24. Robert Southey to Thomas Phillipps Lamb, [c. 26 September 1792]

24. Robert Southey to Thomas Phillipps Lamb, [c. 26 September 1792] ⁠* 

College Green Bristol.

My dear Sir

Time has justified all your prophecies with regard to my French friends — the Sans Culottes the Jacobines & the Fishwomen carry every thing before them — every thing that is respectable every barrier that is sacred is swept away by the ungovernable torrent — the people have changed tyrants & for the mild irresolute Louis bow to the savage the unrelenting Pethion. [1]  after so open a declaration of abhorrence you may perhaps expect that all the sanguine dreams of romantic liberty are gone for ever — it is true I have seen the difficulty of saying to the mob thus far — no farther — I have seen a structure reard by the hand of wisdom & defended by the sword of liberty undermined by innovation hurled from its basis by faction & insulted by the proud abuse of despotism — is it less respectable for its misfortunes? these horrid barbarities however have rendered me totally indifferent to the fate of France & I have only to hope that Fayette [2]  will be safe — Wynn applies to him & I think with much propriety

Justum & tenacem propositi virum
Non civium ardor prava jubentium
Non vultus instantis tyranni
Mente quatit solidâe [3] 

before I quit the French let one remark that that very National Assembly which you have stigmatised as a rabble of pettifogging attorneys & illiterate barbarians has furnished men who had the courage to preserve their duty at the expence of their lives

And now to descend from Liberty & a Republic to myself — I have been negligent very negligent not only in delaying to answer your kind letter but in letting Toms last remain so long unnoticed that I know not where to direct to him — my last met him at Glasgow & from thence I received a very long account from him of all he had seen which at once amused & instructed me — I am too apt to commit faults in haste & repent at leisure but how this lazy fit came on I know not — Procrastination is the thief of time [4]  — never was there a better proverb & I must remember it —

Every day I expect to hear from Dr Randolph [5]  when I am to set off for Oxford which will certainly be in the course of a fortnight. there I have four years & a half to spend poring over Euclid [6]  & the fathers & in laying out plans for the future which probably will never be put in execution — since Tom has given up all thoughts of the university for a method of education in my opinion far[MS torn] Oxford has lost one of its allurements — still how[MS torn] friends & I shall visit it with more pleasure when I [MS torn]tention of accepting your kind invitation & quitting it for Mountsfield.

I have been attempting Euclid but without a master I could make no progress — perhaps disgust at the dry study contributed but I did not want perseverance — my brain was so confused with parallels horizontals triangles parallellograms & all the jargon of mathematical precision that after a fortnights hard study I fairly laid it on the shelf & took up my constant study Spenser.

I have now to beg forgiveness for my neglect & that you will inform me (as I really intend to make amends by writing him a very long letter if that be not rather aggravating my fault) where I may direct to Tom

my best respects to Mrs L Mr Lamb & all friends & believe me

my dear Sir

your much obliged humble servant

Robert Southey

if you will have the goodness to write before the fourteenth of October my direction is at Miss Tylers Bristol


* Address: T P Lamb Esqr/ Mountsfield Lodge/ Rye/ Sussex
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: BSE/ 26/ 92
Endorsement: Southey
MS: Duke University Library, Southey papers. ALS; 4p. (c).
Previously published: John Wood Warter, Selections From the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 3–5 [where it is dated ‘College Green, Bristol, 1792.’]. BACK

[1] The ‘September massacres’ saw the killing of 1200 prisoners in the Paris gaols by the Parisian revolutionaries. Jerome Petion de Villeneuve (1756–1794) was a Jacobin and mayor of Paris at the time of the storming of the Tuileries on 20 June 1792. In August of the same year, he headed a delegation demanding that Louis XVI (1754–1793; reigned 1774–1792) be removed from the throne. BACK

[2] Marie-Paul-Joseph-Roch-Gilbert Motier, Marquis de LaFayette (1757–1834), French general and politician. Declared an enemy of the state in August 1792, he escaped over the border and was imprisoned first by the Prussians and then the Austrians. He was released in 1797. BACK

[3] The Latin translates as ‘The man who is just and resolute will not be moved from his settled purpose, either by the misdirected rage of his fellow citizens, or by the threats of an imperious tyrant’, Horace (65–8 BC), Odes, Book 3, no. 3, line 1. BACK

[4] Edward Young (1683–1765; DNB), The Complaint, or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality (1743), line 393. BACK

[5] John Randolph (c. 1760–1813), a Canon of Christ Church and Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. Southey was rejected by Christ Church. BACK

[6] Euclid of Alexandria (dates uncertain, between 325 and 250 BC), mathematician. His work includes the Elements. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Mountsfield Lodge, Rye (mentioned 1 time)
College Green, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)