraint upon himself, to hold in his breath; he loses his genius, and offers a violence to his nature. His characteristic faults are the excess of a lively, unguarded temperament:-Oh! let them not degenerate into cold-blooded, heartless vices! If we speak or have spoken of Mr Southey with severity, it is with “the malice of old friends,’ for we count ourselves among his sincerest and heartiest wellwishers. But while he himself is anomalous, incalculable, eccentric, from youth to age (the Wat Tyler and the Vision of Judgment are the Alpha and omega of his disjointed career) full of sallies of humour, of ebullitions of spleen, making jetsd'eau, cascades, fountains, and water-works of his idle opinions, he would shut up the wits of others in leaden cisterns, to stagnate and corrupt, or bury them under ground—
Far from the sun and summer gale!
He would suppress the freedom of wit and humour, of which he has set the example, and claim a privilege for playing antics. He would introduce a uniformity of intellectual weights and measures of irregular metres and settled opinions, and enforce it with a high hand. This has been judged hard by some, and brought down a severity of recrimination, perhaps disproportioned to the injury done. “Because he is virtuous’ (it has been asked), “are there to be no more cakes and ale? Because he is loyal, are we to take all our motions from the Quarterly Review? Because he is orthodox, are we to do nothing but read the Book of the Church 2 We declare we think his former poetical scepticism was not only more amiable, but had more of the spirit of religion in it, implying a more heartfelt trust in nature and providence, than his present bigotry. We are at the same time free to declare that we think his articles in the Quarterly Review, notwithstanding their virulence and the talent they display, have a tendency to qualify its most pernicious effects. They have redeeming traits in them. ‘A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,' and the spirit of humanity (thanks to Mr Southey) is not quite expelled from the Quarterly Review. At the corner of his pen, “there hangs a vaporous drop profound of independence and liberality, which falls upon its pages, and oozes out through the pores of the public mind. There is a fortunate difference between writers whose hearts are naturally callous to truth, and whose understandings are hermetically sealed against all impressions but those of self-interest, and a man like Mr Southey. Once a philanthropist and always a philanthropist. No man can entirely baulk his nature: it breaks out in spite of him. In all those questions, where the spirit of contradiction does not interfere, on which he is not sore from old bruises, or sick from the extravagance of youthful intoxication, as from a last night's debauch, our “laureate is still bold, free, candid, open to conviction, a reformist without knowing it. - - - • He does not advocate the slave trade, he does not arm Mr Malthus's revolting ratios with his authority, he does not strain hard to deluge Ireland with blood. On such points, where humanity has not become obnoxious, where liberty has not passed into a by-word, Mr Southey is still liberal and humane. The elasticity of his spirit is unbroken : the bow recoils to its old position. He still stands convicted of his early passion for inquiry and improvement. Perhaps the most pleasing and striking of all Mr Southey's poems are not his triumphant taunts hurled against oppression, are not his glowing effusions to Liberty, but those in which, with a wild melancholy, he seems conscious of his own infirmities of temper, and to feel a wish to correct, by thought and time, the precocity and sharpness of his disposition. May the quaint but affecting aspiration expressed in one of these be fulfilled, that as he mellows into maturer age, all such asperities may wear off, and he himself become
Like the high leaves on the holly tree!
• Mr Southey's prose-style can scarcely be too much praised. It is plain, clear, pointed, familiar, perfectly modern in its texture, but with a grave and sparkling admixture of archaisms in its ornaments and occasional phraseology. He is the best and most natural prose-writer of any poet of the day. The manner is perhaps superior to the matter, that is, in his Essays and Reviews. There is rather a want of originality, and even of impetus; but there is no want of playful or biting satire, of ingenuity, of casuistry, of learning, and of information. He is ‘full of wise saws and modern (as well as ancient) instances. Mr Southey may not always convince his opponents; but he seldom fails to stagger, never to gall them. In a word we may describe his style by saying, that it has not the body or thickness of port-wine, but is like clear sherry with kernels of old authors thrown into it. He also excels as an historian and prose-translator. His histories abound in information, and exhibit proofs of the most
indefatigable patience and industry. By no uncommon process of the mind, Mr Southey seems willing to steady the extreme levity of his opinions and feelings by an appeal to facts. His translations of the Spanish and French romances are also executed con amore, and with the literary fidelity and care of a mere linguist. That of the Cid, in particular, is a master-piece. Not a word could be altered for the better, in the old scriptural style which it adopts in conformity to the original. It is no less interesting in itself, or as a record of high and chivalrous feelings and manners, than it is worthy of perusal as a literary curiosity. Mr Southey's conversation has a little resemblance to a common-place book; his habitual deportment to a piece of clock-work. He is not remarkable either as a reasoner or an observer: but he is quick, unaffected, replete with anecdote, various and retentive in his reading, and extremely happy in his play upon words, as most scholars are who give their minds this sportive turn. We have chiefly seen Mr Southey in society where few people appear to advantage, we mean in that of Mr Coleridge. He has not certainly the same range of speculation, nor the same flow of sounding words; but he makes up by the details of knowledge, and by a scrupulous correctness of statement, for what he wants in originality of thought, or impetuous declamation. The tones of Mr Coleridge's voice are eloquence: those of Mr Southey are meagre, shrill, and dry. Mr. Coleridge's forte is conversation, and he is conscious of this: Mr Southey evidently considers writing as his strong-hold, and, if gravelled in an argument, or at a loss for an explanation, refers to something he has written on the subject, or brings out his port-folio, doubled down in dogears, in confirmation of some fact. • He is scholastic and professional in his ideas. He sets more value on what he writes than on what he says: he is perhaps prouder of his library than of his own productions—themselves a library!—He is more simple in his manners than his friend Mr Coleridge; but at the same time less cordial or conciliating. He is less vain, or has less hope of pleasing, and therefore lays himself less out to please. There is an air of condescension in his civility. With a tall, loose figure, a peaked austerity of countenance, and no inclination to embonpoint, you would say he has something puritanical, sometimes ascetic in his appearance. He answers to Mandeville's description of Addison, “a parson in a tie-wig.' He is not a boon companion, nor does he indulge in the pleasures of the table, nor in any other vice; nor are we aware that Mr Southey is chargeable with any human frailty but — want of charity