3073. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 31 January 1818

3073. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 31 January 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 31 Jany. 1818

My dear G.

Better late than never. I have been looking for these books the two last carrier days, [1]  – their delay however is not of that kind that maketh the heart sick. [2]  You give me no tidings of the larger collection from Brussels. – I conclude therefore that they have not reached England (which is altogether unaccountable) & must therefore cause enquiry to be made concerning them. [3] 

D’Ivernois [4]  was not in Geneva when I called at his house, – & therefore conceiving the letter to be merely a line of introduction – I destroyed it. If it be necessary that I should explain this to Herries tell me where to direct to him.

Can your brother Henry tell me any thing of a scheme for establishing a colony somewhere in South America for which a certain Capt Thomas Braum had obtained the sanction of Government in 1714 just before Q Anne died. [5]  Thus his name is spelt in the diplomatic correspondence of the Portugueze ministers at Utrecht, [6]  who were much alarmed at the project, suspecting that the Isle of St Catharines [7]  was the point in view. It may be Brown or it may be Braham, – it would be some satisfaction only to rectify his name, – if it be upon the Admiralty books, – farther I suppose it would be hopeless to enquire, x – or it may be Brougham – which is the likeliest guess of all, – for Broom I think would probably have been rightly spelt. –It would delight you to see how I am getting on with the last volume of Brazil, which will be opus curiosissimum. [8] 

Westall has nearly finished his plates of the Caves, – & very fine things they are; – wonderful specimens of ingenuity, & I dare say a great deal better than if he had understood the process of aqua-tinta engraving better when he began, – for by blending this in some cases with the soft ground, & heightening it with the graver in others he has produced all that could be desired, in a way that it would puzzle the mere mechanic to understand, & with all the freedom & originality of his genius, – which is of a very high order. [9]  I know from him that his brother wishes much to be acquainted with you. – & I quite long for him to see these plates, which he is very anxious about (for they are first attempts) – or at least that he should know how very good they are. [10]  We shall now have justice done to this country. Westall is about, as soon as the season will permit, to make some book-panoramas here in the manner of that from the Righi which I brought home. [11] 

When this money is payable, [12]  I will beg you at your leisure to settle certain accounts due from me to Hyde, [13]  & Osiris, & Nash [14] 

I hope the Pilgrimage will come in the box, – or with the books that are to be bound & follow it, & the Spanish MS. which you took to town for binding [15] 

We are going on tolerably well here, – except Mrs Lovell, who has been much worse than usual this winter, & is visibly much altered: – so that I look on with no pleasant anticipations. Nor xx are there any comfortable prospects for me in another near quarter. – Tom has now five children, [16]  – & is in a fair way of having as many more: – this is likely to weigh heavier & heavier upon me every year while I live, & when I am dead, or if my own resources should fail, – which they so easily may, depending upon health, eyesight, – & success in the lottery of literature. – God knows what is to become of them. It is a little vexatious when I have overcome all my own difficulties to be weighed down by assailed by this corps de reserve.

Poor Hodge! [17] 

This Voluntary Contribution is indeed pityful. Even if it be meant for an example – it is good for nothing. There are fifty ways in which the same money could have done such good, & purchased deserved commendation which would have ripened into popularity. xxx In this form, – it can only excite sarcasm, contempt, & vexatious inquiry – if it end in vexation alone. [18]  Well – well! These things are no concern of mine. I have more to do with John Wesley, [19]  & the Zamucos & the Moxos & the Mbayas & the Abipons <& the Jesuits, & the Miners> [20]  & Lord Wellington, [21]  & Kate & Bell & Bertha, & Bona Fidelia, & Madame Bianchi & Pulcheria. [22]  What have I to do with Princes & Politics? – The Acta Sanctorum [23]  are more to me than all the Acts of Parliament that will ever be made

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre./ Exchequer
Endorsement: 31 Jany 1818
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A consignment of books Southey had bought in Milan in June 1817 had been located in the Customs House in London and was on its way to Keswick by wagon. BACK

[2] Proverbs 13: 12: ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick’. BACK

[3] The books that Southey had bought in Brussels on his continental tour in 1817. BACK

[4] Francois D’Ivernois (1757–1842), writer on economics and politics who had been in exile in Britain 1792–1814. BACK

[5] In the early eighteenth-century the British government showed a persistent interest in acquiring trading bases in South America. They pressed hard for some suitable concessions during the negotiations of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), which was signed shortly before the death of Queen Anne (1665–1714; Queen of Great Britain 1702–1714; DNB), and which brought Britain’s participation in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) to a close. One of the many plans at this time to gain a base in South America was put forward by the merchant Thomas Bowrey (d. 1713; DNB), who in 1711 suggested taking Valdivia in Chile and possibly also a port on the Atlantic coast. This may be the source of the garbled report Southey had read in his Portuguese sources. The incident is mentioned in Southey’s History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, p. 131. BACK

[6] Southey’s account of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 132–143, draws on the correspondence of Luis da Cunha (1662–1749), one of the two Portuguese representatives at the negotiations that led to the Treaty; ‘Cartas de Officios de D. Luis da Cunha Embaixador Extr. a Plenopo. dos SS. Sñres Reis de Portugal D. Pedro II e D. Joaom V na Corte de Londres e na Congresso de Utrecht’, no. 3832 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. His colleague, and the other Portuguese representative, was Joao Gomes da Silva, 4th Conde de Tarouca (1671–1738). BACK

[7] Santa Catarina, an island just off the southern Brazilian coast, (now the site of the city of Florianopolis). BACK

[8] ‘The most curious of books’. BACK

[9] Westall’s collection of engravings Views of the Caves near Ingleton in Yorkshire (London, 1818) combined several engraving techniques to create effects of light and shade. BACK

[10] Richard Westall (1765–1836; DNB), William’s elder brother and mentor, a popular artist whose drawings would be used to illustrate Southey’s A Tale of Paraguay (1825). BACK

[11] Westall’s Views of the Lake and of the Vale of Keswick (1820), a book of coloured aquatints, was indeed a great step forward in the reproduction of the Lake District landscape. Southey had brought home a copy of a panoramic view from Mont Righi in Switzerland, possibly that produced by Johann-Jakob Scheurmann (1770–1844) in 1817. BACK

[12] Southey’s stipend as Poet Laureate. BACK

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

[14] Southey owed Nash money for the purchase of frames for the drawings Nash had made of the Southey family. BACK

[15] Possibly the copy of The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), no. 2693 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, described as ‘LARGE PAPER, not printed for sale: a Presentation Copy from G. C. Bedford, with his autograph’. It was accompanied by those of Southey’s books bought in Milan 1817 that required binding and an unidentified Spanish manuscript. BACK

[16] Margaret Hill Southey (b. 1811); Mary Hill Southey (b. 1812); Robert Castle Southey (1813–1828); Herbert Castle Southey (1815–1864), Eleanor Thomasina Southey (1816–1835). They were followed by Sarah Louise Southey (1818–1850); Nelson Castle Southey (1820–1834); Sophia Jane Southey (1822–1859); and Thomas Castle Southey (1824–1896). BACK

[17] Altered from ‘Hyde’. One of Bedford’s pets. BACK

[18] The government had made provision in the Malt and Pension Duties Act (1817) for holders of public office or pensions to donate part of their salary to public services, if they wished to do so, following the example of the Prince Regent. In particular, government ministers gave up the increase in their salaries caused by the abolition of income tax in 1816. BACK

[19] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[20] Subjects discussed in the third volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[21] A reference to Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[22] Southey’s cats. BACK

[23] Southey had bought this 53–volume compendium of hagiographies (1643–1794) in Brussels in 1817; he was eagerly awaiting its delivery to Keswick. It became no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)