1170. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 March [1806]

1170. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 March [1806] ⁠* 

I had an Oxford Sausage once [1]  – but where the Devil it is now is more than I can tell. tis a book easily found. has not Wynn one? As for Mary Latter [2]  I do not remember even her name – there is a Mary Leapor I think of whom I marked out specimens at Hills  [3]  – but these things may now wait for my appearance. I am surprized at the patience of Our Fathers. you have been requiring xxxx exertions from them as much out of their way – as it would be out of mine to open a ball at court.

xxx To a pleasanter subject. It is you who are mistaken about the Butler. Whoever knows you well Grosvenor knows that your talent is for humour, & of this extravagant character. You were trained up at Westminster in the way which you should go. Other things you may learn to do well – but not excellently; this you can do inimitably well by merely following your own genius, – I think you can do it better than any person before you, & that you may take the first place, without danger of ever being superseded. Put the book together [4]  – this will be amusement not labour – show it when it is done to Elmsley – (my daughter calls him Emily) – to Wynn – to Wm Nicol [5]  – to Herries. take their opinion upon it – I am sure it will coincide with mine.

I know not how the second cargo of Espriella [6]  past you by – but it is no matter as you will soon see the whole of what is done. It is my purpose to work hard in London & go abroad as little as possible. Shall you have leisure sometimes to go sight-seeing with me, with a pair of foreign spectacles on? [7]  – This last week has been a sort of holyday with me – I have done nothing but read Beausobre [8]  & sketch out a strange piece of biography which went off last night to one of his Majesties Under Secretaries of State. [9]  – You know that I have done with reviewing for ever – Heaven be praised. This is the boldest thing I ever yet ventured to do for it has been my sheet anchor. Rats & mice & such small deer have been my food for seven long year. But if I stay in Portugal the resource will not be needed, & if I do not, the materials collected there will be better ways & means on my return. [10]  My brother Harry will go with me & be my fellow traveller there. I wish you could see him, – you never saw a young man of manners & person more prepossessing or of finer promise.

Thank you for the quotation about Deicide– the word of course signifies both crime & criminal like Parricide. [11]  – This leads me to think of the Reviewers & that to ask you whether by the Horatian way you can get Duppa taken care of in that review which to the disgrace of Britain is called the British Critic? [12]  – I am intriguing in all directions to get him fairly used – in the Edinburgh – in the Critical & Annual I think he is safe. [13] 

Wynns marriage gives me very great pleasure. [14]  it is about one o clock with him, & he has a long afternoon to look on to. I think it too not unfavourable to happiness to have been once disappointed.


When you & I dispute about poetry we argue from different premises. I wish you would buy the Lyrical Ballads [15]  – if you have them not already. You will see in the Preface & Postscript my critical creed. Since the days of Pope our poetical language has been systematically barbarized. – I shall weed Thalaba [16]  – it was my intention to have woven in many more mythological ornaments – but there are enough already, & it will perhaps be little more trouble to write another Mohammedan poem hereafter. Your remark upon the proposed alteration in Madoc is a very judicious one & has great weight with me. I shall make the alteration – & perhaps let the fault remain till a convenient season. [17] 

You will not see me in London so early as you expect. I hope to drink Wynns health on upon the bridal day – which is not long! [18]  – but it will be silently – among people who do not know him. The case is that I am obliged to alter my plan of operations, & for the sake of returning by way of Herefordshire upon some troublesome & unpleasant business for my Uncle, [19]  must elbow eastwards to Norwich on the road up. It is four years since I have seen William Taylor, & as God knows when there may be another opportunity I am going to pass a week with him. He is one of the men in the world for whose talents & knowledge I have the highest respect, & for whose individual virtues the greatest affection.

I had forgotten my friend Dr Dodd. You are right enough about the joke, which perhaps is none even to you yourself. say what you will about him or leave it <for> me on my arrival at your own pleasure – something should be said to this purport, that he was a rascal – but that it is to be hoped the country will not long be disgraced by so many executions for xxxxxx forgery. [20]  I can send you no specimens – but you may buy on my score the Doctors poems – in Cookes [21]  edition. I will have them for two reasons – <first> the one – because a long poem written by a man who is going to be hanged is a curiosity – & secondly – because there is portrait <print> of Dr Dodd in a full-bottomed wig receiving a visit from an Angel in Newgate.  [22]  So if you walk near Paternoster Row call at Cookes & lay out three or four shillings in the purchase of this book – NB the best edition – ie – the fine paper, in decent binding

I shall write our Preface [23]  in London – we have a hundred things to talk about – & now – farewell till we meet.


Saturday 22 March


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAR25/ 1806
Endorsement: 22 March 1806
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 417–419. BACK

[1] Thomas Warton (1728–1790; DNB), (ed.) The Oxford Sausage, or, Select Poetical Pieces Written by the Most Celebrated Wits of the University of Oxford (1764). BACK

[2] Southey is discussing entries for the anthology, jointly edited by himself and Bedford, which was published with Longman in 1807 as Specimens of the Later English Poets, as a companion to George Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790; 2nd edn 1801; 3rd edn 1803). Mary Latter (bap. 1722–1777; DNB), author of poetic satires and burlesques, was not included in Specimens of the Later English Poets. BACK

[3] Extracts from Mary Leapor’s (1722–1746; DNB) poetry appear in Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), II, 91–95. BACK

[4] Southey often prompted Bedford to publish their comic inventions, which originated in schoolboy stories at Westminster. They were never published by Bedford, but provided the hint for Southey’s comic novel/miscellany The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[5] William Nicol (d. c. 1855), publisher, and friend of Grosvenor Bedford’s. He was the son of George Nicol (1740?-1828), in whose publishing firm he became a partner in 1800. BACK

[6] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish was published in 1807. BACK

[7] Meaning in the persona of Southey’s pseudonymous traveller, Don Manuel Espriella. BACK

[8] Isaac de Beausobre (1659–1738), a French Protestant clergyman, who published a history of Manichaeism, entitled Histoire Critique de Manichée et du Manichéisme (1734–1739). Southey’s copy of this work was no. 185 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[9] That is, to Wynn, who was under-secretary of state for the Home department in the new ministry. BACK

[10] Southey anticipated his work as a reviewer for the Annual Review would end with his projected visit to Portugal; after the cancellation of the visit he remained in this employment until 1809. BACK

[11] In Madoc (1805), Book VII, line 233, Southey refers to a person as the ‘mighty Deicide’. See volume 2 of Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004). BACK

[12] Duppa’s book was The Life and Literary Works of Michael Angelo Buonarotti, with his Poetry and Letters (1806). The British Critic reviewed the book in volume 29 (1807), 480–488. BACK

[13] Southey reviewed Duppa’s work in the Annual Review for 1806, 5 (1807), 411–425. BACK

[14] Wynn married Mary Cunliffe (d. 1838), daughter of Foster Cunliffe, 3rd Baronet (1755–1834) on 9 April 1806. BACK

[15] Lyrical Ballads, with Other Poems, first published in 1798, with further editions in 1800, 1802 and 1805. BACK

[16] Southey’s poem, Thalaba the Destroyer, published in 1801. BACK

[17] The second edition of Madoc (1805) was published in 1807 with little alteration. BACK

[18] Southey quotes part of the refrain from Edmund Spenser’s (1552?–1599; DNB) Prothalamion (1596). BACK

[19] Herbert Hill owned a living at Staunton-on-Wye, Herefordshire, which, while he was in Lisbon, he had left in the care of Dr Thomas, father of his business agent William Bowyer Thomas, who had died in 1802. Southey was visiting his uncle’s estate to investigate the payment of tithes on his behalf; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 17 March 1806, Letter 1166. BACK

[20] William Dodd (1729–1777; DNB), clergyman and writer, who was hanged for forgery. BACK

[21] John Cooke (d.1810), publisher at Shakespeare’s Head, Paternoster Row, London. BACK

[22] William Dodd, Thoughts in Prison, and other miscellaneous pieces ... With the life of the author. Cooke’s edition ... With engravings (1796). BACK

[23] For Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK