3568. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 November 1820

3568. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 November 1820⁠* 

Keswick 27 Nov. 1820

My dear G.

You see that I have taken your advice, & enclosed the draft. [1]  Put it into Mr Dickies [2]  hands, & when you receive the proceeds, pay yourself the 50£. send me 100 (in tens & twenties) – John May another; & stock the rest. [3] 

I wish I was near you, & still more that you were near me, which would be better for both parties. Come as soon as possible after the first of May, & we will put Ediths chess board out of the way, if you do not like the sight of the chequers. [4] 

I have bad news to tell you concerning poor Othello. [5]  A very few days after I had written to you concerning him & his promising qualities, he was taken ill, – & on the second day disappeared, having no doubt retired into some secret place to die. From Mistress to Maid & from Pappa to Cha-Cupn there was not one in the family who was not heartily sorry for this.

Ere long you will receive my Carmen Triumphale, & the three Congratulatory Odes (under the better title of Carmina Aulica,) [6]  – reprinted in a little volume, which will bind up with the Carmen Nuptiale. [7]  I add as a postscript to the Notes, a nice passage concerning them extracted from my unpublished letter to Brougham. [8]  – Thalaba is about to be reprinted – a fourth edition only. [9]  I have made many corrections to the great improvement of the versification & language, – but I will print none of them my determination being to reserve all the emendations of this & my other long poems for the purpose of securing an additional term of copyright to my family after my decease

The Vision of Judgement [10]  is in a fair way of being finished in the course of the present week. I resumed it partly in the hope of concluding it with something which would do for Shields. This is not likely to be accomplished, but it has put me in the vein, which will do as well, – & I believe I have formed <struck out> the first spark of an ode suited to the times [11]  – The Vision will be printed without delay, & in foolscap quarto, to suit the length of the lines. I x mean to prefix a short explanation of the measure for the unlearned, & of the principle of adaptation upon which it is constructed for the learned. And perhaps to post fix an account of the attempts formerly made to naturalize the Latin measures in this country, with specimens, & also of the experiments in other countries [12]  This will be curious in itself, & useful as stuffing. I have used Wilkes & Junius as roughly as they deserve. [13]  These lines descriptive of Washington [14]  please me, -

severe but serene was his aspect,
Calm but stern; like one whom no compassion could weaken,
Neither could doubt deter, nor violent impulses alter, –
Lord of his own resolves, of his own heart absolute master
Aweful spirit, his place was with ancient sages & heroes,
Fabius, Aristides, & Solon & Epaminondas. [15] 

If you would like to look at the MS. on its way to the press, I will send it to you, & you need have no other trouble than that of transmitting it by the twopenny post to the Patres Nostri.

I suppose Woodfords father is the person to whom the mob at Taunton have behaved like beasts as they are. [16]  This state of things must bring on a crisis, & the sooner the better. Of all the factions by which any country was ever disgraced, our present Whigs are surely the most thoroughly base & profligate

Are your ears the better for their rough usage? Let me know that you have received this – take care of yourself, – & remember me to Miss Page & Henry.

God bless you


You may as well burn Dr Bells letters, which will save the trouble of returning them. [17]  I expect to see him daily.


* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford/ Exchequer
Endorsement: 27 Novr. 1820/ with draft for £400
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A draft for money Southey was owed as payment for writing an ‘account’ of David Pike Watts (1754–1816), a fabulously rich wine merchant and philanthropist, who had been an important supporter of Andrew Bell’s educational schemes and had owned the Storrs Hall estate on Windermere. He was also the uncle of the painter John Constable (1776–1837; DNB). The work had been commissioned by Watts’s daughter and heiress, Mary Watts-Russell (1792–1840), who had married, in 1811, another heir to a business fortune, Jesse Watts-Russell (1786–1875), MP for Gatton 1820–1826. They lived at Ilam Hall in Staffordshire and had eight children. BACK

[2] Andrew Dickie (d. 1834), confidential clerk in Coutts’s Bank and a partner from 1827. BACK

[3] i.e. invest the remainder in government stocks. BACK

[4] A pun on the game of checkers and Bedford’s workplace, the Exchequer. BACK

[5] A young cat the Southeys had taken in; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 November 1820, Letter 3552. BACK

[6] A combined second edition of Carmen Triumphale (1814) and Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (1814), published as Carmen Triumphale, for the Commencement of the Year 1814: Carmen Aulica. Written in 1814, on the Arrival of the Allied Sovereigns in England (1821). BACK

[7] Southey’s The Lay of the Laureate (1816). BACK

[8] Carmen Triumphale (London, 1821), pp. 45–53. This ‘Postscript’ had originally been written in 1818 as a response to Brougham’s reported attack on Southey from the hustings on 30 June 1818, during the General Election contest in Westmorland. BACK

[9] The fourth edition of Thalaba the Destroyer (1821). BACK

[10] Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[11] Southey’s duty as Poet Laureate to produce a New Year’s Ode for 1821; his ode was later published as ‘The Warning Voice. Ode II’ in The Englishman’s Library: Comprising a Series of Historical, Biographical and National Information (London, 1824), pp. 384–389. It was William Shield’s duty to set part of the poem to music in case a performance of it was called for at court (though this practice had been suspended since 1810). BACK

[12] A Vision of Judgement (1821) was not printed in foolscap quarto, but in quarto; it did contain a lengthy ‘Preface’ (pp. ix–xxvii), with ‘Notes’ (pp. 47–65) and ‘Specimens’ (pp. 67–79) on the lines Southey indicates here. BACK

[13] John Wilkes (1725–1797; DNB), radical journalist and politician, condemned in A Vision of Judgement (1821), Canto 5, lines 35–57; and the unknown author of the anti-government ‘Junius’ Letters, published in the Public Advertiser, 21 January 1769–21 January 1772, criticised in A Vision of Judgement (1821), Canto 5, lines 58–69. BACK

[14] George Washington (1732–1799), first President of the United States 1789–1797. BACK

[15] A Vision of Judgement (1821), Canto 6, lines 17–22. Washington is flatteringly compared to: Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator (c. 280–203 BC), defender of Rome against Carthage; Aristides (530–468 BC), Athenian statesman; Solon (c. 638–558 BC), lawgiver of Athens; and Epaminondas (418–362 BC), Theban general. BACK

[16] The Courier, 23 November 1820, had carried an account of how a mob at Taunton had attacked the house of an unnamed prominent citizen because he refused to put candles in his window to celebrate the abandonment of the Bill of Pains and Penalties against Queen Caroline (1768–1821; DNB). Southey here reveals the citizen’s identity as Thomas Woodforde (c. 1740–1828), Senior Physician at the Taunton and Somerset Hospital. Woodforde had two sons, Thomas (c. 1775–1842), who also worked as a doctor in Taunton, and James (b. 1781). The son mentioned by Southey is probably Thomas. BACK

[17] Letters of advice about what to do following an embarrassing series of errors when Bedford initially tried to obtain payment for Southey’s work on the ‘account’ of David Pike Watts (1754–1816) from a London bank; see Southey to Andrew Bell, 14 November 1820, Letter 3555. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)