« ForrigeFortsæt »
« Literary. Gazette» is, that I wrote the notes to «Queen Mab;» a work which I never saw till some time after its publication, and which I recollect showing to Mr Sotheby as a poem of great power and imagination. I never wrote a line of the notes, nor ever saw them except in their published form. No one knows better than their real author, that his opinions and mine differ materially upon the metaphysical portion of that work; though, in common with all who are not blinded by baseness and bigotry, I highly admire the poetry of that and his other publications.
Mr Southey, too, in his pious preface to a poem whose blasphemy is as harmless as the sedition of Wat Tyler, because it is equally absurd with that sincere production, calls upon the « legislature to look to it,» as the toleration of such writings led to the French revolution: not such writings as Wat Tyler, but as those of the Satanic School.» This is not true, and Mr Southey knows it to be not true. Every French writer of any freedom was persecuted; Voltaire and Rousseau were exiles, Marmontel and Diderot were sent to the Bastile, and a perpetual war was waged with the whole class by the existing despotism. In the next place, the French Revolution was not occasioned by any writings whatsoever, but must have occurred had no such writers ever existed. It is the fashion to attribute every thing to the French revolution, and the French revolution to every thing but its real cause.
That cause is obvious—the government exacted too much, and the people could neither give vor bear more.
Without this, the Encyclopedists might have written their fingers off without the occurrence of a single alteration. And the English revolution(the first, I mean)—what was it occasioned by? The puritans were surely as pious and moral as Wesley or his biographer? Acts—acts
government, and not writings against them, have caused the past convulsions, and are tending to the future.
I look upon such as inevitable, though no revolutionist: I wish to see the English constitution restored and not destroyed. Born an aristocrat, and naturally one by temper, with the greater part
my present property in the funds, what have I to gain by a revolution? Perhaps I have more to lose in every way than Mr Southey, with all his places and presents for panegyrics and abuse into the bargain. But that a revolution is inevitable, I repeat. The government may exult over the repression of petty tumults; these are but the receding waves repulsed and broken for a moment on the shore, while the great tide is still rolling on and gaining ground with every
Mr Southey accuses us of attacking the religion of the country; and is he abetting it by writing lives of Wesley? One mode of worship is merely destroyed by another. There never was, nor ever will be, a country without a religion. We shall be told of France again : but it was only Paris and a frantic party, which for a moment upheld their dogmatic nonsense of theo-philanthropy. The church of England, if overthrown, will be swept away by the sectarians and not by the sceptics. People are too wise, too well informed, too certain of their own immense importance in the realms of space, ever to submit to the impiety of doubt. There may be a few such diffident speculators, like water in the pale sunbeam of human reason, but they are very few; and their opinions, without enthusiasm or appeal to the passions, can never gain proselytes—unless, indeed, they are persecuted—that, to be sure, will increase any thing.
Mr S., with a cowardly ferocity, exults over the anticipated « deathbed repentancer of the objects of his dislike; and indulges himself in a pleasant « Vision of Judgment,» in prose as well as verse, full of impious impudence. What Mr S.'s sensations or ours may be in the awful moment of leaving this state of existence neither he nor we can pretend to decide. In common, I presume, with most men of any reflection, I have not waited for a «
« death-bed» to repent
of my actions, potwithstanding the u diabolical pride» which this pitiful renegado in his rancour would impute to those who scorn him. Whethe whole the 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 Jimit my present defence to an assertion (easily proved, if necessary,) that I, u 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 turn-coat 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 connexion of his own, did no dishonour to that connexion 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 from 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 less 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 works sitting down to deal damnation 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 « Gebir, - 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.» Ifor one neither envy him «the friendship, . nor the glory in reversion which is to acerı
crue from it, like Mr Thelusson's forįune, in the third and fourth generation. This friendship will pro.bably 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.