2888. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 December 1816

2888. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 December 1816⁠* 

Grosvenor – that you may give me credit for self denial I send you a passage from this opus of mine, with a sentence inclosed between [brackets] which I have cut out, – because if I did not Mr Gifford certainly would [1] 

“Among the infirmities to which a Commonwealth <State> is subject, Hobbes reckons the agitations produced “by pretenders to political prudence; who tho bred for the most part in the lees of the people, yet animated by false doctrines, are perpetually meddling with the fundamental laws to the molestation of the Commonwealth, like the little worms which physicians call Ascarides. [2] “ – An odd but congruent similitude; [in reference to which it might become the Hambden Club to take In Recto for their motto, – omitting Decus] – But aloes will reach these vermin, & our State Physicians must be scandalously deficient in their office, if they do not administer the wholesome bitters of the law [3] 

I think you & the Mag: Rot: (learned in physic) will approve the xxxx passage as it was before it went into the boot. [4] 


27 Dec. 1816.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre
Endorsement: 27 Decr 1816; 27 Decr. 1816./ Ascarides
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s article ‘Parliamentary Reform’, Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 224–278. The passage he quotes here appeared at 248, without the section in brackets, and the sentence ‘But aloes … bitters of the law’. BACK

[2] Parasitic worms that infest the lower intestine. Southey cites Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679; DNB), Leviathan (1651), Chapter 29, ‘Of Those Things That Weaken or Tend to the Dissolution of a Commonwealth’. BACK

[3] A network of radical clubs founded in 1812 to press for Parliamentary reform. The motto that Southey proposes for the Clubs, ‘In recto decus’ (‘Honour in doing right’) is, in Southey’s punning version, shortened to mean ‘in the anus’. The bitter-tasting aloe plant was commonly used as a laxative and Southey recommends that the law should similarly be used to purge the body of the State of radicals. BACK

[4] A reference to Gifford’s onetime employment as a bootmaker and his tendency to make Southey’s articles fit the views of the Quarterly Review. BACK

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