2909. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 January 1817

2909. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 January 1817⁠* 

29 Jany. 1817

My dear G.

I am neither surprized nor sorry at what you tell me of the Prose-gelders intentions. The more he cuts out from the Review, the more he leaves fresh for the Book, [1]  – & it is better that the strongest things should appear where they will be accompanied with free language respecting the Anti-Jacobines & the Noddles & the great Sinecures, than where there are forbidden topics, & I seem rather, to the reader, as a Partizan, than as in truth I am, & ought to appear. I have desired Murray to send me the paper as soon as it is printed, – but for fear he should not send it in xx its genuine state, do you secure for me the manuscript. We may be quite sure that the boldest & best parts are those which will be omitted.

My letters to you are such pure Meipseads [2]  that I have seldom room or leisure for any but personal concerns, & therefore it is that you have heard nothing from me of Chauncy Townsend, – who is however as far as it is possible to judge by his verses & his letters a xxxx highly interesting youth. His poetry is of uncommon promise, – & it is a great pleasure to me to hear from him, – tho’ I can ill afford time for my part of the correspondence, – being indeed too old as well as too busy for the epistolary mood.

I knew you would be delighted with the drawing of the two girls, [3]  yet there is one here of Edith sitting on a mountain side, which I think is more beautiful, – & is indeed, according to my perception, the perfect ideal of innocence. And the three younger ones [4]  over my chimney are so delightfully grouped that it is worth while to come to Keswick for the sake of seeing the picture. My blank verse poem [5]  will probably not be printed while I live, – these drawings should one day be engraved to accompany it, – & that view which Nash has made of the Church may come in for the frontispiece with my tombstone in the foreground.

We are very much attached to Nash. The childrens eyes sparkle with delight when they talk of him. I want him to take a six weeks run on the continent with me when I come to town, & then return with me to Keswick. – The Torso is an excellent thing, – by the bye this rich book is in such forwardness that if you will only come down this summer & spur me on, we will have it ready for publication by Christmas. [6]  Poor Nash is no caprice of Natures – his deformity is the effect of an accident when he was twelve years old. One of his portraits of me is more like the Docstor. When I come to town I must contrive to have you meet Westall (the younger) – a man much to my liking, who I hope will take up his abode at Keswick.

My book sleeps till the xxxx Review comes arrives, [7]  meantime I am busy upon the Morte Arthur (which bringeth sweet remuneration) [8]  & upon the third volume of Brazil, [9]  which bringeth something sweeter still, in the great pleasure which I take in it. On Tuesday next I go with Edith, & Shedaw & Bertha to Netherhall for a week, – by the when I return it will be with fresh appetite for Liber the Book, [10]  which may properly be called Liber, for free it shall be as sure as I’m a Dutchman. [11]  My brother Mynheers have sent me no notification of this undeserved honour, [12]  – & of course it appeareth not in my title pages till such notification be duly received.

I have written a chapter concerning the Pantaloons [13] 

And now God bless you


Let your portrait be fitly framed, [14]  & it may come down in the same package with the frame for Westalls drawing.

Stoddart is dismissed from the Times. Walter believing that neither the Ministry nor the Opposition will be able to stand, but that Hunt is to be Lord of the Ascendant! [15]  – Walter must be a blockhead as well as a knave. But with such blockheads & such cowards in office I fear there will be work for the Light Horse Volunteers. [16] 


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 1 FE 1/ 1817
Endorsement: 29 January 1817
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 56–58. BACK

[1] Southey’s article ‘Parliamentary Reform’, Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 225–278 (published 11 February 1817), which he at this stage intended to form part of a book on the ‘State of the Nation’. BACK

[2] ‘Me-myself-Is’. BACK

[3] Sketches of Southey’s family by Edward Nash. BACK

[4] Southey’s younger daughters, Bertha, Kate and Isabel. BACK

[5] Southey began, but did not finish, a poem, entitled ‘Consolation’ on the death of his son, Herbert. Sections were published after his death as ‘Fragmentary Thoughts Occasioned by his Son’s Death’, Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 93–95, and ‘Additional Fragment, Occasioned by the Death of his Son’, Poetical Works of Robert Southey. Complete in One Volume (London, 1850), p. 815. BACK

[6] Possibly a reference to Southey’s unfinished comic novel, The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[7] Southey awaited the return of the manuscript of his article ‘Parliamentary Reform’, Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 225–278 (published 11 February 1817). See note 1 above for his wish to rework parts of it into a book on the ‘State of the Nation’. BACK

[8] The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur was published in two volumes by Longman in 1817. BACK

[9] The second volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819) was published in 1817 and the third in 1819. BACK

[10] The book of comic materials that Southey had, since their schooldays, dreamed of writing with Bedford. The collaboration never bore fruit in a jointly-authored book, but did lead to Southey’s The Doctor (1834–1847). ‘Liber’ literally means in Latin ‘the free one’. BACK

[11] In other words, the book would not be free. BACK

[12] According to the Courier, 2 January 1817, Southey had been appointed an Associate of the Second Class of the Royal Institute of Science, Literature and the Fine Arts of the Netherlands (founded 1808). The Institute’s headquarters are the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam. BACK

[13] This appeared as Interchapter XX of The Doctor (London, 1848), p. 489. BACK

[14] The portrait Southey had commissioned Nash to make of Bedford. BACK

[15] John Stoddart (1773–1856; DNB) was editor of The Times until dismissed by its proprietor John Walter (1776–1847; DNB), at the end of 1816, for the intemperate Toryism of his articles. Stoddart blamed the decision on Walter’s supposed belief that radical reformers led by Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773–1835; DNB) would take power. Later in 1817, Stoddart became the first editor of the ministry-supported The New Times (1817–1828). BACK

[16] The Light Horse Volunteers of London and Westminster, a volunteer unit to which many merchants and bankers belonged. It was commanded by Charles Herries (1745–1819), father of Southey’s correspondent, John Charles Herries. Grosvenor Bedford was a member. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 3 times)
Netherhall (mentioned 1 time)