We had the pleasure of seeing several times the celebrated Mr Southey, a distinguished favourite of the English muses. Mr Coleridge, whose talents are equally known, although less fruitful, was at Mr S.'s, with whom he has some family connection. Both of these gentlemen, and, I believe, Mr Wordsworth, another of the poets of the lakes, had, in the warmth of their youthful days, some fifteen years ago, taken the spirited resolution of traversing the Atlantic, in order to breathe the pure air of liberty in the United States. Some accident delayed the execution of this laudable project, and gave them time to cool. At present, these gentlemen seem to think that there is no need of going so far for liberty, and that there is a reasonable allowance of it at home. Their democracy is come down to Whiggism, and may not even stop there. Mr S. has resided in Spain, and is well acquainted with the literature of that country, and its people. He thinks the Spaniards are well aware of the defects of their government, and that a thorough reformation of them, and in fact a revolution, would have united the whole people against the invaders, and have rendered them invincible. He and his friend are enthusiastic in the Spanish cause. This sentiment is, in them, I am persuaded, quite sincere, and founded on just and honourable principles. But it is remarkable, that this same Spanish cause is one of the watch-words of party, to which I have alluded before. By a strange perversion of the human mind, those liberal and independent opinions in matters of government, which one of the parties professes, are generally found associated with a certain toleration of usurpation and tyranny in certain situations; which is, on the contrary, held in utter abhorrence by the other party, although accused of being, otherwise, less nice on those points than its adversary. This might well raise uncharitable suspicions of the candour and sincerity of both.Here's Ira Grushaw on Simond:
I learned here, that there are good grounds to believe, that the valuable race of Spanish Merino sheep was originally introduced there from England (Gloucestershire,! think,). ... Mr S. has rectified the error I was in respecting the Spanish play from which Corneille drew his Cid. The old father, (Don Diego,) in the French Cid, seeking an avenger of his outraged honour, addresses his son in these words :—"Rodrigue, as-tu du coeur?" To which the young hero answers, "Tout autre que mon pere. l'eprouveroit sur l'heur!" I had been told that, in the Spanish play, the old father, calling his three sons in succession,, seizes the hand of the first, and, carrying it to his mouth, bites his thumb severely! This unexpected proceeding does not fail to occasion vehement outcries and struggles on the part of the son, who is, in consequence, dismissed with contempt. A second son undergoes the same trial, with no better result. At last comes the third, the young Cid, who bears the biting without emotion, and is immediately proclaimed the avenger. Instead of biting, I.now understand that the old father gives only a hard squeeze of the hand, which is certainly a less shocking violation of the French bienseances tragiques.
Mr S. has chosen a career in which he. does not meet at present with any competitor. He is eminently the poet of chimeras. Milton left a great model in this kind; and he has surpassed it in monstrous creations and events, so totally out of nature, as to exclude not only sympathy, but,, in a great degree, meaning itself.
Je 1'avouerai, j'aime toute aventure,The coarse remark of Cardinal d'Este to Ariosto is well known: "Dove diavolo, Signor Ludovico, avete pigliate tante de coglionerie;" and most of the readers of Milton and of Mr S. might be inclined to repeat it;—in fact they have few readers, although they have many admirers. The modern poet understands piety and tenderness much better than his predecessor. The love and the theology of Paradise Lost are alike harsh and austere, coarse and material,—while Mr S. has tenderness and spirituality. The latter is as picturesque as Milton, who was a great landscape-painter, and, in the age of box parterres, dipt hedges, and jets-d'eau, respected the freedom, and loved the native graces of nature.
Qui tient de pres a l'humaine nature.
Mr S. is much esteemed by all those who are acquainted with him, and seems to have as much good sense and general knowledge as talents and genius. I was surprised to hear him censuring highly the doctrine of the Essay on Population, or rather not taking it in its true light. One of the dreams of the revolutionary philosophy was, the faculty of indefinite perfectibility in the human species; and one of its errors, or its artifices, was, to suppose that the great obstacles to this perfectibility came altogether from the social institutions. It is not to be wondered at, that the discovery of a still greater obstacle,—an insurmountable one, raised by nature itself,—which deprives that philosophy of a favourite dogma, should be very ill received by its followers, and excite their ill-humour. In consequence, the doctrine of population is one of the signals of party. It is often approved by the whigs; but I have not found any thorough reformer to whom it was not odious. These two parties having, however, many points of contact and natural sympathies, individuals slide easily and unconsciously from one to the other; and *when the metamorphosis takes place, it happens frequently that the new insect, fresh out of his old skin, drags still some fragments of it after him,—-just enough to indicate what he was before.
Louis Simond (1767-1831) earned a permanent place in the footnotes of the literary history of England when he was entertained while touring the Lake Country by De Quincey, who characterized him as a "thorough, knowing man of the world, keen, sharp as a razor, and valuing nothing but the tangible and the ponderable." By birth a Frenchman, Simond emigrated before the Revolution in his native land to the United States, where he became a successful New York merchant. In 1810-11 he made a tour of Great Britain, where he encountered De Quincey, Wordsworth, and others, recording his impressions in a journal written originally in English and published anonymously by a "French traveler" in 1815. After Waterloo a French translation appeared, a second edition of which finally identified the author by name.There's a fair bit in this volume about De Quincey; but I don't recall previously coming across this little snapshot of Southey and Coleridge at Keswick together.