543. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started at least one month before and continued on] 23 September-1 October 1800

543. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started at least one month before and continued on] 23 September–1 October 1800 ⁠* 

Do – do Grosvenor Bedford write me a letter. do – do send me the Musæus. [1]  Dear Grosvenor Bedford do write me a letter – do send me the Musæus. I beg – I pray, I entreat, I implore, write me a letter – send me the Musæus. by all the supplications in the Litany & all adjurations there or elsewhere, for pity, for friendship, for old-acquaintance sake – for charity – for compassion – for penance – for atonement, for any motive or no motive do write me a letter, do send me the Musæus for my Uncle, dear dear good-for nothing – lazy – idle – abominable Grosvenor Bedford. I want a letter – I want the Musæus for my Uncle. I promised my Uncle the Musæus three years ago, & you promised me three years ago the Musæus for my Uncle – & you have never given me the Musæus, & I never have never given my Uncle the Musæus, because you never gave the Musæus to me. Here have I been three months expecting a letter from you, & I have never received a letter from you, because you have never written a letter from <to> me. <write me a letter> & direct the letter not to me, but to The Rev. Herbert Hill. Chaplain to the British forces. & put an S by the seal & then the letter will come free. but first & foremost write the letter. & send the Musæus for my Uncle, to Mr Danvers. 9 St James’s Place. Kingsdown. Bristol. but do write the letter – do send the Musæus.

There Grosvenor – is that enough? or wilt thou have the spell by the name of Demogorgon [2]  – & all the witch mysteries with which my brain is still giddy. so must I commission Horace to buy a starling & teach him nothing but the Letter – the Letter – the Musæus – the Musæus?


Sept. 23. Grosvenor, more than a month has this letter lain unfinished in my desk – not from laziness, but in the hope & expectation that every packet would bring me some tidings from you. soberly & seriously I am angry with you.

Lately I have not been so well as for the first months after my arrival: partly because the stimulus of novelty has lost its power, – still more owing to intelligence from England that a near relation is dying in a consumption. – I feel the want of society here – of the free & unrestrained intercourse to which I have been accustomed. the weather – the rumour of the day – the tittle-tattle of the place – & the politics of last nights rubber, poorly compensate the topics afforded by common principles, pursuits in common, or the recollection of old times. Cintra however amply makes amends for this privation. I often gaze & gaze till I forget myself & lose all thought – all recollection. You cannot imagine nor is it in my power to describe the beauties of this place. there are no miniature resemblances in England to assist me.

We are in some apprehension & some danger of receiving the Pestilence from Cadiz. it is certainly at Seville, where the average number of deaths are forty a day. whether it be the Black Vomit, an epidemic disease which has before ravaged this country, or the Yellow Fever from the Havannah, or the Plague from Tetuan we are even now uncertain – so different are the accounts. No precautions are taken to secure us, nor can any avail. a Gallego [3]  was here at Cintra yesterday who left Cadiz only 17 days ago, where he had lost his father by the disease, from which he himself had recovered. he escaped with ten others from Cadiz & they are now all in Lisbon unmolested. If the disease had been infectious it must have broken out here. At Cadiz it abates – because its food is exhausted & the place nearly desolate – but this is poor consolation since it has taken root at Seville. if it comes nearer I may probably be driven to winter in England. but our hope is that the rains & the winter will destroy the disease.

Of invasion & war & such trite evils we now neither think or talk – this nearer xxxt danger which comes home to every one monopolizes our attention. it is the news from the South of Spain that we enquire, & the number of deaths, & where is the disorder now. yet with all this evident & imminent & acknowledged danger I do not perceive any person permanently alarmed. the thought seems dropt with the conversation: & we propose schemes of retirement & resources as a matter of mirth – which perhaps tomorrow may render serious & necessary.

In the course of next week we shall probably remove to Lisbon. Cintra grows cold, & I daily wish myself in our sunny town apartments. from thence it is easy to reach England in case of an attack – but we shall be guided by my Uncle, & indeed my own wish is to remain & retire into the country if retirement be necessary – no English fire, no English comfort, can compensate for your rains & your frosts & your fogs. I feel them like a green house plant, & must live in the Sunshine. of sunshine I have had my share – we had the Siroc incessantly for almost three weeks – I I sate without coat or waistcoat in a wet room, idle, & motionless – & yet bathed with perspiration. this was unusual weather & uncomfortabell – but it did not affect my health, & in spirits I was never better. At Cadiz these Siroc blew for nine weeks, & to this some accounts impute the disorder there. Of the heat occasioned by a hot wind you can form no idea – I have felt sweltering days in England – but the Siroc is the very breath of Beelzebub – only that I conceive Beezlebubs breath smells of brimstone.

The old fashion of keeping Dwarfs still exists in Portugal, & as of [MS torn] -lise of these wretches is in proportion to their deformity [MS torn] this is not the only trace of old fashions remaining [MS torn] the Prince [4]  has Hawks, – with which he sports once a year. th[MS torn] exactly in that taste which made nature imitate art – [MS torn] into all the curves & angles of a Turkey carpet. the fo[MS torn] meet in every walk is pardonable – it is comfortable – [MS torn] water is cooling – & so strong is this feeling that the Por[MS torn] the creaking of the wheel which usually raises water f[MS torn] the delights of the country. But of all old obsolete follies still retained here the most remarkable are the Easter Dramas, the very Mysteries so long disused in England & in all civilized countries. this paper allows me not room to sketch you an account of them – but in my next I will give you ample & ridiculous specimens. your father is fond of dramatic history, & they will amuse him. – From the Moors this people have also caught much. a spell called a figa is common to both. tis a clenched hand with the thumb between two fingers, excellent against witchcraft – our proverb a ‘fig for him’ is probably hence derived. like the Mohammedans they do not fly from an infectious disease. Is the small-pox next door? the mother will not remove her children: no – if they are to have it it is no use to remove, if they are not, they are safe where they are. – Fowl broth is the panacea of Portugal, & the idea is scarcely yet obsolete that to render it efficacious it should be made of a cock, whipped to death in the room with the patient. now they think it good for nothing unless it be eaten on the same day that the fowl was killed – the broth having more life in it! – Nor is it a human remedy only, – nothing is so good for a horse! since we have been at Cintra this was prescribed for a horse in the possession of our of our acquaintance. he would not take it. will you believe me when I assure you that the grooms forced it down his nostrils? my Uncle upon hearing it remonstrated with them upon the cruelty & folly – why Sir how do it went into the stomach all the same. how do you think people are drowned if the water does not get thro the nose into the stomach? – the horse happily died, – here are no hounds to eat the carcase – & the Portugueze have a Moorish or Jewish – or foolish antipathy to it. it was taken out secretly & in darkness & buried: I verily believe the Portugueze would rather <have> been seen committing murder than at this impure employment.

write Grosvenor. the letter! the Musæus!

yrs RS.

October 1. 1800.


* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr / Exchequer / Westminster / Single
Postmarks: [partial] 2 oClock / 10 OC /1800; 18
Endorsement: 23. Sept – 1 Octbr 1800
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Adolfo Cabral (ed.), Robert Southey: Journals of a Residence in Portugal 1800-1801 and a Visit to France 1838 (Oxford, 1960), pp. 111–114 [where it is dated ? 23 September–1 October 1800]. BACK

[1] Grosvenor Bedford’s translation of Musaeus (fl. c. early 6th century), The Loves of Hero and Leander (1797). BACK

[2] A pagan god or demon, whose name was taboo, according to medieval Christian writers. BACK

[3] A native of Galicia in north-west Spain. BACK

[4] John VI (1767–1826; King of Portugal 1816–1826), Prince Regent 1799–1816. BACK

Places mentioned

Cintra [Sintra] (mentioned 4 times)
Kingsdown Parade, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)