67. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 6-8 November 1793

67. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 6–8 November 1793 ⁠* 

Wedn. Nov. 6th. 93. C Green. Brist. one o clock mid-day.


Cut him off — cut him off — cut him off. Southey what?
Have you lost all your senses? no. only my BOTT.
He is gone — cut him off. level down my long nose —
Guillotine this forerunner of mortal mans foes
Not content on my carcase herafter to thrive
Who resolvd to fall to & devour me alive.
Root & branch he is gone. the last trace daily goes
And I dare once again to the world show my nose.
Cut him off — cut him off — that all good people may know
My mountain of nose is no more a Volcano
And so my dear Grosvenor sublimely I pen thus


My NOSE and the BOTT


A pretty title, is it not?


By critics it has long been held a maxim
(Nor here of folly, Bedford, will I tax em
That if a man will write an epic Poem
Twould be most rational
To have the subject national,
So that all may admire
The heroes fierce fire
When they for their countryman know him.

For as the Hottentot likes best
Tripes trullibubs & guts instead of beads
To hang & trickle down his oily breast.
So every one that reads
Prefers a Hero of his native land
And would persuade himself to understand
He was his great-grandfathers coz at least.

To this rejoin in short I
Omne solum patria forti. [2] 
On any dunghill a good cock will crow.
And I would have it known
That country is my own
Whereever Fate shall make me go.

The worlds my country. as the sage bespoke us.
Numquam non potest esse virtuti locus [3] 
Every good man no matter of what nation
French English Turk or Jew is my relation
And Joan of Arc, [4]  my countrywoman I stile her
Proud as of Hampden [5]  Milton & Wat Tyler. [6] 

Now you my friend mistaking
The meaning of all this exordium fine
I dare swear a simili are making
Comparing this to this famd Bott of mine.
Excrescence odified excrescently
But I will prove this ode
Is proper right & good

Tis but to show my learning I abuse
Each critic mouldering on the cobwebbd shelf
And then to prove how properly my Muse
Shall celebrate my celebrated self.

Each pig dear Grosvenor likes his own stie best
And Lightfoot loves his Pot.
And so my friend have I addrest
This ode delectable to my dead Bott.

Perhaps you think my friend
This subject is too low
To let the lyric Muse descend?
No. No.
No no I say & I will make appear no
My nose o Grosvenor typifies a hero.

As how, you say & — ask for information
My nose (oh Nose of grace!)
Is the most prominent feature of my face.
And a hero is the nose of the nation
That often pours abroad his filthy flood
And sometimes (very seldom) pours his blood.

As my nose turnd Volcano
Collects the filth & venom of my head
And grows Bardolphian [7]  red
So all that chuse it may know
Volcano-like a Hero still is brewin
Some fatal storm of Fury Fire & Ruin

Oh may each bloody hero be forgot
Be pluckd up root & branch & perish like my Bott.

O Bott of Botts most famous hadst thou grown
Upon the honourd Nose
Of him who once will wear Britannias crown
(My good friend Grosvenor knows
I mean the Prince of Wales [8]  & who knows not)
Hadst thou been there o Bott of celebration
What spotted noses had oerspread the nation!
The reasonable Muse with truth supposes
Who poulticed up their necks had patchd their noses.

Ye apes of sore neckd prince.

Hadst thou upreard thy yellow crowned head
On Charley Collins’ nasal ornament
What ills had happened not!
He surely would have sent
The scout to Mr Skins [10]  & humbly said
“Sir thus my master says
“He has a sad eruption on his nose
“And your permission prays
“To keep his room till the eruption goes.

How often had the invalid arose
Wrapt up in sleeping studying gown of grease
In hopes to find some ease
And lookd in fashiond mirror at his nose.
Then had he shruggd his shoulders higher still
And for the Doctor sent & been extremely ill.

But oh thou Bott thou wouldst indeed have came well
Upon the snout of him yclept Horse Cambel
For Cambel would have gone to Dr Pegge
And made a pretty bow & smild & shown
The excrescence which upon his nose had grown
And then proceeded his advice to beg

The Doctor then
Gravely had told his patient twas his <a> wen
And with his lance have cut some half yard under
So nose or bott had made one preparation
Which all the anatomists in every nation
In future days might see & stare & wonder

This hast thou lost o Bott by coming thus
To pimple one who did not care a curse
For Botts or beauty or complection fair
But eat & drank & slept exceeding well
Regardless if the pimple rose or fell
And scarcely conscious it was even there [11] 


Thurs. Nov. 7. 9 o clock at night a most unusual date for me Grosvenor. but my mind is full of indignation & I generally keep a sheet of paper in readiness for your benefit. I had dedicated this evening in idea to a serious versification to conclude this letter when an old woman arrived (or rather old Lady for it is wrong to profane the other name) arrived & spoilt my harmony of sentiment & your letter. scandal religion & loyalty made up the conversation of the evening. the former most ungrounded & illiberal. for loyalty — nothing could equal the crime of keeping the hat on whilst God save the King on <was sung> & to call a man a Democrat was more than synonimous to villain. I had been introduced in the morning at a house where I had long wishd an acquaintance. Mr H [12]  the owner was pronounced a bad man of no principles & no religion. is he a good husband? the best of husbands. is he a good father? it is impossible to be a better. such were the answers I received & yet this man is bad & unprincipled. there <are> a set of females in this world who pique themselves upon going regularly to church & exult in the possession of a certain virtue which has not fallen because it never was attempted. whose whole conversation consists of the politics of a card table & that worst species of licentiousness indiscriminate scandal. these are the people who would exclaim so vehemently against Rousseau — who would bring faggots to an auto da fe & act with all the ferocity of Parisian Poissardes, in a worse cause if possible. with such a one have I wasted three hours — & now sick of the illiberality of virtue I am almost ready to turn champion for vice. society is in a very bad state — the inequalities between the sexes is dreadful. man may plunge in guilt of the most atrocious nature & not only escape uncensurd but in some degree derive estimation from his crimes — but woman, framd perhaps by nature of more delicate materials & exposd to more temptations if once she gives way to a very pardonable weakness is excluded from the pale of society as if infected with some disorder fatal to virtue. you remember a passage in Gillies [13]  upon this subject — very different indeed was the liberal philosophy of Greece from the illuminated Xtianity of Europe. for myself I think that infamy ought to be attached rather to our sex — whilst Man boasts of superior faculties can he claim priviliges for indulging appetites which it is the province of Reason to subdue? My dear friend Man is the most inconsistent of animals — he despises woman when fallen & yet employs every artifice to ruin her. many a villain far more infamous than the Conventionists is respected & courted in this kingdom — whilst there are women worn out with famine & disease the hireling victims of brutal appetites who might have communicated happiness to that small circle in which the truest happiness is to be found. my dear Grosvenor I often reflect that there are women in the streets of London who might have made you & I happy — & I never see the leer of vice upon a beautiful face without feeling the heart ache pitying human nature & damning society.

you will wonder at this kind of rhapsody from me perhaps, but you will perhaps <certainly> agree with me in wishing society better. why is the door to Repentance every avenue to Repentance shut up but that of Infamy? were men what they ought to be — Rousseau would be canonized for a greater saint than any in the calendar. read his Julia & tell me whence may we learn the most instructive lesson from the mistress of St Preux [14]  or the temptation of St Anthony. [15]  my comparison of the Man of Nature with Richardson [16]  would have been branded with the epithets of immoral atheistical & licentious. Clodius accuset moechos! [17]  Xtianity is less understood & less practised in this country than in the desarts of Arabia! let him who is innocent cast the first stone [18]  was the judgement of the most moral of philosophers, to use no superior title.

we will have a paper & so reform the world — till like a bad patient it throws the prescription behind the fire.

good night.

Friday. N. 8.

I have written half an ode this morning. the death of Joshua. [19]  no bad companion to the Death of Odin. [20]  if there were not less faith than truth in the comparison. In fact the two characters are very similar — Odin passed himself for a God & Joshua, tho he had miracles at command was more modest. “down fell Jericho — I may catch some sparks perhaps from that flames of sublimity which blazes in your pindaric upon the Sow & the Κλυςωρ, [21]  but as Cicero [22]  says who lights a stranger lanthern from his own, gives him light without diminishing his own. you shall have Joshua in my next but you must deserve it by a prior communication. our last letters past each other but you have received three & only sent two. when some of our heirs shall see my letters to you they will think I had no time for any other employment, & most probably burn them without reading & keep the more valuable case for their own letters on business or house keeping accounts. perhaps my large desk may be turned into a receptacle for quack medicines conserves &c & the good housewife may tear up my papers to keep the meat from roasting — as far as in me lies, I will prevent this — you shall have copies of them in my life & all at my death. this concern is trifling & I am ashamed of it. Nam si (quod nostræ rationes crede vetant) toti moriuntur homines, nulla est omnino gloria, cum is, cujus ea esse dicitur, non exstet omnino. sin vero sibi mens bene conscia terreno carcere resoluta, cælum libera petit, nonne terrenum omne negotium spernet que cælo fruens terrenis se gaudet exemptam? [23]  yet Boethius inserted this very sentiment in a work which he intended for immortality. would not this subject make a good paper — immortality desired for its own sake is but a splendid failing but to seek it by benefitting others is not only innocent but laudable. our old minstrels had this merit. & tho the Allegory may accuse the classical judgement of Spenser it does honour to his heart.

I have plenty of employment. Jepthahs vow [24]  — Zaleucus the Locrian lawgiver [25]  & the death of Hypatia [26]  strike me as good dramatic subjects — the first & last with a chorus. then comes the Slaves a fine wild subject. transcribing Joan. reading & rat catching — odes & epistles — Madoc [27]  (which by the by I could wish you to undertake & you shall have plenty of materials) Sir Persicles [28]  — cleaning leather breeches — my theatre — & your letters no inconsiderable part of my amusement

yrs most sincerely


my compliments to Mr & Mrs Deacon &c. tell me how Hyder died “Each dog must have his day”. [29] 

I have run foul of another wasps nest — but escaped unhurt. poor Shad is very ill. so if all goes wrong with you tis not much better here. [30] 

you see I had so filld the sheet that it could not be folded up — so I must een put it in a cover — it will make no difference.

you have neglected to send my comb comb brush boots greatcoat & the great paper for your own letters — what else is left behind I have not discoverd. do my good friend write an invocation to Memory & send me. I am doomd to be pesterd by wasps — the other day I was posting to my case to sit half an hour in the sun & eat blackberries — I had got within five yards & found a thousand devils with stings in their tails flying about me — like a prudent general when it was impossible to advance I retreated — now were not this so far off & were poor Shad well we would sally forth & exterminate the invaders — you will be puzzled to read all this properly as much as I am to fill up these few lines —

I wrote to CC yesterday & again inserted that ever memorable line — altering it however to Pretty Pipe & Pretty Grange — an alteration not for the better — but rhyme more able rhyme!

make my respects to all the good family. Hope the Doctor is well —  [31] 


* Address: James Deacon Esqr./ Long Room/ Custom House/ London
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: [partial] ON/ 4/ 9
Watermark: Figure of Britannia; G R in a circle
Endorsement: 6 Nov 1793
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 6p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Horace (65–8 BC), Odes, Book 3, no. 30, line 1. The Latin translates as ‘a memorial more lasting than bronze’. BACK

[2] A paraphrase of Ovid (43 BC–AD 17), Fasti, line 493, ‘Omne solum forti patria est’, ‘Every land is a homeland for the brave’. A favourite quotation, it formed the epigraph to Southey’s Madoc, first published in 1805. BACK

[3] Seneca (c. 55 BC–AD 40), Medea, line 161. The Latin translates as ‘There is always room for courage’. BACK

[4] Joan of Arc (1412–1431), the French heroine of Southey’s epic. BACK

[5] John Hampden (1594–1643; DNB), parliamentarian and opponent of Charles I (1600–1649; reigned 1625–1649; DNB). BACK

[6] Wat Tyler (d. 1381; DNB), leader of the Peasant’s Revolt. Southey liked to joke that he was a descendant of Tyler’s. BACK

[7] In Henry IV, Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor, Bardolph was famed for his red nose. BACK

[8] The future George IV (1762–1830; reigned 1820–1830; DNB). BACK

[9] Hamlet, Act 3, scene 2, line 256. BACK

[10] Unidentified. BACK

[11] By critics … there: Verse written in double columns. BACK

[12] His identity is unknown. BACK

[13] John Gillies (1712–1796; DNB), The History of Ancient Greece, 2 vols (London, 1796), I, p. 56. BACK

[14] The eponymous heroine of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s (1712–1778) Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse (1761), had a sexual relationship with her tutor Saint-Preux but led a virtuous life after her marriage to Baron Wolmar. BACK

[15] St Anthony of Egypt (251–356), founder of monasticism, who conquered all fleshly temptations of the devil. BACK

[16] Samuel Richardson (c. 1689–1761; DNB). BACK

[17] Juvenal (fl. AD late C1 and early C2), Satire, 2, line 27. The Latin translates as ‘Clodius prosecuted adulterers’. BACK

[18] An adaptation of John 5: 10. BACK

[19] Published in Southey and Robert Lovell’s Poems (1795). Joshua was the leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses. BACK

[20] Published in Southey and Robert Lovell’s Poems (1795), an early version is included in Southey’s letter to Thomas Phillipps Lamb, [c. 18 July 1792]; see Letter 18. Odin was chief of the Norse gods. The idea that Odin might have been an actual historical figure was explored in Thomas Percy’s (1729–1811; DNB) translation of Paul-Henri Mallet (1730–1807), Northern Antiquities: or, A Description of the Manners, Customs, Religion and Laws of the Ancient Danes, and Other Northern Nations, 2 vols (London, 1770), I, pp. 58–73. BACK

[21] The Greek can be translated as ‘clyster’. For Jericho see Hebrews 11: 30. BACK

[22] A paraphrase of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC), On Moral Obligations. BACK

[23] Boethius (c. 475–525), Consolation of Philosophy, Book 2, section 7. The passage is translated in Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. Victor Watts (1969; rev. edn. 1999), p. 43, as ‘If the whole of man dies, body and soul - a belief which our reason forbids us - fame is nothing at all, since the man who is said to have won it doesn't exist. But if the mind stays conscious when it is freed from the earthly prison and seeks out heaven in freedom, surely it will despise every earthly affair. In the experience of heaven it will rejoice in its delivery from earthly things.' BACK

[24] In Judges 11, the victorious Jepthah offered to sacrifice to God the first thing he saw on his return home. This turned out to be his daughter. BACK

[25] Zaleucus (fl. c. 550 BC), disciple of Pythagoras and lawgiver of the Locrian Greeks in Italy. Renowned for his severity and fairness, he decreed that anyone guilty of adultery should be blinded. When his son was convicted of adultery, Zaleucus had one of his son’s and one of his own eyes put out. BACK

[26] Hypatia (c. AD 370–415), neo-platonic philosopher. She was murdered by a Christian mob in Alexandria. BACK

[27] The first surviving mention of Southey’s plan to write about the legendary twelfth-century Welsh prince, who was believed to have discovered America. BACK

[28] This might refer to a planned work by Southey which has not survived. It would probably have derived from Emanuel Forde (fl. 1585–1599; DNB), The Most Famous History of Montelion, Knight of the Oracle, Son to the true Mirrour of Princes, the Most Renowned Persicles, King of Assyria (1633). BACK

[29] my compliments ... day: Postscript written upside down. Southey quotes Jonathan Swift (1667–1745); DNB), ‘Upon the Horrid Plot Discovered by Harlequin, the Bishop of Rochester’s French Dog’ (1722–1723), line 30. BACK

[30] I have run ... better here: Postscript inserted at side of space Southey originally intended for the address. BACK

[31] Written in space originally intended for the address. BACK

Places mentioned

College Green, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)