3516. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 July 1820

3516. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 July 1820⁠* 

My dear G.

It is very seldom that a whole month elapses without some interchange of letters between you & me. And for my part, on the present instance, I cannot plead any unusual press of business, or any remarkable humour of industry. But then I can plead a great deal of enjoyment. I have been staying in the house all day, a great happiness after the hard service upon which my ten-trotters were continually kept in London. I have been reading, – a great luxury for one who during eleven weeks had not half an hour for looking thro a book. I have been playing with Cuthbert, giving him the Cries of London to the life, as the accompaniment of a series of prints thereof, [1]  & enacting Lion Tyger, Bull, Bear, Horse, Ass, Elephant, Rhinoceros, the Laughing Hyena, Owl, Cuckoo, Peacock, Turkey, Rook, Raven, Magpye, Cock, Duck & Goose, gre &c &c, greatly to his delight, & somewhat to his edification, for never was there a more apt or more willing pupil. Whenever he sets comes near the study door, he sets up a shout, which seldom fails of producing an answer: in he comes, tottering along, with a smile upon his face, & pica pica in his mouth, & if the picture-book is not forthwith forthxxxxx<coming>, – he knows its place upon the shelf, & uses most ambitious & persevering efforts to drag out a folio. And if this is not a proper excuse for idleness, Grosvenor, what is?

But I have not been absolutely idle, – only comparatively so. I have made ready about five sheets of the Peninsular War [2]  for the press, (the main part indeed was transcription) & William Nicol [3]  will have it as soon as the chapter is finished. I have written an account of Derwentwater for Westalls Views of the Lake. [4]  I have begun the Book of the Church, [5]  written half a dialogue between myself & Sir Thomas More, [6]  composed 70 lines for Oliver Newman, [7]  – opened a book of Collections for the Moral & Literary History of England, [8]  – & sent to Longman for certain materials for – the Life of George Fox & the Origin & Progress of Quakerism, [9]  – a work which will be quite as curious as the Wesley [10]  & about half the length. – Make allowances for letter writing (which consumes far too great a portion of my time) – & for the interruptions of the season, & this account of the Month will not be so bad, as to subject me to any very severe censure for my stewardship.

Nash is finishing a drawing of Edith May for her godfather & namesake, – you will be delighted with it. [11]  She herself who is as free from vanity & affectation of any kind as Eve was before she tasted the apple, [12]  says, she shall not like any body to see her after they have seen it, because they will be so disappointed. The xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxx The truth is that the portrait is exceedingly beautiful, & that she has no pretensions to beauty: – & yet it is very like her. Nash has also made a fine sturdy likeness of Cuthbert, – after Sir Joshua’s Infant Jupiter. [13]  He enjoys himself thoroughly here, & has All-Saints-Chamber [14]  for his painting room, where some of the women & children are generally to be found.

The other day there came a curious letter from – Shelley written from Pisa. [15]  Some of his friends (Godwin & Leigh Hunt to wit) <had> persisted in assuring him that I was the author of a criticism concerning him in the Q.R. From internal evidence & from what he knew of me he did not & would not believe it; – nevertheless they persisted, – & he writes that I may enable him to confirm his opinion. The letter then, still couched in very courteous terms, talks of the principles & slanderous practices of the pretended friends of Order, as contrasted with those which he professes, hints at challenging the writer of the Review, if he should prove to be a person with whom it would not be worthy <beneath him> to contend, tells me he shall certainly hear from me, because he must interpret my silence into an acknowledgement of the offence, & concludes with Dear-Sir-ship & civility. – If I had an amanuensis I would send you copies of this notable epistle, & of my reply [16]  to it, in which I have given him a lecture any thing rather than an anodyne.

God bless you Grosvenor. My love to Miss Page & Henry.

Yrs as ever


Keswick. 29 July. 1820.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [illegible]
Endorsements: 29 July 1820; 29 July 1820
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 45–47 [in part]. BACK

[1] A popular series of prints of London street-sellers by Francis Wheatley (1747–1801; DNB). The book could have been The Cries of London: for the Instruction and Amusement of Good Children (1810). BACK

[2] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[3] William Nicol (d. c. 1855), printer and bookseller. The History of the Peninsular War was printed by Thomas Davison (1766–1831), the usual collaborator of its publisher John Murray, not by Nicol. BACK

[4] William Westall, Views of the Lake and of the Vale of Keswick (1820). BACK

[5] Southey’s The Book of the Church (1824). BACK

[6] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). BACK

[7] Southey’s unfinished epic, set in New England. The completed sections were published after Southey’s death in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 1–90. BACK

[8] This project did not result in a book; the surviving notes that Southey put together were posthumously published as ‘Collections for the History of Manners and Literature in England’, Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 439–578. BACK

[9] Southey to Messrs Longman & Co, 11 July 1820, Letter 3510. George Fox (1624–1691; DNB) was the founder of the Society of Friends. Southey did not write this book. BACK

[10] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[11] This painting is now at the Wordsworth Museum, Grasmere. BACK

[12] Before mankind tasted the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and thus sinned, Genesis 2–3. BACK

[13] Sir Joshua Reynolds’s (1723–1792; DNB) The Infant Jupiter, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1774, had depicted the infant god clutching lightning bolts, guarded by an eagle and attended by the goat that had suckled him as a baby. The original of Reynolds’s painting had been destroyed in a fire at Belvoir Castle in 1816. BACK

[14] The room at Greta Hall that contained Southey’s copy of the Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), a massive, 53-volume, compendium of hagiographies, which he had bought in Brussels in 1817, no. 207 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[15] In a letter of 26 June 1820, Shelley had accused Southey of writing a hostile review of Laon and Cythna, or the Revolution of the Golden City (1818; published late 1817) and The Revolt of Islam. A Poem, in Twelve Cantos (1818); see Edward Dowden (ed.), The Correspondence of Robert Southey with Caroline Bowles (Dublin and London, 1881), pp. 358–359. This review had appeared in the Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 460–471. It concluded with an ad hominem attack that suggested the reviewer knew a great deal about Shelley’s personal affairs: ‘if we might withdraw the veil of private life, and tell what we now know about him, it would be indeed a disgusting picture that we should exhibit, but it would be an unanswerable comment on our text; it is not easy for those who read only, to conceive how much low pride, how much cold selfishness, how much unmanly cruelty are consistent with the laws of this “universal” and “lawless love.” But we must only use our knowledge to check the groundless hopes which we were once prone to entertain of him’ (471). The article had, moreover, described Shelley as ‘an unsparing imitator’ and The Revolt’s language and versification as a ‘copy’ of Southey’s, though ‘altogether more luxuriant and ornate than the original’ (461). Shelley was mistaken in attributing the review to Southey, who had a policy of not reviewing contemporary poetry. Its author was John Taylor Coleridge. BACK

[16] Southey to Percy Bysshe Shelley, [c. 29 July 1820], Letter 3517. BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)