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and Aboriginal Languages of India. By Dr. Max
Physical Geography. By MARY SOMERVILLE.
The Second American Edition from the New and
Revised London Edition.
Physical Phenomena of Nature. By ROBERT HUNT.
NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.
F. Bowen ART. I. - The Life and Correspondence of ROBERT
SOUTHEY. Edited by his Son, the Rev. CHARLES CUTHBERT SOUTHEY, M. A. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1851. 8vo. pp. 579.
Souther's life is a good picture of the character and fortunes of the man of letters in our own age. He was the best representative of the class; he typified both the strength and the weakness, the pleasures and the pains, the tastes and the powers, of a man exclusively devoted to literary pursuits. He began to publish before he came of age, and he died almost with the pen still grasped in the fingers which had wielded it for half a century. He lived by his publications, which, though they gained him an honorable name, and have secured for him a permanent place in the history of English literature, afforded him a meagre and uncertain livelihood. He was rich in nothing but books, of which he had accumulated a larger store probably than any man in Great Britain not favored by hereditary wealth. The booksellers made him their dependant, but could not render him their slave; he was obliged to write for his bread, but he had not the spirit, or the want of spirit, of a Grub-street hack, ready to engage in any task that opened a chance of profit. Could he have stooped to this humiliation, he might, with his versatility of power and vast range of acquisition, speedily have become rich. He would do enough of such jobwork as writ
ing for the Reviews and the Annual Registers to provide for the pressing wants of the moment, the immediate demands of himself and his family; but he reserved his golden hours of toil for stately poems and histories, which the world was reluctant to purchase, and still more reluctant to read, but which still have substantial merits for the discerning few, so that they will probably float far down the stream of time before sinking into the mud at the bottom. Twelve months after its publication, he had received from the sale of Madoc less than four pounds sterling; and the total subsequent profits hardly amounted to twenty-five pounds. Yet he was not daunted by this meagre return, nor rendered envious by the brilliant success of his contemporaries. Scott had already received £700 for the Lay, and was soon to obtain a thousand guineas for Marmion. Southey's poetry might have become almost equally popular, if he had chosen to follow the public taste instead of wasting his energies in a vain attempt to guide or create it; for his acquisitions were even greater than those of his illustrious rival, and he had at least equal command of language and imagery, of sentiment and description. But he wrote poetry to please himself, not the public; and hardly a year had elapsed after the launching of his unlucky Welsh epic, before he had two other long narrative poems on the stocks, both fashioned after his own wilful fancy, - The Curse of Rehama and Roderic. It is superfluous to say that he did not make his fortune by either of them. After the publication of the last, he seems at length to have convinced himself that he was too poor to publish any more epics; or perhaps the booksellers formed this conclusion for him. But as if to show the ruling passion strong in death, he left an unfinished one in his desk, under the unpromising title of Oliver Newman, in which Philip of Mount Hope was to be a prominent character.
No literary man in our day can find his account in standing out against the judgment and taste of his contemporaries. Bacon and Milton, indeed, were willing to leave their fame "to men's charitable speeches, to foreign nations, and the next ages.
But the world, in Bacon's and Milton's times, was not competent to sit upon their claims; it has now become competent, as the number of readers has vastly increased, so that prejudice, intrigue, or caprice can