105. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 27 September 1794]

105. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 27 September 1794] ⁠* 

Your letter my dear Bedford vexes me considerably. you must be sensible that I have avoided writing to you upon those philosophical principles which form the basis of my character — if you wish to see them ably elucidated read Godwin. [1]  if you are content with to shield yourself in the cloak of humility — I will never rudely rendx away the mantle which you chuse to interpose between yourself & the sun of Truth. the arguments you adduce to detain me have been often urged — indeed Bedford they merit not a second refutation. with those I most love I am going. even should they remain I do not. of gratitude — but it were useless to enter into disquisition. sorry am I that circumstances should ever make my friend fearful of investigation.

I could point out a strange inconsistency in your letter. but n’importe.

March! March! I would it were come.

the Botany Bay Eclogue I would send but have no copy. they are in the hands of Johnson in Pauls Ch. Yard [2]  — for purchase if he chuses to give 15 guineas for them. if not I take the MSS with me & wait a better opportunity.

Of the Joan. — take the will for the deed. public testimony adds little to private esteem. much of it — particularly the sacrifice of publ private feelings to public duty will not harmonize with your ideas.

Bedford. the man [3]  whose principles make you shun him — is most exemplary in his life. those very principles have rescued him from libertinism — & made him deserving of my friendship. those same principles make me what I am. on religion we differ. I hope where he doubts or denies. is he the worse? am I the better for this?

refine away the feelings! Bedford because I hold gratitude a vice — does my heart beat less warmly to affection. think you that Brutus loved not his children when he condemned them? [4] 

you will be happy your way. I mine. your happiness will be less disturbed — mine more keen. God bless you.

in the hour of anguish I can look back upon my past actions & be comforted. the hour of anguish is over.


yours affectionately

Robert Southey

when I shall see London is quite uncertain. I wish much to see you. I would fain shake hands with Strachey before I quit England.


* Address: G C Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: [partial] 27
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 27. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 79–80. BACK

[1] William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness, (1793). Southey borrowed the first volume from the Bristol Library Society between 25 October and 8 November 1793 and the second volume between 9–19 December of the same year. BACK

[2] Joseph Johnson (1738–1809; DNB) did not publish the ‘Botany-Bay Eclogues’; four appeared in Southey’s Poems (1797) and a fifth in the Monthly Magazine, 5 (January 1798). BACK

[3] Unidentified, but Southey is possibly referring to either Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who had met Bedford in autumn 1794) or Robert Lovell (who was to visit London in October 1794). BACK

[4] Lucius Junius Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic and one of the first Consuls in 509 BC, condemned his two sons to death when they rebelled against the state. BACK

People mentioned