Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/532

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512
SOUTHEY


to Byron in his letters, but Byron asserts (Letters and Journals, ed. Prothero, iv. 271) that he was responsible for scandal spread about himself and Shelley. In this frame of mind, due as much to personal anger as to natural antipathy to Southey's principles, Byron dedicated Don Juan to the laureate, in what he himself called " good, simple, savage verse." In the introduction to his Vision of Judgment (1821) Southey inserted a homily on the " Satanic School " of poetry, unmistakably directed at Byron, who replied in the satire of the same name. The unfortunate controversy was renewed even after Byron's death, in con- sequence of a passage in Medwin's Conversations of Lord Byron.

Meanwhile the household at Greta Hall was growing smaller. Southey's eldest son, Herbert, died in 18 16, and a favourite daughter in 1826; Sara Coleridge married in 1829; in 1834 his eldest 'daughter, Edith, also married; and in the same year Mrs Southey, whose health had long given cause for anxiety, became insane. She died in 1837, and Southey went abroad the next year with Henry Crabb Robinson and others. In 1839 he married his friend Caroline Bowles (see below). But his memory was failing, and his mental powers gradually left him. He died on the 21st of March 1843, and was buried in Crosthwaite churchyard. A monument to his memory was erected in the church, with an inscription by Wordsworth.

The amount of Southey's work in literature is enormous. His collected verse, with its explanatory notes, fills ten volumes, his prose occupies about forty. But his greatest enterprises, his history of Portugal and his account of the monastic orders, were left uncompleted, and this, in some sense, is typical of Southey's whole achievement in the world of letters; there is always some- thing unsatisfying, disappointing, about him. This is most true of his efforts in verse. In his childhood Southey fell in with Tasso, Tasso led him to Ariosto, and Ariosto to Spenser. These luxuriantly imaginative poets captivated the boy; and Southey mistook his youthful enthusiasm for an abiding inspiration. His inspiration was not genuinely imaginative; he had too large an infusion of prosaic commonplace in his nature to be a true follower of Ariosto and Spenser. Southey, quite early in life, resolved to write a series of epics on the chief religions of the world; it is not surprising that the too ambitious poet failed. His failure is twofold: he was wanting in artistic power and in poetic sympathy. When his epics are not wildly impossible they are incurably dull ; and a man is not fit to write epics on the religions of the world' when he can say of the prophet who has satisfied the gravest races of mankind — Mahomet was " far more remarkable for audacious profligacy than for any intellec- tual endowments." Southey's age was bounded, and had little sympathy for anything beyond itself and its own narrow interests; it was violently Tory, narrowly Protestant, defiantly English. And in his verse Southey truthfully reflects the feeling of his age. In the shorter pieces Southey's commonplace asserts itself, and if that does not meet us we find his bondage to his generation. This bondage is quite abject in The Vision of Judg- ment; Southey's heavenly personages are British Philistines from Old Sarum, magnified but not transformed, engaged in endless placid adoration of an infinite George III. For this complaisance he was held up to ridicule by Byron, who wrote his own Vision of Judgment by way of parody.

Some of Southey's subjects, " The Poet's Pilgrimage " for instance, he would have treated delightfully in prose; others, like the " Botany Bay Eclogues," " Songs to American Indians," " The Pig," " The Dancing Bear," should never have been written. Of his ballads and metrical tales many have passed into familiar use as poems for the young. Among these are "The Inchcape Rock," " Lord 'William," "The Battle of Blenheim," the ballad on Bishop Hatto, and " The Well of St Keyne."

Southey was not in the highest sense of the word a poet; but if we turn from his verse to his prose we are in a different world ; there Southey is a master in his art, who works at ease with grace and skill. " Southey's prose is perfect," said Byron; and, if we do not stretch the " perfect," or take it to mean the supreme perfection of the very greatest masters of style, Byron was right.


In prose the real Southey emerges from his conventionality. His interest and his curiosity are unbounded as his Common- Place Book will prove; his stores of learning are at his readers' service, as in The Doctor, a rambling miscellany, valued by many readers beyond his other work. For biography he had a real genius. The Life of Nelson (2 vols., 1813), which has become a model of the short life, arose out of an article contributed to the Quarterly Review; he contributed another excellent biography to his edition of the Works of William, Cowper (15 vols., 1833-1837), and his Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (2 vols., 1820) is only less famous than his Life of Nelson. But the truest Southey is in his Letters: the loyal, gallant, tender- hearted, faithful man that he was is revealed in them. Southey's fame will not rest, as he supposed, on his verse; all his faults are in that — all his own weakness and all the false taste of his age. But his prose assures him a high place in English literature, though not a place in the first rank even of prose writers.

Southey's love of romance appears in various volumes: Amadis of Gaul (4 vols., 1803); Palmerin of England (1807); Chronicle of the Cid (1808), and The byrth, lyf and actes of King Arthur . . . with an introduction and notes (1817). His other works are: Specimens of English Poets (3 vols., 1807); Letters from England by Don Manuel Espriella (3 vols., 1807), purporting to be a Spaniard's impressions of England ; an edition of the Remains of Henry Kirke White (2 vols., 1807) ; Omniana or Horae Otiosiores (2 vols., 1812) ; Odes to . . . the Prince Regent . . . (18 14); Carmen Triumphale . . . and Carmina Aulica . . . (1814); Minor Poems . . . (181$); Lay of the Laureate (1816), an epithalamium for the Princess Charlotte; The Poet's Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816); Wat Tyler: a dramatic poem (1817); Letter to William Smith Esq., M.P. (1817), on the occasion of stric- tures made in the House of Commons on Wat Tyler; History of Brazil (3 vols., 1810, 1817, 1819) ; Expedition of Orsua and the Crimes of Aguirre (1821); A Book of the Church (2 vols., 1824) ; A Tale of Paraguay (1825); Vindiciae Ecclesiae Anglicanae, Letters to C. Butler, Esq., comprising essays on the Romish Religion and vindicating the Book of the Church (1826) ; History of the Peninsular War (3 vols., 1823, 1824, 1832); " Lives of uneducated Poets," prefixed to verses by John Jones (1829); All for Love and The Pilgrim to Compostella (1829) ; Sir Thomas More, or Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (2 vols., 1829); Life of John Bunyan, prefixed to an edition (1830) of the Pilgrim's Progress; Select Works of British Poets from Chaucer to Jonson, edited with biographical notices . , . (1831) Essays Moral and Political . . . now first collected (2 vols., 1832); Lives of the Admirals, with an introductory view of the Naval History of England, forming 5 vols. (1833-1840) of Lardner's Cabinet Cyclo- paedia; The Doctor (7 vols., 1834-1847), the last two volumes being edited by his son-in-law, the Rev. J. Wood Warter; Common-Place Book (4th series, 1849-1851), edited by the same; Oliver Newman; a New England Tale (unfinished), with other poetical remains (1845), edited by the Rev. H. Hill. A collected edition of his Poetical Works (10 vols., 1837-1838) was followed by a one volume edition in 1847. Southey's letters were edited by his son Charles Cuthbert Southey as The Life and Correspondence of the late Robert Southey (6 vols., 1849-1850); further selections were published in Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey (4 vols., 1856), edited by J. W. Warter; and The Correspondence of Robert Southey with Caroline Bowles. To which are added: Correspondence with Shelley, and Southey's Dreams (1881), was edited, with an introduction, by Professor E. Dowden. An excellent selection from his whole correspondence, edited by Mr John Dennis, as Robert Southey, the story of his life written in his letters (Boston, Massachusetts, 1887), was reprinted in Bohn's Standard Library (1894). See aXsoSouthey (1879) in the English Men of Letters Series, by Professor E. Dowden, who also made the selection of Poems by Robert Southey (1895) in the Golden Treasury Series. A full account of his relations with Byron is given in The Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (vol. vi., 1901, edited R. E. Prothero), in an appendix entitled " Quarrel between Byron and Southey," pp. 377-399. Southey figures in four of the Imaginary Conversations of W. S. Landor, two of which are between Southey and Porson, and two between Southey and Landor.

Southey's second wife, Caroline Anne Southey (1786-1854), was the daughter of an East Indian captain, Charles Bowles. She was born at Lymington, Hants, on the 7th of October 1786. As a girl Caroline Anne Bowles showed a certain literary and artistic aptitude, the more remarkable perhaps from the loneliness of her early life and the morbidly delicate condition of her health — an aptitude however of no real distinction. When money difficulties came upon her in middle age she determined to turn her talents to account in literature. She sent anonymously to Southey a narrative poem called Ellen Fitzarthur, and this led to the acquaintanceship and long friendship, which, in 1839,