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Robert Southey
by [?]

No man ever divided his time up more systematically than Southey. He produced political and theological essays, histories, poems, diatribes, apologies and criticisms, and worked as men work in the Carnegie Consolidated Steel Works.

Robert Southey was the precocious son of a Bristol linen-draper. Being rather delicate, his parents did not set him to work in a drygoods-store, but gave him the benefit of Oxford. The thing that brought him first into prominence was an article he wrote for “The Flaggellant,” a college paper, wherein he ridiculed the idea of a devil. Now the powers did not like that–the creed called for a “personal devil,” and they wanted one. They summoned young Southey before them to account for speaking disrespectfully of the devil. The youth was found guilty and expelled.

He was a reckless young man, but recklessness is its own check–in fact, all things in life are self-regulating, everything is limited. Southey’s secret marriage with Edith Fricker tamed him. Nothing tames men like marriage; and when babies came, and Coleridge went to Germany, leaving Mrs. Coleridge and young Hartley in his charge, Southey realized he was dealing with a condition, not a theory. Then soon he had the widowed Mrs. Lovell with her brood on his hands, and his old dream of pantisocracy was realized, only not just as he expected.

Too much can not be said for the patience and unflinching fidelity shown by Southey in shouldering the burdens that Fate sent him.

“Any man can succeed with three good women to help him!” said White Pigeon.

“True,” said I, “and next in importance to the person who originates a good thing is the one who quotes it.” Men weighted with responsibilities fight for the established order. Southey’s pension and his steady income came from the men in power, and he made it his business not to offend them. Southey was a scholar; he associated with educated people; and once he complained because he could not get acquainted with workingmen–they shut up like clams on his approach. Of course they did, for we are simple and sincere only with our own.

Learned, scholarly and cultured men are to be pitied, for they are ever the butt, byword and prey of the untaught, who are often the knowing. As success came to Southey he lost the sense of values, that is to say, the sense of humor. He attacked Byron with great severity, and Byron’s reply was the dedication of Don Juan, “To the illustrious Poet-Laureate, Robert Southey, LL.D.” It was as if the play of “Sappho” were dedicated to the Reverend Doctor Parkhurst.

Southey came out with a card declaring he had given Lord Byron no permission to dedicate any of his detestable works to him. Byron replied, acknowledging all this, but saying he had a right to honor the name of Southey, if he chose, just the same. No taint of excess or folly marks the name of Southey; his life was filled with good work and kind deeds. His name is honored by a monument in the village of Keswick, and in Crosthwaite Church is another monument to his memory, the inscription being written by Wordsworth.

* * * * *

Were Heaven a place, I still politely maintain, it would probably be located in the Lake District of England.

Every man of genius the world has ever produced has come from a little belt of land in the North Temperate Zone. Snow and cold, rock and mountain, danger and difficulty–these are the conditions required to make men. The heaven of which I can conceive is a place with plenty of oxygen, sunshine and water. In a mountainous country water runs (I hope no one will dispute this) and winds blow, and running water and air in motion are always pure.

When I have no thoughts worth recording I take a walk, and the elements, which seem to carry soul, fill me to the brim.