2160. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 20 October 1812

2160. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 20 October 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Oct 20. 1812

My dear Grosvenor

Inclosed you have a draft for 50£, at three months date, – the discount upon which I believe will amount to 12/6, & peradventure there may be some farther drawback for the distance between London & Edinburgh. In announcing this draft to Ballantyne last night, I desired him to inform me in what manner my next might be so drawn as to render it payable in London, telling him at the same time that I should draw again in ten days. [1]  He has never yet replied to my letter, farther than by a note from London, promising that he would reply to it on his return, – ten days ago. – When you can conveniently get this draft cashed send me the remainder of it, which will be very acceptable.

I hope you were at Drury Lane when Dr Busby exhibited. [2]  Many years ago [3]  George Dyer brought the said Busby to present him to me. a little wretch, – all but blinded with small-pox. His face had always xxxx water more than its fair share of perspiration, – & less than its share of cold water clean water, & his whole appearance was of that description, that you did not like to come near him, lest you should catch a bug or aught equally loathsome of the crawling kind. The scene at the theatre is amused me highly, as a case of frantic vanity it exceeds any I ever witnessed. And this reminds me of Coyte, [4]  whose first exhibition excited in me nothing but mirth, & his second nothing but painful pity. In cutting up the newspapers for 1811, (– the tremendous business of which I have now on hand, but which is far more wearying for Edith than for me) I found A Cockneys Adventures during the a Ramble into the Country, [5]  advertised – by Joseph William Coyte. an eighteen-penny affair, – about the pitch of this poor fellows flight in authorship. Is this Joseph William, the ipsissimus? [6] 

You will get the Omniana [7]  next week if it be not longer than I expect in the hand of the stitchers & boarders. The new edition of Kehama [8]  will also soon be ready. – Scott has had 3000 £ for his new poem [9]  – before it is written. If my Roderick [10]  should bring me 300 £ in two years I shall do wonder at its success. I am getting on with it, & if it continues to proceed at its present rate, I shall be thinking when summer approaches of publication & proof sheets. Inter nos, [11]  if ever a poem of mine should be worth 500 £ in the market, I should give up the Register, [12]  – inasmuch as, if I x afforded time for it, it would be easily written in twelvemonths, & ample intervals left for my own <greater> historical works.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 22 OC 22/ 1812
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s letter to Ballantyne does not seem to have survived. BACK

[2] The composer and journalist Thomas Busby (1754–1838; DNB), who in 1801 had obtained his Cambridge doctorate in music for a thanksgiving ode on British naval victories. Busby was a renowned self-promoter. In 1812 he submitted an entry for the competition for an address to be spoken on the opening night of the rebuilt Drury Lane theatre on 10 October. It – along with about 100 other entries – was rejected and a prologue by Byron commissioned instead. Accusations of favoritism ensued. Byron’s prologue was spoken on the opening night, but on the nights of 14 and 15 October Busby’s son and then Busby himself caused a furore by attempting to address the Drury Lane audience on the subject of the claims of the authors of the rejected verses. The high point of the proceedings was on 15 October when Busby promised ‘such a monologue as they had seldom heard’, which his son then proceeded to recite in an inaudible voice. Busby published his address in the Morning Chronicle, 16 October. Southey was not alone in finding him a figure of ridicule, Busby was the target of Byron’s parody ‘Parenthetical Address, by Dr Plagiary, to be recited in an inaudible voice by his Son’, Morning Chronicle (23 October 1812) and of the satirical print ‘Management-or-Butts & Hogsheads’ (1812). BACK

[3] 1802; see Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 4 August 1802, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part 2, Letter 703. BACK

[4] Joseph William Coyte (fl. 1780s-1810s). Southey later describe him as: ‘a poor engraver by name Coyte, very xxxxx <simple> very industrious, very poor & completely crazed with vanity because he could compose off-hand upon any subject such rhymes as the Bellmans used to be, Bedford’s father used to relieve him sometimes: I saw him on one of his visits to Brixton, when he was between 40 & 50 years of age: & his countenance & manner would <might> have supplied Wilkes with a subject. Mr Bedford (-there never lived a kinder-hearted man) loved merriment, & played him off, – in which Grosvenor & Horace joined & I was not backward. We gave him subjects upon which he presently wrote three or four[?] miserable couplets; x no creature was ever more elated with glory <triumph> than he was at the hyperbolic commendations which he received, & this mingled with the genuine humility which the sense of his condition occasioned, produced a truly comic mixture in his feelings & gesticulations. What with pleasure inspiration & exertion <& warm weather, for it was in the dog days> he perspired, xxxx <as profusely, tho I dare say not as frequently as> an Elephant in love; & literally overflowed at eyes & mouth, frothing & weeping with delight . <in xxx a salivation of happiness> I think this poor fellow published a Cockneys Rambles in the Country, some 12 or 14 years ago, for such a book I saw advertised by Joseph William Coyte, & I sent for it at the time, – but it was too obscure to be found’ (Southey to John May, 27 May 1824). BACK

[5] A Cockney’s Adventures During a Ramble in the Country (1811). BACK

[6] The superlative of ‘self’: his ‘self-est’, a dig at Coyte’s vanity. BACK

[7] Ominiana, or Horae Otiosores (1812). BACK

[8] The third edition of the Curse of Kehama, published in 1812. BACK

[9] Rokeby (1813). BACK

[10] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). It was the most financially successful of all Southey’s long poems. BACK

[11] ‘Between ourselves’. BACK

[12] Edinburgh Annual Register. BACK

People mentioned

Dyer, George (1755–1841) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 1 time)
Ballantyne, John (1774–1821) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)