1532. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 November 1808

1532. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 November 1808 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

I replied to you in haste, & upon chewing the cud of the business, perceive that all which should have been said has not been said, & that what was said has not been exactly what it should. [1] 

A more valid objection to my writing about Spain than the probable want of length in the article is to be found in the way in which I contemplate this war with Bonaparte. Peace while he lives & reigns would be suicide, – & the struggle between us is on our side, a business of national life & death. Yet however the men in power may feel the first of these propositions, they would probably fear to sanction it, & still less would they suffer me to speak of the Convention & Sir Hew, [2]  on whom it would be impossible not to imprecate one deep & deadly curse.

If I wrote upon the Hindoo question, the various pamphletts & books upon the subject should be sent me, & form the heading or text of the chapter. [3] 

Do not infer that I am unwilling to write about Spain, or that I refuse to do it. I have only stated my own feeling of unfitness. On the other hand no man better understands the Spanish character. something I know of the country, much of their history, every thing of their literature. – & the heart of man is not capable of a stronger interest than what mine feels in their present cause. If it be thought proper that I should write I will do my best & Gifford may expunge what is too strongly marked with the stamp of Robert Southey, – xxx or knead such parts as he thinks with any body elses article, – or reject the whole. On such occasions I have no mutinous feelings about me state this to him, – tell me his determination with the least possible delay – & let me know the names of some of your Respectables – that I may see into what company I am likely to get.

A good thing would be an article upon Spanish literature if a text could be found. There is a collection of their poets not yet compleated, but I am afraid at a stand & of too old a date: otherwise it would supply three or four striking articles, with translated specimens. With the fine literatures of France & Italy I am well acquainted, – our own I have no desire to meddle with. not being disposed to knock calves on the head.

My Uncle, Mr Hill, is just married. This is to me a circumstance of great joy, for the only thing that lay with any weight upon my mind, was the thought of his solitary situation at a time of life when solitariness is not desirable. My Uncles age I believe is xxx 57. This is somewhat late for marriage, but having been plucked up by the roots from that country & society wherein all his habits had grown, he had new ones necessarily to acquire, & the main objection to so late a change of life is therefore not applicable. You are to understand that neither immediately nor remotely does this match in any way affect my fortunes. My new relation is the daughter of Lovelace Bigg Wither a Hampshire gentleman of the very ancient family of good old George Wither the Poet [4]  whom I love so well. [5]  At my age this seems to me more like the marriage of a brother than an Uncle. I was surprized with the news of this xxx family connection on the evening which brought your letter, & possibly my reply might have been fuller & better if my thought had not sometimes been wandering in consequence of intelligence so unexpected.

Walter Scotts first scruples of conscience against the Edinburgh Review were probably brought out by my refusing to bear a part in it, for its base politics, among other reasons.  [6]  He admitted the objection to be valid & confessed that he felt it himself more & more strongly.

Curse the land tax. – This pension might as easily have been made nominal three hundred as two, – one consolation however is that whenever it is taken from me for speaking like an Englishman (as likely enough it one day may be) I have the less to lose. At present I am swimming with the stream, but it is the stream that has turned, not I.

God bless you


Nov. 11. 1808.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr./ Exchequer/ Westminster/ Single.
Endorsement: 11 Novr 1808
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ NOV 14/ 1808
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 490–492. BACK

[1] Southey had been invited to contribute to the newly established Quarterly Review. For his first reply, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 November 1808, Letter 1530. BACK

[2] The Convention of Cintra, signed on 30 August, whereby the French army commanded by Jean-Andoche Junot (1771–1813) and defeated by Anglo-Portuguese forces under Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the 1st Duke of Wellington) at Vimeiro on 21 August, was allowed to retreat intact, with its weapons, from Portugal. Wellesley, who did not sign the Convention, had been superseded in command by two veteran generals, just arrived in Iberia, who were content to make peace: Sir Harry Burrard (1755–1813; DNB) and Sir Hew Dalrymple. Public outcry led to an inquiry, after which Burrard and Dalrymple never again took command. BACK

[3] Southey reviewed Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. BACK

[4] George Wither (1588–1667; DNB), the poet, a favourite of Southey’s. BACK

[5] Lovelace Bigg (1741–1813) inherited the estate of Manydown, Hampshire, in 1789. He then took the name Bigg-Withers and brought up his children there. BACK

[6] For Southey’s letter to Scott, see Southey to Walter Scott, 8 December 1807, Letter 1392. BACK

People mentioned

Hill, Catherine (1775–1848) (mentioned 1 time)
Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 1 time)
Gifford, William (1756–1826) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 1 time)