"Beware Of Those Who Are Homeless By Choice"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In his own time, Robert Southey was a literary innovator and leader; he explored new areas in writing, pioneered in a number of styles, and was the only "entire man of letters" in his day. He supported and helped to found the romantic movement, experimented with a number of departures from eighteenth century rigidity, and established paths for others to follow. These include the ballad, the reintroduction of blank verse, the epic, and the exotic oriental setting. He wrote voluminously in all fields; in addition to his poetry, he proved himself a competent historian, essayist, biographer, and critic. He was named poet laureate of England in 1813 and held the post for thirty years. A tireless scholar and a conscientious craftsman whose mind eventually failed from overwork, Southey now appears to have been far inferior in genius to his friends Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Scott; to present-day critics, his importance is almost purely historical and he is remembered for a handful of minor poems–and a nursery classic, "The Three Bears." It is generally agreed that his talents were not equal to his ambitions; and the epics, which he was certain would ensure his lasting reputation, are now considered failures. Nonetheless there is much of interest in his writings, and much of the unusual. The Doctor is an example of his prose; a lengthy and curious work which Southey wrote for amusement in his leisure time, it is a collection of nearly everything: fantasy, fiction, whimsy, opinion, criticism, lore of all sorts, anecdotes, and an overriding facetiousness. The last quality seems labored to a modern reader, whose attention is nonetheless held by the endless variety of the book. Many of his comments are sound and perceptive; for example, his distrust of the "world citizen" who acknowledges no ties, owes no allegiances, accepts no responsibilities, and cannot be involved in life:

Whatever strengthens our local attachments is favorable both to individual and national character. Our home,–our birth place,–our native land,–think for a while what the virtues are which arise out of the feelings connected with these words; and if thou hast any intellectual eyes thou wilt then perceive the connection between topography and patriotism.
Shew me a man who cares no more for one place than another, and I will shew you in that same person one who loves nothing but himself. Beware of those who are homeless by choice! You have no hold on a human being whose affections are without a tap-root. The laws recognize this truth in the privileges which they confer upon freeholders; and public opinion acknowledges it also, in the confidence which it reposes upon those who have what is called a stake in the country. Vagabond and rogue are convertible terms; and with how much propriety any one may understand who knows what are the habits of the wandering classes, such as gypsies, tinkers, and potters.