1086. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 26 July 1805

1086. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 26 July 1805 ⁠* 

Take my dictionary for the word brumal. [1]  I would have you know Mr Grosvenor Bedford that I stand as little in need of a dictionary as as you yourself. nay Mr Bedford less in need of a dictionary than your printer. Look at p. 179 – & see who needed a dictionary of proper names there! – Look at imbrobus [2]  p. 219 & see who needed a dictionary there! Send your printer to his dictionary Mr Bedford. he understands nothing but mere English. & you must have an eye upon all scraps of Latin or he will print you the & and in the midst of a Latin line – as he has actually has done for me! [3] 

Now for fault finding. pray pray do not let the printers be so damned impudent in wasting paper. I shall be censured for it, & very justly. the sixth stanza in 200 ought to have been prest into the previous page. All that rascally spread of blanks 206 – occasions such another piece of fat 212. all this costs paper & the price of printing, looks damnably ill, & exposes me to that very kind of censure which of all other I most dislike & least deserve. Why have you left out in Sheffields epitaph the Christum adveneror which gives it its whole character & characterizes him too? [4]  I am not sorry for the b in improbus [5]  as it makes one easily resolve to cancel the leaf, & so restore the phrase, – of which I suppose you have been afraid. There must be another cancel too of Mr Gildons finish to his poem. [6]  the last stanza must go to be consigned to that place where perhaps all his poems might advantageously receive their golden mead. When you fill the blank page, leave as little blank in it as you can. from

Have you overlooked the specimens of Norris of Bemerton or am I mistaken in supposing he died about 1712 [7]  – I remember them in being among the best in the collection.

It may be worth <while> to speak seriously to Biggs about the gross literal blunders which he suffers. x 199. Wor. for Nor. 250 – ignomy. it is his business to see that there be at least no English misspellings. your eye is not to be expected to catch such blunders as these, because you know what it ought to be <there> – nor ought the printer to trouble you with them. If he does not spell better upon my soul I shall be afraid to trust him with the other volume, or we shall xx xx xxxxx get the credit of sending into the world the most incorrect book that ever was printed.

After all this you will hardly listen to me when I say that I have been very much amused by the songs of Tom D’Urfey, [8]  – that I like his biographical bit – quite as well as if I had written it myself, which considering how self sweetens every joke is xxxxx giving it great credit. I see you did not like the bitterness of spirit manifested in what I had said of Elkanah the dragon. [9] 

Pater-noster [10]  seems to think that you expect him to do what he expects me to do. that is to find out the books, a very easy mistake for you, but a mistake it is. I wish you would send me a list of the names for which you want specimens in case any should fall in my way. Are they not all to be found at the Museum [11]  if not you have a friend at court.

One of your Butlerisms [12]  is exceeded by a fact which happened to poor T. Wedgwood who thank God is at last in his grave, after the most dreadful suffering that ever human being experienced. he once swallowed raw quicksilver to remove a constipation [13]  – & it broke the close stool when it came out. But Bedford did you ever hear how the Bishop of Bangor – he who was of Chester first – pissed the bed? [14]  – he always chose to take the pot into bed with him & so pump ship under hatches. his wife was fool enough to complain of this to some female friends at whose house they were visiting – Wynn knows where & you can verify the story – of course they bored a hole in the Right Reverends pot, – & you may guess the amusement which it occasioned – when the bell was rung for clean sheets &c – . If xxx this story do not put you in good humour in spite of Mr Biggs – why then Mr Bedford I have done. –

Wm. Nicol [15]  is right. You must Butlerize, [16]  & if you do not – you xxx will provoke me beyond all sufferance. Zounds – it is a golden mine – & one must be begging & beseeching you to work it! – I know it will do – I am certain that it will attract & hold more attention than any thing has done since Tristram Shandy. [17] 

God bless you


July 26. 1805.

I do not care about the anonymous – Remember that I have not made extract enough from Swift. [18] 

Relph [19]  & the Devil quam citissimé [20] 


* Address: To/ G.C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ JUL29/ 1805
Endorsement: 26 July 1805
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Of, or relating to, ‘winter’. BACK

[2] A misspelling of the Latin word ‘improbus’, see note 5. Southey inserts a small ‘x’ beneath this word, but there is no correlating footnote by him. BACK

[3] Southey is referring to his joint project with Bedford, published with Longman in 1807 as Specimens of the Later English Poets. It was intended as a companion work to George Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790, 2nd edn 1801, 3rd edn 1803). BACK

[4] John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby (1647–1721; DNB): politician and author. See Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, p. 219, where the Latin epitaph is quoted with these words, meaning, ‘venerator of Christ’, replaced by a dash. In fact, Bedford had copied the inscription as it appeared on Buckingham’s monument. According to William Betham, The Baronetage of England: or The History of the English Baronets, 5 vols (London, 1801–1805), III, p. 251, ‘the words, “Christum adveneror,” are omitted, at the desire, as is said, of bishop Atterbury, who thought the verb adveneror not full enough, as applied to Christ. Great clamours were raised against this epitaph, many asserting that it proved the Duke a sceptic; and as great a trifle as it may seem, his grace’s orthodoxy became the subject of a controversy: it was, however, defended in form by Dr. Fiddes, in “A Letter to a Freethinker,” 1721’. See also Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 26 August 1805, Letter 1098. BACK

[5] Meaning ‘wicked’, ‘inferior’ or ‘outrageous’. BACK

[6] Charles Gildon (c.1665–1724; DNB): poet and critical writer, slated in Alexander Pope’s (1688–1744; DNB) The Dunciad (1728) and Epistle to Arbuthnot (1735). See Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 243–246. BACK

[7] John Norris (1657–1712; DNB), Church of England clergyman and philosopher. In 1687 he published A Collection of Miscellanies which included almost all of the poetry he wrote. There is no entry for Norris in the Specimens. BACK

[8] Thomas D’Urfey (1653?–1723; DNB): playwright and poet. See Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 237–242. BACK

[9] Elkanah Settle (1648–1724; DNB), a poet and playwright, author of Cambyses, King of Persia (1667) and the Empress of Morocco (1673), who in his later years kept a booth at Bartholomew Fair, where he played the part of the dragon in a green leather suit of his own invention. Settle is represented in Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 250–252. BACK

[10] A jokey name for Longman because his publishing house was in Paternoster Row, London. BACK

[11] The British Museum. BACK

[12] A reference to Bedford’s comic inventions, originating in schoolboy stories at Westminster. BACK

[13] Quicksilver, the liquid metal mercury, was taken as a medicine for several complaints, including syphilis. BACK

[14] This story has not been traced. BACK

[15] William Nicol (d. c. 1855), publisher and friend of Grosvenor Bedford. He was the son of George Nicol (1740?–1828), in whose publishing firm he became a partner in 1800. BACK

[16] Bedford’s humorous material was never published by him, but it provided the hint for Southey’s comic novel/miscellany The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[17] The popular novel by Laurence Sterne (1713–1768; DNB), The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759–1767). BACK

[18] Jonathan Swift (1667–1745; DNB): writer and dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. See Specimens of the Later English Poets, II, pp. 40–56. BACK

[19] Josiah Relph (1712–1743; DNB): a Cumberland poet who published A Miscellany of Poems (1747; 2nd edn 1798). He is included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 418–429. BACK

[20] Written on the address sheet. The Latin translates as ‘at the soonest’. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)