3407. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 December 1819

3407. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 December 1819⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

Will you have the goodness to order the Guardian [1]  (No 268 Strand) which Calvert & I are going to club for, – to be directed to Wm Calvert Esqr Greta Bank, Keswick. – Or perhaps the easier way may be to give the direction to your own newsman, – & charge yourself as my Chancellor of the Exchequer with the payment. I suppose great pains will be taken to supply it with squibs.

I have seen the House that Jack built. [2]  It seems to me just the kind of thing that ought to be prosecuted upon the broad ground of a malus animus [3]  in the publisher, – as a publication manifestly designed to bring the Chief magistrate, Government & Institutions of the country into contempt & hatred. I am much mistaken if Hone’s former sins would not then be taken into the balance xx by the Jury: – but I am quite sure that the opinion of the sound majority would be with the prosecution, & that if the scoundrel were not convicted, some good would be derived from the acquittal. For the sooner we have the present law of libel brought to the Reductio ad absurdum the better.

I feel strongly inclined to execute a design which I formerly hinted to you, of a political dialogue, [4]  – resembling Boethius [5]  in structure, – with Sir T. More [6]  as the visitor: – a parallel between this age & his, – a view of what is to come, – & consequences & remedies advanced thro him, which it would not be prudent either to advance or xxxxx avow in my own person: – not for fear of obloquy or danger, which I despise & defy, but lest offence should be given to the weaker brethren. I see farther than they do.

God bless you.


Keswick 22. Dec. 1819


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate
Endorsement: 22 Dec 1819
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Guardian (1819–1824) was advertised as ‘a New Weekly Paper, conducted on Principles of Attachment to our present Establishment in Church and State. Published every Saturday Evening’. It was an attempt, masterminded by Croker, to break the radical hold on the Sunday newspaper market. BACK

[2] William Hone had been acquitted at three successive trials 18–20 December 1817 of blasphemous and seditious libel. The Political House that Jack Built (1819) was one of his most famous satires, combining verse and cartoons. BACK

[3] ‘evil intention’, a legal term used in describing the state of mind of one accused of wilful murder. Hone published his satire himself. BACK

[4] This plan became Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). BACK

[5] Southey’s model was Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c. 480–525), De Consolatione Philosophiae, a dialogue between the author and the character of Lady Philosophy, consisting of both prose and verse. BACK

[6] Sir Thomas More (1478–1535; DNB), Lord Chancellor 1529–1532 and opponent of the Reformation. BACK

People mentioned

Calvert, William (1771–1829) (mentioned 2 times)
Hone, William (1780–1842) (mentioned 1 time)
George IV (1762–1830) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)