So much for the extravagances of this lady.—With equal sincerity, and with greater pleasure, we bear testimony to her talents, her good sense, and her real piety. There occurs every now and then in her productions, very original, and very profound observations. Her advice is very often characterised by the most amiable good sense, and conveyed in the most brilliant and inviting style. If, instead of belonging to a trumpery gospel faction, she had only watched over those great points of religion in which the hearts of every sect of Christians are interested, she would have been one of the most useful and valuable writers of her day. As it is, every man would wish his wife and his children to read Caelebs;—watching himself its effects;—separating the piety from the puerility;—and showing that it is very possible to be a good Christian, without degrading the human understanding to the trash and folly of Methodism.
[From The Edinburgh Review, January, 1830]
Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society. By ROBERT SOUTHEY, Esq., LL.D., Poet Laureate. 2 vols. 8vo. London, 1829.
It would be scarcely possible for a man of Mr. Southey’s talents and acquirements to write two volumes so large as those before us, which should be wholly destitute of information and amusement. Yet we do not remember to have read with so little satisfaction any equal quantity of matter, written by any man of real abilities. We have, for some time past, observed with great regret the strange infatuation which leads the Poet Laureate to abandon those departments of literature in which he might excel, and to lecture the public on sciences of which he has still the very alphabet to learn. He has now, we think, done his worst. The subject which he has at last undertaken to treat is one which demands all the highest intellectual and moral qualities of a philosophical statesman, an understanding at once comprehensive and acute, a heart at once upright and charitable. Mr. Southey brings to the task two faculties which were never, we believe, vouchsafed in measure so copious to any human being, the faculty of believing without a reason, and the faculty of hating without a provocation.
It is, indeed, most extraordinary, that a mind like Mr. Southey’s, a mind richly endowed in many respects by nature, and highly cultivated by study, a mind which has exercised considerable influence on the most enlightened generation of the most enlightened people that ever existed, should be utterly destitute of the power of discerning truth from falsehood. Yet such is the fact. Government is to Mr. Southey one of the fine arts. He judges of a theory, of a public measure, of a religion or a political party, of a peace or a war, as men judge of a picture or a statue, by the effect produced on his imagination. A chain of associations is to him what a chain of reasoning is to other men; and what he calls his opinions are in fact merely his tastes....