3144. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 June 1818

3144. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 June 1818⁠* 

My dear G.

Hyde & Nash are the only claimants upon my property in your hands, [1]  – the carpet is paid for. For the tea, I pray you take into your consideration that we are all this while being poisoned; – for tho I, xxx who always drunk hyson, have some little of Twinings left, the stock of souchong from that quarter is exhausted, & what we get here to supply it is plainly the precious composition which Dauncey described on the trial; as appears by the shape of the few leaves which have not been carefully chopt to elude this mode of detection. [2]  In my conscience I believe that the trading part of this nation are, for the most part, as great rogues at this time as the Chinese themselves, & this is not said lightly upon the mere evidence of the tea & coffee trials. A man who was employed in a druggists business, the greatest in Bristol {once} told me that not a single article in that business was unadulterated which was capable of adulteration. And I knew a person who was about to engage in a mustard mill or manufactory (or whatever it may be called) till he found, upon enquiring into the business, that it was carried on upon xx a system in which no man of integrity could be concerned. [3] 

I think you will get rid of the aureoles if you wash your eyes with an infusion of Ki-an pepper, [4]  just strong enough to make them smart well. It is made merely by pouring {a little} boiling water upon about as much pepper as you would put upon your plate with salmon, & no nicety is required in the proportion or process.

Senhouse will leave at the Dockstors for you the number of the S. [5]  which you borrowed, & a farther portion of xxxx the Life of Wesley. [6]  This work xxxx xxxxx advances & takes a wider range xxxxxx as it advances, & comprehends much interesting & diversified matter with xxxxxx {of} fact, more conducive to a knowledge of the human mind, than all the metaphysical treatises which ever have been written upon that subject.


I have just received yours of the 30th. I do not want the translation of Dobrizhoffer. [7]  And concerning {for} Oviedo we must wait the result of the enquiry concerning the other volumes. [8] If thexx For the three volumes I would gladly give ten guineas. The old Lady should send her catalogue to Lord Holland, & to Sir Charles Stuart (our Emb: at Paris) [9]  – the two persons who are most likely to purchase the whole collection. She however is very likely to over-rate its collective value.

This post (inter nos [10] ) has brought me the offer of being librarian to the Advocates Library at Edinburgh, with 400 £ a year, & the duty of making a Catalogue Raisonnée attached to it. [11]  I have no hesitation in refusing it, & remaining free in all my motions. Were Gifford from ill health to give up the management of the Review, [12]  an offer to undertake that office, might draw me near London, – to Hampstead, Highgate, or Richmond, perhaps, – because there are only xxxx other magnets which would draw me strongly in that direction, [13]  & my method & management would leave me a good long sea-side holyday every summer. But let Edinburgh keep its good things for hungrier men. I am far enough from my friends already, & better employed than in making catalogues, – tho xxxx xxxx {it} would be no uninteresting employment.

This return of your Uncle [14]  seems to show that the old system of spring physicking might have been useful to you. – I have my summer cold as usual, & had an upper lip yesterday big as Goliaths [15]  in consequence. Our weather is, & has been for the last 16 days, the finest possible.

I long to hear that the books are actually lodged with the Patres Nostri. Nash has directions concerning them, & he will know whether Mr Vardon can give them a passage to Newcastle. If not, they must come in that direction by some of the regular traders, as soon as the bookbinder has performed his part. [16] 

God bless you


June 1. 1818.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9 Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [illegible]
Endorsements: 1 June 1818; 1 June 1818
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey wished Bedford to pay from his stipend as Poet Laureate the bill of his London tailor, Hyde (d. 1820) and to reimburse Nash for the purchase of picture frames. Southey had already paid for a carpet he had asked Henry Herbert Southey to order. BACK

[2] Bedford was occasionally commissioned by Southey to buy tea from Twinings in The Strand. The Times of 18 May 1818 reported the trial of Edward Palmer (dates unknown), a grocer of Red Lion Street, Whitechapel, for making counterfeit and poisonous tea. The prosecuting counsel, Southey’s acquaintance Philip Dauncey (1759–1819), told the jury that ‘It would appear that a regular manufactory was established in Goldstone Street. The parties by whom the manufactory was conducted … engaged others to furnish them with leaves, which, after undergoing a certain process, were sold to and drank by the public as tea. The leaves, in order to be converted into an article resembling black tea, were first boiled, then baked upon an iron plate; and, when dry, rubbed with the hand, in order to produce that curl which the genuine tea had. This was the most wholesome part of the operation; for the colour, which was yet to be given to it, was produced by logwood. The green tea was manufactured in a manner more destructive to the constitution of those by whom it was drank. The leaves, being pressed and dried, were laid upon sheets of copper, where they received their colour from an article known by the name of Dutch pink. The article used in producing the appearance of the fine green bloom, observable on the China tea, was, however, decidedly a deadly poison! He alluded to verdigris, which was added to Dutch pink in order to complete the operation.’ Palmer was convicted and fined £840. BACK

[3] The subjects of both of these stories are unidentified. BACK

[4] Cayenne pepper. BACK

[5] Bedford had sent Southey ‘Mr M’Kerrell and Mr Brougham’, The Satirist; or, Monthly Meteor, 11 (September 1812), 208–227. Robert M’Kerrell (1761–1841), a textile merchant and manufacturer in Paisley, had on 28 May 1812, given evidence to the House of Commons committee enquiring into the Orders in Council system, which enforced a trade blockade on territories controlled by France. The Whig opposition were campaigning for its repeal, on the grounds that it harmed British manufacturing. Brougham denounced M’Kerrell (though not by name) in the House of Commons on 16 June 1812, claiming he had told the committee that textile workers were overpaid and ‘oatmeal and water were good enough for Englishmen.’ M’Kerrell denied he had said this and published an acrimonious exchange of letters between himself and Brougham in The Times of 20 July 1812. Southey had been collecting material that could be used against Brougham in his election campaign in Westmorland. BACK

[6] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[7] Writing to Grosvenor Charles Bedford on 23 May 1818 (Letter 3138), Southey had requested Bedford to examine some manuscripts that had been put up for sale as part of a large collection of Spanish texts. Bedford had reported that a manuscript on the Abipone tribe of South America was not an original work but a translation into Spanish of a book he already owned – an account of the Jesuit missions in Paraguay by Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus, Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784), no. 843 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] Southey had asked Bedford to see if one of the advertised works for sale was a complete edition of a multi-volume work – Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478–1557), Historia General y Natural de las Indias. The first part of this work was published in 1535, the rest not until 1851–1855. BACK

[9] Sir Charles Stuart, later 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779–1845; DNB), Envoy Extraordinary to Portugal 1810–1814 and 1825–1826; and Ambassador to France 1815–1824 and 1828–1831. BACK

[10] ‘Between us’. BACK

[11] The Advocates Library, founded in 1689, is the library of the Faculty of Advocates (the Scottish equivalent of barristers) in Edinburgh and was at this time a copyright library. Alexander Manners (dates unknown), the incumbent, had tendered his resignation as Librarian on 10 April 1818. His successor, David Irving (1778–1860; DNB), was not appointed until 1820. BACK

[12] The Quarterly Review. Gifford did not give up its editorship on health grounds until 1824. BACK

[13] John May lived at Richmond. Hampstead and Highgate were relatively healthy areas with good access to open country. BACK

[14] Unidentified. BACK

[15] A giant warrior in 1 Samuel 17. BACK

[16] A consignment of books Southey had bought in Brussels in 1817 had finally, after much anxiety concerning its whereabouts, been located. BACK