« НазадПродовжити »
SETS SAIL FOR PORTUGAL.
set sail for Portugal, and his wife, who had persuaded him to go, and cried when he was going, though she would not then have permitted him to stay, meekly retired to her place of refuge, wearing her weddingring round her neck.
CHAPTER THE SECOND.
Southey returned from Lisbon after a six months' stay, and proceeded at once to London, with his wife, to study the law. It was an irksome labour to the man to whom untiring industry was the very salt of life. His memory was marvellous from childhood, but he could recollect literally nothing of his legal lore the moment he had closed his books. He states that it was not difficult to master the principles or to understand the facts which such books submitted to his eye, so long as his eye was permitted to rest upon them. That once removed, however, and the whole machinery vanished immediately “like the baseless fabric of a vision." A year of torture elapsed and Southey gave up the profitless pursuit. A second visit was made to Portugal in 1800—this time in company with his wife—for the benefit of his health ; and advantage was taken of the sojourn to obtain a thorough acquaintance with Portuguese literature. In 1801, the student and his wife were in England again, with no better prospects than before, but by no means repentant of the past or disheartened for the future. In 1802 comes a glimpse of good fortune, and a blaze of promise. Interest has obtained for the poet the somewhat uncongenial appointment of private secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer
in Ireland, with a salary of 4001. a-year, and he hastens to Dublin to undertake the duties of his office. They are not very arduous, for, to say the truth, he has nothing whatever to do. The Right Hon. Isaac Corry, the minister, his master, alive to the fact, proposes to his secretary the tuition of his
The proposition is manfully rejected, and Southey resigns his appointment a very few months after he had accepted it. He goes back to Bristol nothing regretting that he has thrown up "a foolish office and a good salary," and bravely sets to work for the booksellers. He has a job in hand for Longman and Rees, which will bring him in 601., a possibility of 401., and a chance of a further 301." What look out can be more magnificent ?
We approach an incident in the poet's life which brings us in presence of one of the finest features of his noble character. While struggling at this time on his own account against wind and tide he became acquainted with the forlorn condition of Mrs. Newton, the sister of Chatterton, who it will be remembered was, as well as Southey, a native of Bristol. Mrs. Newton and her family were in great distress, and to provide for their wants Southey undertook, in conjunction with Mr. Cottle, to publish by subscription a complete edition of Chatterton's works. The labour, not a slight one, was conscientiously performed. The edition appeared in three volumes octavo at the end of the year 1802, and Southey and his friend had the extreme gratification of paying over to Mrs. Newton no less than 3001. as the produce of their industry. The sum rescued the family from poverty, and made them happy in their latter days. Two years before,
HIS KINDNESS TO HIS RELATIVES.
Southey, writing to his brother from Portugal, had intreated him to pursue his medical studies steadily, and to rely upon the writer's assistance the moment he was able to afford it. “By the time,” he writes, “you have acquired enough previous knowledge I trust some of my eggs will be hatched, so that
you may graduate either at Edinburgh or in Germany, as shall appear best. On
shall have a home, and I trust more comfortable than any you have yet had. We are rising in the world; it is our turn, and will be our own faults if we do not, all of us, attain that station in the world to which our intellectual rank entitles us."
Note the proud expression of conscious power, and admire the patient, humble perseverance which in Southey's case invariably accompanied it! The ardent poet did not wait until his return to England to advance his brother's interests. During his absence he had completed his poem of “Thalaba.” He had fixed its value, and thus he writes to his mother respecting his brother and his composition
“ About Harry, it is necessary to remove him ; his room is wanted for a more profitable pupil, and he has outgrown his situation. I have an excellent letter from him, and one from William Taylor, advising me to place him with some provincial surgeon of eminence, who will for a hundred guineas board and instruct him for four or five years.
A hundred guineas ! Well, but thank God, there is
Thalaba' ready, for which I ask this sum. I have, therefore, thus eat my calf, and desired William Taylor to inquire for a situation—and so once more goes
the furniture of my long expected house in London.”
It was not the first time that Robert Southey thus forestalled his earnings. For himself, from the earliest hour of his difficult career until its melancholy close, he never contracted a debt, or permitted one indulgence which his means did not liberally justify; yet his whole battle was fought with a load upon his back which would quickly enough have crushed or disgusted a spirit less brave, less hopeful, less magnanimous than his own. His father died poor, and left his brethren to be advanced by his aid. Southey was never so poor as not to be able to extend it. He was not two-and-twenty when Mr. Lovel, who married his wife's sister, fell ill of fever, died, and left his widow and child without the slightest provision. Robert Southey took mother and child at once to his humble hearth, and there the former found happiness until his death. Coleridge, not sufficiently instructed by a genius to which his contemporaries did homage, in a wayward and unpardonable mood withdrew himself from the consolations of home; and in their hour of desertion his wife and children were saved half the knowledge of their hardships by finding a second husband and another father in the sanctuary provided for them by Robert Southey.
"It is my fate," he writes on one occasion, when asking promotion for his brother in the navy, "to have more claimants upon me than usually fall to the share of a man who has a family of his ownl; and if Tom's circumstances could be mended by a lift in his profession it would be a relief to him as well as to me.” But throughout the whole of his correspondence we cannot detect one impa
HIS GENEROSITY TO STRANGERS.
tient murmur at his position, or the least intimation that he regarded the wants of his relatives but as so many responsibilities which it was his duty as well as highest gratification cheerfully to meet. “ One reason why my father's expenditure," says the biographer, “was with difficulty kept within his income was that considerable sums were, not now and then, but regularly, drawn from him by his less successful relatives.” Most assuredly, Robert Southey worked not the less vigorously and contentedly on that account.
Bearing the fact in mind, however, we shall be able to do justice to the conduct of a man whose sympathies for misfortune stretched further than his own door, and to estimate in some degree the splendid sacrifices which he could also make to friendship. In 1811, his friend William Taylor falls into misfortune. He writes to Dr. Gooch on the subject, proposing that the friends of Taylor should without delay raise a sum sufficient to purchase an annuity, or contribute annually a frxed payment towards their unfortunate friend's support. “I am ready now," he says, “with a yearly ten pounds, or with fifty at once.
If more were in my power more should be done; but if his friends do not love him well enough to secure him at least 1001. a-year, one way or other, the world is worse than I thought it.” Again, a few years
afterwards, “Seal up 101.," he writes to Mr. Bedford, and leave it with Mr. Rickman, directed for Charles Lamb, Esq., from R. S. It is for poor John Morgan, whom you may remember some twenty years ago. This poor fellow, whom I knew at school, and whose mother has sometimes asked me to her table when I