A Blupete Biography Page

Conversion To Toryism, Part 7 to the Life & Works of
Robert Southey

As for Southey: well, he progressed with his thoughts and was to come to realize that when men are forced to change the result is blood and misery; best, he concluded in time, and after some soul searching -- to let things be, that things will unfold naturally as they ought to unfold. William Hazlitt wrote of Southey's earlier revolutionary thoughts and his eventual conversion to toryism:
"... the light of the French Revolution beamed into his soul ... while he had this hope, this faith in man left, he cherished it with child-like simplicity, he clung to it with the fondness of a lover. He was an enthusiast, a fanatic, a leveler; he stuck at nothing that he thought would banish all pain and misery from the world; in his impatience of the smallest error or injustice, he would have sacrificed himself and the existing generation (a holocaust) to his devotion to the right cause. But when he once believed after many staggering doubts and painful struggles, that this was no longer possible, when his chimeras and golden dreams of human perfectibility vanished from him, he turned suddenly round, and maintained that 'whatever is, is right.'"15
To Hazlitt, Southey's "inquires are partial and hasty, his conclusions raw and unconcocted..." He wooed Liberty as a youthful lover, but it was perhaps more a mistress than a bride; and he has since wedded with an elderly and not very reputable lady, called Legitimacy."
"He was born an age too late. Had he lived a century or two ago, he would have been a happy as well as blameless character. But the distraction of the time has unsettled him, and the multiplicity of his pretensions have jostled with each other. No man in our day (at least no man of genius) has led so uniformly and entirely the life of a scholar from boyhood to the present hour, devoting himself to learning with the enthusiasm of an early love, with the severity and constancy of a religious vow; and well would it have been for him if he had confined himself to this, and not undertaken to pull down or to patch up the State!'"16
Southey's earlier works, as he was to observe, were written "under the influence of opinions which I have long since outgrown, and repeatedly disclaimed, but for which I have never felt either shame or contrition. They were taken up conscientiously in early youth, they were acted upon in disregard of all worldly considerations, and they were left behind in the same strait-forward course, as I advanced in years."17 Hazlitt was of the view that Southey, if he ever had them, sold out his principles: "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."18



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