270. Robert Southey to William Bowyer Thomas, 11 November 1797

270. Robert Southey to William Bowyer Thomas, 11 November 1797 ⁠* 

Saturday. 11. Nov. 1797.

My dear Thomas

I am now anxious to see you. my Mother has met with a person to take the house — & furniture at a fair appraisement — thus is the greatest difficulty removed, & I should hope the whole business may soon be settled, with little trouble to you, & little expence to my Uncle.

We returned from Bristol yesterday; it is my intention to go to town on Monday the 20th & keep the term the ensuing day. if you hold your intention of entering at Grays Inn — we may dine there together.

perhaps the remainder of this paper cannot be better employed than in sending you Mrs Barbaulds [1]  lines to Coleridge.

Midway the hill of science, after steep
And rugged paths that tire the unpractisd feet,
A grove extends, in tangled mazes wrought,
And filld with strange enchantment. dubious shapes
Flit thro dim glades, & lure the eager foot
Of youthful ardour to eternal chase.
Dreams hang on every leaf; unearthly forms
Glide thro the gloom, & mystic visions swim
Before the cheated sense. athwart the mists
Far into vacant space, huge shadows stretch
And seem realities, while things of life,
Obvious to sight & touch, all glowing round,
Fade to the hues of shadows. Scruples here
With filmy net most like the autumnal webs
Of floating gossamer, arrest the foot
Of generous enterprize, & palsy hope
And fair ambition, with the chilling touch
Of sickly hesitation, & blank fear.
Nor seldom Indolence these walks among
Fixes her turf-built seat, & museful sits
In dreamy twilight of the vacant mind,
Soothd by the whispering shade, for soothing soft
The shades, & vistas lengthening into air
With moon beam rainbows tinted. here each mind
Of finer mould, acute & delicate
In its high progress to eternal truth
Rests for a space in fairy bowers entranced,
And loves the softend light & tender gloom,
And, pamperd with most unsubstantial food,
Looks down indignant on the grosser world
And matters cumberous shapings. Youth beloved
Of Science, of the Muse beloved, not here,
Not in the maze of metaphysic lore,
Build thou thy place of resting. lightly tread
The dangerous ground, on higher aim intent,
And be this Circe of the studious cell
Enjoyd, but still subservient. Active scenes
Shall soon with healthful spirit brace thy mind,
And fair exertion for bright fame sustaind
For friends, for country, chace each spleen-fed [MS obscured]
That blots the wide creation.
Now Heaven conduct thee with a Parents love. [2] 


I hate metaphysics as much as Mrs B. can do. but her these verses are trite. an old allegory — & the <patchd with> shreds of Coleridge with which she has patched it. I like the idea of “things of life, obvious to sight & touch, fade to the hue of shadows.” it is well conceived & well expressd — but the half line, “all glowing round,” adds nothing to the picture — & destroys the meaning, by contradicting directly what follows.

let me hear from you. my Mother must not commence another quarter here.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

R Southey.


* Address: For/ Mr W B Thomas/ with —— Downes Esqr/ Hereford
Stamped: BATH
MS: Beinecke Library, Robert Southey Collection, GEN MSS 298, Box 1, folder 32. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743–1824; DNB), ‘To S. T. Coleridge, 1797’. BACK

[2] Anna Letitia Barbauld’s poem appeared unsigned as ‘To Mr C__ge’ in the Monthly Magazine, 7 (April 1799), 231–232. BACK

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