70. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 November–2 December 1793 *
College Green Bristol. Friday 22nd. November. 1793.
I Robert Southey of the city of Bristol being in sound health of body & (I believe) of mind — but not knowing how long I may continue so — do hereby make my last will & testament which however short & trifling, I do desire may in no one point <be> controverted.
worldly wealth I have none to dispose of. I do give & bequeath all my writings of what kind soever they may be, being now in my possession & contained in my deal desk — oaken box or casette — & likewise all my letters either here at Bristol, or at Oxford & all those papers which my be at Oxford or elsewhere appertaining to me — to Grosvenor Charles Bedford — of Brixton Causeway in the county of Surry. to be disposed of by him as he may think proper. & I do desire that in case of my death the said Grosvenor Charles Bedford will make immediate application for the said papers — if possible before they may have been inspected — I the said Robert Southey leaving it entirely at his option in what manner to dispose of the said papers.
signed this 22nd of November by me
in the presence of
There my dear Grosvenor — now when the fates shall think fit to rid the world of an useless incumbrance — you will prevent his remains from falling into bad hands — some few of my letters of the date 91 with a particular signature you will read & destroy. with the rest do what you will — my diary I could wish Edmund Seward to see — at least from the latter end of last March — it may then either feed the flames or be sacrificed to Cloacina. 
rumour says, the plague has arrived in Bristol but rumour tells lies — the only plagues are domestic & I have plenty of those — the other I need not fear. in good health & spirits have I made my will — more from the wish of preventing impertinent curiosity than of indulging vanity. be assured of this that were I to die tomorrow in all probability my papers would soon be destroyed after a search very disagreable to me. do you read burn or preserve what you please — only burn those letters after you have read them — when the worms are honey-combing my carcase what signifies the fly blows upon fame? I am tired of politics — I am tired of this place — Life however has still temptations & I am not yet tired of myself — by the by I am tired of expecting your letter —
Tuesday 26. I have just five minutes before I sit down to dinner hanging idly upon my hands — make some pretty apology to Mrs Deacon & tell her she shall receive a penitentiary apology very soon. I am about a letter to Ledbury at present which I cannot accomplish well because I am too earnest. a few glasses of wine after dinner will make the pen flow easier. be not startled — it is November — cold dark damp & raw & constitution seems to ask it. an Essay on Memory is my projected Xmas employment — an agreable task — literally a task. Dido  make her bulls hide very extensive & I can stretch my subject. mere poetical flourishes without any moral principle inculcated is like — a false building in a city garden — or Burkes book  — or two certain looking glasses. they have often reflected upon me — retaliation is but fair. I am studying such a book!  talk of morality in — Potiphars wife  & Solomons song — !  Democracy, real true democracy is but another word for morality — they are like body & soul. Bedford you are too good for <an> aristocrat
Thurs. 28. Edmund Seward says the man who pursues literary studies merely for the gratification they afford, is as little entitled to respect as the libertine or the glutton. whilst I feel the severity of the remark I cannot deny its truth. when the sage says γνωθι σεαυτον  he merited more from mankind than Homer when he finishd his Odyssey. in fact the sum of necessary knowledge is very small — & may perhaps be compressed in two words. Be just. let a man observe that precept & he will be faultless. the imperfect nature of man has been always in the number of the common place aristocratical declamations. it has been dinned into my ears continually. now I am inclined to think man is capable of perfection. look at the New Hollander & the Englishman — observe the vast distance & judge what Man may attain to by the attainments he has already reachd. I do not believe the existence of innate ideas — as far as argument can avail on metaphysical subjects their non existence may be proved & this once granted every sentiment of the human mind is the effect of cultivation & example. had your father thought differently from his present sentiments you had been a republican. had I sought the friendship of Hook in preference to yours I had been an abandoned libertine. Godwin observes that great geniuses have usually existed in a cluster, it is like flint & steel.  or like a number of quicksilver globules attracting each other.
now admitting the human mind to be blank of original ideas, it follows that every thing that follows is the effect of education, & of example; this hypothesis may explain the difference of Man under different governments — it may teach us that the slaves of Xerxes  were born capable of the virtues of Themistocles & Aristides.  I have talkd to Seward of the eternal & immutable laws of Justice — he talks to me of the eternal & immutable laws of Religion. the difference exists only in terms
The First of December.
Henceforth let this metre be called the Southëic. 
at last I have written to Mrs Deacon in most execrable rhymes — I never had better will or worse ability. my letter to Ledbury is gone & I am once more totally free from any graphic employment to intrude upon Joan & Memory.
would you imagine that I draw every day? a little instruction would make me decent in that most agreable of arts — as it is I can amuse myself — & if the traveller on his road may not be pleased with the daisys on the bank — his pleasure will be very little.
Do not imagine that I am vindicating the stile of Candide  when I differ with you in judgement. no book perhaps is more subversive of morality — but has not the poignant ridicule many advantages? were ever the pride of birth & of heroism better held up to the contempt they merit? against these vices that have so long infected society ridicule is the best weapon. had Voltaires heart been equal to his head such a man might have reformd the world. to argue against the arrogance of hereditary honors — or the glory of military atchievements is labor lost. their absurdity & injustice are evident as noon-day light — ridicule shews them in their strongest colours. when you laugh at the Baron of Thundertentroach & Candides heroism do you <not> feel a satisfaction superior to common merriment?
your plan of a general satire I am ready to partake when you please. Pope Swift & Atterbury you know once attempted it but malevolence intruded into the design & Martinus Scriblerus  bore too strong a resemblance to Dr Woodward.  Swifts part is more levelld at follies than at vice. establish the empire of Justice & folly & vice will be annihilated together. draw out your plan & send it me — if you have resolution for so arduous a task. you know mine. I have plans lying by me enough for many years or many lives — yours however I shall be glad to engage in — whether it be the Devil or no I know not — but my pen delights in lashing vice & folly. Stemmata quid faciunt?  measure the Colossus by his thumb. I think of indulging Edmund Seward with a most delectable dish of democracy. an abortive letter to you will furnish some good lines & I have a whole host of ideas each with a sting in its tail as sharp as a wasps.
Memory comes on rarely. that is in embryo for as yet I have written but 115 lines. it will swell into a Volume. & as I entitle it a Rhapsody it will comprize much morality & politics.
do send my great coat &c.
* Watermarks: Figure of Britannia; G R in a circle
Endorsement: Ansd. Decr. 18th. & 19th 1793.
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 4p. [This letter was possibly enclosed in that from Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 11 December 1793, see Letter 71.]
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, p. 194 [in part; 1 paragraph; this is extracted from 2 December section and misdated 22 November]. BACK
 The legend that when Dido, the first Queen of Carthage, was planning her city, she paid for as much ground as could be covered by a bull’s hide, but then cut the hide into fine strips and enclosed a large tract of land. BACK
 William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, (1793). Southey borrowed the first volume from the Bristol Library Society between 25–28 November 1793 and the second between 9–18 December 1793. BACK
 ‘Martinus Scriblerus’ was the name of a fictional antiquarian and pedant invented by members of the Scriblerus club, including Alexander Pope (1688–1744; DNB) and Jonathan Swift (1667–1745; DNB). Francis Atterbury (1663–1732; DNB), Bishop of Rochester, politician and Jacobite, was a close friend of Pope and Swift. BACK