1622. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 30 April 1809

1622. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 30 April 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

It would not be easy to tell you all I have suffered since Tuesday night when Herbert was seized with the croop – God be praised the disease seems to be subdued, – but he is still in a state to make me very anxious, – pale with loss of blood, his neck blistered, – & fevered by the fretfulness the blister occasions. The poor child has been so used to have me for his play fellow, – that he will have me for his nurse, – & you may imagine with what feelings I endeavour to amuse him. But thank God he is living & likely to live –

Almost the only wish I ever gave utterance to is that the next hundred years were over. It is not that the uses of this world seem to me weary stale flat & unprofitable, [1]  – God knows far otherwise! no man can be better contented with his lot. – my paths are paths of pleasantness. I am living happily & to the best of my belief fulfilling as far I am able the purpose for which I was created. Still the instability of human happiness is ever before my eyes, – I long for the certain & the permanent & perhaps my happiest moments are those when I am looking on to another state of being, in which there shall be no other change than that of progression in knowledge & thereby in power & enjoyment.

I have suffered some sorrow in my time & expect to suffer much more, – but looking at my own heart, I do not believe that a single pang could have been spared, – My Herbert says to me O you are dezy naughty – when I hold his hands while his neck is drest – I have as deep a conviction that whatever affliction I have ever endured, or yet have to endure is dispensed to me in mercy & in love, – as he will have of my motives for inflicting pain upon him now – if it should please God that he should live to understand them.

I have written to Murray that he must not expect the American article for the second number [2]  – It is nearly done, – but with the leaven of anxiety fermenting in every vein by night & by day I am utterly incapable of composition. He calculated <upon> or rather bespoke not more than two sheets, & as what I sent [3]  will amount to one & a half there cannot be any inconvenience from this failure on my part.

The newspapers tells me that Wynn is alive, xxx they have better means of information than I have, & therefore I believe them it. From many quarters I hear it reported that Lds Gray [4]  & Grenville are aiming to get into power by bringing back the D of Y. [5]  I do not believe it. I think ill enough of both to believe that they have no principle which would stand in the way, – but heartily as I despise their talents, I do not think them quite so weak as to take that step.

It is three months before the third Quarterly will appear, & by that time present topics will have become stale, – but I wish you would let Gifford know that if the subject is not out of time & it be thought fit to do <notice> it I will right zealously & sincerely undertake a justification of Freres conduct, which we in this part of the country do entirely approve. [6]  I need not tell you this is not for any love of Mr Canning , who with his Colleagues I <should> hold to be the basest slaves that ever betrayed their country, – if it were not very much to be doubted whether the Whigs are not worse.

Remember me to your Father & Mother – & to Harry

God bless you


April 30. 1809.

My eldest child is five years old this day.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAY 3/ 1809
Endorsements: [various calculations on address sheet] Apr 30. 1809; 5 Cadogan Place
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 231–233 [with omissions]. BACK

[1] Hamlet, Act I, Scene ii, line 133. BACK

[2] Southey reviewed Abiel Holmes (1763–1837), American Annals; or, a Chronological History of America, from its Discovery in 1492 to 1806 in the Quarterly Review, 2 (November 1809), 319–337. BACK

[3] Southey reviewed Extractos em Portuguez e em Inglez; com as Palavras Portuguezas Propriamente Accentuadas, para Facilitar o Estudo d’Aquella Lingoa (1808) in the Quarterly Review, 1 (May, 1809), 268–292. BACK

[4] Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845; DNB), Prime Minister 1830–1834 and leading Whig. BACK

[5] Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), Commander in Chief of the army. He held the post from 1798–1809, but was forced to resign in the wake of allegations that he had profited by allowing his mistress, Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB), to accept money from army officers, in return for which promotion was arranged. In May 1811 the Prince Regent reinstated his brother as Commander-in-Chief of the army, a post which he held for the rest of his life. BACK

[6] The diplomat John Hookham Frere was sent to Spain as minister-plenipotentiary to the Central Junta on 4 October 1808 and when the French marched on Madrid he urged Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), the Commander of the British forces in northern Spain to also advance upon Madrid, despite his inclination to retreat through Portugal. After the disastrous retreat to Corunna, Frere was blamed for this advice and recalled by the British government. After some of Frere’s and Moore’s correspondence was read out in the Commons on 27 April, Moore’s side of matters was presented in James Moore (1763–1860; DNB), A Narrative of the Campaign of the British Army in Spain, Commanded by His Excellency Sir John Moore. Authenticated by Official Papers and Original Letters (1809). Frere’s correspondence with Moore was published in 1810 in a work entitled To the British Nation is Presented by Colonel Venault de Charmilly, Knight of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, the Narrative of his Transactions in Spain with the Rt. Hon. Hookham Frere, His Britannic Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary, and Lt. Gen. Sir John Moore, K.B. Commander of the British Forces: with the Suppressed Correspondence of Sir J. Moore: Being a Refutation of the Calumnies Invented Against Him, and Proving that He was Never Acquainted with General Morla. BACK