1192. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 June 1806

1192. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 June 1806 ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor

The Printer I suppose wants to finish off the two first volumes. [1]  he may do this with the second, but the first must wait for my Preface – about which I suppose I must now set without farther delay, – so wish me well thro it.

The Contents may run thus – the mere name of each author with a reference to the page in which it first occurs The title x


of the

Later English Poets

in three volumes


R. S.–

the types like those in Ellis’s Title page, [2]  so that this may be as like it as an open title can be to a full one.

There are two very valid reasons why I should write the biography of Thomas Day: because you grievously mistake the drift of Sandford & Merton, which is written not for the inferior ranks, but for the higher ones. If such books could be in the hands of the poor, & they could comprehend them – all that such men as Day xxxx desire would already be accomplished. [3]  I think very highly of him & must speak of him as I think. Besides this duty in conscience I am intimate with a family nearly connected with Thomas Day, [4]  on which account if my opinion were other than what it is I should not let it appear.

There is nothing more to say about the dead Negro than that he was he – Bryan Edwards [5]  was well ridiculed in some Newspaper verses of no common merit which wherein he was described as one who – Half Penseroso half Allegro [6] 

Writes Sonnets on his own dead Negro. [7] 

the extract from Edwards I marked.

The Biographies for which you write are all very late – but they shall be speedily sent. I see Mrs Robinsons poems are just published in a collected form – if you could see them you might select some happier specimens perhaps. [8] 

This Preface begins to work in me like a leaven of uneasiness which will not rest till the its job is done. There is in the Critical Review for 99 or more likely 1800 – a Review of Andersons edition of the Poets [9]  – look at it, & tell me if there be any sentence in it worth resetting in this Preface, – & if there be transcribe them for me – the book may be had at the Westminster Library, & ten minutes would suffice for reading it & copying what may be worth this trouble –

I shall speak first of our early poetry, & of our metres – then of the total change which had taken place when our Series begins – speak of the various schools of poetry – as Italian – French – Greek & German, & show that we have a school of our own, to which our great writers exclusively belong. This must be done forthwith & left to lie for a months revision – during which time your worship may con it with a pair of hyper-critical spectacles on your nose.

God bless you. I am sorry to hear of your fathers state of health, & somewhat alarmed at it. Not to amend in this season, & at his time of life is to grow worse. Pray remember me to him with something more than the common forms of complimentary remembrance. I never think of Brixton without a feeling akin to that which the recollection of an old home occasions. Once more God bless you –


Sunday 22 June. 1806.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ JUN25
Endorsement: 22 June 1806
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s joint project with Bedford, entitled Specimens of the Later English Poets, which was published with Longman in 1807, was printed by S. Hollingsworth (first name and dates unknown) of Crane Court, Fleet Street. BACK

[2] Southey’s work was intended as a companion to George Ellis’s Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790; 2nd edn. 1801; 3rd edn. 1803). BACK

[3] Thomas Day (1748–1789; DNB), writer of instructive fiction, whose novel Sandford and Merton was published in three volumes in 1783, 1786 and 1789. Day’s poetry is included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), III, pp. 308–316. BACK

[4] Southey’s Bristol friend, the surgeon John King had married Emmeline Edgeworth (1770–1817); Day was a close friend of her father Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744–1817; DNB). BACK

[5] Bryan Edwards (1743–1800; DNB), planter and politician, who wrote several books of West Indian history, and assisted in the preparation for publication of Mungo Park’s (1771–1806; DNB), Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa Performed … in 1795 and 1796 (1799). BACK

[6] ‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’ were poems written by John Milton (1608–1674; DNB). BACK

[7] Edwards published ‘The Negro’s Dying Speech on his being Executed for Rebellion in the Island of Jamaica’ in the Universal Magazine (November 1777), and it was included in his later collection, Poems, Written Chiefly in the West Indies (1792). His poetry is not included in Specimens of the Later English Poets. BACK

[8] Mary Robinson (1757–1800; DNB): poet, novelist, woman of fashion, courtesan, who contributed poetry to the Morning Post. The Poetical Works of the Late Mrs. Mary Robinson was published in 1806. Her poetry is not included in the Specimens of the Later English Poets. BACK

[9] Robert Anderson (1750–1830; DNB), ed., The Works of the British Poets, with Prefaces Biographical and Critical (1792–1807). The review appeared in the Critical Review, 25 (1799), 40–50. BACK

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