2840. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 September 1816

2840. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 September 1816⁠* 

My dear Bedford

Upon mature deliberation I am clearly of opinion that it would be very imprudent & impolitic for me to receive any thing in the nature of emolument from Government at this time, in any shape whatsoever. Such a circumstance would lessen the worth of my services, – I mean it would render them less serviceable, – for whatever might come from me would be received with suspicion, which no means would be spared to excite. As it concerns myself personally this ought to be of some weight; but it is entitled infinitely to greater consideration if you reflect how lar greatly my influence xxxx (whatever it may be) over a good part of the public would be diminished if I were looked upon as a salaried writer. [1]  I must therefore in the most explicit & determined manner decline all offers of this kind, – but at the same time I repeat my offer to exert myself in any way that may be thought best. The whole fabric of social order in this country is in great danger; – the Revolution should it be effected will not be less bloody nor less ferocious than it was in France; – it will be effected unless vigorous means be xxxx taken to arrest its progress; – & every m & I have the strongest motive both of duty & self prudence – say even self-preservation, – for standing forward to oppose it. Let me write upon the State of Affairs, [2]  – (& indeed – the freer I am the better I shall write, –) & let there be a weekly Journal established where the villainies of the & misrepresentations of the Anarchists &c & Malignants may be detected & exposed; & where we may break Jeffrey, Hunt, Hazlitt &c upon the wheel. But all will be in vain unless there be some check given to the licentiousness of the press, by one or two convictions, & an adequate (that is to say) an effectual punishment.

It would be superfluous to te assure you that in declining any immediate remuneration I act from no false pride, or false delicacy, – proof enough of this t is that at first I was willing to accept it. But I feel convinced that it would (however undeservedly) discredit me with the public, & thus before the ve Every effort, even now, is making to discredit me, as if I had sold myself for the Laureateship. While I am as I am these efforts recoil upon the enemy, & I even derive advantage from them. – Do not argue that I suffer them to injure me if I refuse what might be offered me for fear of their censures. It is not their censures, – it is the loss of that ostensible xx xxxx xx xxxxx independence, however really independent I should be. At present, in defiance of all that malignity can effect I have a weight of character, & the rascals fear me while they hate me.

Between ourselves I shall bear part in a journal which Stoddart has planned & which is to appear in French & English at the same time, [3]  Chateaubriand & the Duc de Levis who has written a good book upon England will write in it. [4]  I see the great utility of this scheme, but doubt its success, – in France it will no doubt answer admirably, here I cannot but apprehend its failure. What I shall do will be for the sake of the object, & to serve Stoddart. Herries probably knows of this scheme, for Canning has been consulted about it. It will give me introductions in France, which may be pleasant if ever I go there, & useful to my reputation if I do not.

God bless you


11 Sept. 1816. Keswick.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 14 SE 14/ 1816
Endorsements: 11 Sepr. 1816; 11 Sepr. 1816
Seal: black wax, with ‘S’, ‘In Labore Quies’ motto below
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 209–211 [in part]. BACK

[1] See Southey’s letters to Bedford of 7, 8 and 10 September 1816 (Letters 2835, 2836 and 2839) for the ministerial suggestion that Southey should be employed to write or edit a journal attacking the government’s critics. BACK

[2] Southey considered writing, but did not produce, a work on the ‘State of the Nation’. BACK

[3] In 1817 a new journal was launched, published by Longmans and edited by John Stoddart (1773–1856; DNB), who had in 1816 been dismissed from the editorship of the Times for the intemperate Toryism of his articles. It was entitled The Correspondent; Consisting of Letters, Moral, Political, and Literary, between Eminent Writers in France and England; and designed by presenting to each Nation a Faithful Picture of the Other, to Enlighten both to their True Interests, promote a Mutual Good Understanding between them, and render Peace the Source of a Common Prosperity. The French edition does not seem to have appeared. Southey contributed a sketch of the life of John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB) to the first two numbers (1 (1817), 26–48; and 2 (1817), 157–176). However, the Correspondent lasted only one further number. Stoddart became the editor of a new ministry-supported paper, The New Times (1817–1828). BACK

[4] François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand (1768–1848); Pierre-Marc-Gaston, 2nd Duc de Lévis (1764–1830), author of L’Angleterre au commencement du XIXe Siècle (1814). Both were writers and politicians who supported the Bourbon regime. BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)