« PreviousContinue »
So much for his poem. -a word on his preface. In this preface it has pleased the magnanimous Laureate to draw the picture of a supposed "Satanic School," the which he doth recommend to the notice of the legislature; thereby adding to his other laurels the ambition of those of an informer. If there
good or evil of my deeds may preponderate is not for me to ascertain; but as my means and opportunities have been greater, I shall limit my present defence to an assertion, (easily proved, if necessary,) that I, in my degree,' have done more real good in any one given year, since I was twenty, than Mr. Southey in the whole course of his shifting and turncoat existence. There are several actions to which I can look back with an honest pride, not to be damped by the calumnies of a hireling. There are others to which I recur with sorrow and repentance; but the only act of my life of which Mr. Southey can have any real knowledge, as it was one which brought me in contact with a near connection of his own [Mr. Coleridge], did no dishonour to that connection nor to me.
"I am not ignorant of Mr. Southey's calumnies on a different occasion, knowing them to be such, which he scattered abroad on his return trom Switzerland against me and others; they have done him no good in this world; and if his creed be the right one, they will do him les in the next. What his death-bed' may be, it is not my province to predicate; let him settle it with his Maker, as I must do with mine. There is something at once ludicrous and blasphemous in this arrogant scribbler of all work sitting down to deal dannation and destruction upon his fellow-creatures, with Wat Tyler, the Apotheosis of George the Third, and the Elegy on Martin the regicide, all shuffled together in his writing-desk. One of his consolations appears to be a Latin note from a work of a Mr. Landor, the author of Gear, whose friendship for Robert Southey will, it seems, be an honour to him when the ephemeral disputes and ephemeral reputations of the day are forgotten.' I for one neither envy him the friendship,' nor the glory in reverston which is to acer e from it, like Mr. Thelusson's fortune, in the third and fourth generation. This friendship will probably be as memorable as his own epics, which (as I quoted to him ten or twelve years ago in English Bards') Porson said would be remembered when Homer and Virgil are forgotten,- and not till then. For the present. I leave him."
Mr. Southey was not disposed to let this pass unanswered. He, on the 5th of January, 1822, addressed to the Editor of the London Courier a letter, of which we shall quote all that is of importance:
"I come at once to his Lordship's charge against me, blowing away the abuse with which it is frothed, and evaporating a strong acid in which it is suspended. The residuum then appears to be, that Mr. Southey, on his return from Switzerland (in 1817), scattered abroad calumnies, knowing them to be such, against Lord Byron and others. To this I reply with a direct and positive denied.
"If I had been told in that country that Lord Byron had turned Turk, or Monk of La Trappe, - that he had furnished a harem, or endowed an hospital, I might have thought the account, whichever it had been, possible, and repeated it accordingly; passing it, as it had been taken, in the smail change of conversation, for no more than it was worth. In this manner I night have spoken of him, as of Baron Geramb*, the Green Mant, the Indian Jugglers, or any other figurante of the time being. There was no reason for any particular delicacy on my part in speaking of his Lordship: and, indeed, I should have thought any thing which might be reported of him, would have injured his character as little as the story which so greatly annoyed Lord Keeper Guildford, that he had ridden a rhinoceros. He may ride a rhinoceros, and though every body would stare, no one would wonder. But making no inquiry concerning him when I was abroad, because I felt no curiosity, I heard nothing, and had nothing to repeat. When I spoke of wonders to my friends and acquaintance on my return, it was of the flying-tree at Alpnacht, and the eleven thousand virgins at Cologne-not of Lord Byron. I sought for no staler subject unan St. Ursula.
"Once, and only once, in connection with Switzerland, I have alluded to his Lordship; and, as the passage was curtailed in the press, I take this opportunity of restoring it. In the Quarterly Review,' speaking incidentally of the Jungfrau, I said, it was the scene where Lord Byron's Manfred met the Devil and bullied him-though the Devil must have won his cause before any tribunal in this world, or the next, if he had not pleaded more feebly for himself than his advocate, in a cause of canonisarion, ever pleaded for him."
With regard to the others,' whom his Lordship accuses me of calumniating, I suppose he alludes to a party of his friends, whose names I found written in the Album at Mont-Anvert, with an avowal of Atheism annexed, in Greek, and an indignant comment in the same language, underneath it. Those names, with that avowal and the comment, I transcribed in my note-book, and spoke of the circumstance on my return. If I had published it, the gentleman in question would not have thought himself slandered, by having that recorded of him which he has so often recorded of himself."
"The many opprobrious appellations which Lord Byron has bestowed upon me, I leave, as I find them, with the praises which he has bestowed upon himself.
'How easily is a noble spirit discern'd
From harsh and sulphurous matter that flies out
In contumelies, makes a noise, and stinks!'- B. JoNSON. But I am accustomed to such things; and, so far from irritating me are the enemies who use such weapons, that, when I hear of their attacks, it is some satisfaction to think they have thus employed the malignity which must have been employed somewhere, and could not have been directed against any person whom it could possibly molest or injure less. The viper, however venormous in purpose, is harmless in effect, while it is biting at the file. It is seldom, indeed, that I waste a word, or a thought, upon
those who are perpetually assailing me. But abhorring, as I do, the personalities which disgrace our current literature, and averse from contro versy as I am, both by principle and inclination, I make no profession of
exists any where, excepting in his imagination, such a School, is he not sufficiently armed against it by his own intense vanity? The truth is, that there are certain writers whom Mr. S. imagines, like Scrub, to have "talked of him; for they laughed consumedly."
non-resistance. When the offence and the offender are such as to call for the whip and the branding-iron, it has been both seen and felt that I can inflict them.
"Lord Byron's present exacerbation is evidently produced by an inflic tion of this kind-not by hearsay reports of my conversation, four years ago, transmitted him from England. The cause may be found in certain remarks upon the Satanic school of poetry, contained in my preface to the Vision of Judgment. Well would it be for Lord Byron if he could look back upon any of his writings, with as much satisfaction as I shall always do upon what is there said of that flagitious school. Many persons, and parents especially, have expressed their gratitude to me for having applied the branding-iron where it was so richly deserved. The Edinburgh Reviewer, indeed, with that honourable feeling by which his criticisms are so peculiarly distinguished, suppressing the remarks themselves, has imputed them wholly to envy on my part. I give him, in this instance, full credit for sincerity: I believe he was equally incapable of comprehending a wor thier motive, or of inventing a worse; and as I have never condescended to expose, in any instance, his pitiful malevolence, I thank him for having, in this, stripped it bare himself, and exhibited it in its bald, naked, and undisguised deformity.
Lord Byron, like his encomiast, has not ventured to bring the matter of those animadversions into view. He conceals the fact, that they are directed against the authors of blasphemous and lascivious books; against men who, not content with indulging their own vices, labour to make others the slaves of sensuality, like themselves; against public panders, who, mingling impiety with lewdness, seek at once to destroy the cement of social order, and to carry profanation and pollution into private families, and into the hearts of individuals.
"His Lordship has thought it not unbecoming in him to call me a scribbler of all work. Let the word scriblder pass; it is an appellation which will not stick, like that of the Satanic school. But, if a scribbler, how am I one of all work? I will tell Lord Byron what I have not scribbled what kind of work I have not done. I have never published libels upon my friends and acquaintance, expressed my sorrow for those libels, and called them in during a mood of better mind and then reissued them, when the evil spirit, which for a time had been cast out, had returned and taken possession, with seven others, more wicked than him. self. I have never abused the power, of which every author is in some degree possessed, to wound the character of a man, or the heart of a woman. I have never sent into the world a book to which I did not dare to affix my name; or which I feared to claim in a court of justice, if it were pirated by a knavish bookseller. I have never manufactured furniture for the brothel. None of these things have I done; none of the foul work by which literature is perverted to the injury of mankind. My hands are clean; there is no damned spot' upon them—no taint, which 'all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten.'
"Of the work which I have done, it becomes me not here to speak, save only as relates to the Satanic School, and its Corypha-us, the author of Don Juan. I have held up that school to public detestation, as enemies to the religion, the institutions, and the domestic morals of the country. I have given them a designation to which their founder and leader answers. I have sent a stone from my sling which has smitten their Goliath in the forehead. I have fastened his name upon the gibbet, for reproach and ignominy, as long as it shall endure. Take it down who can!
"One word of advice to Lord Byron before I conclude. When he attacks me again, let it be in rhyme. For one who has so little command of himself, it will be a great advantage that his temper should be obliged to keep tune. And while he may still indulge in the same rankness and virulence of insult, the metre will, in some degree, seem to lessen its vulgarity."
Lord Byron, without waiting for the closing hint of the foregoing letter, had already attacked" Mr. Southey" in rhyme." On October 1. 1821, he says to Mr. Moore,
"I have written about sixty stanzas of a poem, in octave stanzas (in the Pulci style, which the fools in England think was invented by Whistlecraft -It is as old as the hills, in Italy), called The Vision of Judgment,' by Quevedo Redivivus. In this it is my intention to put the said George's Apotheosis in a Whig point of view, not forgetting the Poet Laureate, for his preface and his other demerits.""
Lord Byron had proceeded some length in the performance thus announced, before Mr. Southey's letter to the "Courier" fell into his hands. On seeing it, his Lordship's feelings were so excited, that he could not wait for revenge in inkshed, but on the instant despatched a cartel of mortal defiance to the Poet Laureate, through the medium of Mr. Douglas Kinnaird, -to whom he thus writes, February 6. 1822:
"I have got Southey's pretended reply: what remains to be done is to call him out. The question is, would he come for, if he would not, the whole thing would appear ridiculous, if I were to take a long and expensive Journey to no purpose. You must be my second, and, as such, I wish to consult you. I apply to you as one well versed in the duello, or monomachie. Of course I shall come to England as privately as possible, and leave it (supposing that I was the survivor) in the same manner; having no other object which could bring me into that country except to settle quarrels accumulated during my absence."
Mr. Kinnaird, justly appreciating the momentary exacerbation under which Lord Byron had written the challenge which this letter enclosed, and fully aware how absurd the whole business would seem to his distant friend after the lapse of such a period as must intervene before the return of post from Keswick to Ravenna, put Lord Byron's warlike missive aside; and it never was heard of by Mr. Southey until after the death of its author. Meantime Lord Byron had continued his attack in rhyme"-and his "Vision of Judgment," after ineffectual negotiations with various publishers in London, at length saw the light in 1822, in the pages of the unfortunate "Liberal."]
I think I know enough of most of the writers to whom he is supposed to allude, to assert, that they, in their individual capacities, have done more good, in the charities of life, to their fellow-creatures in any one year, than Mr. Southey has done harm to himself by his absurdities in his whole life; and this is saying a great deal. But I have a few questions
1stly, Is Mr. Southey the author of "Wat Tyler?" 2dly, Was he not refused a remedy at law by the highest judge of his beloved England, because it was a blasphemous and seditious publication? 1
3dly, Was he not entitled by William Smith, in full parliament, "a rancorous renegado?"2
4thly, Is he not poet laureate, with his own lines on Martin the regicide staring him in the face ? 3
And, 5thly, Putting the four preceding items together, with what conscience dare he call the attention of the laws to the publications of others, be they what they may?
I say nothing of the cowardice of such a proceeding; its meanness speaks for itself; but I wish to touch upon the motive, which is neither more nor less than that Mr. S. has been laughed at a little in some recent publications, as he was of yore in the "Anti-jacobin" by his present patrons. 4 Hence all this "skimble-scamble stuff" about " Satanic," and so forth. However, it is worthy of him—“ qualis ab incepto."
If there is any thing obnoxious to the political opinions of a portion of the public in the following poem, they may thank Mr. Southey. He might have written hexameters, as he has written every thing else, for aught that the writer cared-had they been upon another subject. But to attempt to canonise a monarch, who, whatever were his household virtues, was neither a successful nor a patriot king, inasmuch as several years of his reign passed in war with America and Ireland, to say nothing of the aggression upon France, - like all other
[In 1821, when Mr. Southey applied to the Court of Chancery for an injunction to restrain the publication of "Wat Tyler," Lord Chancellor Eldon pronounced the following judgment: "I have looked into all the affidavits, and have read the book itself. The bill goes the length of stating, that the work was composed by Mr. Southey in the year 1794; that it is his own production, and that it has been published by the defendants without his sanction or authority; and therefore seeking an account of the profits which have arisen from, and an injunction to restrain, the publication. I have examined the cases that I have been able to meet with containing precedents for injunctions of this nature, and I find that they all proceed upon the ground of a title to the property in the plaintiff. On this head a distinction has been taken, to which a considerable weight of authority attaches, supported, as it is, by the opinion of Lord Chief Justice Eyre; who has expressly laid it down, that a person cannot recover in damages for a work which is, in its nature, calculated to do injury to the public. Upon the same principle this court refused an injunction in the case of Walcot" (Peter Pindar) "v. Walker, inasmuch as he could not have recovered damages in an action. After the fullest consideration, I remain of the same opinion as that ich I entertained in deciding the case referred to. Taking all the circumstances into my consideration, it appears to me, that I cannot grant this injunction, until after Mr. Southey shall have established his right to the property by action." - Injunction refused.]
2 [Mr. William Smith, M.P. for Norwich, made a virulent attack on Mr. Southey in the House of Commons on the 14th of March, 1817, Ld the Laureate replied by a letter in the Courier.]
exaggeration, necessarily begets opposition. whatever manner he may be spoken of in this new "Vision," his public career will not be more favourably transmitted by history. Of his private virtues (although a little expensive to the nation) there can be no doubt.
With regard to the supernatural personages treated of, I can only say that I know as much about them, and (as an honest man) have a better right to talk of them, than Robert Southey. I have also treated them more tolerantly. The way in which that poor insane creature, the Laureate, deals about his judgments in the next world, is like his own judgment in this. If it was not completely ludicrous, it would be something worse. I don't think that there is much more to say at present.
P.S.It is possible that some readers may object, in these objectionable times, to the freedom with which saints, angels, and spiritual persons discourse in this "Vision." But, for precedents upon such points, I must refer him to Fielding's “Journey from this World to the next," and to the Visions of myself, the said Quevedo, in Spanish or translated. The reader is also requested to observe, that no doctrinal tenets are insisted upon or discussed; that the person of the Deity is carefully withheld from sight, which is more than can be said for the Laureate, who hath thought proper to make him talk, not "like a school divine," but like the unscholarlike Mr. Southey. The whole action passes on the outside of heaven; and Chaucer's Wife of Bath, Pulci's Morgante Maggiore, Swift's Tale of a Tub, and the other works above referred to, are cases in point of the freedom with which saints, &c. may be permitted to converse in works not intended to be serious. Q. R.
Mr. Southey being, as he says, a good Christian and vindictive, threatens, I understand, a reply to
Echo'd his footsteps, as with even tread He paced around his prison. Not to him Did Nature's fair varieties exist;
He never saw the sun's delightful beams;
Save when through yon high bars he pour'd a sad
4[The following imitation of the Inscription on the Regicide's Apartment, written by Mr. Canning, appeared in the Anti-jacobin :"
"Inscription for the Door of the Cell in Newgate, where Mrs. Brownrigg, the 'Prentice-cide, was confined, previous to her execution.
"For one long term, or ere her trial came.
Here Brownrigg linger'd. Often have these cells
The little Spartans; such as erst chastised
Did Brownrigg swing. Harsh laws! But time shall come, When France shall reign, and laws be all repeal'd."]
this our answer. It is to be hoped that his visionary faculties will in the mean time have acquired a little more judgment, properly so called: otherwise be will get himself into new dilemmas. These apostate jacobins furnish rich rejoinders. Let him take a specimen. Mr. Southey laudeth grievously "one Mr. Landor," who cultivates much private renown in the shape of Latin verses; and not long ago, the poet laureate dedicated to him, it appeareth, one of his fugitive lyrics, upon the strength of a poem called Gebir. Who could suppose, that in this same Gebir the aforesaid Savage Landor (for such is his grim cognomen) putteth into the infernal regions no less a person than the hero of his friend Mr. Southey's heaven,-yea, even George the Third! See also how personal Savage becometh, when he hath a mind. The following is his portrait of our late gracious sovereign:·
(Prince Gebir having descended into the infernal regions, the shades of his royal ancestors are, at his request, called up to his view; and he exclaims to his ghostly guide) — "Aroar, what wretch that nearest us? what wretch Is that with eyebrows white and slanting brow? Listen! him yonder, who, bound down supine, Shrinks yelling from that sword there, engine-hung. He too amongst my ancestors! I hate The despot, but the dastard I despise. Was he our countryman?"
"Alas, O king! Iberia bore him, but the breed accurst Inclement winds blew blighting from north-east." "He was a warrior then, nor fear'd the gods?" "Gebir, he fear'd the demons, not the gods, Though them indeed his daily face adored; And was no warrior, yet the thousand lives Squander'd, as stones to exercise a sling, And the tame cruelty and cold capriceOh madness of mankind ! address'd, adored!"
Gebir, p. 28.
I omit noticing some edifying Ithyphallics of Savagius, wishing to keep the proper veil over them, if his grave but somewhat indiscreet worshipper will suffer it; but certainly these teachers of "great moral lessons" are apt to be found in strange company.
The Vision of Judgment.
SAINT PETER sat by the celestial gate:
His keys were rusty, and the lock was dull, So little trouble had been given of late;
Not that the place by any means was full, But since the Gallic era "eighty-eight"
The devils had ta'en a longer, stronger pull, And "a pull altogether," as they say At sea-which drew most souls another way.
The angels all were singing out of tune,
And hoarse with having little else to do, Excepting to wind up the sun and moon,
Or curb a runaway young star or two,
[Walter Savage Landor, Esq., author of " Count Julian, a tragedy"—"Imaginary Conversations," in three seriesand various other works, was an early friend of Mr. Southey, and difference of politics has never disturbed their personal feelings towards each other. Mr. Landor has long resided in Italy.]
2 [George III. died the 29th of January, 1820, a year in
Thus as I stood, the bell, which awhile from its warning had rested,
Thou art released! I cried: thy soul is deliver'd from bondage!
Come, and behold! - methought a startling voice from the twilight
All its electric stores. Of strength and of thought it bereft me;
SOUTHBY's Vision of Judgment.] 1["So by the unseen comforted, raised I my head in obedience, And in a vault I found myself placed, arch'd over on all sides. Narrow and low was that house of the dead. Around it were coffins,
With the best doctrines till we quite o'erflow;
I know that all save England's church have shamm'd, And that the other twice two hundred churches And synagogues have made a damn'd bad purchase.
God help us all! God help me too! I am,
God knows, as helpless as the devil can wish, And not a whit more difficult to damn,
Than is to bring to land a late-hook'd fish, Or to the butcher to purvey the lamb;
Not that I'm fit for such a noble dish,
Saint Peter sat by the celestial gate,
And nodded o'er his keys; when, lo! there came
A wondrous noise he had not heard of late
A rushing sound of wind, and stream, and flame; In short, a roar of things extremely great, Which would have made aught save a saint exclaim; But he, with first a start and then a wink, Said,
There's another star gone out, I think!"
But ere he could return to his repose,
A cherub flapp'd his right wing o'er his eyes-
An earthly peacock's tail, with heavenly dyes;
"No," quoth the cherub; "George the Third is dead." [apostle : "And who is George the Third?" replied the "What George? what Third?" "The king of England," said
The angel. "Well! he won't find kings to jostle Him on his way; but does he wear his head?
Because the last we saw here had a tustle, And ne'er would have got into heaven's good graces, Had he not flung his head in all our faces.
"He was, if I remember, king of France; 3
That head of his, which could not keep a crown On earth, yet ventured in my face to advance A claim to those of martyrs-like my own: If I had had my sword, as I had once
When I cut ears off, I had cut him down; But having but my keys, and not my brand, I only knock'd his head from out his hand.
Each in its niche, and palls, and urns, and funeral hatchments,
"And then he set up such a headless howl,
That all the saints came out and took him in; And there he sits by St. Paul, cheek by jowl; That fellow Paul-the parvenù ! The skin Of Saint Bartholomew, which makes his cowl In heaven, and upon earth redeem'd his sin, So as to make a martyr, never sped Better than did this weak and wooden head.
"But had it come up here upon its shoulders, There would have been a different tale to tell: The fellow-feeling in the saints beholders
Seems to have acted on them like a spell; And so this very foolish head heaven solders
Back on its trunk: it may be very well, And seems the custom here to overthrow Whatever has been wisely done below."
The king who comes has head and all entire, And never knew much what it was about —
He did as doth the puppet-by its wire, And will be judged like all the rest, no doubt: My business and your own is not to inquire Into such matters, but to mind our cueWhich is to act as we are bid to do."
Some silver stream (say Ganges, Nile, or Inde,
But bringing up the rear of this bright host
His wings, like thunder-clouds above some coast
Fierce and unfathomable thoughts engraved
As he drew near, he gazed upon the gate Ne'er to be enter'd more by him or Sin,
1 ["Then I beheld the King. From a cloud which cover'd the pavement
2 [See Captain Sir Edward Parry's Voyage, in 1819-20, for the Discovery of a North-west passage. "I believe it is almost impossible for words to give an idea of the beauty and variety which this magnificent phenomenon displayed. The luminous arch had broken into irregular masses, streaming with much rapidity in different directions, varying continually in shape and interest, and extending themselves from north, by the east, to north. At one time a part of the arch near the zenith was bent into convolutions resembling those of a snake
With such a glance of supernatural hate,
And sweated through his apostolic skin: Of course his perspiration was but ichor, Or some such other spiritual liquor.
The very cherubs huddled all together,
Like birds when soars the falcon; and they felt
A tingling to the tip of every feather,
And form'd a circle like Orion's belt Around their poor old charge; who scarce knew
His guards had led him, though they gently dealt With royal manes (for by many stories, And true, we learn the angels are all Tories).
As things were in this posture, the gate flew Asunder, and the flashing of its hinges Flung over space an universal hue
Of many-colour'd flame, until its tinges Reach'd even our speck of earth, and made a new Aurora borealis spread its fringes
O'er the North Pole; the same seen, when ice-bound, By Captain Parry's crew, in " Melville's Sound."2
And from the gate thrown open issued beaming A beautiful and mighty Thing of Light, Radiant with glory, like a banner streaming
Victorious from some world-o'erthrowing fight: My poor comparisons must needs be teeming
With earthly likenesses, for here the night Of clay obscures our best conceptions, saving Johanna Southcote, or Bob Southey raving.
'T was the archangel Michael: all men know The make of angels and archangels, since There's scarce a scribbler has not one to show, From the fiends' leader to the angels' prince. There also are some altar-pieces, though
I really can't say that they much evince One's inner notions of immortal spirits; But let the connoisseurs explain their merits.
A goodly work of him from whom all glory
Before him the young cherubs and saints hoary
3 [" Thus as he spake, methought the surrounding space dilated; Over head I beheld the infinite ether; beneath us
in motion, and undulating rapidly, an appearance which we had not before observed. The end towards the north was also bent like a shepherd's crook. The usual pale light of the aurora strongly resembled that produced by the combustion of phosphorus; a very slight tinge of red was noticed on this occasion, when the aurora was most vivid, but no other colours were visible." P. 135.]
Lay the solid expanse of the firmament spread like a pavement;
Brightest it seem'd in the East, where the New Jerusalem glitter'd.
High in the air serene, with the brightness of gold in the furnace,
[Johanna Southcote, the aged lunatic, who fancied herself, and was believed by many thousand followers, to be with child of a new Messiah, died in 1815. There is a full account of her in the Quarterly Review, vol. xxiv. p. 496.]