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left hand, a little side gate leads to Miss Denton's house, and on the other stretches out the lawn, screened by hedges of laurel and other evergreens. Behind this little lawn, on the right hand of the house, lie one or two kitchen gardens; and passing through these, you come to a wood descending towards the river, which you again find here sweeping around the house. Down this wood or copse, which is half orchard and half of forest trees, you see traces of winding foot-paths, but all now grown over with grass. The house is deserted; the spirits which animated the scene are fled, some one way, and some another; and there is already a wildness and a desolation about it. The Greta, rushing over its weir beneath this wood, moans in melancholy sympathy with the rest of the scene. You see that great pleasure has some time been taken in this spot, in these gardens, in this shadowy and steeply descending wood; and the river that runs on beneath, and the melancholy feeling of the dream-like nature and vanity of human things, its fame and happiness included, seizes irresistibly upon you. A little foot-path which runs along the Greta side towards the town deepens this feeling. Through the trees, and behind the river, lie deep and grassy meadows with masses of woodland, having a very Cuyp or Paul Potter look ; and, between the higher branches of the trees, you see the huge green bulk of Skiddaw, soaring up with fine and almost startling effect. You may imagine Southey walking to and fro along the foot-path under the trees, in the fields leading to the town, by another route, and thinking over his topics, while he took the air, and had in view a scene of mountain magnificence, of the effect of which the poet was fully conscious. “The height and extent of the surrounding objects seem to produce a correspondent expansion and elevation of mind, and the silence and solitude contribute to this emotion. You feel as if in another region, almost in another world.” * Here, too, you may imagine Coleridge lying and dreaming under the trees of the wood within sound of the river. He was here, at one time, a great while.
To return to the house, however. It is a capacious house enough, but not apparently very well built. The floors of the upper rooms shake under your tread; and I have heard, that when Southey had these rooms crowded and piled with books, there was a fear of their coming down. The house is one of those square houses of which you may count the rooms without going into them, but at each end is a circular projection, making each a snug sort of ladies' room. The room on the right hand as we entered was said to be the sitting-room, and that on the left the library, while the room over it was Southey's writing-room ; and most of these rooms, as well as the entrance-hall, were all crowded with books. We were told that, after several days' sale at home, where some books as well as the furniture were sold, fourteen tons of books and similar articles were sent off for sale in London.
If Southey has not told us much about his haunts in the mountains, he has, however, particularly described that where his heart
. Colloquies, vol. ii. p. 61.
lay—his library. To this he has given a whole chapter in his Colloquies.
This noble collection, of which their possessor might well be proud, which is said to have included by far the best collection of Spanish books in England, and the gathering of which togсther, through many researches, many inquiries, and many years, had, perhaps, given him almost as much pleasurable excitement as their penisal, is once more dispersed into thousands of hands. The house, indeed at the time we visited it, was in the act of being repaired, fresh painted and papered, ready for a new tenant; and, of course, looked desolate enough. All the old paper had been torn off the walls, or scraped away; and workmen, with piles of rolls of new paper, and buckets of paste, were beginning their work of revival. The whole house, outside and inside, had an air of dilapidation, such as houses in the country are often allowed to fall into; but, no doubt, when all furnished and inhabited, would be comfortable and habitable enough.
But death had been there, and the appraiser and auctioneer, and a crowd of eager sale-attenders after them; and the history of the poet and the poet's family life was wound up and done. A populous dwelling it must have been when Southey and his wife and children, and Mrs. Coleridge and her daughter, and perhaps other friends, were all housed in it. And an active and pleasant house it must bare been when great works were going on in it, a Thalaba, a Madoc, an article for the Quarterly, and news from London were coming in, and letters were expected of great interest, and papers were sending off by post to printers and publishers, and correspondents. All that is now passed over as a dream ; the whole busy hive is dispersed many ways, and the house and grounds were preparing to let at 351. a year, just as if no genius had set a greater value on them than on any other premises around. It is when we see these changes that we really feel the vanity of human life. But the beauty of the life of genius is, that though the scene of domestic action and sojourn can become as empty as any other, the home of the poet's muind becomes thenceforth that of the whole heart and mind of his nation, and often far beyond that. The Cossack and the Bohemian-lid they not also carry away from it to their far-off lands tokens of their veneration ?
Before quitting Southey's house for his tomb, I cannot resist referring to that little fact connected with his appointment to the laureateship already alluded to. It is well known that the post was first offered to Sir Walter Scott, who declined it, but recommended Southey, who was chosen. The letters on the whole transaction are given in Lockhart's Life of Scott (chap. xxvi.) Scott, who was then only plain Walter Scott, who was not made Sir Walter for seven years after, who had published the greater number of his popular poetical romances, but had not yet published Waverley, felt, how. ever, quite terrified at the offer of the laureateship, and wrote off to the Duke of Buccleuch to ask his advice how he was to get decently out of the scrape without offending the Prince Regent. "I am," says Scotto “ very much embarrassed by it. I am, on the one hand, very much afraid of giving offence, where no one would willingly offend, and perhaps losing the opportunity of smoothing the way to my youngsters through life; on the other hand, the offer is a ridiculous one; somehow or other, they and I should be well quizzed,” &c. * * * “I feel much disposed to shake myself free of it. I should måke but a bad courtier, and an ode-maker is described by Pope as a man out of his way, or out of his senses.”
Almost by return of post came the duke's answer. “As to the offer of his Royal Highness to appoint you laureate, I shall frankly say, that I should be mortified to see you hold a situation which by the general concurrence of the world is stamped ridiculous. There is no good reason why it should be so; but it is so. Walter Scott, Poet Laureate, ceases to be Walter Scott of the Lay, Marmion, &c. Any future poem of yours would not come forth with the same probability of a successful reception. The poet laureate would stick to you and your productions like a piece of court plaister. * * * Only think of being chaunted and recitatived by a parcel of hoarse and squeaking choristers on a birthday, for the edification of the bishops, pages, maids of honour, and gentlemen pensioners! Oh horrible! thrice horrible!”
Scott replied, “I should certainly never have survived the recitative described by your Grace ; it is a part of the etiquette I was quite unprepared for, and should have sunk under it.”
On this, Scott at once declined the honour; and though he said he should make a bad courtier, assuredly no courtier could have done it in better style, professing that the office was too distinguished for his merits; that he was by no means adequate to it. Now Scott all this time had but an income of 1,0001. a-year, independent of literature ; we have the particulars calculated and cast up on the very same page, opposite to his letter to Buccleuch ; nay, he is in embarrassments, and in the very same letter requests the Duke to be guarantee for 4,0001, for bim: and he thought the laureateship worth 3001. or 4001. a-year. These facts all testify to his thorough idea of the ignominy of the office. Nevertheless, he writes at once to Southey
-tells him that he has had this offer, but that he has declined it because he has had already two pieces of preferment, and moreover, "uny dear Southey, I had you in my eye.” He adds—and now let any one who thinks himself flattered on any particular occasion, remember this_“I did not refuse it from any foolish prejudice against the situation-othericise how durst I offer it to you, my elder brother in the musel--but from a sort of internal hope that they would give it you, on whom it would be so much more worthily conferred. For I am not such an ass as not to know that you are my better in poetry, though I have had, probably but for a time, the tide of popularity in my favour. I have not time to add the thousand other reasons, but I only wished to tell you how the matter was, and to beg you to think before you reject the offer which I flatter myself will be malo to you. If I had not been, like Dogberry, a fellow with two gowns already, I should have jumped at it like a cock at a gooseberry. Ever yours, most truly, WALTER SCOTT.”
Southey accepted it, and Scott wrote him a letter of warmest congratulation on getting this piece of court plaister clapped on his back, and putting himself in a position to be “well quizzed;" but was quite confounded to learn that the honorarium for the “horrible! thrice horrible !" was not 4001. a-year, but only 1001. and a butt of wine.
Wordsworth, when he became the holder of this post, accepted it with a dignity worthy of his character and fame, declining it till it was stripped of all its disgusting duties. Thus qualified, Alfred Tennyson has been able to accept the same title with less repugnance; but the next step, it is to be hoped, will be to abolish an office equally derogatory, under any circumstances, to monarch and subject. No poet of reputation should feel himself in a position which implies the most distant obligation to pay mercenary praise. No monarch of this country need purchase praise; to a worthy occupier of the throne it will be freely accorded from the universal heart of the nation.
Crosthwaite church, in the graveyard of which Robert Southey's remains lie, is about a quarter of a mile from the house, on the Bassenthwaite-water road. It is a very simple and lowly village church, with a low square tower, but stands finely in the wide, open valley, surrounded, at a considerable distance, by the scenery I have de scribed. I suppose it is nearly a mile from the foot of Skiddaw. From Southey's house the walks to it, and again from it along the winding lanes, and over the quiet fields towards Skiddaw, are particularly pleasant. Southey, in his Colloquies, speaks of the church and churchyard with much affection. He quotes the account of an old man who more than fifty years ago spoke of the oldest and finest yew trees in the country standing in this churchyard, and of having seen all the boys of the school-house near, forty in number, perched at once on the boughs of one of them.
At the north-west corner of the churchyard stands Souther's tomb. It is a plain altar-tomb of reddish freestone, covered witb a slab of blue slate, with this inscription :-“Here lies the body of Robert Southey, LL.D. Poet Laureate ; Born August 12, 1774; Died March 26, 1813. Also of Edith his wife, born May 20, 1774; Died Nov. 16, 1837. I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord."
Close in front of the tomb lies the grave of Mrs. Southey; and behind, and close to the hedge, stands a stone bearing this inscription:-“The Lord gave, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Sacred to the memory of Emma Southey, who departed in May, 1809, aged 14 months. And of Herbert Souther, who departed April 17th, 1816, in the tenth year of his age. Also of George Fricker, their uncle, aged 26, 1814. Also Isabel Souther, their sister, who departed on the 16th of July, 1826, aged 13 years Also of Edith Southey, their mother, who departed Nov. 1837, aged 63. Requiescat in pace."
I recollected that there was something peculiar connected with the death of the son, Herbert. The old clerk said that his disorder could not be discovered till after his death ; but that on opening
Satu pet him, a human hair was found fast round his heart! It was, in fact,
a disease of the heart. . I wished to see the pew where the Southeys used to sit; but I
found the interior of the church, as well as of his house, undergoing the revolution of repair, or rather of renewal. It seemed as if people had only waited for Southey's death to begin and clear off all traces of his existence here. The church is fine and capacious within ; but all the old pews, all the old seats, pulpit, and everything belonging to them, have been cleared away, and the whole replaced by fittings in the ancient style. There are nothing but open benches, with one single exception. The benches are of solid oak, with heavy, handsome carving, and have a very goodly and substantial look. The windows are also renewed with handsome painted glass ; and the tables of the Decalogue, &c., placed behind the altar, are all painted in the old missal style. The church will be very handsome, at the same time that it is a sign of the times. Of course, Southey's pew is gone. In the church is an ancient monument of the Radcliffes, ancestors of the Earl of Derwentwater; and two of the Brownrigs of Ormathwaite, immediate maternal relations of my wife.
Since my visit, a beautiful monument, consisting of a recumbent figure in white marble, by Lough, has been placed in this church, bearing an epitaph by Wordsworth.
The close of Southey's life was melancholy. His mind gave way, probably from having being overtasked, and he sank into imbecility. Shortly before this event he had married, as his second wife, his friend of many years' standing, Caroline Bowles, the author of Chapters on Churchyards, and one of the sweetest and most genuine poetesses of the age. She did not many years survive her husband. At his death she retired to Buckland, in the New Forest, where she had spent the chief portion of her life, and where she used to attend Bouldre church, in which she was married, and where the venerable Gilpin, the author of Forest Scenery, had once been the minister.