1896. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 5 April 1811

1896. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 5 April 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. April 5. 1811.

My dear Grosvenor

Our intimacy I think entitles me to claim feel a little uncomfortable when you are silent longer than you ought to be. If you were as strong as a horse, you might be as dumb as Sir Equus for three months without one objurgatory hint on my part, – but till you are so I humbly conceive that, under favour of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I might more frequently be favoured with a Bulletin.

I was very much obliged to Herries for the Gazette. [1]  Will you ask him if he has seen Kosters pamphlett upon Bullion. [2]  An utter inability to feel the slightest interest in such subjects has made me contentedly suppose in myself a natural incapacity for understanding them – that is, – that just as I have no ear for music, so I have no head for finance, statistics &c &c – This being premised, Herries will not suppose that I place much confidence in any opinion which I may have happened to form upon the bullion question. – It does however appear to me that Koster has made a discovery in political oeconomy. He argues that as the value of gold depends, like that of all other things, upon the supply & the consumption, there is an absurdity in fixing a standard price for it, & that the whole evil has been occasioned by this blunder. It has not produced that evil sooner because the supply & the consumption formerly balanced each other, – of late years the supply from Brazil has totally ceased, – & the consumption has been yearly increasing in a prodigious proportion. – The result is that a maximum ought no more to be fixed for gold than for any other commodity. – The pamphlett may be read in an hour, & I should be very glad to know what Herries thinks of this it. If Koster be right, all the other disputants are in the wrong & the remedy is easy, & the sooner the principle is known when it could be made effective the better. If he is wrong, I wish to know where his error lies, lest I should blunder about in when the subject comes in my way, as it will do in the next years Annals. [3] 

Now Sir for a commission for you. Mrs Lovell requests you will procure a frank full of seeds for her garden. She specifies Red Zinia, Red Cardinal Flower, & Venetian Mallow, – any other annuals that the seedsmen may recommend as <x> new & fashionable for the country. To which I on behalf of myself & I hope of your Grosvenorship also, would have some good Broccoli seed added, with any thing else which may be deemed pretty eating, & of which the culture is not beyond the power of our climate, & poor garden establishment.

Ubi Diabolus est [4]  the Quarterly? Longmans independent gentlemen [5]  began better than we did, tho they also have a tolerable load of heavy ballast. I like their opinions well, – that in as far as they succeed they will prevent the extension of the Quarterlys sale, – for it xxx is xxxx <there> that the competition in sale will lie, tho the battle of opinions be with Gog of Edinburgh. [6]  I have not seen Gogs oracular opinion upon Kehama. [7]  Ballantyne says it is spoken of with much indignation at Edinburgh, – & among Ballantynes friends this may be likely enough. But Ballantyne does not know that Gogs praise would be a real mortification to me, which Gogs censure never can be – for if any person who pronounces Mr Campbell to be a great poet xxx & eke Mr Crabbe also, should pronounce the same approbation upon me – I should be very much afraid that there was something to be found in my writings of the same stamp <class & character> as that whereof Mr Crabbe & Mr Campbell were <are> composed, – & that would be humiliating indeed! [8] 

Oh this unmerciful Register! I have written 500 pages & see no end to it! [9] 

Lucky Lord Grenville to deliver his opinion about Massena two days before news arrived of his retreat! [10]  – La Peña’s conduct <has> perplexed me, – he has behaved well before, & that makes it unaccountable. – But what a fine thing the battle of Barrosa has been! [11]  Zounds Grosvenor with such soldiers what but our own want of enterprize should prevent us from meeting the enemy any where with equal numbers, & beating them from the Tagus to the Ebro, from the Ebro to the Pyrenees & from the Pyrenees to the Devil! – It is not in the heat of argument or exultation, but in cool, reflecting, solitary judgement that I speak when I say that in three years time this country might dictate peace under the walls of Paris, if the mighty means which we possess were but wisely directed & put forth with due vigour. – You may well suppose how anxious I am for news from Lisbon.

More villainies from Whitbread, [12]  – & more vengeance when he comes in my way.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 8 APR 8/ 1811
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Probably a copy of the government publication, the London Gazette. BACK

[2] John Theodore Koster, A Short Statement of the Trade in Gold Bullion: Shewing the True Causes of the General Scarcity and Consequent High Price on that Precious Metal: Also Demonstrating that the Notes of the Bank of England are Not Depreciated (1810). It went into a second edition in 1811, and Koster followed this with Further Observations on Bullion and Bank Notes (1811). BACK

[3] Southey did not deal with the bullion question in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812), leaving it until Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 89–114. BACK

[4] ‘Where the devil is’. BACK

[5] The British Review and London Critical Journal, which ran from 1811–1825. It was owned by John Weyland (1774–1854; DNB) and edited by William Roberts (1767–1849; DNB). The Review was distinctly Tory and evangelical. Southey did not contribute, though he was on the verge of doing so on more than one occasion. BACK

[6] i.e. Francis Jeffrey. The analogy with the giant Gog is a jibe at Jeffrey’s short stature. BACK

[7] Jeffrey’s appraisal of The Curse of Kehama (1810), Edinburgh Review, 17 (February 1811), 429–465. BACK

[8] Francis Jeffrey’s articles: ‘Poems. By the Reverend George Crabbe’, Edinburgh Review, 12 (April 1808), 131–151; ‘Review of Gertrude of Wyoming, a Pennsylvanian Tale; and other Poems’, Edinburgh Review, 14 (April 1809), 1–19. These contained high praise of George Crabbe (1754–1832; DNB) and Thomas Campbell (1777–1854; DNB). BACK

[9] Southey had invested more time and energy into his work for the Edinburgh Annual Register than he had anticipated and his contributions greatly exceeded, in terms of length, those of the previous year. Ballantyne was concerned enough about the length of the historical section to insist that Southey explained himself to the readers in a prefatory note; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), [v]–vi. BACK

[10] Grenville had made a speech in the House of Lords on 18 March 1811 on the futility of British intervention in Spain and Portugal. Southey noted laconically, ‘Two days after these opinions were delivered, the telegraph announced the news of Massena’s retreat’, Edinburgh Annual Register, 1811, 4.1 (1813), 264, referring to the French general, André Massena’s (1758–1817), retreat from Portugal into Spain, which began on 13 March 1811. BACK

[11] The Spanish commander Manuel La Peña (fl. 1808–1811), whose actions at the Battle of Barossa (5 March 1811) had resulted in his being court-martialled and relieved of his command. For Southey’s belief that La Peña was the victim of disagreements between the British and Spanish generals and governments, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 297. BACK

[12] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 295–296, reported Samuel Whitbread’s (1764–1815; DNB) speech of 1 April 1811 in the Commons denouncing the Spanish army’s conduct at the Battle of Barossa and provided Southey’s view of the matter. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)