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U w ith you. I am sure that yon will, uj>on second thoughts, be really obliged to me for the intention of this letter, however far short my expressions may have fallen of the sincere good will, admiration, and thorough esteem, with which I am ever, my dear Roberts,
Most truly yours,
Sept, 4tk, 1819. Little PtMtmgtm*
P. S. My letter is too long to revise, and the post is going. I forget whether or not 1 asked you the meaning of your last words, "the forgery of a groundless fiction." Now. as all forgery is fiction, and all fiction a kind of forgery, is not this tautological? The sentence would have ended more strongly with "forgery;" only, It hath an awful Bank of England sound, and would have ended like an indictment, besides sparing you several words, and conferring some meaning upon the remainder. But this is mere verbal criticism. Good-bye —once more, yours truly, W. C.
P.S. 2d. —Is it true that the Saints make up the loss of the Review ?— It is very handsome in them to be at so great an expense. Twice more, yours, W. C.
Note [B.] — Some Observations Upon An Article In Blackwood's Magazine, No. XXIX., August, 1819.
"Why, how now, Hecate? you look angrily."— Macbeth.
[See " Testimonies of Authors," No. XVII. <mtt\ p. 581.]
J. D'ISRAELI, ESQ.
THE AMIABLE AND INGENIOUS At'THOR Or 1 TUB CALAMITIES" AND " QUARRELS OP AUTHORS;"
THIS ADDITIONAL QUARREL AND CALAMITY
ONE OF THE NUMBER.
Ravenna. March 15. 1H20.
"The life of a writer *' has been said, by Pope, I believe, to be ** a warfare upon earth." As far as my own experience has gone, 1 have nothing to say against the proposition ; and, Uke the rest, having once plunged into this state of hostility, must, however reluctantly, carry It on. An article has appeared in a periodical work, entitled " Remarks ou Don Juan," which has been so full of this spirit, on the part of the writer, as to require some observations on mine.
In the first place, I am not aware by what right the writer assumes this work, which is anonymous, to be my production, lie will answer, that there is internal evidence; that is to say, that there are passages which appear to be written in my name, or in my manner. Rut might not this have been done on purpose by another? He will say, why not then deny it? To this 1 could answer, that of all the things attributed to me within the last five years,— Pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Deaths upon Pale Horses, Odes to the Land of the Gaul, Adieus to England, Songs to Madame La Valette. Odes to St. Helena, Vampires, and what not,—of which, God knows 1 never composed nor read a syllable beyond their titles in advertisements,— I never thought It worth while to disavow any, except one which came linked with an account of my "residence in the Isle of Mltylene," where I never resided,
1 [In Sheridan's comedy of " The R1t»u.t
t [Sew Blackwood, vol. III. p. M9. Lord B., as It appear* fmm one of hi* liuen, ascribed (though unjuitly) this paper to the Hev.Dr.Chalmers!]
A [*' An the pa-Kajre »u curtailed in the press, I take this opportunity at restoring It. In the Quarterly Review (rot. xxi. p.366.), speaking In el
and appeared to be carrying the amusement of those p who think my name can t>e of any use to them, a little too fir.
I should hardly, therefore, if I did not take the trouble to disavow these things published in my name, and yet not mite, go out of my way to deny an anonymous work; which might appear an act of supererogation. With regard to Don Juan, 1 neither deny nor admit it to be mine— ererybodv But form their own opinion ; but, if there be any who now, or in the progress of that poem, if it is to be continued, feet, or should feel themselves so aggrieved as to require a more explicit answer, privately and personally, they shall hare it.
I hare never shrunk from the responsibility of what I have written, and have more than once incurred obloquy by neglecting to disavow what was attributed to my pen without foundation.
The greater part, however, of the " Remarks on Don Juan" contain but little on the work itself, which receive* so extraordinary portion of praise as a composition. With the exception of some quotations, and a few incidental remarks, the rest of the article Is neither more nor less than a personal attack upon the imputed author. It is not the first in the same publication: for I recollect to have read, some time ago. similar remarks upon ** Beppo" (said to have been written by a celebrated northern preacher); In which the conclusion drawn was, that " Childe Harold, Byron, and the Count in Beppo, were one and the same person ; " thereby making nw turn out to be, as Mrs. Mala prop i says," like Cerberus, three gentlemen at once." That article was signed " Presbrtrr Anglicanus ;" which, I presume, being interpreted, mean* Scotch Presbyterian.3 1 must here observe,—and It b at once ludicrous and vexatious to be compelled so frequently to repeat the same thing,—that my case, as an author, is peculiarly hard, in being everlastingly taken, or mistaken, to my own protagonist. It is unjust and particular. I new heard that my friend Moore was set down for a fire-worshipper on account of his Guebre; that Scott was identified with Roderick Dhu, or with Balfour of Hurley; or that, notwithstanding all the magicians in Thalaba, anybody has em taken Mr. Southey for a conjuror; whereas I have bad tome difficulty in extricating me even from Manfred, who, at Mr Southey slilr observes in one of his articles in the Quarterly, "met the devil on the 3ungfrau, and bullied him»: '* sad I answer Mr. Southey, who has apparently. In his poetical life, not been so successful against the great enemy, that, in this. Manfred exactly followed the sacred precept,—** Resist Uk devil, and he will flee from you."— I shall have more to on the subject of this person — not the devil, bat hh nwst humble servant Mr. Southey—before 1 conclude; bet, fcr the present, I must return to the article in the Edinburrb Magazine.
In the course of this article, amidst lone extraordinary observations, there occur the following words :— " It appears, in short, as ir this miserable man, having exhausts* every specici of sensual gratification, — having drained the enp of sin even to its bitterest dregs, were resolved to show us thai he Is no longer a human being even in his frailties, — but s cool, unconcerned fiend, laughing with a detestable glee ow: the whole of the better and worse elements of which busnaa life is composed." In another place there appears, *U> lurking-place of his selfish and polluted exfle.**—** By say troth, these be bitter words !"—With regard to thf 6resentence, I shall content myself with observing, that i: appears to have been composed for Sardanapalus. Tibrnu*, the Regent Duke of Orleans, or Louis XV.; and that 1 as" copied it with as much indifference as 1 would a pas**?* from Suetonius, or from any of the private memoirs of li* regency, conceiving it to be amply refuted by the tenci in which It Is expressed, and to be utterly inapplicable tf say private individual. On the words, "lurking-place," assi selfish and polluted exile," I have I
How far the capital city of a [rovernment, which survived the vicissitudes of thirteen hundred years, and might still have existed but for the treachery of Buonaparte, and the iniquity of his imitators, —a city, which was the emporium of Europe when London and Edinburgh were dens of barbarians, — may be termed a " lurking-place," I leave to those who have seen or heard of Venice to decide. How far my exile may have been "polluted," it is not for me to say, because the word it a wide one, and, with some of its branches, may chance to overshadow the actions of most men ; but that it has been " $e0sk" I deny. If, to the extent of my means and my power, and my information of their calamities, to have assisted many miserable beings, reduced by the decay of the place of their birth, and their consequent loss of substance— if to have never rejected an application which ap|>cared founded on truth — if to have expended In this manner sums far out of proportion to my fortune, there and elsewhere, be selfish, then have 1 been selfish. To have done such things I do not deem much ; but It is hard Indeed to be compelled to recapitulate them in my own defence, by such accusations as that before me, like a panel before a jury calling testimonies to his character, or a soldier recording his services to obtain his discharge. If the person who has made the charge of " selfishness " wishes to inform himself further on the subject, he may acquire, not what he would wish to find, but what will silence and shame him, by applying to the Consul-General of our nation, resident in the place, who will be In the case cither to confirm or deny what I have asserted.1
I neither make, nor have ever made, pretensions to sanctity of demeanour, nor regularity of conduct; but my means have been expended principally on my own gratification, neither now nor heretofore, neither in England nor out of it; and It wants but a word from me, if I thought that word decent or necessary, to call forth the most willing witnesses, and at once witnesses and proofs, in England itself, to show that there are those who have derived not the mere temporary relief of a wretched boon, but the means w hich led them to immediate happiness and ultimate independence, by my want of that very " selfishness,'* as grossly as falsely now imputed to my conduct.
Had I been a selfish man — had I been a grasping man — had I been, in the worldly sense of the word, even a prudent man,— I should not be w here I now am; I should not have taken the step which was the first that led to the events which have sunk and iwoln a gulf between me and mine; but In this respect the truth will one day be made known: in the meantime, as Durandearte says, in the Cave of Montesinos, ** Patience, and shuffle the cards.**
1 bitterly feel the ostentation of this statement, the first of the kind I have ever made: I feel the degradation of being compelled to make it; but I also feel Its truth, and I trust to feel it on my death-bed, should it be my tot to die there. I am not less sensible of the egotism of all this ; but, alas ! who have made me thus egotistical in my own defence, if not they, who, by perversely persisting in referring fiction to truth, and tracing poetry to life, and regarding characters of imagination as creatures of existence, have made me personally responsible for almost every poetical delineation which fancy, and a particular bias of thought, may have tended to produce?
The writer continues : —" Those who are acquainted, as wko is not T with the main incidents of the private life of Lord B.** Ac. Assuredly, whoever may he acquainted with these "main Incidents," the writer of the " Remarks on Don Juan" is not, or he would use a very different language. That which I believe he alludes to as a " main Incident," happened to be a very subordinate one, and the natural and almost inevitable consequence of events and circumstances long prior to the period at which it occurred. It is the last drop which makes the cup run over, and mine was already
I I" Lord Byron was ever rml; to usiot the dUrmited, imd he tu moot uno^ent&tivtM in hi* charltlri; fbr. bc-Wle* conUiimblc lurr.i which hr gave away to applicants at hit own houM-, he contributed largcl), by
full— But, to return to this man's charge: he accuses Lord B. of "an elaborate satire on the character and manners of his wife." From what parts of Don Juan the writer has inferred this he himself best knows. As far as I recollect of the female characters In that production, there Is but one who is depicted in ridiculous colours, or that could be interpreted as a satire upon any body. But here my poetical sins are again revisited upon me, supposing that the poem be mine. If I depict a corsair, a misanthrope, a libertine, a chief of Insurgents, or an infidel, he is set down to the author ; and if, in a poem by no means ascertained to be my production, there appears a disagreeable, casuistical, and by no means respectable female pedant, it Is set down for my wife. Is there any resemblance? If there be, it is In those who make it: I can see none. In my writings I have rarely described any character under a fictitious name: those of whom I have spoken have had their own — in many cases a stronger satire In itself than any which .could be appended to it But of real circumstances I have availed myself plentifully, both In the serious and the ludicrous— they are to poetry what landscapes are to the painter ; but my figures are not portraits. It may even have happened, that 1 have seised on some events that have occurred under my own observation, or in my own family, as I would paint a view from my grounds, did it harmonise with my picture; but I never would Introduce the likenesses of Its living members, unless their features could be made as favourable to themselves as to the effect; which, in the above instance, would be extremely difficult.
My learned brother proceeds to observe, that " it is in vain for Lord B. to attempt in any way to justify his own behaviour In that affair; and now that he has so openly and audaciously invited inquiry and reproach, we do not see any good reason why he should not be plainly told so by the voice of his countrymen." How far the " openness " of an anonymous poem, and the " audacity " of an imaginary character, which the writer supposes to be meant for Lady B., may be deemed to merit this formidable denunciation from their " most sweet voices," I neither know nor care j but when he tells me that 1 cannot " in any way justify my own behaviour in that affair/' I acquiesce, because no man can "justify " himself until he knows of what he is accused; and I have never had —and, God knows, my whole desire has ever been to obtain it — any specific charge, in a tangible shape, submitted to me by the adversary, nor by others, unless the atrocities of public rumour and the mysterious silence of the lady's legal advisers may be deemed such. But is not the writer content with what has been already said and done? Has not " the general voice of his countrymen '* long ago pronounced upon the subject — sentence without trial, and condemnation without a charge? Have I not been exiled by ostracism, except that the shells which proscribed me were anonymous? Is the writer ignorant of the public opinion and the public conduct upon that occasion? If he is, I am not: the public will forget both, long before I shall cease to remember either.
The man who is exiled by a faction has the consolation of thinking that he Is a martyr; he is upheld by hope and the dignity of his cause, real or imaginary: he who withdraws from the pressure of debt may Indulge in the thought that time and prudence will retrieve bis circumstances : he who Is condemned by the law has a term to his banishment, or a dream of Its abbreviation ; or, it may be, the knowledge or the belief of some injustice of the law, or of its administration in his own particular; but he who Is outlawed by general opinion, without the intervention of hostile politics, illegal judgment, or embarrassed circumstances, whether he be innocent or guilty, must undergo all the bitterness of exile, without hope, without pride, without alleviation. This case was mine. Upon what grounds the public founded their opinion, I am not aware; but it was general, and it was decisive. Of me or of mine they knew
weekly unit monthly a who, as the money reached t
lit: except that I had written what ii called poetry, was a nobleman, had married, became a father, and was Involved tn differences with my wife and her relatives, no one knew why, because the persons complaining refused to state their grievances. The fashionable world was divided into parties, mine consisting of a very small minority: the reasonable world was naturally on the stronger side, which happened to be the lady's, as was moit proper and polite. The press was active and scurrilous; and such was the rage of the day, that the unfortunate publication of two copies of verses, rather complimentary than otherwise to the subjects of both, was tortured into a species of crime, or constructive petty treason. I was accused of every monstrous vice by public rumour and private rancour: my name, which had been a knightly or a noble one since my fathers helped to conquer the kingdom for William the Norman, was tainted. I felt that, if what was whispered, and muttered, and murmured was true, 1 was unfit for England ; if false, England was unfit for me. I withdrew: but this was not enough. In other countries, in Switzerland, in the shadow of the Alps, and by the blue depth of the lakes, I was pursued and breathed upon by the same blight. I crossed the mountains, but it was the same; so I went a little farther, and settled myself by the waves of the 'Adriatic, like the stag at bay, who betakes him to the waters.
If I may judge by the statements of the few friends who gathered round roe, the outcry of the period to which I allude was beyond all precedent, all parallel, even in those cases where political motives have sharpened slander and doubled enmity. I was advised not to go to the theatres, lest I should be hissed, nor to my duty In parliament, lest I should be insulted by the way; even on the day of my departure, my most intimate friend told me afterwards, that he was under apprehensions of violence from the people who might be assembled at the door of the carriage. However, I was not deterred by these counsels from seeing Kean In his best characters, nor from voting according to my principles ; and with regard to the third and last apprehensions of my friends, I could not share In them, not being made acquainted with their extent till some time after I had crossed the Channel. Even If I had been so, I am not of a nature to be much affected by men's anger, though I may feel hurt by their aversion. Against all individual outrage, I could protect or redress myself; and against that of a crowd, I should probably have been enabled to defend myself, with the assistance of others, as has been dono on similar occasions.
I retired from the country, perceiving that I was the object of general obloquy; I did not Indeed imagine, like Jean Jacques Rousseau, that all mankind was in a conspiracy against me, though I had perhaps as good grounds for such a chimera as ever he had: but I perceived that I had to a great extent become personally obnoxious in England, perhaps through my own fault, but the fact was Indisputable: the public in general would hardly have been so much excited against a more popular character, without at least an accusation or a charge of some kind actually expressed or substantiated, for ! can hardly conceive that the common and every-day occurrence of a separation between man and wife could in itself produce so great a ferment. I shall say nothing of the usual complaints of" being prejudged," " condemned unheard," "unfairness," 11 partiality," and so forth, the usual changes rung by parties who have had, or are to have, a trial. but I was a little surprised to find myself condemned without being favoured with the act of accusation, and to perceive in the absence of this portentous charge or charges whatever It or they were to be, that every possible or impossible crime was rumoured to supply its place, and taken for granted. This could only occur in the case of a person very much disliked; and 1 knew no remedy, having already used to their extent whatever little powers I might possess of pleasing in society. I had no party In fashion, though I was afterwards told that there was one—but it was not of my formation, nor did I then know of Its existence—none in literature ; and in politfcs I had voted with the Whigs, with
precisely that Importance which a Whig vote possesses tn these
14 Then wed thee to an exiled lot.
I recollect, however, that, having been much hurt by Rorailly's conduct, (he, having a general retainer for me, bad acted as adviser to the adversary, alleging, on being reminded of bis retainer, that he had forgotten it, as his clerk had so many,) 1 observed that some of those who were now eagerly laying the axe to my roof-tree, might see their own shaken, and feel a portion of what they had inflicted. — Hi* fell, and crushed him.
I have heard of, and believe, that there are human beiagi so constituted as to be insensible to injuries; but I believe that the best mode to avoid taking vengeance is to get out of the way of temptation. I hope that I may never have tfcr opportunity, for I am not quite sure that I could resist it. having derived from my mother something of the "pnfirridum ingenium Scotorum." I have not sought, and shall not seek It, and perhaps it may never come in my path. I do not in this allude to the party, who might be right or wrotuj: but to many who made her cause the pretext of their own bitterness. She, indeed, must have long avenged roe in her own feelings ; for whatever her reasons may have been (aci she never adduced them to me at least), she probably neither contemplated nor conceived to what she of conducting the father of her child, choice.
So much for "the general voice of his countrymen;" I will now speak of some in particular.
In the beginning of the year 1817, an article appeared ia the Quarterly Ilevlcw, written, I believe, by Walter Scott doing great honour to him, and no disgrace to roe, tbooga both poetically and personally more than sufficiently favourable to the work and the author of whom It treated. It was written at a time when a selfish man would not, and a tazud one dared not, have said a word in favour of either; it was written by one to whom temporary public opinion had elevated me to the rank of a rival — a proud distinction, aad unmerited; but which has not prevented me from feeling at a friend, nor him from more than corresponding to that sentiment. The article in question was written upoa the Third Canto of Childe Harold; and after many observaccM. which it would as ill become me to repeat as to forget, concluded with " a hope that I might yet return to England." How this expression was received In England Itseif I am sec acquainted, but it gave great offence at Rome to the respectable ten or twenty thousand English travellers then ar*i there assembled. I did not visit Rome till some rime after, so that I had no opportunity of knowing the tact: bat I wa* informed, long afterwards, that the greatest indignation fcai been manifested in the enlightened Anglo-circle of that rnr which happened to comprise within it—amidst a ccnsidrrab> leaven of Welbeck Street and Devonshire Place, hrokrr loose upon their travels —several really well-born and wrli
I [See Quarter!* Review, mi. svt p. IT*-'
bred families, who did not the leu participate in the feeling of the hour. "Why should he return to England ?" was the general exclamation —I answer whyf It is a question I have occasionally asked myself, and I never yet could give It a I satisfactory reply. I bad then no thoughts of returning, and I if I have any now, they are of business, and not of pleasure.
Amidst the ties that have been dashed to pieces, there are I links yet entire, though the chain itself be broken. There I are duties, and connections, which may one day require my presence—and I am a father. I have still some friends whom I wish tomeet again, and, it may be, an enemy. These things, and those minuter details of business, which time accumulates during absence. In every man's affairs and property, may, and probably will, recall me to England; but I shall return with the same feelings with which I left It, in respect to itself, though altered with regard to Individuals, as I have been more or less Informed of their conduct since my departure; for it was only a considerable time after it that I was made acquainted with the real facts and full extent of some of their proceedings and language. My friends, like other friends, from conciliatory motives, withheld from me much that they could, and some things which they should have unfolded; however, that which is deferred Is not lost —but It has been no fault of mine that it has been deferred at alL
I have alhided to what Is said to have passed at Rome merely to show that the sentiment which I have described was not confined to the English in England, and as forming part of my answer to the reproach cast upon what has been called my "selfish exile," and my "voluntary exile." "Voluntary" it has been; for who would dwell among a people entertaining strong hostility against him? How far it has been " selfish " has been already explained.
I have now arrived at a passage describing me as having vented my " spleen against the lofty-minded and virtuous men," men ** whose virtues few indeed can equal;" meaning, 1 humbly presume, the notorious triumvirate known by the name of " Lake Poets " In their aggregate capacity, and by Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, when taken singly. I wish to say a word or two upon the virtues of one of those persons, public and private, for reasons which will soon appear.
When Heft England In April, 1816, ill In mind, In body, and in circumstances, I took up my residence at Collgny, by the lake of Geneva. The sole companion of my journey was a young physicianwho had to make his way in the world, and having seen very little of it, was naturally and laudably desirous of seeing more society than suited my present habits or my past experience. I therefore presented him to those gentlemen of Geneva for whom I had letters of introduction; and haring thus seen him In a situation to make his own way, retired for my own part entirely from society, with the exception of one English family, living at about a quarter of a mile's distance from Diodati, and with the further exception of some occasional intercourse with Coppet at the wish of Madame de Stacl. The English family to which I allude consisted of two ladies, a gentleman and his son, a boy of a year old. *
One of "these lofty-minded and virtuous men" in the words of the Edinburgh Magazine, made, I understand, about this time, or soon after, a tour in Switzerland. On his return to England, he circulated—and, for anything I know, invented—a report, that the gentleman to whom I have alluded and myself were living in promiscuous intercourse with two sisters, "having formed a league of incest" (I quote the words as they were stated to me), and indulged himself on the natural comments upon such a conjunction, which are said to hare been repeated publicly, with great complacency, by another of that poetical fraternity, of whom I shall say only, that even had the story been true, he should not have repeated it, as far as it regarded myself, except in sorrow. The tale itself requires but a word In answer —the ladles were not sisters, nor In any degree connected, except by the
1 [Dr. PoUdarl — author of the " Vampire."!
second marriage of their respective parents a widower with a widow, both being the offspring of former marriages; neither of them were, In 1816, nineteen years old. M Promiscuous intercourse" could hardly have disgusted the great patron of pantisocracy, (does Mr. Southey remember such a scheme ?) but there was none.
How far this man, who, as author of Wat Tyler, has been proclaimed by the Lord Chancellor guilty of a treasonable und blasphemous libel, and denounced In the House of Commons, by the upright and able member for Norwich, as a " rancorous renegado," he fit for sitting as a judge upon others, let others judge. He has said that for this expression "he brands William Smith on the forehead as a calumniator," and that "the mark will outlast his epitaph." How long Wrilliara Smith's epitaph will last, and in what words it will be written, 1 know not, but William Smith's words form the epitaph itself of Robert Southey. He bas written Wat Tyler, and taken the office of poet laureate — he has, in the Life of Henry Kirke White, denominated reviewing " the ungentle craft," and has become a reviewer—he was one of the projectors of a scheme, callod " pantisocracy," for having all things, including women, in common, (query, common women ?) and he sets up as a moralist — he denounced the battle of Blenheim, and he praised the battle of Waterloo— "he loved Mary Wotlstoncraft, and he tried to blast the character of her daughter (one of the young females mentioned)
— he wrote treason, and serves the king —he was the butt of the Antljacobin, and he Is the prop of the Quarterly Review; licking the hands that smote him, eating the bread of his enemies, and Internally writhing beneath his own contempt,
— he would fain conceal, under anonymous bluster, and a vain endeavour to obtain the esteem of others, after having for ever lost his own, his leprous sense of his own degradation. What is there in such a man to " envy?" Who ever envied the envious? Is it his birth, his name, his fame, or his virtues, that I am to " envy?" I was born of the aristocracy, which he abhorred ; and am sprung, by ray mother, from the kings who preceded those whom he has hired himself to sing. It cannot, then, be his birth. As a poet, I have, for the past eight years, had nothing to apprehend from a competition; and for the future, " that life to come in every poet's creed," it is open to all. I will only remind Mr. Southey, In the words of a critic, who, ff still living, would have annihilated Southey's literary existence now and hereafter, as the sworn foe of charlatans and impostors, from Macpherson downwards, that " those dreams were Settle's once and Ogilby's;" and, for my own part, I assure him, that whenever he and his sect are remembered, I shall be proud to be " forgot." That ho is not content with his success as a poet may reasonably bo believed — he has been the nine-pin of reviews; the Edinburgh knocked him down, and the Quarterly set him up; the government found him useful in the periodical line, and made a point of recommending his works to purchasers, so that he is occasionally bought, (I mean his books, as well as the author,) and may be found on the same shelf, if not upon the table, of most of the gentlemen employed in the different offices. With regard to his private virtues, I know nothing — of his principles, I have heard enough. As far as having been, to the best of my power, benevolent to others, I do not fear the comparison; and for the errors of the passions, was Mr. Southey always so tranquil and stainless? Did he never covet his neighbour's wife? Did ho never calumniate his neighbour's wife's daughter, the offspring of her he coveted? So much for the apostle of pantisocracy.
Of the " lofty-minded, virtuous" Wordsworth, one anecdote will suffice to speak his sincerity. In a conversation
with Mr. upon poetry, he concluded with, " After all, I
would not give five shillings for all that Southey has ever written." Perhaps this calculation might rather show his esteem for five shillings than his low estimate of Dr. Southey; but considering that when he was in his need, and Southey had a shilling, Wordsworth is said to hare had generally
2 [Mr. and Mis. Shelley, Mba Clermonl, and Muter Shallev.]
sixpence out of It, it has an awkward sound in the way of valuation. This anecdote was told me by persons who, if quoted by name, would prove that its genealogy is poetical as well as true. I can give my authority for this ; and am ready to adduce it also for Mr. Southey's circulation of the falsehood before mentioned.
Of Coleridge, I shall say nothing — why, he may divine.1
1 have said more of these people than I intended in this place, being somewhat stirred by the remarks which induced me to commence upon the topic. I see nothing In these men, as poets, or as individuals — little in their talents, and less in their characters, to prevent honest men from expressing for them considerable contempt, in prose or rhyme, as it may happen. Mr. Southey has the Quarterly for his field of rejoinder, and Mr. Wordsworth his postscripts to " Lyrical Ballads," where the two great instances of the sublime are taken from himself and Milton. "Over her own sweet voice the stockdove broods; '* that is to say, she has the pleasure of listening to herself, in common with Mr. Wordsworth upon most of his public appearances. '* What divinity doth hedge" these persons, that we should respect them? Is it Apollo? Are they not of those who called Dryden's Ode " a drunken song?" who have discovered that Gray's Elegy is full of faults, (see Coleridge's Life, vol. 1. note, for Wordsworth's kindness in pointing this out to him.) and have published what is allowed to be the very worst prose that ever was written to prove that Pope was no poet, and that William Wordsworth is?
In other points, are they respectable, or respected? Is it on the open avowal of apostasy, on the patronage of government, that their claim is founded? Who is there who esteems those parricides of their own principles? They are, in fact, well aware that the reward of their change has been any thing but honour. The times have preserved a respect for political consistency, and, eren though changeable, honour the unchanged. Look at Moore *. it will be long ere Southey meets with such a triumph in London as Moore met with in Dublin, even if the government subscribe for it, and set the money down to secret service. It was not less to the man than to the poet, to the tempted but unshaken patriot, to the not opulent but incorruptible fellow-citizen, that the warmhearted Irish paid the proudest of tributes. Mr. Southey may applaud himself to the world, but he has his own heartiest contempt; and the fury with which he foams against all who stand in the phalanx which he forsook, is, as William Smith described It, " the rancour of the renegado," the bad language of the prostitute who stands at the corner of the street, and showers her slang upon all, except those who may have bestowed upon her her " little shilling."
Hence his quarterly overflowings, political and literary, in what he has himself termed " the ungentle craft," and his especial wrath against Mr. Leigh Hunt, notwithstanding that Hunt has done more for Wordsworth's reputation, as a poet (such as it Is), than all the Lakers could in their interchange of self-praises for the last twenty-five years.
And here I wish to say a few words on the present state of English poetry. That this is the age of the decline of English poetry will be doubted by few who have calmly considered the subject. That there are men of genius among the present poets makes little against the fact, because it has been well said, that " next to him who forms the taste of his country, the greatest genius fs he who corrupts it." No one has ever denied genius to Marino3, who corrupted not merely the taste of Italy, but that of all Europe for nearly a century. The great cause of the present deplorable state of English poetry is to be attributed to that absurd and system.
atic depreciation of Pope, in which, for the last few years, there has been a kind of epidemical concurrence. Men of the roost opposite opinions have united upon this topic Warton and Churchill began it, having borrowed the bint probably from the heroes of the Dunclad, and their o*n internal conviction that their proper reputation can be si nothing till the most perfect and harmonious of poets—bt who, having no fault, has had Reason made his reproach— was reduced to what they conceived to be his level; but eren they dared not degrade him below Drydcn. Goldsmith, and Rogers, and Campbell, his most successful disciples; and Hayley, who, however feeble, has left one poem " that will not be willingly let die " (the Triumphs of Temper), kept up the reputation of that pure and perfect style; and Crabbe, the first of living poets, has almost equalled the master. Then came Darwin, who was put down by a single poem in the Antijacobin 3; and the Cruscans, from Merry to Jeralngham, who were annihilated (if XotMmg can be said to be annihilated) by GuTord, the last of the wholesome satirists.
At the same time Mr. Southey was favouring the public with Wat Tyler and Joan of Arc, to the great glory of the Drama and Epos. I beg pardon, Wat Tyler, with Peter Bell, was still in MS.; and it was not till after Mr. Southey had received his Malmsey butt, and Mr. Wordsworth* became qualiued to gauge it, that the great revolutionary tragedy came before the public and the Court of Chancery. Wordsworth was peddling his lyrical ballads, and brooding a preface, to be succeeded In due course by a postscript; both couched in such prose as must give peculiar delight to thott who have read the prefaces of Pope and Dry-den; scarcelr less celebrated for the beauty of their prose, than for the charms of their verse. Wordsworth Is the reverse of Manure's gentleman who had been " talking prose all hla life, without knowing It;" for he thinks that be has been all bb life writing both prose and verse, and neither of what he conceives to be such can be properly said to be either one or the other. Mr. Coleridge, the future vasVs, poet and seer of the Morning Post, (an honour also claimed by Mr. Ftagerald, of the " Rejected Addresses V) who ultimately prophesied the downfall of Buonaparte, to which he mainly contributed, by giving him the nickname of Corsican," was then employed in predicating the of Mr. Pitt, and the desolation of England, in the two very best copies of verses he ever wrote: to wit, the infernal eclogue of" Fire, Famine, and Slaughter," and the " Ode to the departing Year.'*
These three personages, Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, had all of them a very natural antipathy to Pope; sad I respect them for it, as the only original feeling or principle which they have contrived to preserve. But they hare been joined in it by those who have joined them in nothing else: by the Edinburgh Reviewers, by the whole heterofrceoiii mass of living English poets, excepting Crabbe, Borers, Gifford, and Campbell, who, both by precept and prattle*, have proved their adherence ; and by me, who have fully deviated in practice, but have ever loved and Pope's poetry with my whole soul, and hope to do so till »v dying day. I would rather see all I have ever written beat the same trunk in which I actually read the eleventh book of a modern epic poem8 at Malta, in 1811, (1 opened it to take out a change after the paroxysm of a tertian, in the absence of my servant, and found it lined with the name of the maker. Eyre, Cockspur Street, and with the epic poetry alloded to, i than sacrifice what I firmly believe in as the Christianity of English poetry, the poetry of Pope.