1932. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 June 1811

1932. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 June 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. June 9. 1811.

My dear Grosvenor

I want to know what was the nature of a peculiarly obnoxious tax in Catalonia called La Contribucion del Personal, & abolished by the Supreme Junta, as a reward for the patriotism of the Catalans. [1]  You perhaps can procure for me this needful information from your friend Colonel Herries [2]  by the time I see you, which will be time enough, as there will be several proof sheets which must follow me to Streatham.

We start on Tuesday, so that before this reaches you we shall be on the road. Meaning however to halt at Nottingham for a day or two I do not expect to make my transit thro Lon over the stones before Monday. After a day or two’s rest I shall find my way to town, & look for you <& call> at the Chequers, in order to for the purpose of introducing myself to your Wig & your improved appearance. Polly the poney & the good Grey Steed are I believe the <your> only acquaintance at Keswick who have not heard of your convalescence in return to their inquiries, but I trust you will not impute their silence to any unkindness.

I compleated the Register last night. Its enormous length has cost me at least three months labour more than the former volume, the whole of which is dead loss of the only capital I possess in the world. [3]  This is considerably inconvenient, – half that time would have sufficed for the life of Nelson, [4]  the other half have set me forward for the next three numbers of the Quarterly, – my ways & means therefore are considerably deranged. – If there should not be a quarters forth coming soon after my arrival, I will beg you to advance it to me upon the Kings security. [5] 

So John Thelwall lectures tomorrow upon the Curse of Kehama! [6]  I like John Thelwall for the same reason for which Dr Johnson liked Mrs Mary Cobb. “I love Moll, said he, – I love Moll Cobb for her impudence.” [7]  – I like John however for something else, for tho he is impudentissimus homo, [8]  & the very Emperor of Coxcombs, – tho he was formerly a professed atheist, (& most probably continues so in his has not changed his opinion tho he holds his tongue about it) & tho he narrowly escaped hanging for high treason, [9]  yet nevertheless John Thelwall is an good honest fellow honest fellow & has a good heart. He is a clever fellow too in the midst of his quackery. And so partly because I like him for the aforesaid reasons (his quondam approximation to the honours of Tyburn being one) – & partly because half an hours conversation with him will afford matter of mirth for half a year afterwards, I will certainly call upon John when I go to town, & shake hands with him once more. – Ah Grosvenor! people may say what they will about good company, or what Sharpe x more suo  [10]  denominates the ‘very best’ society, – “the-very-best,”– there is no company after all like that of an odd fellow, whom you can laugh with, & laugh at, & laugh about, till your eyes overflow with the very oil of gladness.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ 12 JU 12/ 1811
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 311–312 [in part]. BACK

[1] The historic provinces of Spain had different tax regimes. In Catalonia, there was a tax based on a fixed percentage of the income from land and occupations, while Castile relied on a wide variety of different taxes. The Supreme Junta was the executive authority in Spain September 1808–January 1810. BACK

[2] Charles Herries (1744–1819), merchant and colonel of the Light Horse Volunteers, a prestigious London defence force. His son was John Charles Herries. BACK

[3] Southey was not the only one concerned. Ballantyne was worried 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

[4] Southey’s Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[5] Southey is asking Grosvenor Bedford to loan him £50 – the sum Southey was due to receive as the next quarter of his government pension, granted in 1807. BACK

[6] Thelwall had been lecturing on the English poets at his ‘Institution’ in Bedford Place and included an example from the Curse of Kehama in his Selections for the Illustration of a Course of Instructions on the Rhythmus and Utterance of the English Language (London, 1812), p. 145. BACK

[7] A saying widely attributed to Samuel Johnson (1709–1784; DNB). ‘Moll Cobb’ was Mary Hammond Cobb (d. 1793), a well-known figure in Lichfield. She claimed to dislike intellectual women and poetry and to read only novels, plays and Johnson’s Rambler. BACK

[8] ‘A most impudent man’. BACK

[9] Thelwall was acquitted of the charge of High Treason in December 1794. BACK

[10] ‘In his usual’. BACK

People mentioned

Thelwall, John (1764–1834) (mentioned 2 times)
Ballantyne, John (1774–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Sharp, Richard (1759–1835) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)