1669. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 August 1809

1669. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 August 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

You were perfectly right in all you said respecting the Stewardship, & I only wish your information had arrived a little sooner. Set on by Sharp, & encouraged by W Scott & by Wynn – who thought it the most desirable thing could be devised for me, I proceeded so far in quest of it, – that had I been fit for the situation, there is very little doubt that <but> it must have been mine [1]  – & in consequence I must now next week pay Lord Lonsdale a visit (at an expence of time which I can just now less than ever afford) to thank him for assisting me in to get – what I am not qualified to accept. So much for place hunting! – Now that you & I may perfectly understand one another, or rather that you may perfectly understand me, – what I want is to succeed Dutens whenever he vacates the situation which never ought to have been given him, & I want also to have the salary increased t so as to make it net its nominal amount. [2]  This I have told Scott, & he & Ellis will tell Canning, who thinks proper to express a great deal towards me, – tho whether he will ever do me any other service than inducing me to make other interest, I confess myself very doubtful. I believe however that if Dutens would do me the favour to die, (& you know that for a Frenchman this would be great stretch of politeness for – bid him go to Hell – to Hell he goes) – I could obtain Lord Lonsdales interest, & the Duke of Northumberlands, [3]  – both weighty men with this ministry: Upon this subject you will say to Gifford as much as you think proper, – not implying on my part any suspicion of the sincerity of Cannings professions, – & if you can give me any better advice, for at present I have according to an old proverb a fool for my counsellor [4]  you know ready I shall be to receive it.

I have just undertaken, & that too upon miserably short notice, to write the history of Spanish affairs during the last year, for the Edinburgh Annual Register, which the Ballantynes are starting. They calculated its fit length at fifteen sheets & want it by the middle of October – I do not think the narrative will extend to more than ten, & it will be hard work to furnish that; – but if it take up more so much the better. This is a thing which I shall do with great good will, – if it be possible to procure a good series of documents. From the two accounts by Neale & the Officer of Sir John Moores extract, [5]  & by some letters to Coleridge from an Officer nearly connected with him, my own opinion of that retreat is confirmed, – & it is so strongly & decidedly against Sir John Moore that I must not as an honest man express my opinion till I have seen his brothers book. [6]  Be sure that I will in sure justice make full allowance for all his difficulties, & in courtesy to you (even if there be no other motives) speak with due honour of his death, – but indeed Grosvenor it is well for him that he was compelled to fight at last, & that such a death has thrown some lustre about his memory, for there is not such another flight upon record.

Tell me, that is explain to me so as I may be able to explain, why the subscription for the Spaniards produced so little, – & give me any other hints & information that may be of use. [7]  – This business, saving the hurry, is in every respect agreable to me, I can do it with comparative ease & great pleasure, for you know how deeply it has interested me, & I shall receive for it a sum which will be very acceptable & come in good time – ten guineas per sheet – at the Quarterly measure.

The Mss herewith is for my Uncle – RevdHerbert Hill, Staunton upon Wye, Hereford. – in the absence of the Grand Parleur. [8]  you will get it franked for me by some hand potential. 424 pages of my history are printed, – the volume will extend to more than 600 & I am working hard at transcribing the remaining chapters. [9] 

I am glad Mr Bedford that you have remained so long at Southampton, because it shows me that on an occasion you can be absent for some time from the Exchequer, & I call you upon you to show cause why coming to Keswick should not be held a lawful occasion next summer.

Now Grosvenor I must trouble xxx you with a commission which will not be very troublesome, – for which you will be the most convenient pay master, as you can deduct the amount from my next payment. I want four frames for miniatures the exact size of the pattern below; [10]  they are to be of black pannel with a little raised black rim in the inside, the breadth of the frame two inches; the glasses black & gold enamel, but the gold on the glasses broad & plain next the picture. Back boards & every thing ready so as there may be no difficulty in putting in the pictures when they arrive here. Myers in Strand [11]  will be a fit man to order them of, & as little likely to be in your way as any one, – but go wherever is most convenient, the glasses must be convex.

I want also another frame <for a picture> two foot wanting a quarter of an inch long, & one foot xxxx wide. four inches wide. The frame tho perhaps it must be of different materials (that is to say of common black wood) to the same pattern as the others, flat like the others, & 3 ½ inches wide, – no interior rim. the glass black & gold & in gold black-letters (for which you know my partiality) on the glass, the words Mars & L’Hercule. [12]  – the dimensions given are of the picture, & the frame must allow for the additional breadth of the glass.

These must be carefully packed, & sent to me by the waggon which goes from the Bull & Mouth. The Mars print explains its own story. for the others I will gratify your curiosity. We have in this house a visitor by name Miss Betham, who is a miniature painter, – & who has drawn me two of the best likenesses & best pictures that ever were seen, – one of Edith & the other of Herbert. – I & young Edith are also under her hands –

God bless you Grosvenor –


August 12 th 1809

I am 35. this day.


* MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] In July 1809, Southey was informed by Richard Sharp that the stewardship of the Derwentwater Estates (which were owned by Greenwich Hospital) would soon become vacant on the death of the incumbent. Southey asked several friends to intercede on his behalf for this position, including Humprey Senhouse and George Beaumont, but in the end it was considered unsuitable for him. See letter 1671 of this edition. BACK

[2] Louis Dutens (1730–1812; DNB), a French Protestant, held the post of Historiographer Royal until his death on 23 May 1812. Southey’s campaign for the post proved unsuccessful and it went to one of his particular bêtes noires, James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB). BACK

[3] Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1742–1817), army officer and politician. BACK

[4] ‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that listens to counsel is wise’, Proverbs 12: 15. BACK

[5] Adam Neale (1778?-1832), Letters from Portugal and Spain: Comprising an Account of the Operations of the Armies under their Excellencies Sir Arthur Wellesley and Sir John Moore (1809). Possibly Robert Ker Porter (1777–1842), Letters from Portugal and Spain: Written During the March of the British Troops under Sir John Moore. By an Officer (1809). BACK

[6] Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), Scottish General with a long and varied military career. He was also MP for Lanark Burghs 1784–1790. After the controversial Convention of Cintra (1808), Moore was given the command of the British troops in the Iberian peninsula. He was fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna on 16 January 1809. James Moore (1762–1860; DNB), surgeon and biographer, author of A Narrative of the Campaign of the British Army in Spain (1809), incorporating letters and extracts from his elder brother’s journals to defend his actions. BACK

[7] For his contribution to the history pages for the Edinburgh Annual Register. BACK

[8] Southey’s name for the Speaker of the House of Commons, Charles Abbott, for whom Rickman worked as secretary. BACK

[9] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil, published in 1810. BACK

[10] Towards the bottom of the page, Southey has drawn a square captioned ‘Site of the Picture’ and has written the remainder of the letter around this. BACK

[11] Untraced. BACK

[12] This was a print owned by Southey of the battle in 1798 between HMS Mars (a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line) against the French seventy-four gun Hercule. After a bloody battle, Hercule surrendered, having lost over three hundred men. On Mars 31 men were killed and 60 wounded, including the captain. Southey’s brother Thomas was a participant in the battle. BACK

Places mentioned

Staunton on Wye (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)