3214. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 November 1818

3214. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 November 1818⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

Ascertain for me, if you can, whether I am disqualified from voting at an election either by my pension or xx by my office. [1]  Because in case I am not, (but this is between ourselves) I shall constitute myself a free holder of Westmorland. [2]  The present mode of carrying on the contest here is in conformity to a scheme of Lord Stanhopes, by buying up freeholds. [3]  This has been set on foot by Brougham, & the same system must be resorted to on the other side. [4]  An opportunity offers at this time of just such a purchase as is required. And if by vesting 100 £ in this way I get only three per cent for the money, the principle is well vested, & the xxx of twenty shillings a year [5]  well paid for the privilege. I want nothing from Ld Lonsdale, nor indeed do I perceive know that there is any possible way in which xx he, or the Prime Minister himself could benefit a man, who will not for any earthly advantage that could be offered him, consent to sacrifice his retirement, his leisure & his pursuits. But tho he cannot serve me, I shall be very glad to xxx enable myself to serve him, as one whom I both like & respect for his personal character & his political conduct. There cannot be a more obliging man. It is my own fault that I am not a frequent visitor at Lowtherthat I shall never be, – but it will gratify me & become me, to show my sense of his repeated civilities in a better way.

This is a most remarkable season with us. On the 20th of November we had French beans at dinner, & now (on the 28th) there has not been the slightest snow on the mountains, nor the slightest appearance of frost in the valley. The late flowers continue to blossom still. And the early ones are pushing forward as if it were spring. The great scarlet poppy has two large buds ready to burst, & your favourite blue thistle has brought forth a flower. But what is more extraordinary the annual poppies whose stalks, to all appearance dead & dry, were left in the ground, merely till Mrs Lovell should give directions for clearing them away, have in many instances shot out fresh leaves & produced of the xxxxx diminutive size, & produced xx blossoms correspondently small, – not bigger than a daisy. This is in our own garden, which as you know, has no advantages of shelter or situation, – in happier spots the gardens have more the appearance of September than of winter.

Gifford will tell you that I have been speaking a good word in behalf of the historical painters. [6]  (By the bye get Nash to take you to see Haydons great picture, [7]  which is prodigiously fine.) – I am now upon the Copyright question which I shall make as short as possible, – a few days will finish it & a few days more finish a paper upon the Catacombs, – in which I have collected {brought forth} a great number of collection of facts from out-of-the-way sources, some of them very curious [8]  The Copyright must have place in the present number, – & no doubt it will, being much more for Murrays interest than mine. The Catacombs will xxx eke out my ways & means for the next quarter, & then I shall have done with the QR for the next six months, & in future I shall only just keep my hold in it for occasional convenience. I am in excellent trim for work. Brazil 416 pages printed. [9]  Wesley 384 – the remainder of the first volume in the printers hands & a good portion of the notes. [10]  The second volume is begun & about an eighth part of it ready. I go to it as soon as the xxxx of xxxx my dispatches are sent off. This morning I finished the second book of Oliver Newman. You see I have resumed it in good earnest, – & I hope to report progress often during the winter. [11] 

I shall not move southward till both the Brazil & the Wesley are finished. Three xxx winter months will do wonders, as I hope to be entirely free from interruptions. Other circumstances would not allow me to leave home before March, [12]  nor will I move then unless these works are off my hands. I shall then start fairly, without impediment, & in full force for the Peninsular War. [13]  And thus my life passes looking to the completion of one work for the sake of beginning another. – & having to start afresh for a new career as often as I reach the goal. And so I suppose it will be, till I break down & founder upon the course. But if I live a few years longer, in possession of my faculties I will do great things.

I must soon begin to think about my exercise for the Mus: Doc. [14]  [MS torn] nothing more.

God bless you


Keswick. 28 Nov. 1818.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 1 DE 1/ 1818
Endorsement: 28 Novr 1818; 28 Novr 1818
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 321–323 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey was not disqualified from voting through holding a public office, or a pension. Only specific categories of office–holders could not vote, most importantly Post Office employees, Stamp officers and customs and revenue officers (until 1868). BACK

[2] Wordsworth had asked Southey to join in the purchase of the Ivy How estate, Little Langdale; see Wordsworth to Thomas Monkhouse, 4 December 1818, The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. The Middle Years. Part 2. 1812–1820, ed. E. De Selincourt, 2nd edn rev. Mary Moorman and Alan G. Hill (Oxford, 1970), p. 509. A share in this estate would qualify the co-owners as 40 shilling freeholders, thus enabling them to vote in county elections in Westmorland. The entire scheme was an attempt by Wordsworth to create more votes for the Lowther interest in the county, so boosting its chances of success in the next general election and preventing Westmorland being won by Brougham. BACK

[3] Charles, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753–1816; DNB), a radical in politics. BACK

[4] Brougham had unsuccessfully contested the Westmorland seat against the interests of the Earl of Lonsdale at the general election of 1818 and would do so again in 1820 and 1826. The creation of 40 shilling freeholds purely to boost the number of supportive voters was a common charge made against opponents at elections. Brougham had claimed in the Commons as early as 8 May 1818 that Lonsdale had been able to acquire the remaining privileges of the Barony of Kendal from the Crown on favourable terms and had used this opportunity to manufacture 40 shilling freeholds for his supporters by enclosing land and converting copyhold tenements into freeholds. BACK

[5] Probably a reference to the Land Tax (a very controversial tax in place since 1692) that Southey would have to pay on this land. BACK

[6] Southey promoted, in the Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591, Haydon’s New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818). BACK

[7] Haydon was working on his magnum opus, ‘Christ’s Entry Into Jerusalem’ (first exhibited in 1820 and now at Mount St Mary’s Seminary, Cincinnati), which included a portrait of Wordsworth. BACK

[8] Southey’s article on the ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’ appeared in Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 196–219. His article ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’ appeared in the Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 359–398. BACK

[9] The final volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

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

[11] ‘Oliver Newman’ remained unfinished and was published posthumously as a fragment in 1845; see Oliver Newman: a New England Tale (Unfinished): with Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 1–92. BACK

[12] Edith Southey was pregnant with Charles Cuthbert Southey, who was born on 24 February 1819. BACK

[13] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[14] Southey’s annual New Year’s Ode as Poet Laureate, part of which would need to be set to music by William Shield, Master of the King’s Music, in case it was required to be performed at Court. BACK

Places mentioned

Lowther estate (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)