184. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 November [1796]

184. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 November [1796] ⁠* 

Tuesday. November 1st.

When do I come to London? a plain question. I cannot tell — is as plain an answer. my books wil be out before Xmas. & I shall then have no further business in Bristol. yet Bedford this is not saying when I shall leave it — the best answer is — as soon as I can — & the sooner the better. I want to be there. I want to feel myself settled — & God knows when that will be. for the settlement of a lodging is but a comfortless one. to compleat comfort a house to oneself is necessary for I do not like living in the same den with the beast.

however I expect to be as comfortable as it is possible to be in that cursed city — “that huge & hateful sepulchre of Men” [1]  — I detest cities — & had rather live in the fens of Lincolnshire or on Salisbury plain than in the best situation London could furnish. the neighbourhood of you & Wynn can alone render it tolerable. by the Lord Bedford I fear the air will wither me up like one of the miserable myrtles at a <town> parlour window the noise the smoke the filth the Beast — oh for the house in the woods & the great dog!

I already feel intimate with Carlisle. but I am a very snail in company Grosvenor & pop into my shell whenever I am approachd or roll myself up like a hedge hog in my rough outside.

it is strange but I never approached London without feeling my heart sink within me. an unconquerable heaviness oppresses me in its atmosphere — & all its associated ideas — are painful. with a little house in the country & a bare independance how much more useful should I be — & how much more happy! it is not talking nonsense when I say that the London air is as bad for the mind as for the body. for the mind is a cameleon that receives its colours from surrounding xxx objects. in the country every thing is good. every thing in Nature is beautiful — the benevolence of Deity is every where presented to the eye, & the heart participates in the tranquillity of the scene. in the town my soul is continually <disgusted> by the vices & follies & consequent miseries of mankind.

my future studies too — now I never read a book without learning something — & never write a line of poetry without cultivating some feeling of benevolence & honesty. but the law — a damned jargon — a quibbling collection of voluminous nonsense — but this I must wade thro — aye & I will wade thro — & when I shall have got enough to live in the country you & I will make my first Xmas fire of all my law books. oh Grosvenor what a blessed bonfire! the Devil uses the Statutes at large for fuel when he gives an Attorney his house-warming.

Your boy is a miracle & his sister — what can be done for her? — Zounds Grosvenor is it not a pity that the boy cannot exx marry her? for I am woefully afraid any cross breed will be a degenerate one! What is become of your book? [2]  are your printers as dilatory as mine? I shall have some good Poems [3]  to send you shortly. your two Birth day Odes are printed — your name looks well in capitals & I have pleased myself by the motto prefixd to them. it is from Akenside. [4]  shall I leave you to guess it? I hate guessing myself —

Oh my faithful Friend
Oh early chosen! ever found the same
And trusted & belovd — once more the verse
Long destind, always obvious to thine ear
Attend indulgent.

my Triumph of Woman is manufacturd into a tolerable poem. my Hymn to the Penates will be the best of my minor pieces. the B. B. Eclogues may possibly become popular.

Read St Pierre [5]  Grosvenor: & if ever you turn Pagan, you will certainly worship him for a Demigod. by the by there are some parts of that said Paganism that may be very delightfully engrafted on the visionarys creed. you & I agree very well respecting the forms of Religion. however even in its worst state it is not a Caput Mortuum. [6]  even the bad would be worse without it.

Farewell Grosvenor. when in London I must see you every day & therefore — my home must be on the way to Brixton: if possible within the compass of an evenings walk to tea.

I want to get a Tragedy out. — to furnish a house with its profits, is this a practicable scheme allowing the merit of the Drama??? or would a good novel succeed better?

heigh ho! Ways & Means! my respects to “all your good family.” particularly remember me to Harry. if you could spare one week — you might run down to Bristol — but this I must not hope.

Yrs sincerely



* Address: G C Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: ANO/ 1/ 96
Watermark: [Obscured by MS binding]
Endorsement: 1. Novr 1796
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 295–297 [in part; where it is dated 21 November 1796]. BACK

[1] Quotation unidentified. BACK

[2] Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s translation of Musæus (fl. c. early 6th century), The Loves of Hero and Leander, was published in 1797. BACK

[3] The poems listed here were all published in Southey’s Poems (1797). BACK

[4] Mark Akenside (1721–1770; DNB), ‘The Pleasures of the Imagination’, in Poems (London, 1772), pp. 130–131. BACK

[5] Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737–1814), Etudes de la Nature (1784). BACK

[6] The Latin translates as ‘death’s head’. BACK

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