2843. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [begun before and continued on 15 September 1816]

2843. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [begun before and continued on 15 September 1816] ⁠* 

My dear G.

I shall write you a melancholy letter, – if a summons to supper do not call me off. Non sum qualis eram, [1]  – nor shall I ever be again. Whenever I am unoccupied I feel the wound, – & like a schoolboy who wishes that the months which must intervene before the holydays, – were over, – I detect him<my>self in wishing that the time were fairly past which separates me from eternity. – Isabel has a severe cough & cold which disposes me more particularly to such feelings, – or rather renders me less able to contend against them. – I can stand aloof & contemplate these things like a stoic, – I can feel how beneficial they are, like a Xtian, – yea how necessary to the perfection of our moral nature: – but it is neither inconsistent with philosophy nor with religion while I am strenuously doing my work, to wish that the day were over, – & look on with hope towards the night.


Sunday evening

The Courier of yesterday brought the speeches at the Palace Yard meeting, which as coming pretty strongly in aid of my last letters, are well-timed. [2]  It would not be amiss if Murray were to reprint my two papers upon the Poor, in a little volume; – by restoring the castrations in the first, & making some additions to the second, they might be rendered tolerably compleat for their purpose. [3]  Indeed if the ministry would but read mark & inwardly digest ten pages in that first paper, & act upon them, the <immediate> danger would be put an end to, & leisure be gained for those measures of prevention & amelioration which I have so often & so earnestly xx advised. [4]  Were the Grand Murray to do this I would procure the last Edinburgh which Wynn says has stirred up all his bile by reviving Malthus’s proposal about the poor, [5]  – & either in notes preface or postscript, I would deal with that precious journal according to its deserts.

I am now about to begin an article for this the next number, the motive of which is the solid sum of 100 £ (which you will allow to be a good reason) – the text books a heap of foreign travels by Frenchmen in England, – & the object a comparative estimate of xx our national character & institutions. [6]  In this I shall repeat my warning, & exhortations, – & the hope (however faint) that by thus repeating again & again the same strain some effect may ultimately be produced reconciles me to the employment of irreparable time in such ephemeral occupations, – while works which should extend & perpetuate my reputation, are lying unfinished on the shelf.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate./ [in another hand] W.G
Endorsements: Recd. 19 Sept. 1816; Recd. 19. Sepr. 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 3p.
Dating note: The endorsement indicates Bedford received the letter on 19 September 1816. Southey himself indicates the second section was written on ‘Sunday evening’, probably 15 September 1816. BACK

[1] Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65–8 BC), Odes, 4.1: ‘I am not that which I was’. Herbert Southey had died on 17 April 1816. BACK

[2] A meeting of householders in the borough of Westminster at Palace Yard on 11 September 1816. It passed a series of resolutions denouncing the government and demanding Parliamentary reform. An account appeared in the Courier, 12 September 1816. BACK

[3] Southey’s articles from the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356, and 15 (April 1816), 187–235. The 1812 article contained (320–327) a denunciation of Thomas Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) and in particular Malthus’s proposal in the second edition of 1803 to abolish poor relief for children born after a certain date. The pamphlet Southey proposed to write was not forthcoming. BACK

[4] Southey’s article, ‘Inquiry into the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–56, especially 340–351 on the dangers of revolution and the radical press. BACK

[5] Southey loathed Malthus’s argument that population was bound to outstrip resources. In Edinburgh Review, 26 (June 1816), 235–280 (276), rural poverty was blamed, in part, on the Poor Laws leading to agricultural labourers, secure in the knowledge they would receive a dole from the parish, having large families. The same article revived Malthus’s proposal to abolish poor relief for children born after a certain date. BACK

[6] In Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 537–574, Southey reviewed a series of works by travellers in England, under the title ‘Works on England’. BACK

People mentioned