141. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [21-] 22 November [1795]

141. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [21–] 22 November [1795] ⁠* 

Nanswithin. near St Columbs.

Grosvenor! what should that necromancer deserve who would transpose our souls for half an hour, & make each the inhabitant of the others tenement? there are so many curious avenues in mine, & so many closets in yours of which you have never sent me the key.

here I am — in a huge & handsome mansion — not a finer room in the county of Cornwall than the one in which I write — & yet have I been silent — & retird into the secret cell of my own heart. this day week Bedford! there is a something in the bare name that is now mine, that wakens sentiments I know not to describe. never did man stand at the altar with such strange feelings as I did. can you Grosvenor by any effort of imagination shadow out my emotions — days before my departure — when I felt her tears trickle down my cheek? yet Edith did not shed a tear when I left her. she returned the pressure of my hand — & we parted in silence. — zounds what have I do with supper!


Sunday morning. Nov 22.

I am writing for two reasons. one to escape church the other because to write to a dear friend is to me like escaping from prison. Grosvenor — my xxx <mind> is confined here. there is no point of similarity between my present companions & myself. but “if I have freedom in &c” [1]  you know the quotation.

this is a foul country. the tinners inhabit the most agreable part of it becaus for they live underground. above it is most dreary — desolate. my Sans Culotte [2]  like Johnsons [3]  in Scotland becomes a valuable piece of timber — & I — as most dull & sullenly silent fellow. such effects has place! I wonder what Mr Hoblyn [4]  thinks of me — he has seen my poems in the B Critic — he mentiond that he had seen my poems in the B Critic. [5]  my Uncle answerd tis more than I have. never had man so many relations so little calculated to inspire confidence. my character is open even to a fault — guess Grosvenor what a Kamschatkan climate it must be to freeze up the flow of my thoughts — that you have know more frisky than your spruce beer! — my bones are very thinly cushioned with flesh, & the jolting over these rough roads has made them very troublesome. — Bedford they are at this minute uttering aristocracy & I am silent! — two whole days was I imprisoned in stage coaches — cold as a dogs nose — hungry — & such a sinking at the heart — as you can little conceive. should I be drowned on the way — or by any other means take possession of that house where anxiety never intrudes — there will <be> a strange page or two in your life of me.

my Joan of Arc must by this time be printed. the first of next month it comes out. to me it looks like something that has concerned me, but from which my mind is now compleatly disengaged. the sight of pen & ink reminds me of it. you will little like some parts of it, for me I am now satisfied with the poem — & care little for its success.

You suppd upon Godwin & oysters with Carlisle. have you then read Godwin & that with attention? give me your thoughts upon his book — for faulty & false as it is in many parts — there is a mass of truth in it that must make every man think. Godwin as a man is very contemptable. I am afraid that most public characters will[MS torn] ill endure examination in their private lives — to venture upon so large a theatre, much vanity is necessary — & vanity is the bane of virtue. tis a foul Upas tree & no healing herb but withers beneath its shade. — what then had I to do with publishing? this Grosvenor is a question to which I can give myself no self-satisfying solution. for my Joan of Arc then is an obvious reason. here I stand acquitted of any thing like vanity or presumption. Grosvenor what motive created the F.? [6]  certainly it was not a bad one.

they are gone to church. — the children in the next room are talking — a harpsichord not far distant annoys me grievously. but then there are a large company of rooks — & their croak is always in unison with mine. What is going on in my thorax? I have a most foul pain suddenly seizd me there. Grosvenor — if a man could but make pills of philosophy for the mind! but there is only one pill kind of pill that will cure mental disorders — & a man must be labouring under the worst before he can use that.

What says Wynn to politics. to this Bill & the measure taken by the D. Bedford &c to oppose it. [7]  does he approve of convening a mob or to speak more properly a popular assembly? or do such proceedings make [Southey inserts a sketch consisting of a series of crosses and dashes]. I am waiting for the packet & shall be here ten days. direct to me at Miss Russells [8]  — Falmouth. there I shall find your letter. & remember that by writing you will give some pleasure to one who meets now with very little.


yr RS.


* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: ST. COLUMB
Postmark: BNO/ 25/ 95
Watermarks: [Obscured by MS binding]
Endorsements: Recd. Novr. 25. 1795; Ansd. Novr. 26. & sent, 3d Ode/ of 1st Book of Horace
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 254–257 [in part]. BACK

[1] Richard Lovelace (1618–1658; DNB), ‘To Althea from prison’ (1642), lines 29–30, ‘If I have freedom in my love/And in my soul are free’. BACK

[2] Southey’s nickname for his walking-stick. BACK

[3] Samuel Johnson (1709–1784; DNB), A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775). BACK

[4] Probably Rev. Robert Hoblyn (1751–1839), a contemporary of Southey’s uncle, Herbert Hill, at Christ Church, Oxford. He was the owner of Nanswhydden House, where Southey and Hill stayed on their way to Falmouth in November 1795. Hoblyn was a relative and namesake of the well-known Cornish bibliophile, Robert Hoblyn (1710–1756; DNB). BACK

[5] Southey’s and Lovell’s Poems (1795) had been reviewed in the British Critic, 6 (August 1795), 185–187. BACK

[6] The Flagellant (1792), a controversial schoolboy magazine, involvement in which had led to Southey’s expulsion from Westminster School. Grosvenor Charles Bedford had also been one of its founders and contributors. BACK

[7] A reference to the ‘Two Acts’ (the Treasonable Practices Act and the Seditious Meetings Act) introduced by the government in early November 1795. Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford (1765–1802; DNB), chaired a meeting at the Whig Club on 11 November 1795, at which Charles James Fox (1749–1806; DNB) called for nationwide protests and petitions against the government’s proposals. BACK

[8] Unidentified; she was Southey’s landlady during his stay in Falmouth in 1795. BACK

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