3087. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 6 March 1818

3087. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 6 March 1818⁠* 

My dear G.

I might have saved you some friendly trouble had I told you, which might just as well have been done, that I did not want the Broughamiana for my own use, – having neither time nor stomach for such employments, – but that they might be turned over to xx a person who has both, & takes an interest in the contest which I should be incapable of, even were I within the sphere of its action. [1]  Do not however send off the number of the Satirist, [2]  – because it is one thing to supply a man with facts, & another to lend him a pamphlett borrowed already thrice deep, – & xx with a triple responsibility for its safe return.

The books are not arrived, [3]  – the pocket-books are in a case which was sent off on the 11th from Longmans, containing little besides Methodist Magazines & other documents for the Life of Wesley. [4] 

The Quarterly is very amusing, – more so than any preceding number. The only heavy article in it, is that caput mortuum [5]  of my Brazil, which has come out of the Critics crucible, & which being very civilly intended is likely the more likely for that reason, to make every reader suppose that I have written a very dull book. [6]  This however is of little consequence, – that history being <is> a work which no praise could lift into popularity, & no censure xxxxxx xxxxxx <can> deprive of its xxxxxx due estimation. The critic reviewer makes some errors, as a man is very likely to do, who draws his whole knowledge of the subject from the work which he is criticising. He imagines a difficulty about the private property in the Reductions, [7]  – where no difficulty exists, – & he conceives a general enmity between the Tupis & Guaranis, [8]  which is as if a Guarani writing a history of England should infer from a war in William the Conquerors [9]  time between the English & Welsh, – that there was a general enmity between the Keltic & Teutonic races throughout Europe. Look at pages 306–7, [10]  & you will see that I am speaking only of local feuds – between some neighbouring hordes.

I sent Gifford with the first part of the Poor Law Article [11]  a note about the North Pole, – a subject which has very much interested me. It related to a fact which Barrow [12]  had not noticed. The fish for the last two years (three perhaps now) have forsaken the coast of Kamtschatka. [13]  This I think some presumption that the disruption of the ice has been occasioned by xxx earthquakes xx <connected with> volcanic convulsions eruptions, – which I believe when they occur in the sea have always the effect of making fish forsake the neighbouring ocean.

The girls are greatly obliged to you for the Almanacks. Poor Shedaw was in hopes the Pellitory might have turned up also, [14]  – for having had one tooth drawn three weeks ago (& a tremendous operation it was) – the pain has now shifted to another, the only remaining one which is decayed. It has never been <is not> violent, – but I suppose it has rarely happened that one so young should have suffered so much from this cause. Tomorrow perhaps the long expected box may arrive. I hope the next letter from Nash, or Mrs Vardon may bring some tidings from Verbiest. [15] 

I have been getting on well with Brazil, [16]  & shall xx soon have done half the volume; a great part of the subsequent materials <also> being ready to put together, – so that the end is in view. A great business it will be, off my hands. Very much I wish for the French book about Buonapartes system of education, that the other work also might go to press. [17]  My hands indeed are gloriously full. I get on, sometimes with one, sometimes with another, – two or three subjects in the same day, – the only thing which hangs on hand is poetry, for which it is very evident that the time of life is gone by. I have not lived fast, according to the common expression, – but I have lived long, – that is to say I began life early, – & there has been some wear & tear of me. And to write verses requires <excites> a feeling which I would rather allay than call into action.

The Life of Wesley will be a very curious book, embracing a wide range of subjects – & if it be but executed as well as it is arranged, I shall be satisfied. The arrangement may a seem an easy matter in biography, – but this is also a history of Methodism. If I xxx live to compleat it (how uncertain this is, I feel in every thing which I undertake!) – & xx I may perhaps when my Acta Sanctorum [18]  arrive think seriously of doing as much for the early part of our religious history, as I shall have done for that of the last hundred years. – By the bye, desire Gifford to send me Fosbrookes British Monachism, – for in following up my view of society a notice of this book may very fitly introduce what I have to say about the state of the middle classes or rather the educated classes, – for whose overflowing increase some channel must be found, or down will go all our dykes & landmarks before the flood. [19]  – He has now the whole of one article (a weighty one) in his hands, – & it will not be many days before I shall send him another. [20] 

God bless you


6 March 1818. Keswick.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esq.re/ 9 Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 8 MA 8/ 1818
Endorsements: 6 March 1818; 6 March 1818
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles to Bedford, 23 February 1818, Letter 3081. Southey’s intention was to gain information that might be used by Brougham’s opponents in the forthcoming general election in Westmorland, where Brougham was standing against the chosen candidates of Lord Lonsdale. The person who had asked for this information is unidentified. It might have been Wordsworth, who was an active supporter, and client, of the Lowther family. BACK

[2] ‘Mr M’Kerrell and Mr Brougham’, The Satirist; or, Monthly Meteor, 11 (September 1812), 208–227. Robert M’Kerrell (1761–1841), a textile merchant and manufacturer in Paisley, had on 28 May 1812, given evidence to the House of Commons committee enquiring into the Orders in Council system, which enforced a trade blockade on territories controlled by France. The Whig opposition were campaigning for its repeal, on the grounds that it harmed British manufacturing. Brougham denounced M’Kerrell (though not by name) in the House of Commons on 16 June 1812, claiming he had told the committee that textile workers were overpaid and ‘oatmeal and water were good enough for Englishmen.’ M’Kerrell denied he had said this and published an acrimonious exchange of letters between himself and Brougham in The Times of 20 July 1812. BACK

[3] The books Southey had bought in Milan in June 1817. BACK

[4] The Arminian Magazine (1778–1797), continued as the Methodist Magazine (1798–1967). It was the official monthly publication of the Methodist denomination and contained useful material for Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[5] Literally ‘dead head’; in alchemy a useless substance left over from an experiment. BACK

[6] The second volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819) was reviewed in Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 99–128. The review was by Reginald Heber, who had also reviewed the first volume in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 454–474. BACK

[7] Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 119. Heber felt Southey had not made clear how Indians in the Jesuit colonies, or Reductions, could cultivate their own land or acquire wealth when all property was held in common. BACK

[8] Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 117. BACK

[9] William I (c. 1028–1087; King of England 1066–1087; DNB). BACK

[10] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, pp. 306–307. BACK

[11] Southey’s article (co-written with Rickman), ‘On the Poor Laws’, was published in Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 259–308. BACK

[12] John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB). His article on Lieutenant Edward Chappell (1792–1861), Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson’s Bay, in His Majesty’s Ship Rosamond, Containing Some Account of the North-Eastern Coast of America, and of the Tribes Inhabiting that Remote Region (1817), was published in Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 199–223. BACK

[13] British newspapers had carried a number of extracts from Hamburg papers at the end of 1817, e.g. Morning Chronicle, 8 December 1817. One of the extracts reported that in the Kamchatka peninsula ‘in the course of last winter an incredible number of bears have left the woods, frequently entered the houses of the Kamtschdales; in many places have attacked and devoured the inhabitants; nay traces have even been found of their having killed and devoured each other; at the end of the winter many bears were found who had perished of hunger. In several settlements they have killed from two to three hundred bears, the oldest Kamtschadales do not remember ever to have seen so many bears so savage and blood-thirsty. The cause of this savageness and of their hunger is, that for these two years past there has been an entire want of fish in the Kamschatka sea, and fish, as is well known, are the chief food of the bears, which being usually so abundant in those waters, they easily contrive to catch. A couple of shocks of an earthquake have been lately felt in the Peninsula.’ BACK

[14] Southey had requested Bedford to send some tincture of pellitory, a preparation used to numb toothache, containing the herb pellitory, cloves, camphor and opium. BACK

[15] Southey hoped for news concerning the books he had bought from Jean-Baptiste Ver Beyst (1770–1849), a famous bookseller in Brussels, in 1817. BACK

[16] The third and final volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1819). BACK

[17] Murray had sent Southey the first two volumes of Jean Baptist Germain Fabry (1770–1821), Le Génie de la Révolution Considéré dans l’Education ou Mémoires pour Servir a l’Histoire de l’Instruction Publique, Depuis 1789 jusqu’à Nos Jours (1817–1818). Southey awaited the third so as to help in his researches for the first chapter of his History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[18] Southey had bought this 53–volume compendium of hagiographies (1643–1794) from Ver Beyst in 1817; he was eagerly awaiting its delivery to Keswick. It became no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[19] Southey reviewed Thomas Dudley Fosbrooke (1770–1842; DNB), British Monachism; or, Manners and Customs of the Monks and Nuns of England (1817) in Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 59–102. BACK

[20] Southey’s article (co-written with Rickman), ‘On the Poor Laws’, was published in Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 259–308. A sequel, ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, appeared in the next issue, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 79–118. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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