2971. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 April 1817

2971. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 April 1817⁠* 

My dear G.

In the course of this business I have very often had occasion to remember the apologue of the old man his son & the ass: – for by listening to every body, I am likely to please nobody, & myself least of all. [1] 

Wynn exhorts me most earnestly not to write arrogantly. Turner I think would not have me write at all, – & perhaps this may be Rickmans opinion. – You & the Doxtor say write – & Wordsworth & Senhouse here think that I cannot express myself too strongly.

You have the whole now, & if you & your Counsellors – by which I mean Harry & Turner (& Rickman if you please) think it better that the whole should be suppressed: so let xx it be. My anger has spent itself, & I care not the turn of a straw. If on the other hand you wish it to appear, I will in the proof expunge certain passages that offend Wynns sensitiveness, & I will smooth down others so as to lessen their asperity but leave the whole edge, & I will insert a passage about public expenditure from these papers which you have sent me. But I must tell you that with this letter I close the business on my part. Whatever reply may be attempted to it, I shall say nothing more. I will waste no more time upon an affair which did not from the beginning deserve from me the sacrifice of a single hour.

The best answer which could have been made to him would have been to have reprinted certain of my papers from the QR together with certain excerpts from the Register; [2]  or better still; if I had made a book as was my full intention instead of yielding to Murrays suggestion & frittering my materials down to suit the purposes of his journal. [3]  After all it is of little consequence; as regards myself of none, & as regards the country things will take their course. The present ulcers will heal, – the disease will continue in the system, – we shall go on upon a system of expedients, living as it were from hand to mouth, to day with the bugbear of ruin before our eyes, tomorrow in a heyday of prosperity: – the evil may be indefinitely delayed, but sooner or later come it must unless adequate remedies be applied, & for these the present race of statesmen want either the courage or the power, or both.

After Saturday next direct to Warcop Hall near Brough. Whither I go on Monday (this day week).

Harry will perhaps have told you that I have been disturbed about this house, & am under the strange temptation of buying the estate without having a shilling to pay for it. [4]  All this when we meet, which I trust will be on the 24th. I hope the journey will do me good, for I stand in need of change of air place & circumstance.

May I be allowed a drab to travel in? & if not what kind of light coat will Hyde [5]  permit me to wear. This is one of the first points to be determined on my arrival.

God bless you


7 April. 1817.


* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqre/ 9 Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 10 APR 10/ 1817
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 70–72 [misdated 17 April 1817]. BACK

[1] A reference to Aesop’s (620–564 BC) ‘The Miller, His Son, and Their Ass’ in which, after listening to the conflicting advice of different passers-by, the old man ends up carrying the ass on his back. Southey was being offered advice about his A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (1817). BACK

[2] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808–1811 (1810–1813), for which Southey wrote the historical sections. BACK

[3] Southey had contemplated writing a book on the ‘State of the Nation’. Many of his thoughts appeared instead in his Quarterly Review articles, ‘Parliamentary Reform’, 16 (October 1816), 225–278, and ‘Rise and Progress of Popular Disaffection’, 16 (January 1817), 511–552. BACK

[4] Greta Hall had suffered from the complicated financial and legal entanglements of its owner, Samuel Tolson Jnr (dates unknown), who was by April 1817 in Carlisle jail for debt; a creditor had taken out an injunction (‘extent’) against him, seeking recompense by forcing a sale of the estate. The creditor was William Quintus Harding (1778–1870), of Copeley, Warwick, who had married Rebecca Pemberton (c. 1779–1854), sister of Sophia, the wife of Southey’s friend Charles Lloyd. BACK

[5] Hyde (d. 1820) was Southey’s tailor in London. BACK

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)