STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER
Southey had not the philosopher's elevation nor the poet's insight to see things in their true proportions. To judge him by such standards is simply inappropriate. When Hazlitt reproached him as a turncoat, he had a very fair retort. Hazlitt and he had both taken the French Revolution to be the dawn of liberty. Hazlitt was now worshipping Napoleon, the military despot and the oppressor of Spain and Germany, and still bragging of his 'consistency.' As Southey put it, 'You are still looking for the sun in the east when he has got round to the west. It is I who am still faithful to my aspirations, but have been wise enough to learn by experience that I was mistaken in my facts.' To ask which was right would be not only superfluous but irrelevant. Southey's revolutionary sentiment belonged to his schoolboy days. He was still at Westminster when the Bastille was taken, and at Oxford during the early part of the war. He had found out that 'pantisocracy' was an illusion by the time he was
life was becoming public property. Such blunders are common enough. It is a very good thing to be always on the side of virtue; but it may sometimes lead to the error that you think you have a kind of patent for uttering moral sentiment.