3032. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 October 1817

3032. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 October 1817⁠* 

Wednesday Keswick 29 Oct. 1817

You are a vile fellow Grosvenor, – & really made me uneasy by your silence, – for I could not help thinking you were ill. I have been hard at work since you departed, & have got thro (as you may perhaps have seen) a paper for Gifford, [1]  which, quoad [2]  the trouble it cost, will not be overpaid by any thing which may be given for it in the form of sweet remuneration. Since this was dispatched I have been recreating myself alternately with Brazilian history [3]  – & the introduction to the peninsular war; [4]  – in this <latter> I have done with the moral picture of Spain & Portugal, & shall probably have compleated that of France before this will reach you. the chapter is to conclude with England & in this part I shall draw for posterity the true picture of an English opposition. As soon as this is done (& I shall not lay it aside, till it be done) it goes to press without delay: – when I am once under weigh, stop me who can, – I can answer for myself. [5] 

Some time ago Coleridge desired that Derwent might be sent up to him, – preparations have been made accordingly, & I was desirous that he should go, in hopes that the father when he felt the weight upon his own shoulders might bestir himself: C. is fortunate in making friends & noways delicate in soliciting favours from them: on this occasion there was great cause for any assistance which he could obtain. Today however his wife has received a letter from Mrs Gillman, [6]  saying that Mr C is not well enough at present to receive his son; – that his illness is chiefly occasioned by his having engaged to write the introduction to the New Cyclopeadia [7]  which he now repents of having undertaken, finding it cannot be done in time &c &c – The truth is that instead of taking his son, he had laid a plan for quartering himself here also: – to this as you may well suppose I have just & insuperable objections, it may suffice to mention one, – I know that he is exceedingly in debt, & I know also that to pay off the debts which he must needs have paid before he could leave the Gillmans, he was endeavouring to obtain money from Curtis (of the Cyclopaedia) – upon condition of engaging totis viribus [8]  in the his service: his coming here would have been a breach of those conditions (in reality the money would have been obtained upon false pretences,) & he would have been arrested in consequence. Whenever he is arrested, which sooner or later he must be, it had better take place any where else than here.

Without affecting any love for Derwent, I feel much compassion for him: it is a truly pitiable situation; for his father not only does nothing for him, but stands in the way of having any thing done, because there is not that claim upon his relations to bestir themselves, which there would be if he were an orphan. I can contribute nothing toward placing him at college, if such a scheme were set on foot, because there are nearer much nearer claims [9]  which take from me all I can spare x which x are likely to grow heavier, & which will continue as long as I live. I wish it were as certain that my own means would increase in equal proportion. – By the bye you may purchase for me a sixteenth: [10]  – let lotteries be as bad as they may, this is a loss which I cannot feel, – & xx xxxx there is a possibility of very essential advantage from it.

Have you heard nothing of my books? I am uneasy about the box from Milan, [11]  – & wish those from Brussels were arrived, because the season is now coming on when the voyage xx of <has> more risque than should be mine without necessity.

Nash is visiting Senhouse at Netherhall. Westall is downstairs, with Dr Bell & Mrs Crothers & the Senhora. The snow is on the fells, – but the country still beautiful, – indeed I have never seen grander effects than what Shedaw called upon me to look at this afternoon.

The Grand Murrays letter has not yet arrived, – it will probably come with the Q. [12]  proofs, of which I am in daily expectation. You are perfectly right in your opinion upon Jeffreys essay. [13]  Whether it deserve criticism is xxxx <a> question for others, not for me, – this I am certain that & no essay upon beauty can be worth my reading: – upon such subjects I have never bestowed a thought, nor ever shall: [MS missing] is enough for me to know when things are sublime beautiful, or sublime, just as I know whether things are sweet, or sour, – xx without enquiring or caring why they are so. But if the Grand Murray will let me take Coleridges Biographia for a text, [14]  & under that text, make a direct personal attack upon Jeffrey & Hazlitt, I will give these <scoundrels> a Williamsmithiad which shall answer his purpose effectually as well as mine. [15]  There are no usages of parliament to stand in my way, – & may this right hand forget its cunning, [16]  if it does not do me justice & inflict due punishment.

God bless you. Remember me to Miss Page & your brother, & lay your plans for bringing him with you next year to the Lakes


The kitten is named Pulcheria. If Narses [17]  understood the fitness of his own name, he would admire this also. She is daughter to Madame Bianchi, & granddaughter to Bona Fidelia; niece to the late Catalani, & related in many ways to Lord Nelson – deceased.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 1 NO 1/ 1817
Endorsement: 29 Octbr 1817. Recd 1st Novm 1817
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 175–177. BACK

[1] Southey’s review of Lord Holland, Some Account of the Lives and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, and Guillen de Castro (1817), which appeared in Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 1–46. BACK

[2] ‘In respect of’. BACK

[3] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[4] History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[5] Southey here describes what became History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), I, pp. 3–61. Those opposed to the war with France were denounced at pp. 55–57. BACK

[6] Anne Gillman (1779–1860), with her husband James (1782–1839), had taken Coleridge into their house in Highgate in 1816; he would continue living there, under their supervision, until his death. BACK

[7] Coleridge had undertaken to edit a new Encyclopedia Metropolitana with Thomas Curtis (1787–1859), a Baptist minister and partner in the publishing firm Gale, Curtis and Fenner. The publishers, in return for making Coleridge an advance of £300, required him to live at Camberwell, where Curtis could supervise his work. BACK

[8] ‘With all his might’. BACK

[9] Southey’s four daughters and any future children he might have, as well as the family of Southey’s brother, Tom Southey. BACK

[10] The British State operated a national lottery from 1694 to 1826. The tickets were sold by brokers, who issued shares in tickets, such as the one sixteenth that Southey proposed to buy. BACK

[11] Books that Southey had bought on his continental tour in 1817. BACK

[12] Quarterly Review. Southey was probably expecting proofs of his review of Lord Holland’s Some Account of the Lives and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, and Guillen de Castro, but it was held over until the next issue. BACK

[13] Jeffrey’s essay on ‘Beauty’ appeared in the Supplement to the fourth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1816). BACK

[14] Southey did not review Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria (1817) in the Quarterly Review. BACK

[15] Coleridge’s recent publications, and his change of political opinion, had been attacked by Jeffrey and Hazlitt just as Southey’s had, hence Southey’s wish to retaliate on his behalf with another such publication as A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M. P., published by Murray at the end of April 1817. BACK

[16] Psalms 137: 5. BACK

[17] Cats belonging to Southey and Bedford. Both Pulcheria (c. 398–453; Empress 450–453) and Narses (c. 478–566/574), a leading general, were central figures in the early Byzantine Empire. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Netherhall (mentioned 1 time)