1961. Robert Southey to Andrew Bell, 6 October 1811

1961. Robert Southey to Andrew Bell, 6 October 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick, October 6, 1811.

My dear Sir,

This evening I have sent off the conclusion of a long, and, I trust, conclusive article to the Quarterly. [1]  Had there been time, it should have passed under your eye; but it has occupied me much longer than I expected, because I have been very solicitous to strike as hard a blow as possible: it is so hard, that you will see your desire upon your enemies.

I have manged better about the passage, which has been the occasion of so much false accusation, than the British reviewer did; for I have admitted its inconsistency, shown in what manner your very zeal for the furtherance of your great object has betrayed you into it, and then made a thundering charge of malice and calumny, against those who argue, from this single passage, in direct contradiction to the whole tenor of the book. [2] 

Your book [3]  is gone to Cadiz. The government are meditating upon plans for national education, and I have sent it over, as the best and surest guide.

Believe me, my dear sir, with sincere respect.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Southey, Caroline Southey and Charles Cuthbert Southey, The Life of the Rev. Andrew Bell, 3 vols (London, 1844)
Previously published: Robert Southey, Caroline Southey and Charles Cuthbert Southey, The Life of the Rev. Andrew Bell, 3 vols (London, 1844), II, pp. 634–635. BACK

[1] Southey advocated the educational system of Bell over that of Joseph Lancaster in his review of Joseph Fox (1775–1816; DNB), A Comparative View of the Plans of Education as detailed in the Publications of Dr. Bell and Mr. Lancaster, and Remarks on Dr. Bell’s Madras School, and Hints to the Managers and Committees of Charity and Sunday Schools, on the Practicability of extending such Institutions upon Mr. Lancaster’s Plan, 3rd edn (1811); Herbert Marsh (1757–1839; DNB), A Sermon, Preached in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, London, on Thursday, June 13, 1811. To which is Added, a Collection of Notes and Illustrations (1811); Reynold Gideon Bouyer (1741–1826; DNB), A Comparative View of the two New Systems of Education of the Infant Poor, in a Charge delivered to the Clergy of the Officialty of the Dean and Chapter of Durham, at Berwick-upon-Tweed, on Tuesday, May 12, 1811 (1811), in Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304. (This number of the Quarterly was published in October 1811.) The article was heavily censored by Gifford prior to publication and personal attacks on the Edinburgh Review were removed; see the account in Jonathan Cutmore, The Quarterly Review Archive. BACK

[2] The passage in question was: ‘It is not proposed that the children of the poor be educated in an expensive manner, or even taught to write and to cypher. Utopian schemes for the universal diffusion of general knowledge would soon realize the fable of the belly and the other members of the body, and confound that distinction of ranks and classes of society, on which the general welfare hinges, and the happiness of the lower orders, no less than that of the higher, depends. Parents will always be found to educate, at their own expense, children enow to fill the stations which require higher qualifications; and there is a risk of elevating by an indiscriminate education, the minds of those doomed to the drudgery of daily labour above their condition, and thereby rendering them discontented and unhappy in their lot. It may suffice to teach the generality, on an economical plan, to read their bible, and understand the doctrine of our holy religion’, An Experiment in Education, 2nd edn (London, 1805), p. 62. Much criticised by Bell’s opponents, Southey quoted it in full and excused it as the product of Bell’s ‘deepest desire’ for the ‘general diffusion of education’, Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 292. He also attacked Bell’s critics for their misappropriation of this one paragraph, Ibid., 299. In so doing, he thought he was more effective at defending Bell than the reviewer in the British Review, 1 (March 1811), 195–7. BACK

[3] Presumably an edition of An Experiment in Education. BACK

People mentioned

Gifford, William (1756–1826) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)