2527. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 24 December 1814

2527. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 24 December 1814 ⁠* 

24. Dec. 1814.

My dear Grosvenor

Six months ago you asked me a question respecting my Income Tax. [1]  I have chewed the cud upon that question ever since. The pr When a man once gets into his own Court of Conscience he is sure to be cast there. The process in my mind has been – I wish I had paid it. I wish I could pay it. I ought to pay it. I must pay it. I will pay it. You have it here in brief, but the process was long & not very easy. Especially with the staring question How the Devil is it to be paid?

My income was fairly given in originally, – for my authorship concerns for many years left me more & more a debtor to Longman, – to whom I am debtor at this moment between 2 & 300 £. I was living upon credit till the Register began, [2]  & am living upon credit now. For the Register most certainly the tax was clearly due, – but to the best of my recollection I have never been received a schedule since it began. For after having returned first my annuity [3]  & then my pension, this return seems to have been thought permanent as well as satisfactory, & no papers are ever sent to me.

Deducting my losses in the Register I hold myself accountable for the tax upon 1200 £. 1300 £ xx <more> will more than cover all my other x emoluments. I owe Government therefore 250 £. – There is but one means of paying this. I must engage again in the heavy task of a Register which Murray offers; [4]  & set apart 100 £ out of each volume for this purpose. You must find means <the way> of paying it for me, & no person but you must know the transaction, if it can be conducted with this secrecy. Three instalments will pay it, & that in the course of two years & a half. – there is a difficulty also in beginning to pay regularly: & I must avail myself of the commencement of this new concern to do it, if I can tell how. As for the removal of the tax [5]  it is manifestly a thing not to be looked for, – not possible in the state of our finances; & I hardly think it can even be lessened. Altered it most certainly ought to be, for it is cruelly disproportionate.

Tho you hear of the matter now for the first time, it has been long & often in my mind, since your question, & I am well satisfied with having come to this determination. I have written to Murray, without saying a word about terms; – in my letter to him I rather advise that the work should take a new title & new begin from the peace; [6]  – but in spite of the additional labour I my secret wishes are that he may chuse to continue the former work; – for were I to carry on the series from an for any number of years, it would be a body of contemporary history such as no person has ever yet produced. Perhaps too, & this has at the moment occurred to me, a continuance of the work might make my luckless share in it turn out a good venture after all. [7]  If Murray is in earnest, as doubtless he is, no time ought to be lost. It will take some time to get down the necessary books, – but when they are once here I will be in the press within three weeks, & then run for it: – for run in the sho harness I shall till I founder upon the road. However I am in high condition, never more able & never more willing.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 27 DE 27/ 1814
Endorsement: 24. Decr. 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] In 1814 Southey had become increasingly anxious about his tax status and had consulted Bedford, who worked in the Exchequer; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 April 1814, Letter 2406. Bedford’s response had clearly not allayed his concerns. BACK

[2] Southey had worked for Ballantyne’s Edinburgh Annual Register from 1810–1813. He was paid £400 p.a. for his labours. BACK

[3] The annuity of £160 which Southey had received from Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, until this was exchanged for a government pension in 1807. BACK

[4] See Southey to John Murray, 12 December 1814 (Letter 2515), for Murray’s suggestion that he might take over the Edinburgh Annual Register and invite Southey to write for the publication again. Nothing came of this plan. BACK

[5] The income tax was not abolished until 1816. BACK

[6] See Southey to John Murray, 23 December 1814 (Letter 2526), which suggested the Edinburgh Annual Register might be re-named the Annual History, and begin from the Treaty of Paris, 30 May 1814. BACK

[7] Southey had been persuaded by the John and James Ballantyne to invest £209 in return for a share of the profits of the Edinburgh Annual Register. This had not proved a wise investment. BACK

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