1705. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 30 October 1809

1705. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 30 October 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

Thank you for the half notes. [1]  I will tell you all I know concerning poor F. C. [2]  & you may use your own discretion about Henry, – in whose discretion I have full confidence. [3]  F. is a native of this country. One of our country gentlemen (a very remarkable & strong headed man) who was his school fellow & knows his person as well as you know mine, told me, that about five or six years ago, as he was walking near his own house with his daughter he saw two gentlemen riding towards him, & recognized one of them time enough to say to his daughter look at this man – it is F. C., – & also to consider that it would be better not to speak to him, – which he was on the point of doing. There was a dog with the horsemen, – & presently afterwards some boys came along who had picked up a collar bearing the name of F. C.s father. [4]  My friend had no doubt before of his identity, & this was a confirmation of the fact. – What is become of him since God knows, but I should think it likely from his own character & that of his family, that one of these days the whole story will come to light. [5] 

The question which you discuss respecting the means of civilizing savage tribes I shall enter into hereafter in the Quarterly. You will find it advanced in my first volume of Brazil that ‘when man has been degraded to the savage state it is only by priestcraft that he has ever yet been reclaimed! – & that no nation has ever yet emerged from a savage state till it had a regular priesthood! –’ [6]  There is one other mode of civilization which is possible – that of force, according to the Roman plan, – but it is more expensive, less sure in its operation, & there is no government which would undertake it. It only xxx remains therefore to make what we can of the Missionaries. About the Bible I could say much & will say it in an article at some future time respecting the Bible Society; – suffice it now to state that I do not dream of representing Xtianity as an historical religion, but as a perpetual revelation, the strong ground upon which all enthusiasts proceedx.

God bless you


Oct. 30. 1809.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ [in another hand] Exchequer
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 521–522. BACK

[1] A secure way of sending money in the post was to tear banknotes in half and send the two halves separately. BACK

[2] Fletcher Christian (1764–1793?; DNB), mutineer considered the ringleader of the rebellion on HMS Bounty. BACK

[3] In his letter to Grosvenor Bedford of c. 26 October 1809 (Letter 1702) Southey had disclosed the information that Christian had been identified in the Lake District, asking him to keep this a secret. BACK

[4] Charles Christian (1729–1768; DNB), a merchant of Cockermouth, Cumbria. BACK

[5] There were several rumours that Fletcher Christian had returned to visit his relatives in the Lake District after the mutiny, but the account of John Adams (alias Alexander Smith; 1768?–1829; DNB), the only surviving mutineer, that he died on Pitcairn Island where the Bounty finished its voyage is the generally accepted one. BACK

[6] History of Brazil, 3 vols (1810–1819), I, p. 251. BACK

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