128. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before and continued on] 25 May [1795]

128. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before and continued on] 25 May [1795] ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

You & Wynn could not more enjoy the idea of seeing me than I anticipate being with you. x as for coming now — or fixing any particular time — it may not be. my mind Bedford is very languid — I dare not say I will go at any fixed period. if you knew the fearful anxiety with which I sometimes hide myself to avoid an invitation, you would perhaps pity — perhaps despise me. there is a very pleasant family [1]  here — literary & accomplished, that I have almost offended by never calling. Coleridge is there three or four times in the course of the week. the effort to join in conversation is too painful to make — & the torpedo coldness of my phizmahogany has no right to chill the circle. by the by my dear Grosvenor if you know any artist about to paint a groupe of banditti I shall be very fit to sit for a young cub of ferocity. nay I have put on the look at the glass so as sometimes to frighten myself.

Well, but there is no difficulty in discovering the assiduity of affection. the eye is very eloquent — & Women are well skilld in its language — I asked the question Grosvenor you will love your sister Edith. I look forward with feelings of delight that dim my eyes to the days when she will expect you as her brother to visit us. brown bread wild Welch raspberries — heigh ho! this schoolboy anticipation follows me thro life & xxx <Enjoyment> uniformly disappoints Expectation.

I will come to London in about five weeks. my stay will be very short. I dislike the air of St Jamess Square — & entre nous should be very unwilling to see Sir Watkin. [2]  Sir — the very idea of a great man disgusts me. I love Ld Carysfort because he is a Poet. but must not mortify myself by visiting the Peer. “the notice of such a man as Ld C you must not despise”. twas an odd sentence to address to me.

Poetry softens the heart Grosvenor. No man ever tagged a rhyme without being the better for it. I write but little — the task of correcting Joan is a very great one, but as the plan is fundamentally bad it is necessary the poetry should be good. the Convict [3]  for which you askd is not worth sending. I think of sometimes rewriting it. if I could be with you another eight weeks I believe I should write another epic poem. so essential is it to be happily situated.

I shall copy out what I have done of Madoc & send you ere long. you will find more simplicity in it than in any of my pieces & of course it is the best. I shall study three books to write it — the Bible — Homer — & Ossian. [4]  by the by if you see any of these books in the London Catalogues do procure them for me

Acugna’s Relation [5]  of the great River of the Amazons in S America

8vo — London 1698

Rodrigues (Manuel) El Maragnon y Amazonas, [6]  Histoire de los descubrimientos, entrados y Reducion de naciones

Madrid — folio — 1684

Garcilasso de la Vegas Royal commentaries of Peru [7]  by Rycart.

London — folio 1688

Voyage de M de la Condamine. [8] 

Lettre de M Godin a M de la Condamine [9] 

when you see the plan of Madoc & know that I make him the same with Mango Capac [10]  (according to one conjecture) you will know why I want these books. one of them is in Spanish. n’importe. I will read it.

May 25th

Some few weeks ago I was introduced to Mr & Mrs Perkins [11]  here. they were on a visit & I saw them frequently. he pleases me very much for his mind was active & judicious & benevolence written in every feature of his face. Mrs Perkins was worthy of him. I never saw a woman superiour to her in mind — nor two people with a more rational affection for each other. on their quitting this place, they urged me to visit them at Bradford. a few days ago I was with my Mother at Bath & resolved to walk over to tea. it is but six miles distant & the walk extremely beautiful. I got to Bradford & enquiring for Mr Perkins was directed two miles in the country to Freshford. my way lay by the side of the river. the hills around were well wooded the evening calm & pleasant — it was perf quite May weather, & as I was alone & beholding only what was beautiful & looking on to a pleasant interview — I had relapsed into my old mood of feeling benevolently & keenly for all things. a man was sitting on the grass tying up his bundle, & of him I askd if I was right for Freshford. he told me he was going there. does Mr Perkins live there? yes. he buried his wife last Tuesday. I was thunder struck. Good God — I saw her but a few weeks ago. aye Sir. ten days ago she was as well as you are — but she is in Freshford churchyard now!

Grosvenor I cannot describe to you what I felt. the man thought I had lost a relation. it was with great difficulty I could resolve in proceeding to see him — however I thought brought it a kind of duty & went. guess my delight on finding another Mr Perkins to whom I had been directed by mistake.

You do not know what I suffered under the impression of her death or the relief I felt at discovering the mistake. strange selfishness. this man too had lost a wife — a young wife but lately married — who perhaps he loved. & I — I rejoiced at his lost because it was not my friend

yet without this selfishness Man would be an apathir an animal below the ouran outang. it is mortifying to analize our noblest affections & find them all bottomed on selfishness. I hear of thousands killed in battle — I read of the young — the virtuous dying & think of them no more. why if my very dog died I should weep for him. if I lost you — I should feel a lasting affliction. if Edith were to die I should follow her.

I am dragged into a party of pleasure tomorrow for two days. an hours hanging would be luxury to me compared with these detestable schemes. party of pleasure! Johnson never wrote a better tale than that of the Ethiopian King. [12]  here is the fire at home. & a great chair — & yet I must be moving off for pleasure. Grosvenor I will steal Cadmans [13]  long pipe — chew opium & learn to be happy with the least possible trouble.

Coleridges remembrances to you. he is applying the medicine of argument to my misanthropical system of indifference. twill not do. Timon [14]  respected mankind enough to hate them. I don’t think them worth hating — a strange dreaminess of mind has seized me — I am indifferent to society yet I feel my private attachments growing every hour more powerful. & weep like a child when I think of an absent friend. God bless you.


* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster./ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: [partial] AMA/ 2/ 95
Watermarks: Figure of Britannia; COLES/ 1794
Endorsements: Recd. May 27. 1795; Ansd. June 1st & 4th/ & sent June 6th
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. AL; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 236–240 [in part, where it is misdated 27 May 1795]. BACK

[1] Unidentified. BACK

[2] Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, 5th Baronet (1772–1840), older brother of Charles Watkin Williams Wynn. BACK

[3] One of Southey’s ‘Botany-Bay Eclogues’. BACK

[4] Supposedly a Celtic bard, whose works were ‘discovered’ by James Macpherson (1736–1796; DNB). BACK

[5] Christopher D’Acugna (1597–1670), Voyages and Discoveries in South America (1698). Southey owned a copy of this edition. See, A. N. L. Munby (gen. ed.), Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons, vol. 9 Poets and Men of Letters, ed. Roy Park (London, 1974), p. 85. BACK

[6] Manuel Rodrigues (1633–1701), El Marañon y Amazonas (1684). Southey owned a copy of this edition. See, A. N. L. Munby (gen. ed.), Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons, vol. 9 Poets and Men of Letters, ed. Roy Park (London, 1974), p. 272. BACK

[7] Garcillasso de la Vega (1539–1616), The Royal Commentaries of Peru (1688). BACK

[8] Charles-Marie de la Condamine (1701–1774), Relation Abrégée d’un Voyage fait dans L’Intérieur De l’Amérique Méridionale (1745). BACK

[9] Charles-Marie de la Condamine, Relation Abrégée d’un Voyage fait dans L’Intérieur De l’Amérique Méridionale ... et d’une Lettre de M. Godin des Odonais Contenant la Relation du Voyage de Madame Godin (1746). BACK

[10] Manco Capac, the legendary founder of Incan Peru. Southey’s plan to identify Capac with Madoc failed. BACK

[11] Southey met Mr and Mrs Perkins (first names and dates unknown) in Bristol in 1795 and visited them at their home near Bradford-on-Avon. BACK

[12] Rasselas, the hero of Samuel Johnson’s (1709–1784; DNB) The Prince of Abissinia. A Tale (1759). BACK

[13] Unidentified; a friend of the Bedfords. BACK

[14] A reference to the legendary Athenian misanthrope, who was the subject of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. BACK