2835. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 September 1816

2835. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 September 1816⁠* 

Keswick. 7 Sept. 1816

My dear Grosvenor

I would fain give your two letters [1]  all the consideration they deserve, – so you shall you have my first, fresh, thoughts at present, & my maturer opinion when I have chewed the cud upon it.

So far as I can render any service towards upholding the existing Government, – (–by which you will understand I do not mean a mere ministry, – but the old English order of things as by our fathers established, & by us to be (if possible) transmitted unimpaired) – I am ready to exert myself to the utmost, without regard to any personal considerations. But in what manner I could do this more effectually than I have for seven years past been endeavouring to do it in the QR [2] , & during four years of that time in the E Register, [3]  – I cannot tell. It seems to me the me that To the management of a journal (if any such thing be contemplated) I am not equal. –

If a full exposition of the state of things, – a full display of our danger, – & a resolute appeal to the sound part of the community should be thought likely to be beneficial, I am ready to undertake the task, & to perform it with all my heart & with all my soul, & with all my strength. The possible advantage is that such an appeal might strengthen the Government, & enable them to do what I advised in 1812 [4]  – & what must be done if they would escape an attempt at least at a Jacobinical revolution, – that is to curb the licentiousness of the press. My remedy is to make transportation the punishment for sedition, – & thus to rid the country of those who would set it on fire. – I could produce such a pamphlett as should startle the nation, if exertions were made to circulate it: – without such exertions it would fail to do this, – Burkes [5]  name was such as to make thousands read his book wh Reflections who were incapable of understanding it. My name carries with it no such charm, – but all who read shall understand me.

It does not appear to me (at present) that it would be of any use to see Ld L. or any of the persons in power. I believe they that an interview would tend to abate their favourable opinion of my practical talents, – in whatever manner they might estimate me in other respects, I am not a man of business – I am not a man of the world. They might be displeased, – I am certain they would be disappointed. In the open field of conversation there are five hundred men who might x excel me, – or baffle me; – let me but at my post I defy the world.

The sum of this is that if it be desired I will write upon the State of the Nation, [6]  – taking it in all points of view, looking the danger fairly in the face, & calling upon the Government to act vigorously.

I am interrupted, – this however may suffice for to night.



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9 Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 10 SE 10/ 1816
Endorsement: 7 Sepr. 1816
Seal: black wax, with ‘S’, ‘In Labore Quies’ motto below
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 42–44. BACK

[1] Bedford had written transmitting ministerial proposals that Southey edit a journal supporting the government. BACK

[2] The Quarterly Review, for which Southey had written since its inception in 1809. BACK

[3] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808–1811 (1810–1813), for which Southey wrote the historical sections. BACK

[4] Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356, where Southey blamed the manufacturing system for the physical and moral degeneracy of the urban poor, argued for an improved system of parochial education, for suppression of the radical press, for cultivation of wastelands and for the employment of the unemployed on public works. BACK

[5] Edmund Burke (1729–1797; DNB), Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). BACK

[6] Southey planned, but did not write, a book on the ‘State of the Nation’. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)