260. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 - 18 October [1797]

260. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 – 18 October [1797] ⁠* 

Sunday night Oct. 1.

I passed yesterday by a house which was once the uttermost boundary of my evening walks, when in early childhood I lived with my Aunt at Bath, it is now whitened & like a place where the towns people go to drink tea because it is rural. then it was a thatchd cottage, tenanted by an old man & his wife. I had a pack of sentimental cards given me, the picture of the cottage there was like this old mans house & I had strange associations of comfort & retirement with the little house <dwelling> in the orchard. But xx beyond this place all was unknown — a terra incognito — a kind of infinity, beyond <into> which I <had> never wandered — scarcely in imagination. After twenty years of restlessness & experience, the feelings of childhood have become the principles of maturity, & I would have giv again most willingly <continue> my walks & actions — aye even wil my wishes within as small a boundary. x action — even the thought of action — is irksome to me, quietness is all I wish, & whatever intrudes upon that is unwishd & unwelcome, I xx am often silent in conversation lest ought argumentative should break in upon the tranquillity of the moment.

When I was seven years old my first school master [1]  died. I was removed to a boarding school at Corston [2]  — 8 miles from home. the morning of my departure I went up into my Mothers bedroom & found her sitting at the foot of the bed — in tears. I have sometimes since wondered at the resolution with which I then suppressd my own feelings — leapd about the shop as if to drow overpower agitation of mind by exercise of body — & when some person asked me if I liked going to school, replied “I dont care where I go — so I can have my own way” — & then my heart seemd coming up out my mouth — & I gulpd with a great gulp I checkd the rising tumult.

Wednesday 18.

How have 18 days been passed since I began this letter? not at law — a plague upon Coke [3]  upon Lyttleton for not taking his place in the coach himself — since nobody else will do it for him.

yrs is just arrived. you tell me in the one before that William Nicol [4]  rises in your estimation — how is this? you gave me a pert disagreable character of him — & I am somewhat apprehensive that you gave made him your confidant because you found him a convenient one, & then resolved to like because he was your confidant. apropos — Cottle collected some trifling sum at Bristol for the family of poor Burns, [5]  & sent it to Nicol — now he has never acknowledged the receipt of it — which ought to be done. just ask him the question.

I like the terms you are on with your Mother — & understand them — but you give me no clue to find the terms on which you are with some body whose assent is of more importance.

Give my love to Carlisle & tell him I never received the letter he mentions relative to poor Mary Godwin! Lloyd will now remain here till we come to London. do you mean to dine at Grays Inn again? if so I shall be there on the Monday nearest the 18 of November.

Grosvenor Bedford I cannot make out from your letter whether or no you have found out the principal person in all these concerns, or whether you have only determined to look out for one. your first letter implies that you had, but now you say that all this “is not the result of your present particular situation”.

Tom is gone to sea & his Musæus is — with mine Grosvenor. he is on the Mars — with Ld Bridport. [6] 

I have made many & great alterations in Joan of Arc, & am now going to make erudite researches in Burneys History of Music. [7]  I should like now to spend a morning in your library.

so fare you well.

yrs R Southey.

Why have not I written to Horace?!


* Address: To/ G C Bedford Esqr/ Brixton Causeway/ Stockwell/ near/ London/ Single
Stamped: BATH
Postmarks: BOC/ 19/ 97; 10 o’Clock/ OC. 18/ F. NOON
Watermarks: Crown with G R underneath and 1796; Britannia
Endorsement: 1 Octor 1797
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] William Foot (d. 1781), Bristol Baptist minister, schoolmaster and author of A Plain Account of the Ordinance of Baptism (1756–1758). He ran a school at the top of St Michael’s Hill, Bristol. BACK

[2] The school at Corston was run by Thomas Flower (dates unknown). BACK

[3] Edward Coke (1552–1643; DNB), Commentarie upon Littleton (1628), the first part of his four part Institutes of the Laws of England (1628–1644). BACK

[4] William Nicol (d. 1855?), son of the printer and bookseller George Nicol (1740–1828; DNB) and, from 1800, his father’s business partner. The Nicols worked closely with William Bulmer (c. 1757–1830; DNB), who printed Grosvenor Bedford’s Musæus. The Loves of Hero and Leander (1797). BACK

[5] Robert Burns (1759–96; DNB) had died on 21 July 1796. BACK

[6] Alexander Hood, Viscount Bridport (1726–1814; DNB), naval officer and politician. Southey has confused Bridport with his cousin (and namesake) Alexander Hood (1758–1798; DNB), Captain of the Mars. The latter was killed in action between the Mars and the French ship L’Hercule on 21 April 1798. BACK

[7] Charles Burney (1726–1814; DNB), A General History of Music (1776–89). BACK