1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

William Hazlitt, in Review of Southey, Letter to William Smith; The Examiner (4 May 1817) 286-87.



In advocating the cause of the French people, Mr. Southey's principles and his interest were at variance, and therefore he quitted his principles when he saw a good opportunity: in taking up the cause of the Allies, his principles and his interest became united and thenceforth indissoluble. His engagement to his first love, the Republic, was only upon liking; his marriage to Legitimacy is for better, for worse, and nothing but death shall part them. Our simple Laureate was sharp upon his hoyden Jacobin mistress, who brought him no dowry, neither place nor pension, who "found him poor and kept him so," by her prudish notions of virtue. He divorced her, in short, for nothing but the spirit and success with which she resisted the fraud and force to which the old bawd Legitimacy was for ever resorting to overpower her resolution and fidelity. He said she was a virago, a cunning gipsy, always in broils about her honour and the inviolability of her person, and always getting the better in them, furiously scratching the face and cruelly tearing the hair of the said pimping old lady, who would never let her alone, night or day. But since her foot slipped one day on the ice, and the detestable old hag tripped up her heels, and gave her to the kind keeping of the Allied Sovereigns, Mr. Southey has devoted himself to her more fortunate and wealthy rival: he is becoming uxorious in his second matrimonial connection; and though his false Duessa has turned out a very witch, a foul, ugly witch, a murderess, a sorceress, perjured and a harlot, drunk with insolence, mad with power, a griping rapacious wretch, bloody, luxurious, wanton, malicious, not sparing steel, or poison, or gold, to gain her ends — bringing famine, pestilence, and death in her train — infecting the air with her thoughts, killing the beholders with her looks, claiming mankind as her property, and using them as her slaves — driving every thing before her, and playing the devil wherever she comes, Mr. Southey sticks up to her in spite every thing, and for very shame lays his head in her lap, paddles with the palms of her hands, inhales her hateful breath, leers in her eyes and whispers in her ears, calls her little fondling names, Religion, Morality, and Social Order, for his motto,

Be to her faults a little blind,
Be to her virtues very kind—

sticks close to his filthy bargain, and will not give her up, because she keeps him, and he is down in her will. Faugh!