39. Robert Southey to Charles Collins, 12 [-13] January 
39. Robert Southey to Charles Collins, 12 [–13] January  *
Saturday. Jany 12. 7 in the evening. Bristol.
Parvum in Multo. 
I deferrd answering your last letter in daily expectation of receiving that from Oxford whither I wrote requesting Wynn to forward it. he had left the place & mine did not reach him till it had followed him all over the country. the grand reflections of the first Historian — the philosophic Tacitus  are not totally despised even in the University — I enquired at Baliol what were the studies & received for answer the present were the Alcibiades of Plato  the annals of Tacitus & the elements of Euclid  — it appears almost miraculous (if in this period anything is to be wondered that) that such monastic institutions, which still in spite of reformation bear so many marks of the old leaven should maintain their ground — look indeed at the whole system of modern education from the nursery to the college & tell me if any thing can be supposed more contradictory to Reason & to Nature? we have seen what are the advantages of public education perhaps it has been my lot to observe more in the boarding houses — you have seen the effects & I have beheld the causes — morality is not conceived essential at present in the eye of fashion — that of Reason will look upon it as the basis of every virtue & every accomplishment — what however can be more destructive than the contagion of bad example? nemo repente fuit turpissimus  — when we once have learnt to behold vice without abhorrence we soon practise it with indifference. public schools (say their advocates) give a knowledge of the world; but it would nor require more argument than these wise men of the world are masters of, to persuade me that driving a hackney coach drinking two bottles & frequenting “the mercenary retailers of iniquity”  constitute that knowledge. & yet what other modern knowledge is to be attained at Westminster [MS torn] the studies pursued there are of the manners of the dead — with their customs & language we are expected [MS torn] be intimate — improvement in our native tongue you know Vincent wishes not. public schools undoubtedly a[MS torn] excellently adapted to such hopeful heirs as are destined to possess ample fortunes & consequently st[MS torn] in no need of science. yet severely as I really reprobate them, many many happy hours have I passed in Deans Yard & shall ever look back to the two last years without experiencing any unpleasing sensation from the retrospect. the present mode of private education will be equally unable to bear investigat[MS torn] it will be perhaps more destructive if meant to end with the University — perhaps no one point has been less understood — it is more to be wondered at that so many are good than that the number of the profligate is so great. whether or not man has the stain of original sin I leave to theologians & metaphysicians. that education tends to give it him I do not even doubt. Rousseaus plan is too visionary — it supposes such unremitted attention in the tutor & such natural virtue in the pupil that I doubt its practability of this however when we read Emilius  (an occupation I look forward to with pleasure) we will freely determine. Madame Brulerck (late Genlis) appears to me to have struck out a path equally new & excellent — the Emilius of L Homme de la Nature existed only in his imagination. but the two sons of Phillipe Egalitè are living proofs of her capacity. 
every booby will answer an attempt at reformation with this is very well in theory — but how are we rest contented of its impractability without every giving it a trial — <a> experience is the only certain guide & Experience tells us that modern education is bad.
on Friday next I depart for Oxford & shall perhaps be settled before you come. if however upon your arrival you will give me one line at Baliol I will be with you immediately & be of what service I can.
I shall write to Bedford before I go relative to my books — I have spent eleven years already at various school & at this hour know not the languages with your accuracy — your example here is a proof of Rousseaus judgement. perhaps I may waste as many years more at college — thus goes the prime of life in attaining knowledge which will not serve to protract its end — we toil on & at last find on a death bed how ignorant we are of every thing. what is God said Hiero  you know the answer.
I have read all Juvenal  with pleasure it is a manly stile more adapted to me than the sly sarcasms of Horace  but I have no time for more church is ready & I go to hear a sermon very probably about right divine sedition & impiety which last are always linked together in the pulpit.
* Address: Charles Collins Esqre/ Maize Hill/ Greenwich/ near/
London/ Single Sheet
Postmark: JA/ 14/ 93
Seal: [partial] Black wax, design obscured
Endorsement: — Not answered —
MS: Huntington Library, HM 44800. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Roland Baughman, ‘Southey the Schoolboy’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 7 (1944), 266–269 [verse section in part; prose in full; where it is dated 13 January 1793]. BACK
 Possibly a reference to the ringing of a bell. The bell tower at Westminster Abbey (next door to Westminster School) contained a bell dedicated to ‘John Whitmell’ and his family, and Southey could be referring to this. BACK
 Oddune, Earl of Devonshire at the time of Alfred the Great’s exile on the Isle of Athelney and a symbol of continuing English resistance to Danish invaders. He defeated the Danish leader, Hubba, and captured his ‘enchanted’ raven standard. See David Hume, The History of England, From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Accession of Henry VII, 2 vols (London, 1762), I, p. 57. BACK
 Alfred the Great (848/9–899; reigned 871–899; DNB), King of Wessex and of the Anglo-Saxons. BACK
 Edgar (943–975; reigned 959–975; DNB), patron of St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury. Southey’s description of his ‘lustful’ nature is drawn from David Hume, The History of England, From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Accession of Henry VII, 2 vols (London, 1762), I, pp. 85–86. BACK
 Edward the Confessor (c. 1005–1066; reigned 1042–1066; DNB). He was canonized by Pope Alexander III in 1161. BACK
 William I, the Conqueror (1027/8–1087; reigned 1066–1087; DNB), nicknamed the ‘Bastard’, as he was the illegitimate son of Robert the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy (1000-1035). BACK
 Balliol College, Oxford, founded in c. 1263 by John Balliol and his wife Dervorguilla of Galloway. The ‘servile’ kinsman is their son John Balliol (c. 1250–1313; King of Scots 1292–1295; DNB), the preferred candidate of the English King Edward I (1239–1307; reigned 1272–1307; DNB) for the vacant Scottish throne. BACK
 Christ Church, Oxford, founded (as Cardinal College) by Thomas Wolsey (1470/71–1530; DNB) in 1524, and refounded by Henry VIII (1491–1547; reigned 1509–47; DNB) in 1546. BACK
 Either Lucius Junius Brutus, the man credited with expelling the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, in 510 BC, or Marcus Junius Brutus (85–42 BC), one of the assassins of Julius Caesar (100/102–44). BACK
 The battle of Jemappes, 6 November 1792, saw the defeat of the Austrians and their allies by the French General Charles-Francois Dumouriez (17391823). Both sides sustained heavy casualties. BACK
 Louis-Philippe (1773–1850; King of France 1830–1848), Duc de Chartres, was the eldest son of Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orléans (1747–1793). Chartres fought in the Jemappes campaign and was a close friend of General Dumouriez, defecting to the Austrians with him in 1793. Montpensier: Antoine Philippe d’Orléans (1775–1807), Duc de Montpensier, younger brother of the Duc de Chartres. BACK
 Identified by Roland Baughman, ‘Southey the Schoolboy’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 7 (1944), 268 n. 22, as a phonetic rendering of ‘Brulart’. i.e. Stéphanie Félicité Ducrest de St-Aubin (1746–1830), Comtesse de Genlis, the wife of Charles-Alexis Brulart (1737–1793), Marquis de Silery. She had supervised the education of the children of the Duc d’Orléans and was said to have followed the educational precepts set out in Rousseau’s (1712–1778) Émile (1762). BACK
 The Greek theologian Athanasius (293–373), after whom the later Athanasian Creed was named. BACK
 Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), French writer and philosophe, purchased a substantial estate at Ferney in 1758. BACK
 Publius Cornelius Tacitus (c. AD 56–c. 117), historian. His works include the Histories and the Annals. BACK
 Euclid of Alexandria (dates uncertain, between 325 and 250 BC), mathematician. His work includes the Elements. BACK
 Juvenal (fl. AD late C1 and early C2), Satire 2, line 83. The Latin translates as ‘No one ever became utterly abominable overnight’. BACK
 Southey is quoting a letter written by Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB) to a Mr. Clayfield, as published in William Barrett (1727?–1789; DNB), The History and Antiquities of the City of Bristol (Bristol, 1789), p. 647. BACK
 See note  for the ‘two sons’. Philippe Egalite: Louis-Philippe-Joseph, Duc d’Orleans (1747–1793), a distant cousin of Louis XVI (1754–1793; reigned 1774–1792) and early supporter of the French Revolution. Elected as a deputy to the National Convention in September 1792, he voted for the execution of the king. In 1793, after his son (the Duc de Chartres) defected to the Austrians, he was imprisoned and executed during the Terror. BACK
 Hiero I, tyrant of Syracuse (478–467 BC), asked the poet, Simonides of Ceos (556–468 BC), ‘What is god?’ and Simonides finally replied ‘The longer I think on the subject the farther I seem from making it out’. BACK