1080. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 6 July 1805

1080. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 6 July 1805 ⁠* 

Samuel Wesley – 1690–1739. 20 years Usher at Westminster, & afterward Master at Tiverton School was elder brother to John Wesley. [1] 


John Wesley himself must come in among the Poets, & so must his brother Charles. Some of Johns gayer pieces may be found in the 20th number of Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica. [2]  Say of him that he xxx xxxx will form an epoch in Ecclesiastical History. his fathers house was burnt when he was about six years old, & he xxxx was taken out of the <one> window by one man who stood upon the shoulders of another, – not a minute before the roof fell in. To this the device of a house in flames alludes which is to be found in some of the earlier prints of this eminent schismatic, & the motto ‘Is he not a brand plucked out of the burning?’ [3] 


Have you in the list

James Merrick <Reading> 1719.1769. [4] 

he began to publish while yet at school, was engaged in a correspondence with the learned Reimarus [5]  before he was twenty, & edited & translated Trypheodorus at the same age. [6]  his other poetical works are 1. Poems on sacred subjects, Oxford 1763 2. The Psalms paraphrased, Reading 1765. [7]  Mr Tattersall has procured music to this version, [8]  & is labouring, not without success to introduce it in the place of the wretched rhymes of Tate & Brady. [9] 

Who the learned Reimarus was, Grosvenor, I know no more than your worship – but learned let him be. You will find Specimens of Merrick in the 3rd or 4th vol. of Dodsley. [10]  You may add if there be a bit of fat to make room for it, this Inscription placed by him over the debtors grate at Reading.

Oh ye whose hours exempt from sorrow flow,
Behold the seat of pain & want & woe.
Think while your hands the intreated alms extend
That what to us ye give to God ye lend. [11] 


Phanuel Bacon. Reading. 1700. 1783. [12] 

This Doctor of Divinity is characterised as having been possessed of exquisite humour with a strong inclination for punning. he published 1. The Kite, a poem 1719 (to be seen in the Gent. Magazine for 1758 [13]  – ubi vide Grosvenore! [14] ) 2. five dramatic pieces, the Taxes, the Insignificants, the Trial of the Time Killers, the Moral Quack, the Oculist 1757. afterwards collected in one volume & entitled Humorous Ethics. [15]  The Snipe & the Song of Similes in the Oxford Sausage are both his, & the Friar in the first ballad means himself. [16]  Utrum horum mavis accipe. Domine Bedford. [17] 


Mary Latter. Henley upon Thames. 1725. 1777. [18]  She published 1. Miscellaneous books in prose & verse. 1759. Reading, in which town she represents herself as resident not very far from the market place, immersed in business & in debt! [19]  2. a miscellaneous poetical essay. [20]  Rich procured her a subscription, & designed to bring out a play of hers, which the Manager after his death rejects. [21]  She therefore published this tragedy xx 3. the Siege of Jerusalem a tragedy, to which is prefixed Stage–craft an essay, 1762. her fourth & last work was an Essay called Pro & Con or the Opinionists, 1777. [22] 


Some of these might as well have gone in the regular halfquartain form, but I did not think to write so much when I began, & you can easily make Hyems [23]  copy what is fit to be copied.


Butler denotes the sensual principle which is subject or subordinated to the intellectual part of the internal man, because every thing which serves for drinking, or which is drunk (as wine, milk, water) hath relation to truth, which is of the intellectual part: thus it hath relation to the intellectual part; & whereas the external sensual principle, or that of the body, x is what sub–ministers, therefore by Butler is signified that subministry sensual principle, or that which sub-ministers of things sensual. [24] 

Read that paragraph again Grosvenor.

Do not you understand it? – read it a third time.

Try it backwards.

See if you can make any-thing of it diagonally.

Turn it upside-down.


Philosophers have discovered that you may turn a polypus inside out, & it will xx live just as well one way as the other. It is not to be supposed that Nature ever intended thxx any of its creatures to be so xx inverted but so the thing happens. As you can make nothing of this Butler any-other way txxx follow this hint, & turn the paragraph inside-out. – Thats a poozzle.

Now then I will tell you what it is in plain English. It is Swedenborgianism [25]  – & I have copied the passage verbatim from a Swedenborgian Dictionary. – Allow at least that it would make an excellent chapter in your book – if thou hadnt enough of the Grace of God in thee the ever to let such a book come forth.

Nonsense – sublime nonsense is what the book ought to be – such nonsense as requires more wit, more sense, more reading, more knowledge, more learning, – than go to the composition of half the wise ones of the world. I do beseech you do not lightly or indolently abandon the idea; – for if you will but Butlerize in duodecimo [26]  if you fail of making such a reputation as you would wish – then will I pledge myself to give one of my ears to you, which you may by the hands of Horace present to the British Museum. the book ought only to have glimpses of meaning in it, that those who catch them may imprint meaning to all the rest by virtue of faith.


The page of the Specimens which has the worst error must be cancelled for another reason. that poem upon Felton which you found among Buckinghams Poems was not written by Buckingham – how the Devil should it in praise of the man who stabbed his father? [27]  – it was found fastened upon Feltons Gibbet. When you supply its place do not allow the printer so much fat.

About the anonymous. blunderer not to see that I meant to arrange them with respect to the time when they appeared – thus at 1700 all written before that time. at 1725 all of the last quarter century &&c.

God bless you. I wish you could come to the Lakes that we might talk nonsense & eat gooseberry pie together, for which I am as famous as ever.


July 6. 1805


* Address: To/ G.C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: 6 July 1805
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 336–337 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey is instructing Bedford on entries to include within their joint project, published with Longman in 1807 as Specimens of the Later English Poets. It was intended as a companion work to George Ellis’s Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790, 2nd edn 1801, 3rd edn 1803). Samuel Wesley (‘the younger’; 1690/91–1739; DNB) was a Church of England clergyman and poet. He was the eldest son of Samuel Wesley (bap. 1662–1735; DNB), also a clergyman and poet, and was brother to John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB) and Charles Wesley (1707–1788; DNB) the founders of Methodism. See Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. 369–375. BACK

[2] Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica, appeared in fifty-two numbers between 1780 and 1790. It was a collaborative publishing project undertaken by the antiquarian Richard Gough (1735–1809; DNB), and the printer and publisher, John Nichols (1745–1826; DNB), to publicize antiquities and sites of historic interest. Neither Charles nor John Wesley is included in the Specimens. BACK

[3] Zechariah 3:2. BACK

[4] James Merrick (1720–1769; DNB): biblical and classical scholar and translator. Merrick was a child prodigy, publishing his first work Messiah: A Divine Essay in 1734 when he was fourteen. He is included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, II, pp. 391–396. BACK

[5] Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768): German philosopher and Enlightenment writer. BACK

[6] The Destruction of Troy; Being the Sequel of the Iliad. Translated from the Greek of Tryphiodorus (1739). Merrick also published other Greek and Latin texts by Tryphiodorus (fl. AD 3–4 century), in 1741 (DNB). BACK

[7] Poems on Sacred Subjects (1763); The Psalms, Translated or Paraphrased in English Verse (1765). BACK

[8] William de Chair Tattersall (bap. 1751–1829; DNB): Church of England clergyman and musician, who published A Version or Paraphrase of the Psalms by J. Merrick, Adapted to the Purposes of Public or Private Devotion in 1789. Tattersall is not incuded in the Specimens. BACK

[9] Nahum Tate (c.1652–1715; DNB) and Nicholas Brady (1659–1726; DNB), A New Version of the Psalms of David, Fitted to the Tunes used in Churches (1696). BACK

[10] Robert Dodsley (1704–1764; DNB), ed., A Collection of Poems by Several Hands, 6 vols (1748–1758). There were many editions of this work, in which the contributors changed. Southey refers to A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands. With Notes, 6 vols (London, 1782), IV, pp. 186–200. BACK

[11] The inscription was not included in Merrick’s entry in the Specimens. BACK

[12] Phanuel Bacon (1700–1783; DNB): Church of England clergyman and writer. See Specimens of the Later English Poets, III, pp. 203–210. BACK

[13] Phanuel Bacon, The Kite (1719), ‘an epic poem celebrating the foiling of the Jacobite plot. The poem was forgotten in subsequent years, and Bacon lived in relative obscurity for the next three decades. In 1756, however, … [it] was rediscovered and reprinted [as ‘The Artificial Kite’] in the Gentleman’s Magazine. It was an immediate sensation’ (DNB). See Gentleman’s Magazine, 26 (May–July 1756), 247, 302–303, and 355–356. BACK

[14] Meaning ‘where you are to look Grosvenor!’ BACK

[15] These five plays by Bacon were published in 1757 as Humorous Ethics, or, An Attempt to Cure the Vices and Follies of the Age by a Method Entirely New. BACK

[16] This paragraph, with some amendments, became the headnote for Bacon’s entry in the Specimens (though ‘The Taxes’ is misprinted as ‘The Foxes’). The poems by Bacon included in the Specimens are the same ones that appeared in Thomas Warton’s (1728–1790; DNB), The Oxford Sausage, or, Select Poetical Pieces Written by the Most Celebrated Wits of the University of Oxford (1764): ‘The Snipe. A Humorous Ballad’, pp. 114–118, ‘A Song of Similies’ p. 112. The ‘Friar’ referred to by Southey is a character in Bacon’s poem ‘The Snipe’. BACK

[17] Meaning ‘take whichever of those you prefer Master Bedford’. BACK

[18] Mary Latter (bap. 1722–1777; DNB): author of poetic satires and burlesques. She is not included in the Specimens. BACK

[19] ‘My present Residence is not very far from the Market-Place, where I continue immersed in Business and in Debt … sometimes madly hoping to gain a Competency; sometimes facing Dungeons and Distress’, Miscellaneous Works, in Prose and Verse (Reading, 1759), p. 80. BACK

[20] A Miscellaneous Poetical Essay (1761). BACK

[21] John Rich (1692–1761; DNB): manager of Covent Garden theatre. BACK

[22] The Siege of Jerusalem, by Titus Vespasian: A Tragedy. To Which is Prefixed By Way of Introduction, an Essay on the Mystery and Mischiefs of Stage Craft (1763); Pro and Con, or, The Opinionists (1771). In fact Latter had published another burlesque poem in 1764, entitled Liberty and Interest. BACK

[23] A Latin soubriquet of John Winter (dates unknown), a printer who frequently worked on books published by Longman. BACK

[24] Probably Southey’s own translation of part of Emanuel Swedenborg’s (1688–1772), Arcana Coelestia, (1749–1756). See Swedenborg, Arcana Caelestia: Principally a Revelation of the Inner or Spiritual Meaning of Genesis and Exodus, 12 vols, trans. John Elliott (London, 1990), VII, p. 72. BACK

[25] A religious movement that developed from the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish scientist and theologian, who claimed to have received a new revelation from Jesus Christ. In 1788 his followers styled themselves ‘The New Church’. Southey was reading this work for his Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez: Translated from the Spanish (1807) in which an account of Swedenborgianism is given in Letter 62. BACK

[26] Southey often prompted Bedford to publish their comic inventions, one of which concerned ‘the Butler’, a mythological hero of extraordinary powers, which originated in schoolboy stories at Westminster. They were never published by Bedford, but provided the hint for Southey’s comic novel/miscellany The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[27] George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628–1687; DNB): politician, wit and writer, whose father, also George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628; DNB), favourite of James I (1566–1625; DNB) was murdered by John Felton (d. 1628). His poems are included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 29–32. BACK

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