273. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 19 November 1797

273. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 19 November 1797 ⁠* 

Sunday. 19 Nov. 97.

Grosvenor I have found out a better fence for our Eutopia than Carlisles plantation of vipers & rattle snakes. it is to surround it with a Vacuum. for you know Grosvenor this would so puzzle the philosophers on the other side; & we might see them making experiments upon the atmosphere — to the great annoyance of dogs whom they would scientifically torture. besides — if we had any refractory inmate we might push him into the void.

But how could you blunder about Tuesday so egregiously. did not I say expressly dine at Grays Inn with me? look you. I am John Mays guest for some 24 hours. now in common civility I must dine one day with him; & we hope to be lodged on the Wednesday. so I hold myself engaged to the blackguard mess on Tuesday & the next day to him. you do not know him — but he is one whom I greatly respect — & I should like to have him on the right side of the vacuum. I have written to Wynn to explain this & call you an ideot. & now remember to meet me at his rooms on Tuesday as soon after three as you please.

I hate the journey — & yet going to London I may say with Quarles

My journey’s better than my journeys end.  [1]  a little home — Grosvenor — near the sea — or in any quiet country where there is water to bathe in — & what should I wish for in this life? & how could I be so honourably or happily employed as in writing?

If Buonaparte should come before I look like Sir John Comyns [2]  — oh that fine chuckle head was made for the law. I am too old to have my skull moulded.

Charles Lloyd is coming to London with me — & means to lodge in the same house. how all this chanced is a long & odd story. I could wish you to know him well — but it would be an effort to give his character — & I love not exertion. thus much however I will say — his feelings are too susceptible of neglect or kindness. they are not so blunt as we could wish them or as they should be for his own happiness. & a little attention to him in conversation, will & any trifling mark of kindness will highly gratify him.

And now God bless you. & give my love to Carlisle & to Horace.


Your letter is arrived. why not trust the settled quietness to which my mind has arrived? it is wisdom to avoid all violent emotions. I would not annihilate my feelings — but I would have them under a most Spartan despotism. Grosvenor Inveni portum. spes & fortuna valete. [3] 

Tu quoque, si vis
Lumine claro
Cernere rectum,
Gaudia pelle
Pelle timorem
Spemque fugato
Nec dolor adsit. [4] 

I have laid up the advice of Boethius in my heart — & prescribe it to you — so fare you well


* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster./ Single
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: NO/ 20/ 97
Watermark: J Smyth/ 1796
Endorsement: 19 Novr 1797
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. AL; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 323–324 [in part]. BACK

[1] A paraphrase of Francis Quarles (1592–1644; DNB), Divine Fancies (1632), no. 24 ‘On a Pilgrim’, line 8. BACK

[2] Sir John Comyns (1667–1740; DNB), judge and legal writer. BACK

[3] The Latin can be translated as ‘I have reached the port, hope and fortune farewell.’ It is a Latin version of a Greek original and in this form was used in Alain-Rene Lesage’s (1668–1747), Gil Blas (1715–35), Book 9, as the inscription over the hero’s door on his retirement. BACK

[4] A paraphrase of Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c. 475–525), De Consolatione Philosophiæ. The passage is translated in Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. Victor Watts (Harmondsworth, 1969; rev. edn 1999), p. 21, as: ‘If you desire/ To look on truth/ And follow the path/ With unswerving course,/ Rid yourself/ Of joy and fear,/ Put hope to flight,/ And banish grief.’ BACK

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