3158. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 6 July 1818

3158. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 6 July 1818⁠* 

My dear G.

You have sent me the Times of Friday July 3. – by mistake I suppose for Saturdays paper, – because in Saturdays Courier I find Broughams speech concerning me at Appleby, which you probably meant to communicate. [1]  It so happens that I have not written a line either in prose or verse about the Westmorland election, nor spoken of it, out of my family (for this plain reason – that I have not been out of my own family (ie in any other company) for more than six months) – nor thought of it with any more concern than of an election in Cornwall – certainly not x half so much as of that at Westminster. [2]  He is therefore a liar as well as a scoundrel. Whether it be worth while to take any notice of his falsehood will be better determined, when that propensity is somewhat abated which would lead the forefinger & thumb of my right hand into close contact with his proboscis. – I wish I had been present to have given him the lie upon the hustings. If I notice him at all it will be to be considered whether it should be by a short letter to the Courier or whether I should trouble him with a WilliamSmithiad. [3]  In the latter case the order of battle would be thus, – first a xxx the matter of fact as to the truth & gentlemanlike nature of the allusions to me, – as the cause of my addressing him, – secondly the cause of his hostility to me, & here he may be made the representative of the whole herd of ruffian-writers & speakers, & also the xxxx {post} upon which the E Review [4]  is hung xxxx like a dusty coat to be beaten, finally a sketch of the present xxxx home politics, & an encouraging exhortation to go on in the high road to xx revolution, – by holding up to view the consequences.

Xx I have sundry charges of small shot ready made up for Jeffreys posteriors [5]  & they may just as well be discharged into Broughams upon this occasion, & the effect will be double, because Gog will be affected perfectly in the same manner by sympathy. Quoad [6]  the E Review as Gog & Brougham [7]  have but one principle (which is that of having no principle) – so both xxxx have xxxx xxxxxxxxxx so have they but one seat of honour, & he who kicks one kicks both.

I would ask your advice whether to take him in hand or not, if it were not probable that I shall have decided before it could arrive. And yet you may give it. The inclination is tolerably strong at present: but it is not likely to last long, because it will not occupy xxxx my thoughts or feelings longer than it deserves, & other occupations & trains of thought will soon put it out of mind {if I let them take their course.} How many of these I needs must have you know.

Are you not, xx for not writing, what my daughter Isabel called me {the other day,} – a rascalt? – Wretch that you are! If it had not been for pure resentment I verily believe I should have written you a most invaluable letter concerning our Cats, containing the result of all my observations upon the Cats of this place during a residence of fifteen years.

The Tea! The Tea! The Tea! – You know how Our song must be not Te Deum, but Tea-Bedford! [8] 


July 6. 1818.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre./ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ JY/ 1818
Endorsements: 6 July 1818; 6 July 1818
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Westmorland constituency was dominated by the Lowther family, who were supporters of the government – the two sitting MPs were the brothers Henry Lowther (1790–1867), MP for Westmorland 1812–1867, and William, Viscount Lowther (1787–1872), later 2nd Earl of Lonsdale and MP for Cockermouth 1808–1813, MP for Westmorland 1813–1831 and 1832–1841. So complete was the Lowthers’ dominance that the last contested election in Westmorland was in 1774. However, in January 1818, a committee of Whigs and smaller landowners had brought forward Henry Brougham to challenge the Lowthers – Brougham’s family home was Brougham Hall near Penrith and he could plausibly be presented as a local candidate. When he spoke on 29 June, Brougham attacked Wordsworth by name for supporting the Lowther cause, referring to him as ‘a man who wrote prose, and other compositions which he could not call prose, but which he wished were poetry’ (The Times, 3 July 1818). But the Courier and The Times for 4 July carried Brougham’s speech at the hustings at Appleby on 30 June. In this address he attacked ‘The Wordsworths and the Southeys’ for spreading false rumours about Brougham and insulting the freeholders of Westmorland. BACK

[2] The constituency of Westminster had a large electorate and contests were often widely-reported. In 1818 the Whigs Sir Samuel Romilly (1757–1818; DNB) and Sir Francis Burdett narrowly defeated the naval commander and pro-government candidate, Sir Murray Maxwell (1775–1831; DNB). BACK

[3] Southey was dissuaded from publishing a retort to Brougham that he modelled on his pamphlet A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M. P. (1817). Part of it finally appeared, without mentioning Brougham’s name, as a ‘Postscript’ to the second edition of Carmen Triumphale (London, 1821), pp. 45–53. BACK

[4] The Edinburgh Review (1802–1929), the main Whig journal, to which Brougham had contributed. BACK

[5] In 1816 Southey had composed a parodic attack on Jeffrey, the ‘Book of the Prophet Jehephary’, that was, on the advice of his friends, not published in his lifetime. It appeared in John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 35–42. BACK

[6] ‘With respect to’. BACK

[7] Jeffrey, ‘Gog’ and Brougham, ‘Magog’: twin powers of darkness in Revelation 20: 7–10 and Ezekiel 38: 15; 39: 3–9. BACK

[8] The Southeys awaited an order of tea from Twinings to be forwarded by Bedford. The ‘Te Deum’ (literally ‘Thee, O God’) was an early Christian hymn of praise. BACK