1652. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 July 1809

1652. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 July 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

So far is your sheet of Butlerology from having convinced me that what I want you to perform is impracticable, that it is on the contrary sufficient proof how easily & triumphantly you could perform it. [1]  Write me half a dozen such, & then if you do not feel your own strength & go on of your own accord, you shall have no more of my objurgatory advice. Set out upon the heroic principle of writing all the odd things that come into your head: it will be easy enough to pen a satirical allusion to the tail of some five or six of them, & these being plain, the whole will pass for a profound satire. Rabelais, [2]  Grosvenor, was but a type of what you may be if you will but take courage & write on.

If Barré Roberts have any consumptive symptoms it is trifling with his life to let him stop short of Lisbon; there he should go in October, – & if he goes before the disease has taken root he will be saved.

We are here in great agitation about news of a victory which has reached Edinburgh & set the Castle Guns firing, & the whole streets blazing with bonfires. God send that the Scotchmen may not have been premature in their rejoicings. Be that as it may things look well, & must end well if the peace mongers here & in Austria do not prevent that good issue which perseverance is sure to meet with in a good cause. [3] 

Dickenson [4]  has been here – I dined with him not having seen him since the year 1792. He spoke as if he knew there was an intention of serving me, saying he should not wonder if the secretary ship at Lisbon was to be offered me. This Grosvenor you must at once perceive is no longer an object. It is but 100 a year more than any pension, & I could not live upon it. Sharp tells me the Stewardship to Greenwich for the Derwentwater Estates now held by a Mr Walton [5]  is likely soon to be vacated by his death, & this he has advised me to ask for. I have accordingly written to Scott, & have also told <to> Wynn that he may help me if he can. [6]  Being on the spot it would suit me well & it would please me well, inasmuch as it would give me the power of preserving the woods, & improving both the property & this beautiful place by planting. That I shall get it is not however very likely. [7]  It may be already promised, it may not be in Cannings power to give it, it may be thought too good for me.

One of my desperate summer colds has seized me by the nose, & there it has been these three weeks resisting all modes of cure. To day I have again been trying to wash it off in the cold bath. It stops Kehama, [8]  for as soon as I get out of bed the games of sneezing & nose blowing begins, & I lie in bed for the sake of putting off the evil hour, & having as much comfort as I can, – comfort being only to be had when asleep, – for this curst cold has xxx the complaisance to sleep with me, – & so we wake together

God bless you


July 9. 1809.


* Address: [in another hand] Keswick July nine 1809/ Grosvenor Chas Bedford Esqr/ Post office/ Southampton/ Rd Sharp
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 12 JY 12/ 1809
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey refers to 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

[2] François Rabelais (c. 1494–1553) was a writer of fantasy, satire and the grotesque in works such as Gargantua and Pantagruel. BACK

[3] Britain and Austria were in alliance against France in 1809, but Napoleon advanced into Austria where he suffered a significant defeat at the battle of Aspern-Essling (22 May 1809). The Austrians failed to follow up this victory, which allowed Napoleon to seize the capital, Vienna, in early July. The Austrians were then defeated by the French at the battle of Wagram on 5–6 July 1809. BACK

[4] William Dickinson (1771–1837), a pupil at Westminster School, who later went on to Christ Church, Oxford (BA 1793, MA 1795). He was Civil Lord of the Admiralty 1804–1806. BACK

[5] Nicholas Walton (d. 1809). BACK

[6] For these letters, see Southey to Walter Scott, 6 July 1809 (Letter 1648) and Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 8 July 1809 (Letter 1651). BACK

[7] Southey asked several friends to intercede on his behalf for this position, but in the end it was considered to be unsuitable for him; see Southey to Walter Scott, 8 August 1809 (Letter 1666) and Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 August 1809 (Letter 1669). BACK

[8] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

People mentioned