96. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 20-21 July 1794

96. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 20–21 July 1794 ⁠* 

Sunday. July 20. 1794. Bath.

Grosvenor I believe nearly three weeks have elapsed since your last letter at Oxford damped my breakfast with disappointment. to see you at all times would be a source of much pleasure, but I should have been particularly glad to have introduced you to Allen & Coleridge. they shared in my disappointment, but that part of human happiness is not alleviated by partition. Coleridge is now walking over Wales. you have seen a specimen of Allens poetry but never any of his friends. take these, they are the only ones I can show you & were written on the wainscott of the Inn at Ross, which was once the dwelling house of Kyrle. [1] 

Richer than Misers oer their countless hoards
Nobler than Kings, or king-polluted Lords.
Here dwelt the Man of Ross! o Traveller hear!
Departed Merit claims the glistening tear.
Friend to the friendless. to the sick man Health,
With generous joy he viewd his modest wealth,
He heard the Widows heaven-breathd prayer of praise,
He markd the shelterd orphans tearful gaze,
And, oer the dowried Maidens glowing cheek
Bade bridal Love suffuse its blushes meek.
If ’neath this roof thy wine-cheerd moments pass,
Fill to the good man’s name one grateful glass!
To higher zest shall Memory wake thy soul
And Virtue mingle in the sparkling bowl.
But if, like me, thro Life’s distressful scene
Lonely & sad thy pilgrimage hath been.
And if, thy breast with heart-sick anguish fraught,
Thou journeyest onward tempest-tost in thought,
Here cheat thy cares; in generous visions melt,
And dream of Goodness thou hast never felt. [2] 

Admire the verses Grosvenor, & pity that mind that wrote them from its genuine feelings. tis my intention soon to join him in Wales. then proceed to Edmund Seward seriously to settle with him the best mode of settling in America. yesterday I took my proposals for publishing Joan of Arc to the printers. [3]  should the publication be any ways successful it will carry me over & get me some few acres a spade & a plough. my brother Thomas will gladly go with us & perhaps two or three more of my most intimate friends. in this country I must either sacrifice happiness or integrity. but when we meet I will explain my motives most fully.

I shall not reside next Michaelmas at Oxford, because the time will be better employed in correcting Joan & overlooking the press if I get fifty copies subscribed for by that time. during that time I will see you in town if convenient. to say when is as yet impossible.

Debrett is very dilatory about our poems. [4]  in the mean time we have almost compleated another volume which tis our intention to publish here under the names of Bion & Moschus. [5]  I have ten sonnets in this of which take two.

The faded Flower [6] 

Ungrateful he who pluckt thee from thy stalk
Poor withered flowret on his careless way,
Inhald awhile thine odors on his walk
Then past along & left thee to decay!
Thou melancholy emblem! had I seen
Thy modest beauties dewed with evenings gem,
I had not rudely cropt thy parent stem.
But left thy blossom still to grace the green
And I had bent me oer thy opening flower
And markd thy leaves in many a hue arrayd,
And as mine eye had loved thy blooming hour —
So had it dropt the tear to see thee fade.
Ah! blind to Natures charms! whose selfish joy
Tasted thy virgin sweets but tasted to destroy.

To Reflection [7] 

Hence busy torturer! wherefore should mine eye
Revert again to many a sorrow past?
Hence busy torturer! to the happy fly
Those who have never seen the sun oercast
By one dark cloud: thy retrospective gleam <beam>
Serene & soft may on their bosom gleam
As the last radiance of the summer sky.
Bid them look back on pleasure ere they know
To mourn its absence: bid them contemplate
The quick vicissitudes of mortal fate
Ere unexpected bursts the cloud of woe.
Stream not one me thy torches baneful glow,
Like the sepulchral lamps funereal gloom
In darkness glimmering to disclose the tomb! [8] 

I much regret leaving your letters at Oxford. in the last but one were some passages on which I wish to reason. tis my opinion that Vice is not natural to Man, by Vice I understand the perpetration of such actions as are injurious to society. in fact it is an atrocious blasphemy to assert the Deity has made any one creature vicious as you thereby make him the author of evil, & either Malignism or Dualism must be establishd. mind is the child of observation & experience. we are certain that innate ideas cannot exist, of course the infant is capable of any impression. that some men have more vigorous passions to combat with than others I readily allow, but you will agree with me that the indulgence of the passions is only vicious as the organization of society renders it so. man cannot act without motives, give him the strongest motives for virtue & take away all motives for vice & Man would approach very near perfect. the many judge of man by what he is in his present degraded situation; this is very unfair, you might as well judge of a persons complexion when he is jaundiced. do you Grosvenor ponder well in your mind how far vice is generated by situation. I think we may one day meet in sentiment; even our difference is a proof how far situation operates. for had we been uniformly together the same coincidence which we feel on other subjects must have taken place in politics. when the storm bursts on England you may perhaps follow us to America. I will get thee a house like my own simple & convenient, & when thou hast once seen the aspheterizing system realized, thou wilt gladly fraternize with us. — do not my dear Grosvenor run away with the idea that I am mad in these schemes. surely you will not think Edmund Seward likely to be led away by fairy visions. I have many & powerful motives for quitting this country, nor will my mind ever be totally free from despondence whilst I remain in it. whether Lovell will accompany us or not is doubtful — the leaving him will be one more cord of Affection to break, but Resolution is like Samson & no cords could detain him. —

I do not entertain so high an opinion of CC as I did twelve months ago, he has modelled his mind to the Christ Church fashion, & allows no merit to any thing differing from it. CC has frequently told me he never knew a rich Republican, that they were all needy men who wishd a change merely to better themselves. in this is much illiberality, particularly when I mentioned three of my own friends — of whom one has sacrificed 1000 a year, Lovell 800 — & the third has uniformly refused many places under government which his friends offered to procure for him. when Collins says this he must either judge from his own heart or from the Republicans whom he knows. if he entertains such an opinion of Allen & me why does he not shun us like contagion? if he himself is above such mean motives, why should he not believe that we likewise may be superior to them? if he be not above them, let him not reduce other minds to a level with his own. — Collins has more coldness of heart than any man I ever met with. his wish in company is always to shine, & to attain this he will sacrifice every thing. we carry our hearts in our hands, our merits & faults are soon discovered; but these cold hearted Temporizers wrap up all their sentiments & all their actions & call it wisdom!

when Coleridges work is published you will see a Latin Poem of Allens which did not gain the praise. the subject Ludi Scenici. [9]  of the execution you will judge for my own part I will not scruple to pronounce it very excellent. Coleridge means to translate it. he won the Greek Ode at Cambridge & I have promisd to translate it [10]  for his work, so you will have some memorial of us all.

Grosvenor I shall inscribe Joan of Arc to you, unless you are afraid to have your name prefixed to a work that breathes some sentiments not perfectly in unison with court principles. correction will take up some time, for the poem will go into the world handsomely. twill be my legacy to this country & may perhaps preserve my memory in it. many of my friends will blame me for so bold a step, but as many encourage me — & I want to raise money enough to settle myself across the Atlantic. if I have leisure to write there my stock of imagery will be much enlarged. I should like a good frontispiece to Joan & am minded to apply to Duppa for one. if you call upon him make my civic remembrances, he has long asked me for some verses & I must soon write with some. — your brother neglect has quite tired me. I will write no more to him till I hear from him. tell him so. when next I come to town I must get your bust. it shall ornament my dwelling in Kentucky. I will ask Wynn for his likewise. twill be pleasant to recall the features of an absent friend when seperated from him by the ocean perhaps eternally.

my proposals will be printed this evening — I remain here till tomorrow morning for the sake of carrying some to Bristol & inclosing one. methinks my name will look well in print. I expect a host of petty critics will buz about my ears but must brush them off. you know what the poem was at Brixton; when well corrected I fear not its success.

remember me to George Strachey when you see him. is not his brother on board the Queen Charlotte? my brother will most probably be in that ship & I should wish them to be acquainted. you never saw Thomas Southey. he had a fortnights absence lately to get a wound in his heel cured originating from chilblains & encreasd by the scurvy. Tom left me last Tuesday, in great hopes of soon quitting a line of life so contrary to his inclination & frame of mind for peace & independance in America. 18 months spent at sea have improved his bodily strength & corrected many little failings without corrupting his mind. twas not without some apprehensions that I saw him after so long an absence.

direct to me at Bristol I shall remain there perhaps a fortnight & your letters will be forwarded should I be absent. my thankful remembrances to Mr & Mrs B. & whoever enquires for me. Debrett [11]  is so dilatory that Lovell thinks of going to town; if so you will see the Man of mighty mind. he thinks you a living miracle so republican in practise, & so aristocratic in principle

I have a linen coat making much like yours, tis destined for much service. Burnett ambulated to Bristol with me from Oxford. he is a worthy fellow whom I greatly esteem. we have a wild Welchman [12]  red hot from the mountains at Balliol who would please & amuse you much. he is perfectly ignorant of the world but with all the honest warm feelings of Nature, & good head & a good heart. Lightfoot is AB. old Ball. Coll. has lost its best inhabitants in old Nick & Seward. Allen too resides only six weeks longer in the University so it would be a melancholy place for me were I to visit it again for residence. my tutor will much wonder at seeing my name. but as Thomas Howe is half a democrat he will be pleased. what miracle could illuminate him I know not, but he surprized me much by declaiming against the war, praising America & asserting the right of every country to model its own form of government. this was followed by “Mr Southey you wont learn any thing by my lectures Sir, so if you have any studies of your own you had better pursue them”. you may suppose I thankfully accepted the offer. let me hear from you soon. you promisd me some verses.

sincerely yours

Robert Southey —

Monday July. 21

how are the wasps this year? my dogs eats flies voraciously & hunts wasps for the same purpose. if he catches one, he will follow poor Hyder! [13]  I saved him twice to day from swallowing them like oysters.


* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: JY/ 24/ 94
Endorsements: Recd July 24th 1794. Ansd. July 25th 1794/ & sent; Govi me querelis examinas tuis [The Latin can be roughly translated as ‘Govi (probably a nickname) you weigh me down with your complaints’.]
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 60–64 [in part; verses not reproduced]; Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 213–215 [in part, where it is dated 20 July 1794]. BACK

[1] John Kyrle (1637–1724; DNB), philanthropist and landscape designer, popularly known as the ‘Man of Ross’. BACK

[2] A revised version appeared as ‘Lines on the Man of Ross’ in Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Poems on Various Subjects (1796). BACK

[3] Southey intended to issue a subscription edition of Joan of Arc with the Bath publisher Richard Cruttwell (c. 1747–1799; DNB). This plan did not materialise, and the epic was eventually published by Joseph Cottle. BACK

[4] Probably a reference to the collection Southey and Robert Lovell were planning to publish under the pseudonyms ‘Orson’ and ‘Valentine’. John Debrett (d. 1822; DNB) was a London publisher and bookseller, founder of Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage. BACK

[5] Southey and Lovell’s Poems (1795), published by Richard Cruttwell. BACK

[6] A revised version appeared in Southey and Robert Lovell’s Poems (1795). BACK

[7] A revised version appeared in Southey and Robert Lovell’s Poems (1795). BACK

[8] Hence busy ... tomb: Verse written in double columns. BACK

[9] Stage plays. Robert Allen’s poem was possibly going to be included in Coleridge’s unrealised ‘Imitations from the Modern Latin Poets’, advertised in 1794. BACK

[10] Samuel Taylor Coleridge won the Browne medal for a sapphic ode on the slave-trade during his first year at Cambridge (1792). A ‘Literal Translation’ appeared in the notes to Joan of Arc (Bristol and London, 1796), pp. 63–64. BACK

[11] John Debrett (d. 1822; DNB), London publisher and bookseller, founder of Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage. BACK

[12] Unidentified. BACK

[13] A dog owned by the Bedford family. BACK

Places mentioned

Balliol (mentioned 2 times)