1853. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 14 January 1811

1853. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 14 January 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany 14. 1811.

My dear Grosvenor

A wicked head ache, the cause of which I suspect will in the course of an hour be removed from its present situation into a wash-hands-bason, prevents makes me incapable of any thing except beginng a letter, – whether it will allow me to finish it is what I cannot tell. Nothing has yet been heard of Coleridge. What you said of him induced me to write him a short letter in plain but proper terms, [1]  – asking him if he did not himself feel how idle it was to go about looking for external aid (– for I wished to prevent the ultimate shame of his applying to Abernethy [2] ) – urging him to return here, this being the best place for him whether he adopts a wiser mode of life, or persists in his present destructive one, – & beseeching him to let me <be> his task-master for three months in which time, if he would only submit to the performance of as much daily work as I should require, (& I would require but little) I would engage that he should lie down at night with xx a heart at ease, & rise in the morning with a chearful one. – Something too I said about his children. [3]  He has given me xx no answer, – which is easily accounted for, for I have no doubt that this letter, as well as two former ones which I have written him, is still unopened. This practise of Coleridge’s is of all his wretched practises that for which I can least pardon. It is a sort of wilful outlawry, or excommunication of himself, – he makes himself deaf & dumb to all who have any claims either of affection or duty upon him. Never I believe did any other man for the sake of sparing immediate pain to himself inflict so much upon all who were connected with him, & lay up so heavy & unendurable a burthen of self-condemnation.

How do you bear these changes of weather, & how do you go on under Pearsons [4]  directions? & how is your mothers complaint?

Gifford at my request has entrusted Capt Pasleys book [5]  to me, which is a most excellent book, quite after my own heart, it in its plain, straight-forward system of policy. I shall be somewhat crippled by G.s. Pitt-idolatry, [6]  – but this I must manage as well as I can, by stating Pasleys opinions upon the conduct of the last war, without giving them as my own. This affair of the Regency [7]  could never have been more unhappily timed, – if I did not know Lord Hollands feelings respecting Spain & had a little confidence in some English feeling in Sheridan, [8]  which is his last remaining virtue, I should regard a change of ministry as the greatest evil which could befall us. A very great evil it undoubtedly is. It is of the utmost confidence <importance> that Lord Wellington should possess the entire confidence of the Cabinet, & be supported by them to the utmost. God preserve us from the peace-mongers!

I will tell you a secret, – there is a scheme in agitation of setting up another Review “by perfectly independent country gentleman–” [9]  – Who they are I cannot tell, but they propose to write gratuitously, & Artaxerxes [10]  applied to me to be their prop & pillar at the ten-guinea price. – I told him that the Q. sometimes paid 20, – which I dare say made him stare, – I told him likewise that I could not think of withdrawing from the Q. in favour of any other, – & x as to principles the main point with me was that of carrying on the war manfully, on which I & the review entirely accorded. [11]  Every thing else was comparatively unimportant. Withal I advised him against embarking on a concern, which if it were to depend upon <the> gratuitous-contributions of ‘country gentlemen” would not answer. Longman made this a secret – so you will not let it get abroad.

I had a handsome note from Herries containing thanks & commendations of Kehama. [12] 

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr./ Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 17 JA 17/ 1811
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 3–5. BACK

[1] Southey’s letter has not survived. BACK

[2] The surgeon John Abernethy (1764–1831; DNB), later famed for his lectures and his participation in the vitalist debate. Abernethy was an eminent medical practitioner and had a large, lucrative private practice in London. He was renowned for his brusqueness with patients and for referring all ailments to disorders of the digestion. The ‘shame’ would have involved Coleridge seeking medical help for his addiction, something he eventually did in 1816. He did not consult Abernethy in 1810–1811. BACK

[4] Possibly the London-based physician and chemist George Pearson (c. 1751–1828; DNB). BACK

[5] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). It was sent to Southey for review but the resulting article was deemed by Gifford to be ‘perfectly incorrect and dangerous’. The version published in the Quarterly Review, 5 (May 1811), 403–457, was, therefore, much altered by Croker, in consultation with Gifford and Murray; see Jonathan Cutmore, The Quarterly Review Archive. BACK

[6] William Pitt (1759–1806; Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806; DNB). BACK

[7] George III’s (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB) mental health had finally collapsed in October 1810 and he was incapable of conducting public business. Parliament was discussing the terms of the regency of his son George, Prince of Wales (1762–1830; Prince Regent 1811–1820, King of the United Kingdom 1820–1830; DNB). This was intensely controversial, as it was believed the Prince favoured opposition politicians. BACK

[8] The playwright, theatre proprietor and Whig politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816; DNB). BACK

[9] The British Review and London Critical Journal, which ran from 1811–1825. It was owned by John Weyland (1774–1854; DNB) and edited by William Roberts (1767–1849; DNB). The Review was distinctly Tory and evangelical. Southey did not contribute, though he was on the verge of doing so on more than one occasion. BACK

[11] Southey’s letter to Longman does not appear to have survived. BACK

[12] Southey had sent Herries a copy of the recently published The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

People mentioned

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)