2849. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 5 October 1816

2849. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 5 October 1816⁠* 

Keswick 5 Oct. 1816.

My dear Grosvenor

I have not looked with impatience for farther news from you, because whatever news you might have to send, I must needs finish a paper in time for the present number – for the love of 100 £. [1]  I have no intention of going to London unless there be a necessity for it. Application was made to me thro Gooch some months ago to revise a great book by Raffles upon the island of Java before it goes to press, [2]  – I leant ear to it for the lucre of gain, but have heard nothing more; – had it come to anything it might have brought me to town in November, but if I could be as well employed quoad [3]  money at home (which seems likely) in other respects the <home> employment would be better. I could wish myself independent of such considerations – if it were worth a wish as long as ones necessities are supplied. It is my fate to have more claimants upon me than usually fall to a mans <the> share of a man who has a family of his own, – & if Toms circumstances could be mended by a lift in his profession, [4]  – it would be a relief to me as well as to him.

That I shall make an appeal to the good sense of the country upon the existing state of things & the prospect before us, is very likely since my attention has been thus called to it. Indeed if there be a probability of doing good by it, there seems little reason for any further stimulus, & the thing may be done certainly as well, & perhaps more becomingly without any farther intimation from the Powers Above. [5]  I incline at present to write anonymously, – or under some fictitious name, – for were the book to attract notice (& if it does not it is will be useless) – a mystery about the author would very much increase its sale. In that case a change of publishers will would contribute to keep the secret, – & if I seek a new one Nicol [6]  would obviously be the man. In meditating upon this work I grow ambitious, & think of presenting such a view of things as whether it produce immediate benefit or not, may be have a permanent value both for matter & composition.

Pray inform me with the least possible delay whether as P. L. [7]  I am exempt from serving parish Offices, the people of Keswick having this day thrust honour upon me in the Office of Surveyor [8]  – (what the Devil it means they best know) but my appeal against the appointment must be made on the 12th of this month. Whatever the office be I have neither knowledge, leisure, or inclination for it.

I am very glad you are Quarterlizing me. [9]  Abuse does good, & of that I have plenty, – but praise is more useful; & is not so liberally bestowed. I have seen a number of the Champion in which my name stands for text to a diss sermon nothing relating to me; – but at the conclusion it is said that the change in my opinions as implied in my last writings is that I recommend implicit submission, – hence it should appear that the said Champion had not read those writings. [10] Hunt & Hazlitt I know incessantly attack me, (– I have a good name for the latter Sir Tarquin of the Round Table, [11]  – he & Hunt advertising Essays under that title) this barking makes a noise, & noise calls attention; – so that as long as they have it not in their power to pass sentence upon me as a counter-revolutionists, such enmity is in its degree useful.

The children [12]  thank God are well, & so am I as far t as the husk is x concerned: – but the interior is as unlike what it was twelvemonths ago as the darkest November day is unlike the bright sunshine of a genial May morning. Time enough has not yet elapsed to make me feel that if H. were living he would no longer be the H whom from whom I am separated for life. [13]  When this comes to be the case the retrospect will be less painful. At present whenever I relapse into recollection of what has been, & every hour brings with it something that calls up these thoughts every object & every xxxxxxxx it is an effort to abstain refrain from tears. I go about my business as usual, – perform the ordinary functions of life, – see company, – go out visiting, – take Nash up the mountains, – talk, – reason, – jest, – but my thoug heart meanwhile is haunted, & tho thank God I neither undervalue the uses of my this world nor wish in any way to shrink from my part in it, – I could be right willing to say Valete. [14] 

This is too deep a strain, – give me my cap & bells! the Senhora is building a house in Borrowdale, & the river comes to visit her there. I recommend a life boat, a life-preserver, a cork under-waistcoat to be slept in, – & some lessons in swimming. – Mrs C. would not go up Causey Pike with us, I say she has been upon the Stool of Repentance ever since, & this is a subject of much dispute between us. She obstinately denies that she is upon the Stool, & I say she is upon the Stool; & she denies it; & I persist, & she grows angry, & then I pity her for being upon the Stool, & then she calls me names, – & so we go on, & I condole with her upon her present condition (being almost as pitiable as that sh the Nincompoopery in which she once existed six whole weeks,) – & I threaten her with a letter of condolence from you upon the subject, – & then her indignation falls upon you. Indeed I believe it would be unsafe for any person to mention the word Stool in her hearing.

Can you send me some money? – I am pauper & inops. [15]  The next number will float me. [16]  – I have a thousand things to say to you if you were here, – & have planned many expeditions into the vales & up the mountains when next you come. Remember me to all at home.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 8 OC 8/ 1816
Seal: black wax, with ‘S’, ‘In Labore Quies’ motto below
Endorsement: Recd. 8 Octr. 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 215–218 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey was reviewing a series of volumes by travellers in England. The piece appeared in the Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 537–574, under the title ‘Works on England’. BACK

[2] Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781–1826; DNB), founder of Singapore and author of a History of Java (1817). BACK

[3] ‘In respect of’. BACK

[4] Tom Southey was working (not very successfully) as a farmer; Southey suggests here that he could be given some employment in the Navy, in which, though he had been a Captain since 1811, he had never commanded a ship. BACK

[5] See Southey’s letters to Grosvenor Charles Bedford,7, 8 and 10 September 1816 (Letters 2835, 2836 and 2839) for the ministerial suggestion that Southey should be employed to write, or edit a journal, attacking the government’s critics. Southey had declined and was contemplating writing a book on the ‘State of the Nation’. BACK

[6] William Nicol (d. 1855?), a friend of Bedford’s. BACK

[7] Poet Laureate. BACK

[8] All parishes had a duty, under legislation of 1555, to repair public highways within the parish boundaries. Since 1691 they were obliged to appoint a Surveyor of Highways, an office that was held for one year, but whose acceptance was compulsory. The duties were often avoided but could be very onerous, including organising parishioners to fulfil their statutory duty to provide six days labour to repair the roads. BACK

[9] Bedford drafted a review of Southey’s Laureate poems for the Quarterly Review, but it was not published. BACK

[10] Southey is here referring to two articles, titled ‘Mr Southey’, by ‘The Itinerant’ in The Champion, 15 September and 29 September 1816, particularly the second article. BACK

[11] Hazlitt, early in 1817, republished a number of his essays for Hunt’s Examiner in a book with the Arthurian title The Round Table. These included his critical ‘Observations’ on Wordsworth’s 1814 poem The Excursion. In the Arthurian legends, Sir Tarquin was a treacherous knight who fought against his former friends. The Lake poets considered themselves betrayed by Hazlitt, having hosted him at Greta Hall in 1803 and assisted him in escaping from the anger of the townsfolk after he caused a furore in a Keswick inn by spanking a local woman when she laughed at his advances. BACK

[12] Southey’s four surviving daughters: Edith May, Bertha, Kate and Isabel. BACK

[13] Herbert Southey had died on 17 April 1816. BACK

[14] ‘Farewell’. BACK

[15] ‘Poor and in want’. BACK

[16] In Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 299–345, Southey reviewed Domingo Badia y Leblich (1766–1818), Travels of Ali Bey in Morocco, Tripoli, Cyprus, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, and Turkey, Between the Years 1803 and 1807 (1816); and, in Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 537–574, a series of volumes by travellers in England, under the title ‘Works on England’. This issue did not appear until 12 November 1816, though, thus delaying Southey’s payment. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Rosthwaite, Borrowdale (mentioned 1 time)