3203. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 26 October 1818

3203. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 26 October 1818⁠* 

Keswick 26. Oct. 1818.

My dear Grosvenor

I certainly shall not quarrel with just Nemesis [1]  & the other aweful Powers of Vengeance for any punishment which they may have inflicted upon two persons who thought proper to go to Oswestry & the country of the Welsh Barbarians when they might have come to Keswick where they would have had fine weather, & rare society to boot. [2]  – I dare say you still smell like xxxxx Jacob when he personated his brother Esau, unless indeed there be a filthy odour of leeks to overpower the xxxxx hircine savour which you must have brought away with you. [3]  Faugh! – You miserable man, to give up Derwent, & Skiddaw, & Saddleback (over which noble mountain I have walked this very day) – & Was-water whither I would have gone with you, ye wretches, – & Crummock [4]  & Borrodale, & Ulswater &c &c &c &c &c &c &c &c &c &c &c &c. for rain & lumbago & an Oswestry parsonage! You might have laid in a stock of health for seven years upon these blessed mountains, where there would have been nothing between you & Heaven. And {But} you must go to Wales forsooth, – or to the Welsh border, which is worse, – as if you had been a couple of sheep-stealers, & so would keep company with Taffy, or like rats were unable to resist a bait of Toasted Cheese.

So much by way of condolence.

Now for myself. You will conclude that I am in tolerable health when you hear that I was on foot from half past ten this morning till six this evening, without resting (more than a few minutes & occasionally on a stone) or any other food than a single apple. The General was my foot companion & Chauncy Townsend was with us on horseback, for he poor fellow, has not strength for such undertakings. He has been with me nearly a month, & enjoys himself just as could be wished. I have been out a good deal with him, tho less than if he had been a good pedestrian: & probably I may be the better for it.

You will have seen my two papers in the last QR. [5]  The Megistos thought proper when he sent me 150 £ for them to remind me that such prices could not be afforded unless the articles produced a decided impression; to observe that the latter part of Evelyn had been approved, & to offer some hints respecting the arrangement of such reviewals in future. I dare say my answer would astonish him. [6]  It was written in thorough good humour, & without expressing the slightest resentment at such impertinence –in truth I understand his humour too well to xxx feel any thing but {except} amusement at it. But I told him that tho his prices were very liberal, it was never the less very plain that I was employing myself less profitably (of which I gave him convincing proofs) & less worthily (which he will not very easily comprehend) {in writing for them} than in pursuing my own greater avocations, – & that therefore he must admit it to be a matter of prudence on my part, when I {should} have executed the papers in hand to become only an occasional contributor to the QR instead of a regular assistant, & that at long intervals. – He is chewing the cud upon this, & I shall adhere to my purpose.

Therefore when I have finished what I have in hand for him for this next number, [7]  instead of supplying any thing for the following one, I shall compleat my Tale of Paraguay, which with the help of some drawings from Nash, will bring me about 300 £ by an edition of 2000. [8]  Then I shall go to my long planned tale of Oliver Newman, & for this I will demand a price of the Longmen. [9]  By the time that I reach the age of fifty, if I should live so long, it is fit & proper that I should have realized enough to emancipate myself from all the xx drudgery of xx literature, – that is to say – from all such writing as is performed merely for the sake of bread.

Herewith I send you Ballantynes [10]  promissory note, – a lucky recovery of money which I had given up for lost. Tho I am still a loser to the amount of as much more. But this is the purchase money of my share in that Register for which I did such good yeomans service. [11]  Do you put it into proper hands to negociate it, & when you have the proceeds add to them from my next payment as much as may suffice to xxxxxx buy buy in 300 £ in the 3 per cents. [12]  I have 100 already there, & shall then be worth 12 £ per annum. My incomings this year are considerably less than the last. – Kehama & Roderick are reprinting, & will hardly pay their expences next year: but I may look to Wesley for something, – tho it will be little in proportion to the time & labour bestowed upon this work. [13]  – My expences meantime are heavily increased by Toms increasing family [14]  & growing wants: – this is an evil to which there indeed a dismal prospect is before me; – for in case of his death a larger family than my own will be cast upon my hands, & if he should lose his wife, whose life is far from being a good one, he will lose with her 60 £ a year, which would inevitably fall upon me. The only set off against this, is the hope that Osiris may get on in his profession, & be enabled to do what he would have all the will xx in the world to perform in bearing his share of the burthen.

These cares do not sit heavily upon me, – except indeed that my death (a much more likely event than his own) would leave Tom to bear the whole penalty of his rash marriage. A circumstance of a very different nature affects me much more in my heart of hearts. After an interval of more than six years I am in the likely to become again a father; [15]  – & you may well imagine what feelings this must occasion, after the grievous loss which we have sustained in those years, – a loss which I shall never wholly overcome: – this prospect indeed only makes me feel more deeply how irreparable it is. [16]  For setting aside the myriad or million chances against my having such another son as that incomparable boy, – it is but too certain that I should neither have life nor heart ever again to perform my duty by another in the same manner.

This will prevent me from leaving home till Feby. or March. Ediths spirits are as you may suppose very much affected, & she suffers very much in her bodily health.


* Endorsement: 26 Octor 1818
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. AL; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 102–105. BACK

[1] In Greek mythology, the spirit of divine retribution. BACK

[2] Bedford and his brother Harry had gone to Wales on holiday, rather than to Keswick. BACK

[3] In Genesis 27, Jacob tricked his blind father Isaac into thinking he was his favoured brother Esau, ‘a hairy man’, by covering his smooth arms in goatskin. Goat herding was common in Wales in Southey’s day. BACK

[4] A lake to the southwest of Keswick. BACK

[5] In the Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 1–54, Southey reviewed Memoirs, Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn (1818); his essay, ‘On the Means of Improving the People’ appeared in the same issue (79–118). BACK

[6] Southey to John Murray, 7 October 1818, Letter 3201. BACK

[7] One of three articles for the Quarterly Review on which Southey worked in late 1818: a review, published in 23 (July 1820), 549–591, of Haydon’s New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818); an article, ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, 21 (January 1819), 196–219; or an article ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’ which appeared in 21 (April 1819), 359–398. BACK

[8] A Tale of Paraguay was not published until 1825, by which time Nash was dead. The illustrations were two engravings after drawings by Richard Westall (1765–1836; DNB). Published in an edition of 1,500, it sold poorly and realised Southey less than £80 in profits in the first year. There was no second edition. BACK

[9] ‘Oliver Newman’ remained unfinished and was published posthumously by Longman as a fragment in 1845; see Oliver Newman: a New England Tale (Unfinished): with Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 1–92. Only 1,000 copies of the volume were printed and sales were poor. BACK

[11] In 1810 Southey had been induced by the Ballantynes and by their silent partner Walter Scott to take a 1/12th financial share (valued at £209) in the publication to which they invited him to contribute – the Edinburgh Annual Register. Southey wrote the historical sections in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808–1811 (1810–1813). But he received none of the profits from these editions, was not paid for his final contribution, to the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813), and feared his share in the Register had become worthless. BACK

[12] Government stock, yielding a return of 3% per annum. BACK

[13] The fourth edition of The Curse of Kehama (1810) was printed in 1818, along with the fourth edition of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism appeared in 1820. BACK

[14] Tom Southey had been promoted to Captain in the Royal Navy in 1811, but was never given command of a ship. His attempts at farming were proving unsuccessful. His family consisted of: Margaret Hill Southey (b. 1811); Mary Hill Southey (b. 1812); Robert Castle Southey (1813–1828); Herbert Castle Southey (1815–1864) and Eleanor Thomasina Southey (1816–1835). They were followed by Sarah Louise Southey (1818–1850); Nelson Castle Southey (1820–1834); Sophia Jane Southey (1822–1859) and Thomas Castle Southey (1824–1896). BACK

[15] Charles Cuthbert Southey was born on 24 February 1819. He was Southey’s last child to be born and the first since Isabel, who was born on 2 November 1812. BACK

[16] Southey’s son, Herbert, had died on 17 April 1816. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Skiddaw (mentioned 1 time)
Ullswater (mentioned 1 time)