168. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 31 July [-2 August] 1796

168. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 31 July [–2 August] 1796 ⁠* 

Sunday July 31st. 1796

Oh that like Solon [1]  you could bring Bristol to the sea! for as for bringing the sea to Bristol that could not be done as Trim says “unless it pleasd God” [2]  — & as Toby says how the Devil should it? — I must not ask you to come to me & I cannot come to you.

now to your letter. first of Carlisles part.

In the second chapter of the Wisdom of Solomon & at the 23rd verse are these words

For GOD created man to be immortal, & made him to be an image of his own eternity. [3] 

Now if Carlisles only Deity be Nature this will be nonsense to him. if he be — a Theist this text will sufficiently explain the scripture phrase I used. as for Mans fore-paws I am glad they were made for so good a purpose & wish they were never applied to a worse. & as for “universal benevolence”! — I have been in the crowd & have had my corns trod upon, & therefore I chuse to take a snug bye path for the future. & when Carlisle has his house in the country & his mastiff to keep off the Beasts — I beg he will let me be familiar with the four-legged brute.

A little taper will lighten a room. but place it to illuminate the street — it will be no good, & the wind will speedily extinguish it. there is my the text which my life is to illustrate. they <who> do not like the maxim may amuse themselves with the metaphor. how could you fancy I believed God like Man? for what resemblance should I have had left for the Devil?

however Wakefield [4]  has annihilated him.

As for Mrs Allen she cannot live long. she is a woman of some accomplishments — but her physiognomy is not good. for your club — I grant you a few hours once a fortnight will not make me worse — but will they make me better? & if they will not — why should I quit the fireside? you will be in a state of requisition perpetually with me. & it seems you have bespoke a place in my heart for Carlisle. but I will not let too many in there because I do not much like being obliged to turn them out. Lenora [5]  is partly borrowed from an old English ballad.

Is there any room at your head Marga William?
Is there any room at your feet?
Is there any room at your side Margarett William?
Wherein I may creep?

Theres no room at my head Margarett!
Theres no room at my feet:
Theres no room at my side Margarett —

My Coffin is made so meet! [6] 

But the other ballad of Bürger in the M. Magazine [7]  is most excellent. I know no commendation equal to its merit. read it again Grosvenor & read it aloud. the man who wrote that should have been ashamed of Lenora. who is this Taylor? I suspected they were by Sayers. [8] 

Have you read Cabal & Love? [9]  in spite of a translation for which the translator deserves hanging — the fifth act is dreadfully affecting.

I want to write my Tragedies of the Banditti

of Sebastian [10] 

of Iñez de Castro [11] 

of the Revenge of Pedro. [12] 

my Epic Poem in 20 books of Madoc [13] 

my novel in three volumes of Edmund Oliver [14] 

my romance of ancient history of Alcas [15] 

my Norwegian tale of —— Harfagre [16] 

my Oriental poem of The Destruction of the Dom Daniel [17] 

& in case I adopt Rousseaus system

(as you have done) my —— Pains of Imagination

there Grosvenor all these I want to write.

Οτοττοτοι! [18] 

A Comical Cornish Curate [19]  who saw me once or twice has written me a quaint letter, & sent me a specimen of his


Now Bedford as for the delicacy of my preface — in the next edition I will spit more of it into the Worlds face — mark me — I wont wash the Beasts ugly xxxxx fa visnomy with cosmetics but I will spit in it to clean it. & if CC calls that affectation, I shall think just as well of him then as I do now. so he is to be married!


Wynn bids me ask you if when you are asked the reason of your complaint, you give the same answer as Martin when Count Pavoni asked him how he got all the riches which he sent over to the Emperor. “I got eet all by mine Ole.” [20] 

Wynn wishes me to live near Lincolns Inn — because in a years time it will be necessary for me to be with a Special Pleader. but I wish to live on the other side of Westminster Bridge, between <because> it will be much more necessary to be within an evening walk of Brixton. to all serious studies I bid adieu when I enter upon my London lodgings — the law will neither amuse me nor ameliorate me nor instruct me — but the moment it gives me a comfortable independance — & I have but few wants — then farewell to London! I will get me some little house near the sea, & near a country town for the sake of the post & the booksellers — & you shall pass as much of the summer with me as you can — & I will see you in the winter — that is if you do not come & live by me & then we will keep mastiffs like Carlisle — & make the prettiest theories, & invent the best systems for mankind. aye & become great philanthropists when we associate only among ourselves, & the fraternity of dogs cats & cottages — for as for poultry I do not like eating what I have fed — & as for pigs — they are too like the Multitude. there in the cultivation of poetry & potatoes, I will be innocently employed. not but I mean to aspire to higher things — aye Grosvenor I will make cyder — & mead, & try more experiments upon wines than a London vintner. & perhaps Grosvenor the first Xmas day you pass with me after I am so settled — we may make a Xmas fire of all my Law books. Amen. So be it.

but if a Bodderation [21]  — which is the Irish synonime for Federation — should take place either before or at that time — I will not stir an inch — nor will I beat my pruning hook into a sword — if any man comes to cut my throat I will strive hard to cut his — but I will have nothing to do with the world, & perhaps the world will have nothing to do with me. neither shall you sti move from the fire side — for if you go think of going to join the Royalist army — I will a la <côte> Republican make a diversion in your ho own house which shall keep you there

Tuesday. I hope to get out my letters by Michaelmas day — & the poems will be all ready in six weeks after that time. that done farewell to Bristol — my native place my home for two & twenty years — where from many causes I have endured much misery — but where I have been very happy — & where I have learnt enough of mankind thoroughly to despise them. no man ever retained as more perfect knowlege of the history of his own mind, than I have done. I can trace the developement of my character from infancy, for developed it has been, not changed. I look forward to the writing of this history as the most pleasing & most useful employment I shall ever undertake. this removal however is not like quitting home. I am never domesticated in lodgings the hearth is unhallowed & the Penates [22]  do not abide there. now Grosvenor to let you into a secret tho I cannot afford to buy a house or hire one — I have lately built a very pretty castle. which is being interpreted — if I can get my play of the Banditti brought on the stage — & if it succeeds — curse all those little conjunctions — well — these “ifs” granted I shall get money enough to furnish me a house.

you do very right in making Harry xxxxxxxxxx — right in every point of view. for let the world wag how it will — a medical man is always a respectable & useful member of society. priests & lawyers exist only as long as the old tottering establishments — & they are both nuisances — or rather the tree is bad & then how can the fruit be good — or the vermin that feed upon it? no matter — I would not sacrifice a hair of my head for the beast. as for the story of Curtius & the gulf [23]  I am much inclined to doubt it — & not inclined at all to follow his example. no no Grosvenor — the worse the weather is without doors — the more comfortable must I make myself within.

what a world of wretchedness is this — one of these days Grosvenor you & I will explore the haunts of poverty in London — & see what Society is. it is composed of two classes — they who oppress & they who suffer. perhaps neither of them conscious of what their guilt & folly. I hate the one class for active evil — I despise the other for patient suffering. such are the two species of the humanum genus. you & I are Nondescripts.

God bless you.



* Address: For/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster./ Single
Postmark: AAU/ 3/ 96
Watermarks: Figure of Britannia; COLES/ 1795
Endorsement: 31. July 1796
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. 286–89 [in part, where it is dated 31 July 1796]. BACK

[1] The Athenian philosopher and statesman Solon (638–558 BC). BACK

[2] Laurence Sterne (1713–1768; DNB), The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 9 vols (London, 1759–1767), VIII, p. 170. BACK

[3] Wisdom of Solomon 2: 23. BACK

[4] See the description of the devil as an ‘allegorical character’ ‘gratuitously fabricated by the sons of superstition’, in Gilbert Wakefield (1756–1801; DNB), An Examination of the Age of Reason, or an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology, by Thomas Paine (London, 1794), pp. 33–34. BACK

[5] William Taylor’s version of ‘Lenora’ appeared in the Monthly Magazine, 1 (March 1796), 135–137. For Southey’s response, see his letter to the Editor of the Monthly Magazine, 3 September 1796 (Letter 174). BACK

[6] ‘Sweet William’s Ghost. A Scottish Ballad’; see Thomas Percy (1729–1811: DNB), Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 3 vols (London, 1765), III, p. 130. BACK

[7] The translation of ‘The Lass of Fair Wone’, published in the Monthly Magazine, 1 (April 1796), 223–234. BACK

[8] Frank Sayers (1763–1817; DNB). BACK

[9] Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805), Cabal and Love (1784). BACK

[10] Sebastian I, King of Portugal (1554–1578; reigned 1557–1578). BACK

[11] Inez de Castro (1325–1355) was the daughter of a Castilian nobleman. She secretly married the Portuguese crown prince, Pedro (1320–1367; reigned 1357–1367). When Pedro’s father, Alphonso IV (1291–1357; reigned 1325–1357), discovered the marriage, he ordered her murder. BACK

[12] When Pedro, husband of the murdered Inez de Castro, succeeded to the Portuguese throne in 1357, he took revenge on his wife’s killers. BACK

[13] Southey’s Madoc, published in 1805, had twenty-seven books. BACK

[14] A plan of this is in an unpublished notebook (which Southey began to use in c. 1795–1796 during his first trip to the Iberian peninsula), in the library of the Hispanic Society of America, New York. Southey did not achieve his aim, but seems to have passed the title of his novel, and possibly some of its subject-matter, on to Charles Lloyd whose Edmund Oliver appeared in 1798. BACK

[15] Possibly the Greek lyric poet Alcaeus (6th/5th century BC). BACK

[16] Harold Harfagre (c. 850–933; reigned 872–930), first king of Norway. BACK

[17] An early name for what became Southey’s Islamic romance, Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[18] The Greek can be translated as ‘lackaday’. BACK

[19] The curate of St Columb’s, Cornwall, possibly William Tremayne (1761–1824). BACK

[20] Unidentified. BACK

[21] Perhaps a reference to the possibility of a French invasion. BACK

[22] In Roman mythology, gods of the hearth and household. BACK

[23] Marcus Curtius (d. 360 BC), a Roman youth who threw himself into a gulf that had suddenly opened in the Forum, in order to appease the gods. BACK

Places mentioned


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