« PreviousContinue »
learning directed the light to fall.'-vol. ii. pp. | do it, should willingly finish Kehama; but being 60-63. like Shakspeare's apothecary, lean, and obliged to do what I do not like, my ways and means
When Madoc was at last published, it reopened this correspondence, which had paused for some months.
'Norwich April 5, 1805.
He was still, it seems, a pretty regular at-lead me another way, and I am prosing, not altendant of several clubs and evening socie- together against my will, and yet not with my ties. One, called the Conversation,' ad- will.' mitted ladies; but the biographer seems to admit that this did not find the highest favor with him. Another, 'the Foreign,' had been begun by a set of young men who wished to cultivate the colloquial use of the continental languages, and who were surprised as well as flattered when Taylor proposed to join them. He became their Magnus Apollo-entered into all their pursuits, topics, and merriments; and seemed as young as the youngest when among them. The biographer extols this as a proof of his extreme good-nature; but though he was a truly good-natured man, we suspect some vanity may have mingled in the matter of the stripling club-perhaps also a little of the spirit of proselytism.
'My dear Friend,-Yesterday, at eleven Madoc. I was going on foot to dine in the o'clock, the wagoner brought me a copy of country, at Coltishall, but I could not pluck myself from the book, and staid at home the whole day. I did get my dinner just after the death of the Snake-God, but I returned to my book soon, and finished it early in the evening. life, which I shall always remember, so to have It is one of the great intellectual luxuries of my spent yesterday. I am satisfied with Madoc: I expected much, and am not disappointed. I put the Iliad and the Jerusalem Delivered above Madoc; the Pharsalia and the Lusiad below Madoc: it approaches closely in rank and character and quality to the Odyssey, and is to sit in the peers with the Eneid, the Paradise Lost, and the Messiah, with a newer but not less wellearned patent of nobility. . . . The manners are 'With all my heart and soul do I wish that hardly mixed enough: almost every body is a you would put forth your strength in some effi- real hero, with very fine feelings, notions, and cient way. All those articles in the Review will sentiments; and this, whether he is a white or a do little till some thirty or forty years after you red man, an educated bard or a runaway savand I are both gone to visit our friends of the age. There are some painters (Barry is one) days before us. Then some political Peter Bay-who, having accustomed themselves while stuley will pick out all the golden threads with which you have embroidered such worthless canvass, to lace his own waistcoat.
To a letter in which he told Southey of the repudiation affairs and of his anxiety to achieve some literary work of more value than his Articles,' the poet replies from
dents at Rome to copy the antique statues fre-
'I see no Review but the Monthly, which is not worth seeing; no newspaper but the Whitehaven; no new books but the Annuals-a good name for such deciduous productions; no society. but an old East Indian general, with whom I, once in a month or so, play a rubber of whist. Am I the better or the worse for growing alone Keswick, April 9, 1805. like a single oak?, Growing to be sure I am, 'My dear Friend,-There is that moral manstriking my roots deeper, and spreading out nerism which you have detected: Thalaba is a wider branches. . . . I am historifying totis viri-male Joan of Arc; and Mr. Barbauld thought bus [this was the History of Brazil]. Me judice, I am a good poet, but a better historian; because, though I read other poets and am humbled, I read other historians with a very different feeling. They who have talents want industry or virtue; they who have industry want talents. One writes like a French sensualist; another like a Scotch scoundrel, calculating how to make the most per sheet with the least expense of labor: one like a slave, another like a fool. Now I know myself to be free from these etaminal defects, and feel that where the subject deserves it I write with a poet's feeling, without the slightest affectation of style or ornament, going always straight forward to the meaning by the shortest road. My golden rule is to relate every thing as briefly, as perspicuously, as rememberably as possible. I begin, however, to feel my brain budding for poetry, having lain ⚫ fallow since November, and if I could afford to
Joan of Arc was modelled upon the Socinian Christ. He was mistaken. Early admiration, almost adoration, of Leonidas, early principles of stoicism derived from the habitual study of Epictetus, and the French Revolution at its height when I was just eighteen,―by these my mind was moulded. But are not the characters in Madoc those which the circumstances would form? . . . . In classing Madoc in Wales with the historical plays of Shakspeare, you bestow the highest praise, and what I feel to be the most appropriate. It has the historical verisimilitude, and the dramatic truth. The other part, which is sui generis, you over and underrate. It is below Milton and Homer-infinitely below both, for both are unapproachably above my strength of wing; it is below Tasso in splendor and in structure of fable, above him in originality, and equal in feeling even to Spenser. With the others I will not admit comparison.
Virgil and Camoens are language-masters of is a short series of letter between Taylor and
The language is, I hope, pure English undefiled, always straightforward to the point; the style certainly my own, as much as is the bee's honey, for I read too little English poetry to catch the manner of any predecessor; it savors more of chronicles and romances, Spanish as well as English. I now think the second part wants similes in all its land-battles; and, if I continue to think so, will pour in learning enough, and bedeck it with diamonds from Golconda and gold from Ophir, with topazes from Brazil and amber from Scandinavia, the furs and feathers of the wild Indian, and the woven hair of the voluptuous Orientalist. You see I have recovered my state of desertion, and think at least as well of my poem and myself as any body else is likely to do.'
Yes, truly. Mr. Southey made a run to Scotland in the winter of 1805-6, and we may pick a sentence or two from his letters, touching the society of Edinburgh, and his first impressions of the author of the Lay of the Last Minstrel :
The Scotch society disappointed me, as it needs must do a man who loves conversation instead of discussion. Of the three faculties of the mind, they seem exclusively to value judgment. They have nothing to teach, and a great deal
more to learn than I should choose to be at the trouble of instructing them in.'
'Norwich, Jan. 28, 1811.
'My dear, dear Friend,-I feel for you-I weep at your loss-but am well aware that only the mother's sorrow can deserve the name of sympathy. "Twere a deficient consciousness of the excellence that is no more, not to pour out tears again and again before the imaged remembrance, not to wring the hands and call at times on the unanswering Emily. Grieve on. Where real merit is the subject of regret, there is justice in affliction, there is duty in lamentation, there is luxury in woe. It is an expression of that worship of the heart, now, alas! the only sentiment the comforter of all. To you it would yet be a to bestow on the departed. Time is said to be painful reflection to foresee that you too are doomed to cease to deplore. You would feel it as a profanation of the sacredness of your distress to look on it as finite.
'Your daughter survives. In her education you will take a double solicitude, and will endeavor, as in her features so in her mind, to retrace that rare union of feeling and purity, of intellect and kindness, which marked her other parent. As the highest idea of feminine worth she may hope to realize, you will describe her mother to her, and accustom her to the imaginary presence of a superior being, whose frown was to have checked her every fault, whose smile of approbation was to have recompensed her sweetest virtues, whose example was to have fashioned her for the domestic charities.
rela eter of voors to answer
#2 stoere attachment, yours,
c's reply less admirable. If
Con 25th March, 1511. - would have heard from ada parcel which I sent y su not been lost on its way from It contained no box wat of kunining to regret the fee of "cs wich were prepared for no p
table to the feeling and the clo Rider—to your sympathy, your Janson some sweetness in the bitterAbel but above all to your eulogiun. Indeed it was merited and seadily under a ven of modesty, busy impenetrable to the *Ps was boodèn an assemblage of towe may look around for ins weber and prase ber mostly for 3er party: these perhaps nited! * sex even then her o!!! Tents beeve that a heart at | pure never beat before. all She had an intellect ** camese and accuracy, alis gestion, and leaving noand ostentatious minds but pon. She had an exquis gly sensitive taste: this
I passed three days with Walter Scott, an amusing and highly estimable man. You see the whole extent of his powers in the "Minstrel's Lay," of which your opinion seems to accord with mine-a very amusing poem; it excites a novel-like interest, but you discover nothing on after-perusal. Scott bears a great part in the Edinburgh Review, but does not review well.' The Edinburgh Review (in which Scott never bore a part of much consequence) was all along gall and wormwood at Keswick. thus the holy manes will still be the guardian When Taylor's version of Nathan the Wise' angel of your household, and even here become was published by itself (1806), it was criti-what faith and hope have assured us she was to cised, it seems, by Mr. Jeffrey, and Southey be hereafter. writes to Taylor in a strain of furious indignation on the said Article. Taylor's name, which though not on the title-page, was not nor had ever been meant to be a secret, seemed to Southey an absolute crime. Taylor, who no doubt perceived that his friend's ire had been kindled by things nearer home than Nathan the Prosy, makes answer, I agree with Jeffrey in most things about Nathan, and am well satisfied with his reviewal.'
'How early you have quaffed the finest sweets
The mention of and bitterest dregs of the draught of life! Youth utmost readress on the
Next to the correspondence with the poet of Keswick, the most striking in the book
and love handed you the matrimonial chalice,
Tut as was a cogetant source ever when I have been reading Things (an amusement ed my days of toil with an t enjoyment), and came and beauty, instead of being welder feelings than my tional warm of delight ton. One of her most
'With your disposition and temper these revolutions may improve the sensibility, and increase a benevolent zeal to defend others from such heart-rending separations, as it was not reserved
•may add of her most
mould they might prepare a stoical apathy; for experience mostly but evolves the tendencies of our dispositions, and philosophy but utters moralities in unison with our passions. You will, I am sure, not make a parade of affliction, but speedily resume the avocations of your employ-equal regard for the acquaintances of a few ment, and seek in the service of humanity the purest interruption of agonizing thoughts. Be assured that sorrow is not only borne the better, but lasts the longer for being indulged at intervals in private; of all our ideas, the frequent repetition, not the intensity of contemplation, secures the endurance. ..
'I have by me a letter of yours to answer, written early in December. Be that reserved for other times. What is the prate of friendship to the wound of love?-a muttered spell, which draws aside attention without the slightest power to heal-a lichen on a gravestone, which fain would veil the doom it cannot efface-a prospect from a prison, which only reminds of intercourse barred out for ever. God bless you! 'Believe me, with sincere attachment, yours, 'WILLIAM TAYLOR, JUN.'
for you to prevent at home. In men of graver able peculiarities, was the selectness, the warmth, and the lastingness of her attachments. There are some warm-hearted beings whom the slightest intercourse kindles into friendship, who feel weeks, and for the friends of many years, and whose seat of affection is of that soft and friable texture on which deep impressions are easily made and easily worn away again. Emily's affection had all their warmth, without having any of their indiscriminateness or evanescence. No one was ever more thoroughly free from all those petty pursuits and vulgar vanities which. abound among her sex; and if a strong expression is excusable from a man of my age, grieving for the loss of a wife who was dearer to him, as a wife, even than she had been as a mistress and a bride-I may say with thorough sincerity and unaffectedness that I have never beheld, and never expect to behold again, so perfect and pleasing an instance of feminine gracefulness of character. In losing her I have lost not only my domestic bliss, but all my social pleasures; for my home always contained all the suitable society which this neighborhood afforded. I brought with me all that I ever possessed here, and that all is gone; I live in a populous solitude; for days aud weeks I don't see the face of a friend; my mornings are spent in toil and my evenings in loneliness, embittered by the remembrance of my lost felicity. I begin to tremble too, for the life of my little girl; she has her mother's full eye and wan face and fearful delicacy of constitution; she has never been well since she has been motherless, and I see, or fancy that I see, the same disease which has inflicted on me one blow about to inflict another. God avert it! for the prospect of life is pleasing 'I was fully sensible to the feeling and the elo-to me only as it presents the idea of rearing and quence of your letter,-to your sympathy, your educating my child, and raising my own profesendeavors to impart some sweetness to the bitter-sional character. A man must have some obness of my grief; but above all, to your eulogium jects in view, and these are mine, and it is hard on my departed wife. Indeed it was merited, and indeed if I am deprived of the best half. Pray more than merited; for under a veil of modesty, so write me soon, and believe me to be closely woven as to be utterly impenetrable to the eye of the world, was hidden an assemblage of virtues, which now one may look around for in vain. You praise her, and praise her justly, for her feeling and her purity; these perhaps lifted her higher above her sex even than her other virtues, for I confidently believe that a heart at once so warm and so pure never beat before. But these were not all. She had an intellect
Nor is Gooch's reply less admirable. If he had leisure to write many letters, Dr. Henry Southey's pleasing biography of him should not be republished without a copious appendix:
Croydon, 29th March, 1811. 'Dear Friend,-You would have heard from me long before this, if a parcel which I sent you a month ago had not been lost on its way from London to Norwich. It contained no books of yours, and indeed nothing to regret the loss of but a few letters, which were prepared for no eyes but those of friendship.
Your grateful and affectionate friend, 'ROBERT GOOCH.' -vol. ii. p. 336-338.
After such beautiful effusions as these, prompted by the stern realities of life, the best of mere literary correspondence must needs of far inferior moment. We appear
draw to a close then-but must hazard one parting specimen of Taylor's criticism of Southey's writings. After a long, dull story about gout, and lumbago, and whitlows, and suppurations, his pen warms in his fingers, and he turns to 'Roderick the Last of the Goths:'
remarkable for its clearness and accuracy, always seizing with the utmost readiness on the essential points of a question, and leaving nothing for parading and ostentatious minds but ornament and expansion. She had an exquisitely delicate and highly sensitive taste: this was of great value, as it was a constant source of pleasure to me; for when I have been reading 'I now believe I shall never make a book. I to her any eloquent writings (an amusement have, however, in the preceding page given you which formerly closed my days of toil with an a specimen of what I conceive to be the greatest evening of the sweetest enjoyment), and came fault of yours-detaining the attention on little to passages of force and beauty, instead of being things, when the reader is impatient for the cooled by contact with colder feelings than my proper business of the work. There is a good own, I received an additional warmth of delight deal of prosing in the poem; it does not weigh on from her glowing admiration. One of her most the wrist so often as Madoc, but oftener than remarkable, and, I may add, of her most valu-Joan of Arc or Thalaba, or Kehama. Poets MAY, 1844.
should live in cities; the leisure of the country list. Strange, truly it is, to compare the`. spoils them. That bucolic contemplation of charitable spirit in which he tolerated the nature, which spends its ennui in watching for most flagrant heresies in a friend, with the hours the eyelet-holes of a rill's eddies, is very monastic bitterness of his remarks and well for a goatherd, and may grace an eclogue; but where fates of empires are at stake, the at-reflections concerning real or imagined tention should not be invited to settle on any errors in the conduct or opinions of any phenomena not stimulant enough to arrest the person, out of his own set, by whom he conattention of a busy man. The engineer, who is ceived the slightest liberty to have been taken sent to reconnoitre, is not to lose his time in with him in his literary capacity. Behold zoologizing, entomologizing, botanizing, and the dangers of living too much in a narrow picturesquizing, as Pelayo does on his way to Covadonga. I can at most concede to Homer circle, however virtuous, however refined, that he may get his dinner. Your heroes never however accomplished. travel in seven-league boots, but rather à la If we look to what Taylor did, unquesHumboldt. Wordsworth carries further than tionably few are they who can be entitled to you the narratory manner, and the magnification call him idle; but he was considered as emof trifles, but you Wordsworthize too often. inently so by all who were qualified to comAnother fault of the poem is its incessant re-pare what he did with what he might have ligiosity. All the personages meet at prayers;
myself in print.' This is part of his complaint over the non-arrival of a Review, which included one of his articles on the prose of Milton. Brief and pregnant confession !— No wonder that Southey by and bye. gives over his urgencies for the undertaking of a magnum opus. There remained for the poet such ejaculations as the following:
all the heroes are monks in armor; all the done-by Sayers especially, by Southey, and speeches are pulpit exhortations; all the favor-by himself. He knew himself well, and inites are reconciled to the church, and die with dicates with a charming frankness, half playthe comfort of absolution, as if, not the deliver-ful, half sad, in one letter to the laureate, that ance of Spain, but the salvation of the court, con- same weakness which made him so fond of stituted the action of the epopea. And in this predominating in provincial coteries and jureligiosity there is more of methodism and less venile clubs. The truth is,' he says, 'I of idolatry than marked the Spanish catholicism have a childish and singular delight in seeing of that era. Thirdly, there are too many women in the poem, and none of them very attaching, except perhaps Gaudiosa; the domestic affections occupy in consequence a preposterous space. Out of a truly respectable puritanism you dislike to contemplate woman in the point of view in which she chiefly interests man. You rather carve a Vestal than a Venus, and in consequence your women want attraction; you take or mistake purity for beauty. Heroes are never very eminent for the domestic affections. While at home they have a superfluous fondness for their wives during the age of beauty; in absence they console themselves with substitutes; and in later life, if they retain their vigor, they despotize over the old woman; if they become infirm, they seek the friendship of their nurse. But all this is very excursive. I should have been glad if your topic had involved the marvellous, and had employed the hostile mythologies of the Catholics and Moslems. Attributing to you still greater scenic than dramatic force, and a more unrivalled power of picturesque than of ethic ing." delineation, the more your opera is a pièce à spectacle, the better; your machinery and illu--And for Taylor such echoes as this:— mination is always magically dazzling and brilliant."
'Time is stealing on us. The grey hairs begin to thicken on my head-more years have passed over yours; and it gives me a feeling, which if not exactly the heartache, is something akin to it, when I think what literary fortunes will hereafter be made on your spoils,-thoughts and illustrations pillaged, and systems extracted, while the bibliographer who may chance to discover the real author, and come forward to vindicate his claim, must be content with a place in some magazine or compilation of anecdotes for an article with William Taylor for its head
'At one time the mezerions of poetry stretch their purple fingers; at another, the hedge-row The perfect freedom of these communica-ing trespassers; at another, the high-darting, hawthorns of politics, limiting rights and woundtions is, we apprehend, without any parallel regularly-knotted, elastic, plastic bamboos of in the history of men of letters; and the gen-metaphysics; at another, the dark-wreathed tleness and candor with which Southey re- simbul which strangles the cedar of superstition. ceived his friend's analysis is most amiably Oh that, instead of this morbid versatility, I could unique throughout. His character was truly persevere in some quiet incessant historic task! a lovable as well as a venerable one: yet it -vol. ii. p. 288. would be idle to dissemble that these memo- It is deeply interesting to compare the derials disclose many very strange weaknesses tails of Southey's own daily life as a man of and inconsistencies in this best of recent letters, which occur in this correspondence, His self-laudations are too often such with the foregoing and other similar confesas one would not wonder at in a dandy novel-sions of Taylor. We have seen how the mis
cellanist of Norwich divided his day-how he relaxed in his evening. Southey says in 1807, and we know he might have said the same during thirty subsequent years,
higher faculties with which he was endowed for comparatively a small part of his day, and on tasks comparatively trivial, paid, much earlier in life, the penalty of his habitual indulgence in the conviviality of his hospitable 'I cannot do one thing at a time: so sure as I and club-abounding Norwich. We have attempt it, my health suffers. The business of the day haunts me in the night; and though a already heard of gout and others of the same sound sleeper otherwise, my dreams partake so 'painful family' which generous bachelors much of it as to harass and disturb me. I must with whitening heads and darkening cheeks always therefore have one train of thoughts for are so apt to be well endowed withal. By the morning, another for the evening, and a the age of fifty, his biographer says, his book not relating to either for half an hour after friends observed with regret that but a few supper; and thus neutralizing one set of associations by another, and having (God be thank-glasses of wine sufficed to produce an extraed!) a heart at ease, I contrive to keep in order ordinary flow of spirits.
His delicate hints
a set of nerves as much disposed to be out of are quite enough to convey the impression order as any man's can be.' that from that time Taylor continued to break down. His literary performances inWe believe that, from the same dread of dicated more and more the falling off of pith over-excitement in the composition of poetry, and fire; and year after year they were which made Johnson give over rhyme alto- fewer, and of less consequence in every gether, Mr. Southey allotted to that species respect-though as age advanced, his pecuof work the first hours of his morning-never niary circumstances deteriorated; and his meddling with verse after breakfast: history, pen, if he had exercised it even as energeticor some grave treatise (most commonly, in ally as he did when he thought himself a rich later times, in the shape of an article for the man, might have enabled him, and those 'Quarterly '), occupied him during the best dearest to him, to escape troubles and vexapart of the forenoon. He worked in the tions that give a very melancholy coloring large and beautiful room which contained his to several of these chapters. valuable library, until that overflowed into adjoining closets, and even passages; and he sat there at his desk, surrounded by his own family and the other relations who had found a home under his roof, undisturbed by their feminine occupations, well and worthily helped now and then by some of them in his own, till it was time for a short walk on the hill or a row on the lake; after which came the simple meal, a mirthful hour or two of the easy chair, and social talk; and then,
'The cup that cheers, but not inebriates,'
the resumption for what he calls half an hour, but in reality a much longer space, of some lighter employment, in which he could proceed without much consultation of authorities. Alas! even with all this carefulness of arrangement and subdivision, carried out amidst such prevailing innocence of heart and habits, the demand made on the essentially poetical structure of nerve and brain was far too great it could not be persisted in with impunity. Nay, in truth, his variation of tasks might have seemed as if he was in search of the over-excitement which he dreaded. There was a false and fatal stimulus in what he adopted as the substitute for repose. What a dreary twilight came after that bright day of rare genius and almost unparalleled diligence, we all know too well. But Mr. Taylor, though he exercised the
The repudiation losses were followed by several years of struggling between diminished means and reluctance to confess the fact by visible curtailment of expenditure; till the remaining fortune sustained another heavy blow by the failure of some canal-share speculations. After these new mishaps it was hopeless to keep hidden what had probably long been guessed in a shrewd mercantile community. A total change in the style of living was necessary-and William Taylor's pride made him suggest to his parents a removal from Norwich to some sequestered village retreat, where he was to have no society but theirs, and practice in his own person the abstinence which is no doubt easier than temperance in many cases, but hardly so to the inveterate diner-out of a place where dinners were at three o'clock, and the established order of goings on for the rest of the evening such as may be inferred from many passages in this book, among others an imitation of the Persicos odi by Dr. Sayers, composed in honor and glory of one favorite Norwich club, The Chips of Comfort:'
'Dinners of form I vote a bore,
Where folks who never met before,
Cramm'd close as mackerel in their places,