11. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 31 May 1792]

11. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 31 May 1792] ⁠* 

Dear Bedford

At last I can sit down & write the confession of my sins — I have left undone those things which I ought to have done. but a long journey to Brighton two days hard drinking there & (if I do not mind a lie) two days repentance after one day returning no post the next may plead my excuse & acquire absolution or remission of my sins. I have observed every man I saw with the eye of a periodical writer & noted him in my pocket book. I have likewise wrote a paper upon wigs but alas the only chance my paper upon wigs has of ever seeing the public is in the fag end of the Flagellant when we reprint it. Bedford when I left you last I thought that we might print all the letters we received at the end & so make a pretty sized volume.

you understand music. as I am ignorant of the tune I beg you will practise Lillabullero [1]  to teach me. you see I have been reading Tristram Shandy & I want that whistle as bad as ever Toby did. [2]  Watsons Chemical Essay [3]  are my present study & I hope to practice a little chemistry at Oxford when I get there.

have you settled the accounts with Jeffery [4]  & Egerton?

Look ye I am lazy. I cannot write a decent letter so take this to fill up.

The adieu to Birch

in imitation of

Della Crusca. [5] 

Go purple twig I scorn thy power
Thornful & sharp without a flower
The quivering pang the thrilling smart
Wake not the crimson anguish of my heart
No more upon thy trembling side
Sits Hope with jaundiced Fear allied
The sable majesty of unborn hair
Scorns not terrific now my prayer.
Now may each wandering saffron gale
“The essence of the morn exhale
And pour the Empurpling slumbers on my breast
And fan my Latin & my Greek to rest —
Yes reckless I may sleep of thee
“So fare thee well, for I am free.


Remember I think Della Crusca frequently affected. but in spite of the cry of criticism I think him often beautiful. Watts [6]  I have already imitated. & almost finishd Spenser. Shenstone [7]  I attempt next.

Yes now I may view the white sheep
In search of their provender stray
Up the side of the steep hillock creep
Or wind by the fountains their way —
I may view the groves mountains & dale
And in distance declining the church
I may wander all day in the vales
For I am not afraid of the birch &c &c

So gruffly he sent me away
I thought he had bid me come back

all this is the very first sketch which twenty minutes will fill up. you see in spite of laziness here is a to-ler-ra-bly long letter but breakfast is ready the tea making Tom Lamb tying up his boots & his mother pouring out the tea — so quicks the word — yours.

R Southey.


* Address: G C Bedford Esqr/ Old Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: MA/ 31/ 92
Watermark: Crown with G R beneath and figure of Britannia
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 6–8 [where it is dated 30 May 1792]. BACK

[1] A satirical ballad set to a march, included in Thomas Percy (1729–1811; DNB), Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 2nd edn, 3 vols (London, 1767), II, pp. 374–376. BACK

[2] In Laurence Sterne (1713–1768; DNB), The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759–1767), Uncle Toby avoided painful subjects by whistling tunes. BACK

[3] Richard Watson (1737–1816; DNB), Chemical Essays (1781–1787). Watson was later Bishop of Llandaff. BACK

[4] Edward Jeffrey (dates unknown), a bookseller and printer with a shop in Pall Mall, London. He printed issues 6–9 of The Flagellant (April 1792). BACK

[5] The pseudonym of Robert Merry (1755–1798; DNB). The verse that follows is an imitation of his ‘The Adieu and Recal to Love’ (1787). BACK

[6] Isaac Watts (1674–1748; DNB), hymn-writer. BACK

[7] William Shenstone (1714–1763; DNB). The verses that follow are an imitation of his ‘Pastoral Ballad, in Four Parts. Written in 1743’. BACK