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Robert Southey
by [?]

“I need ‘finish,'” I suggested in one of the long pauses.

“I was just going to suggest it,” said the lady.

“You say you are going to Southey’s old home tomorrow–may I go, too?” I ventured.

And the answer was, “Of course–if you will promise not to work me up into copy.”

I promised.

I found lodgings that night at “Nab Cottage.” Being well recommended, the landlady did not hesitate, but gave me the best accommodations her house afforded.

Hartley Coleridge does not live at “Nab Cottage” now–a moss-covered slab marks his resting-place up at the Grasmere Churchyard, and only a step away in a very straight row are similar old headstones that token the graves of William, Dorothy and Mary Wordsworth. Hartley Coleridge had most of the weaknesses of his father, and only a few of his better traits. Yet Southey brought up the children of Coleridge and gave them just as good advantages as he did his own.

“It is not ‘advantages’ that make great men–it is disadvantages!” said White Pigeon. We were eating breakfast at the table set out under the arbor, back of the Coleridge cottage–Grace, Myrtle, White Pigeon and I.

Grace and Myrtle were the Grand Rapids girls, and fine girls, too–pink and twenty, with diaries and autograph-fans. Girls of that age are charming, but they only interest me as do beautiful kittens or colts. Women do not become wise or discreet until they are past thirty. White Pigeon was past thirty.

We took the stage that morning at nine o’clock for Keswick. The stage started from the Red Lion Inn. It is a great event–the starting of a four-horse stage. The guests came out, and so did the boots, and chamber-maids and waiters, and the cook came also. They stood in line and bade the parting guests godspeed, and all the guests were supposed to express gratitude tangibly. The landlady was busy, flying about like a Plymouth Rock hen with a brood of ducks. She saw me handing up the pink-and-white Grace and Myrtle and the dignified, tailor-made White Pigeon, and she came out and apologized profusely for not having had room to accommodate me the night before.

At last all the hatboxes and bloomin’ luggage were safely stowed, the trunks were lashed in place behind, and I climbed to the top of the stage and took my seat beside my charges. A merry blast was blown from the tallyho horn. A man with a red coat, high white hat, kid gloves and a brick-dust complexion mounted the box and gathered up a big handful of reins. The hostlers at the heads of the leaders let go, twenty feet of whiplash went singing through the air–and we were off!

We swung through the village with more majesty and clatter than the Empire State Express ever assumed, stopping just an instant at the post-office for a bag of mail that the brick-dusty driver caught with his feet, and then away we went.

I am sorry I did not live in stagecoach times–things are now so dead and dreary and prosaic. Yet I sometimes have imagined that today the stagecoach business in England is a little stagey–many things are done to heighten effects. For instance, the intense excitement of starting is not exactly necessary–why the mad rush? No one is really in a hurry to reach a certain place at a certain time! And all this is apparent when you notice that a mile out of town the pace subsides to a lazy dog-trot, and the boots has jumped down and unchecked each horse so as to make things easy. I was glad the boots got down, for whenever I see a horse’s head checked up in the air my impulse is to uncheck him–and once on Wabash Avenue in Chicago I did.

I was arrested, and it cost me five.

The road to Keswick bristles with history. Coleridge, Wordsworth and Southey tramped it many a time, and since their day, thousands of literary pilgrims have come this way. That two poets-laureate should have come from this beautiful corner of the earth of course is interesting, but the honor of being poet-laureate to the King is a shifting honor, depending upon the poet. No title can ever really honor a man, although a man may honor a title, and no King by taking thought can add a cubit to a subject’s stature. The man is what he is. Southey succeeded the poet Pye, who was laureate before him.