3289. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 5 May 1819

3289. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 5 May 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 5 May. 1819.

My dear Grosvenor

At last I hope there appears to be an end to the anxiety in which one thing after another has kept me with little intermission for more than two months. I cannot say that either child or mother are well; but both are materially better. The little one has been very ill with a spasmodic cough, the probability of an abscess is over, for the tumour is diminishing, as soon as it began to appear, one of the breasts was affected, – & that complaint also after some ten days fomentation seems to be going away. – All this tried my spirits severely, – & they are now pretty much like my ways & means, that is, they reach out with good husbandry, but are very unequal to any extraordinary demand upon them. – But of this you may always rest assured, that when I make most progress at my desk I am in best health both of body & mind. Nothing exhilarates me so much as a good days work at those employments by which no passion is excited.

Thank you for your stewardship. When you receive the next quarter send me the balance – for I shall need it as soon as it can be had. It will be very inconvenient for me if Gifford does not give place in his next number (that is the one after that which is now due) to my sepulchral paper. [1]  I am overdrawing upon the Longmen at present, – which however I may very well do, & feel no reluctance at doing. Wesley & the Tale of Paraguay (when I set to in earnest to compleat that poem) will presently turn the scale. [2]  But I can neither stir from home, nor do anything else (except by fits of relief) till the Brazil is finished, – & surely never did any task so grow under the workmans hands. [3]  The reason of this is, that it was utterly impossible to estimate the extent of the work, because there existed no previous work by which I could measure my scale, & discover <see> what lay before me. It was travelling in an undiscovered country. The historical part is finished, & I am half way thro the concluding chapter, – which gives a view of Brazil as it was in 1808, – a tremendous chapter both in length & labour. [4]  But I have the satisfaction of knowing now the task is so nearly compleated, that there does not exist in this or in any other language, so full an account of any country from the earliest times – of its rise, progress, state of its manners & civilization, geography, the manners of its aborigines, – th & its actual state at the point of time when the writer concludes, – as I have shall have prepared of Brazil; – a country of which less was known than of any other (central Africa alon excepted) xx which will soon be of the greatest commercial importance to G Britain, & is in a fair way of becoming the greatest country of the New World, – having I think x as much to hope as Yankee-Xxxxxxx <Land> – & less to fear. – There is yet a months work more, tho 706 pages are printed. [5] 

You are right concerning the monument. [6]  I abhominate allegory in stone. – Chantrey [7]  is to make a bust of Wordsworth for Sir George Beaumont. I saw his two children in the Exhibition [8]  & preferred them to the works of Canova in the same room.

Dr Bell has sent me a very handsome barometer. This I mention because it has plx been vacillating a hairs breadth about change for the last week, & the weather all the while as fixed as fate: whence I conclude that Dolland [9]  the maker has been accustomed to make weather glasses for the Opposition. – I have nothing else to tell you, – except that lately I had a rat roasted for supper; which was very good, tho rather too young it would have been better had the rat been not so young. It was more like roasted-pig than any thing else. Shedaw liked it very much. Sara thought it not amiss, but as for Mrs C. – you should have seen her face when we talkd of it at breakfast.

It is a good thing for me that Tom is so near, – his house is a gunshot from that delightful beck in Newlands wherein you & I have bathed. And there I shall bathe before this weekx is over, if the xxxxxx weather continue as warm as it is now.

God bless you.


I have had a cold & a touch of lumbago, – but both are gone.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer
Endorsement: 5 May 1819
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 130–131 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s article was published as he hoped: ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’, Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 359–398. BACK

[2] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820) and A Tale of Paraguay (1825). BACK

[3] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[4] Chapter 44, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 696–879. BACK

[5] Southey dated the completion of Chapter 44, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, p. 879, as 23 June 1819. Including the index, the volume ran to 950 pages. BACK

[6] Southey had declined to contribute to a monument in Edinburgh for Robert Burns (1759–1796; DNB). BACK

[7] Sir Francis Chantrey (1781–1841; DNB), sculptor. He completed the bust in 1820, much to Wordsworth’s satisfaction; it is now in the Wordsworth Room, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington. BACK

[8] Chantrey’s famous ‘The Sleeping Children’, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1817 and now in Lichfield Cathedral, was a sensation. Antonio Canova’s (1757–1822) statues, ‘Hebe’ (now at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire) and ‘Terpsichore’ (Cleveland Museum of Art), were well-received by critics, but did not attract as much attention. Southey probably saw these works on his visit to London in May 1817. BACK

[9] Southey’s barometer was from the best-known and highest-quality manufacturers in London, Peter Dollond (1731–1820; DNB) and George Dollond (1774–1852; DNB). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Emerald Bank, Newlands (mentioned 1 time)