1590. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 February 1809

1590. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 February 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

I was mistaken about the quarter, [1]  & it is not worth explaining how the mistake arose, – without recurring to dates I detected it. My motive for writing now is this. If you will review the Cid, & deliver the reviewal to Rickman, I believe we can get it, thro Capt Burney, into the Monthly; [2]  & a good word there will make fifty Reading Societies order the book. Any questions relative to Spanish literature or history which you may want to know more about – I can answer for you. It will be worth mentioning (& perhaps would afford a good beginning to the article) that the Proclamation of the Kingdom of Leon [3]  particularly referred to the Cid, – thus it is that the dead continue to act by the fame which they leave behind.

You mistook me if you understood that anxiety had made me suspend my employments; – it only makes me confine myself to those xxx which can be carried on with least exertion of thought or feeling; – & God knows I have always enough of all kinds in hand to have choice of work at anytime. My secret of doing much, in direct opposition to common rules, is to do many things at once. Thus I never disquiet myself by dwelling too intently upon any one, & change serves as rest.

I am once more afloat with Kehama, & three or four sections will bring me to the end of the voyage. [4] 

I was not a little amused at M seeing Mr Glasse [5]  among Mrs Clarkes applicants. [6]  Another name which appeared in the correspondence is that of one of our neighbours here, Spedding, from whom I had heard the story, years ago, but who never knew who the Lady was, nor who Sandon [7]  was till he saw the whole mystery explained in the course of the Inquiry. I believe he would have written up to state the real circumstance but for a very sufficient reason, – that the army agent who made the proposal to him has not xxx been mentioned, & he properly enough did not chuse to mention him in a business from which he has been lucky enough to escape; had it not been for this he would have been a good evidence for Wardle [8]  & Lord Folkstone. [9]  I am right glad that Wynn spoke as he did about Percivals  [10]  petty-fogging brutality to Miss Taylor, [11]  – & that he will not let Clavering escape. [12]  What is law for the Captain should be law for the General also.

Meantime as you say Bonaparte is forgotten. What can have drawn him to Paris? What can have drawn the King of Prussia to Petersburgh? If war breaks out in Germany the triumphs of last summer will be acted over again. [13]  Be that as it may I have never lost faith in my own strong conviction that Spain will ultimately deliver & regenerate itself.

God bless you. I have an engagement to the Tupinamabas [14]  for the rest of the evening. They were are desperate cannibals, but if people will kill one another for their amusement, the eating them afterwards is not of much consequence. If it does not turn their stomachs it may sit easy enough upon their consciences. Were I Palafox I would certainly feed upon Frenchman rather than surrender Zaragoza for famine [15] 

I envy you the site of Drury Lane xxx <theatre> on fire. [16]  Only one thing is wanting to make our theatres more hideous than they are & that is to have them of cast-iron which I dare say will be the next improvement.


Feby 28. 1809.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Endorsement: 28 Feby 1809
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ MAR 3/ 1809
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] That is, about the period of time covered by the most recent instalment of his government pension; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [18 February 1809], Letter 1581. BACK

[2] Southey had asked Bedford to write a review of his Chronicle of the Cid (1808). For Southey’s advice on this, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 25 March 1809], Letter 1604. The book was reviewed in complimentary terms in the Monthly Review, 63 (1810), 131–144. BACK

[3] The Kingdom of León was an independent kingdom situated in the northwest region of the Iberian peninsula. It was created as a separate kingdom when the Asturian king, Alfonso III (c. 848–910), called ‘the Great’, divided his realm among his three sons. León was joined to the Kingdom of Castile in 1230, enjoyed independence again from 1296 to 1301, and remained a kingdom until 1833, but as part of a united Spain. BACK

[4] The Curse of Kehama was published in 1810. BACK

[5] George Henry Glasse (1761–1809; DNB), clergyman friend of Bedford’s who was an author, and contributor to the Gentleman’s Magazine. BACK

[6] Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB), the former mistress of Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), Commander in Chief of the army. Clarke had been using her influence with the Duke to procure advancement in the army for applicants prepared to offer her cash. BACK

[7] Captain Huxley Sandon (d. c. 1810) was reportedly involved with Clarke in the office trafficking, and was a witness in the inquiry set up by parliament to investigate the affair. BACK

[8] Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle (c. 1761–1833; DNB), elected M.P. for Okehampton in 1807, had played a central role in exposing the Duke of York and Mary Anne Clarke’s involvement in office trafficking. BACK

[9] William Pleydell-Bouverie, Viscount Folkestone [and 3rd Earl of Radnor in 1828] (1779–1869), politician who rose to prominence in 1809 as the principal prosecutor in the investigation into the sale of military commissions by Mary Anne Clarke. BACK

[10] Spencer Perceval, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons, was called on to give evidence in the inquiry into Clarke’s activities. BACK

[11] Mary Ann Taylor (dates unknown), a witness for Mary Anne Clarke in the inquest into her involvement in office trafficking. Perceval exposed her moral character to public infamy during the inquiry, although she was not a defendant. BACK

[12] Brigadier-General Henry Mordaunt Clavering (1759–1850), was reportedly promoted from the rank of Colonel through the intervention of Clarke. BACK

[13] Both Russia and Prussia had suffered defeat by Napoleon in the previous years; Napoleon’s return to Paris presaged not a renewal of war in Germany but a campaign against France’s ally Poland by Austria, followed by a French campaign in Austria itself. BACK

[14] The Tupinamba, one of the main ethnic groups of Brazilian indigenous people, are described in chapter 7 of the first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810). BACK

[15] José Rebolledo de Palafox y Melzi (1780–1847), Spanish general, who in 1808 and 1809 commanded the defending forces at the first and second sieges of Zaragosa. The city fell to the French after a desperate defence involving hand-to-hand street fighting, starvation and disease. BACK

[16] The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane burnt down on 24 February 1809. BACK

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