2110. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 8 June 1812

2110. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 8 June 1812 ⁠* 

Monday June 8 1812

My dear Grosvenor

I received a note from Lord Lonsdale on Saturday inclosing a reply from Lord Hertford to his application, – which reply states that a previous arrangement had been made for the office of Historiographer. [1]  – Thinking you would be likely to know this as soon as myself I did not write to you. – My interest was better than I expected. – upon Lord Lonsdale I had reckoned, – but Scott wrote for me to Lord Melville, [2]  & seemed to depend upon success. If Courtenay be the successful applicant I shall be malicious splenetic enough to wish you some friend would show him my historical labours in one scale & his pamphlett in another, – & then congratulate him upon his appointment. [3]  I have now done with the State Lottery. Of all the <things> possible I most desired an appointment at Lisbon, – if it had been given me when it was desired, & when it would have been honourable in Fox [4]  so to have given it, knowing as he did my motive for wishing it, it would have involved me (owing to the subsequent troubles) in pecuniary difficulties which xxx perhaps I should never have surmounted. That hope having failed I looked to that good ship the Historiographer believing myself better qualified for the post than most men, & perhaps more <than> any <other> man, ambitious of fulfilling its duties, – but that good ship it seems is still condemned <destined> to be so ill-manned as to be perfectly useless.

This evening I have a very letter from Canning couched in the most handsome & friendly terms. He does not know that the office is disposed of, but hints at difficulties in the way of his obtaining it, (even supposing he were in power) – which Gifford has explained. He concludes with expressions & professions of good will which I doubt not are sincere. But there is nothing to which I can look forward.

Say to Gifford that I must beg him to end with my article instead of beginning with it. I am close prest with the Register [5]  which this week will bring, I hope & trust, to a conclusion. Mr Ballantynes Historiographer is well paid, – but the office is no sinecure.

I have never had leisure to write to Blanco since he sent me a very satisfactory & interesting reply to some questions respecting the Junta. [6]  Tell him I have got Jovellanos’s [7]  book – Murray has sent one, – I suppose for the Quarterly. – tell him I will write to him as soon as my hands are a little eased of their immediate load, – & be sure you tell him to make his preparations for coming to me as early as he can in August.

The end of these wretched negociations & squabblings for place will be I suppose that the present ministry will keep their places, – joined I should hope by Canning. Ld Castlereagh [8]  I suppose is the obstacle to this. As for the Gregres [9]  God preserve this poor country from falling into their hands! Our situation is bad enough, at the best: under them it would be almost hopeless. They would go upon their knees to America immediately, & I doubt whether the hearty kick which Jonathan would apply to the broad bottom in that position would convince them that nothing was ever gained by a cowardly policy. Even as it is we are prating about the Orders in Council under Mr Broughams wise directions, when we ought to come out with a thundering declaration against the Congress, declaring that if this last decree of theirs be carried into xxx effect, – the first town in which they put a British seaman to death shall be laid in ashes. [10]  This I would do, & were I minister, – & I would instantly sweep their ships from the seas.

Did you receive a book of Pelayo [11]  some little time before that unhappy wretch Bellingham produced all this confusion? [12]  Never surely did any madman do so much mischief.

I wish you were here to see the country in full beauty. Your godson has just learnt to read Greek, & I expect in my next parcel a grammar & vocabulary for him. He promises well, if it please God that he should live.

I am going xxxxx in July Eastward for about a fortnight, – on a tramp with Danvers, to see my two brothers [13]  in the bishoprick: but I shall be back certainly before the end of the month, – & mention this intention now that you & the Magister Rotulorum may not be arranging your plans so as to arrive during my absence.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 11 JU 11/ 1812
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 339–341 [in part; misdated 17 May 1812]. BACK

[1] Southey was campaigning for the post of Historiographer Royal, vacant because of the death of Louis Dutens (1730–1812; DNB) on 23 May 1812. He was unsuccessful and it went to one of his particular bêtes noires, James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB). BACK

[2] Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville (1771–1851; DNB), who had become First Lord of the Admiralty earlier in 1812. BACK

[3] Courtenay was a notorious accumulator of offices and a staunch ministerialist. The pamphlet was possibly his A View of the State of the Nation, and of the Measures of the Last Five Years (1811). BACK

[4] Charles James Fox (1749–1806; DNB). Southey is referring to the period when Fox was Foreign Secretary in 1806. BACK

[5] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

[6] The Supreme Junta was the governing body in those parts of Spain free from French rule in September 1808-January 1810. BACK

[7] Gaspar de Jovellanos (1744–1811), Spanish statesman, author and philosopher. The book is probably A Suos Compatriotas Memoria, en que se Rebatem les Calumnias Divulgadas contra los Individuos de la Junta Central (1811); no. 3499 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey did not review it for the Quarterly. BACK

[8] Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh (1769–1822; Foreign Secretary 1812–1822; DNB). He had fought a duel with Canning on 21 September 1809. Canning was wounded in the thigh; his opponent lost a button from his coat; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 788–792. Canning did not join the Ministry until 1816. BACK

[9] The followers of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845; Prime Minister 1830-1834; DNB), and William Grenville. Gregres were idols of wood and clay in West Africa. BACK

[10] Tensions had been growing between America and Britain, particularly over the Orders in Council of 1807, which prohibited neutrals trading with France. To try and prevent these tensions leading to war the Cabinet was moving towards suspending the Orders in Council, which it did on 16 June 1812 – too late to prevent America’s declaration of war on Great Britain on 18 June 1812. The campaign against the Orders in Council, in public and in the Commons, was led by Brougham. BACK

[11] Book 5 of an early version of what became Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[12] The political chaos caused by the assassination of the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval on 11 May 1812. His assassin was John Bellingham (1770–1812; DNB), a merchant with a grudge against the government. BACK

[13] Tom and Henry Herbert Southey, both resident in or near Durham. BACK