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Robert Southey and the Language of Social Discipline

  • Philip Harling

Extract

Robert Southey is probably still best remembered as a versifying turncoat, the most reactionary and least anthologized Lake poet. He owes this reputation to the reformers of his own day, who took it amiss when he renounced his youthful dreams of radical egalitarianism and appeared to exchange them for the £300 a year he made by scribbling Court-ordered odes as Poet Laureate. By the late 1810s, opposition M.P.s were scolding him on the Commons floor for urging the suppression of just the sort of republican sentiments that he himself had committed to paper in the 1790s. Byron memorably sent him up as an apostate hack:

He had written praises of a regicide;

He had written praises of all kings whatever;

He had written for republics far and wide,

And then against them bitterer than ever;

He had sung against all battles, and again

In their high praise and glory; he had call'd

Reviewing “the ungentle craft,” and then

Become as base a critic as e'er crawl'd–

Fed, paid, and pamper'd by the very men

By whom his muse and morals had been maul'd:

He had written much blank verse, and blanker prose,

And more of both than anybody knows.

Despite being the target of such devastating attack, Southey nevertheless has had plenty of defenders over the last century and a half. Most of them have stressed his consistent commitment to humanitarian interventionism. Cuthbert Southey established this far more positive critical tradition by stressing the reforms that his father had repeatedly advocated in print: reduction of child labor in factories; addition of Anglican churches and clergymen, especially in poor urban districts; public works schemes in times of distress; land allotments for poor laborers; cultivation of waste lands by paupers; reduction of the Bloody Code and of corporal punishment in the military, along with some of the more punitive measures enshrined in the poor laws and game laws; establishment of savings banks, emigration schemes, Protestant sisterhoods of charity, and, most importantly, a national system of Anglican, state-aided popular education.

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1 Hansard's Parliamentary Debates 25: 1090—94 (14 03 1817).

2 Byron, , The Vision of Judgment (1822), in Madden, Lionel, ed., Southey: The Critical Heritage (London and Boston, 1972), pp. 299300. See also Hayden, John O., The Romantic Reviewers 1802—1824 (Chiaigo, 1969), pp. 118–19. For Byron's hatred of Southey as the man who had labeled him the master of the Satanic School of poetry, see e.g. Smiles, Samuel, ed., A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir and Correspondence of the Late John Murray, 2 vols. (London, 1891), 1: 399400, Byron to Murray, 24 Nov. 1818.

3 Southey, C. C., ed., The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols. (London, 18491850), 5: 56 (hereafter cited as Life and Correspondence).

4 Quoted in Madden, , Southey: The Critical Heritage, p. 417, from Shaftesbury's diary entry of 24 March 1843. See also Carnall, Geoffrey, Robert Southey and His Age: The Development of a Conservative Mind (Oxford, 1960), pp. 188–90.

5 Dicey, A. V., Lectures on the Relation Between the Law and Public Opinion, (2nd ed.; London, 1926), p. 224.

6 Cobban, Alfred, Edmund Burke and the Revolt Against the Eighteenth Century (London, 1929), pp. 207, 229.

7 Williams, Raymond, Culture and Society: 1780—1950 (London, 1958), pp. 2223.

8 Eastwood, David, Robert Southey and the Intellectual Origins of Romantic Conservatism, English Historical Review 104 (1989): esp. 310–13, 325–28, 330–31; quoted from 331. See also Brinton, Crane, The Political Ideas of the English Romanticists (London, 1926), pp. 203, 208; Bernhardt-Kabisch, Emest, Robert Southey (Boston, 1977), pp. 164–65.

9 Curry, Kenneth, Southey (London, 1975), p. 10; Carnall, , Robert Southey and His Age, pp. 1416.

10 See esp. Holmes, Richard, Coleridge: Early Visions (London, 1989), ch. 4; Carnall, , Robert Southey and His Age, pp. 2831.

11 Madden, , Southey: The Critical Heritage, p. 155, Shelley to Elizabeth Hitchener, 7 Jan. 1812.

12 For attributions to Southey, I have relied on Hill, and Shine, Helen Chadwick, The Quarterly Review Under Gifford (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1949), and on Houghton, Walter, ed., The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals 1824—1900, 5 vols. (Toronto, 19661989), 1: 703–20.

13 I confess to being one of the perpetrators of this managerial image. See e.g. Harling, Philip, The Waning of Old Corruption: The Politics of Economical Reform in Britain, 1779—1846 (Oxford, 1996), pp. 150–96; Derry, John, Governing Temperament under Pitt and Liverpool, in Cannon, John, ed., The Whig Ascendancy: Colloquies on Hanoverian England (New York, 1981), pp. 125–45; Derry, John, Reaction and Reform: England in the Early Nineteenth Century (London, 1968), p. 91; Thompson, Neville, Wellington After Waterloo (London, 1986), p. 3; Gash, Norman, Lord Liverpool and the Foundation of Conservative Policy, in Butler, Lord, ed., The Conservatives: A History from their Origins to 1965 (London, 1977), pp. 5153; Brock, W. R., Lord Liverpool and Liberal Toryism 1820 to 1827 (Cambridge, 1939), pp. 14; Brady, Alexander, William Huskisson and Liberal Reform (Oxford, 1928), pp. 170–72.

14 Thompson, E. P., The Making of the English Working Class (1963), esp. chs. 14–15.

15 See e.g. Graham, Walter, Tory Criticism in the Quarterly Review 1809—1853 (London, 1921), pp. 2–5, 89; Grierson, H. J. C., ed., Letters of Sir Walter Scott, 12 vols. (London, 19321937), 2: 127–30, Scott to George Ellis, 18 Nov. 1818.

16 Gordon, Mary Wilson, Christopher North: A Memoir of John Wilson, 2 vols. (Edinburgh, 1862), 2: 73, John Gibson Lockhart to John Wilson [1824].

17 Warter, J. W., ed., Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols. (London, 1856), 3: 87, Southey to Grosvenor Bedford, 6 Jan. 1818. See also Life and Correspondence, 4: 15, Southey to Neville White, 25 Jan. 1813; ibid., 3: 59, Southey to Grosvenor Bedford, 29 Jan. 1814.

18 Smiles, , ed., A Publisher and his Friends, 1: 285, Gifford to John Murray, ? May 1815.

19 Quoted in Curry, , Southey, p. 130.

20 Eastwood, David, “Robert Southey and the Meanings of Patriotism,” Journal of British Studies 31 (1992): 286–87.

21 Evelyn's Memoirs,” Quarterly Review 19 (04 1818): 54 [hereafter cited as QR].

22 Life and Services of Captain Beaver,” QR 41 (11 1829): 386–87.

23 Eastwood, David, “Patriotism Personified: Robert Southey's Life of Nelson Reconsidered,” Mariner's Mirror 77 (1991): 143–49.

24 Coxe-Life of Marlborough,” QR 23 (05 1820): 72.

25 Ibid., p. 23.

26 Life of Wellington,” QR 13 (07 1815): 470.

27 Life of Wellington,” QR 13 (04 1815): 274.

28 Great Britain in 1833,” QR 50 (10 1833): 150.

29 Life of Wellington,” QR 13 (07 1815): 479.

30 Life and Correspondence, 1: 46, Southey to Rickman, 9 Jan. 1800. See also Carnall, , Robert Southey and His Age, pp. 5559.

31 Parliamentary Reform,” QR 16 (10 1816): 232.

32 Life of Wellington,” QR 13 (04 1815): 230.

33 Miot's Mémoires de l'Expédition en Egypte,” QR 13 (04 1815): 54.

34 Ibid., pp. 38–39.

35 Life of Wellington,” QR 13 (07 1815): 481.

36 Ibid., 482–83, 486–88.

37 Miot's Mémoires de l'Expédition en Egypte,” QR 13 (04 1815): 3839.

38 The Portuguese Observer,” QR 4 (08 1810): 23.

39 Life of Wellington,” QR 13 (04 1815): 260.

40 Simmons, Jack, Southey (New Haven, 1948), pp. 164–65; Carnall, , Robert Southey and his Age, pp. 215–20; Madden, , Southey: The Critical Heritage, p. 154, Percy Bysshe Shelley to Elizabeth Hitchener, 26 Dec. 1811.

41 See e.g. Life and Correspondence, 4: 294, Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 1 Jan. 1818.

42 Ibid., 4: 155–56, Southey to Sharon Turner, 2 Apr. 1816.

43 See e.g. History and Present State of America,” QR 2 (11 1809): 327–28.

44 Prince Polignac–Revolution of the Three Days,” QR 48 (10 1832): 284.

45 See e.g. Dymond-On the Principles of Morality,” QR 44 (01 1831): 92–3.

46 See e.g. On the Evangelical Sects,” QR 4 (11 1810): 488505; History of the Dissenters,” QR 10 (10 1813): 132–4

47 See e.g. Smiles, , ed., Memoir and Correspondence, 2: 269–70.

48 Lang, Andrew, ed., Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart, 2 vols. (London, 1897), 2: 33.

49 The Roman Catholic Question-Ireland,” QR 38 (10 1828): 560.

50 Ibid., p. 551.

51 Ibid., p. 591.

52 History of the Vaudois,” QR 33 (12 1825): 153, 158–69; Memoir of Felix Neff,” QR 49 (04 1833): 68.

53 Bibliothèque Chrétienne,” QR 36 (10 1827): 313–14.

54 On the Evangelical Sects,” QR 4 (11 1810): 514.

55 Memoirs of Bayard,” QR 32 (10 1825): 368–69.

56 Head and Miers on Buenos Ayres and Chile,” QR 35 (01 1827): 141.

57 Moore's Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald,” QR 46 (11 1831): 242–43.

58 The Poor,” QR 15 (04 1816): 218–20.

59 Ibid.

60 Memoir of Felix Neff,” QR 49 (04 1833): 8081.

61 Elementary Teaching,” QR 39 (01 1829): 138. See also The Poor,” QR 15 (04 1816): 224–26.

62 Elementary Teaching,” QR 39 (01 1829): 123.

63 Inquiry into the Poor Laws,” QR 8 (12 1812): 353. See also The Poor,” QR 15 (04 1816): 226–27.

64 Inquiry into the Poor Laws,” QR 8 (12 1812): 319.

65 Life and Correspondence, 3: 334, Southey to Grosvenor Bedford, 14 May 1812.

66 Williams, Orlo, Lamb's Friend the Census Taker: Life and Letters of John Rickman (Boston, 1912), p. 161, Rickman to Southey, 16 May 1812.

67 Life and Correspondence, 3: 335, Southey to Grosvenor Bedford, 14 May 1812.

68 Ibid., p. 337, Southey to Grosvenor Bedford, 14 May 1812.

69 Ibid., pp. 342–43, Southey to Rickman, 18 May 1812.

70 See Carnall, , Southey, pp. 148–49.

71 The Poor,” QR 15 (04 1816): 201–02.

72 Quoted in Carnall, , Robert Southey and his Age, p. 152.

73 Works on England,” QR 15 (07 1816): 564.

74 On the Poor Laws,” QR 18 (01 1818): 305.

75 Inquiry into the Poor Laws,” QR 8 (12 1812): 343.

76 Quoted in Brinton, Crane, English Romanticists, p. 143.

77 See e.g. Jones, Stanley, Hazlitt: A Life, from Winterslow to Frith Street (Oxford, 1989), pp. 240–41.

78 Rise and Progress of Popular Disaffection,” QR 16 (01 1817): 545–47; New Churches,” QR 23 (07 1820): 578; Moral and Political State of the British Empire,” QR 44 (01 1831): 302.

79 On the Means of Improving the People,” QR 19 (04 1818): 113.

80 Moral and Political State of the British Empire,” QR 44 (01 1831): 300–02.

81 Works on England,” QR 15 (07 1816): 569–70.

82 Moral and Political State of the British Empire,” QR 44 (01 1831): 304.

83 Parliamentary Reform,” QR 16 (10 1816): 275.

84 Life and Correspondence, 4: 239, Southey to Grosvenor Bedford, 15 Feb. 1817.

85 Ibid., p. 233, Southey to Grosvenor Bedford, 4 Jan. 1817.

86 British Library, Additional Manuscript 38367, fos. 8—10 (Liverpool Papers), [Southey] to Liverpool, 19 March 1817 (copy).

87 Life and Correspondence, 4: 311, Southey to Grosvenor Bedford, 6 Sept. 1818.

88 Warter, J. W., ed., Selections, 3: 100–01, Southey to John Rickman, 10 Oct. 1818.

89 Ibid., p. 162, Southey to Rickman, 3 Dec. 1819.

90 Ibid., p. 161, Southey to Rickman, 3 Dec. 1819.

91 Ibid., p. 172, Southey to John Kenyon, 15 Jan. 1820.

92 Ramos, Charles, ed., The Letters of Robert Southey to John May 1797 to 1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), p. 185, Southey to May, 22 Feb. 1820.

93 Sack, James J., From Jacobite to Conservative: Reaction and Orthodoxy in Britain c. 1760–1832 (Cambridge, 1993), passim, but esp. chs. 1, 8–9.

94 Moral and Political State of the British Empire,” QR 44 (01 1831): 276–78.

95 Ibid., p. 292.

96 Life and Correspondence, 6: 179, Southey to John May, 18 Feb. 1832.

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