114. Robert Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 12 November 1794

114. Robert Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 12 November 1794 ⁠* 

There was a time Horace when my life was heavy in listlessness — when I lookd forward & all was darkness without one ray to which I might guide my steps. strange alteration! now my soul never rests. in the tumult of emotion I have neglected to thank you for Piers Plowman [1]  — or if I did thank you, have forgotten it. I know not. never was individual placed in a situation more important — never did man experience more heart-rending scenes. they are past — the energies of my mind have been all exerted & I look back with astonishment at what they have endured.

direct to me at Bath. I have been turnd out of doors by my Aunt — did I tell you of this before? excuse me Horace that these things glide from my remembrance — my heart strings have been sadly jarrd. I had depended on my Mothers going. Ariste did the same — & her mothers accompanying us depended on that. my Mother seemd to change her resolution. Horace the question was — will you abandon all your relations for me — or me for your sisters & mother? whether hell has more <keener> agonies in store than that of the half hour I waited an answer I know not. Heaven surely has no higher delight than I experienced at last from the answer & the manner that accompanied it. my head throbs at these recollections. do you wonder that my mind has been agitated? almost to frenzy. but I have past all — & all is again fair.

Have you read Bowles’s sonnets? they are most beautiful. I know no poems that ever xxx <went> so much to my heart. Dilly [2]  sells them.

the Retrospect [3]  is my best piece. I have mentioned the murmuring brook there. take this compos <sonnet> conceived upon its bank.

To a brooklet near Alston. [4] 

As thus I bend me oer thy babb<l>ing stream
And watch thy current, Memory’s hand pourtrays
The faint-formd scenes of the departed days,
Like the far forest by the moons pale beam
Dimly-descried yet lovely. I have worn
Upon thy banks the live long hour away
When sportive childhood wantond thro the day
Joyd at the opening splendor of the morn
Or as the evening darkend heavd the sigh
Thinks of distant home, as down my cheek
At the fond thought slow-stealing on would speak
The silent eloquence of the full eye.
Dim are the long past days — yet still they please
As thy soft sounds half heard borne on the inconstant breeze.

I write many sonnets. tis a delightful stile of writing.

I shall write to Grosvenor very soon.

linen drying at the fire! one person clear starching — one ironing — & one reading aloud in the room. blessed scene to write in! oh for my transatlantic log house!

I am in hourly expectation of Coleridge, a man most worthy of all esteem & love. my heavy heart joys in the hope of seeing him.

Horace I am loth to leave you in England. the storm is gathering & must soon break. will you not follow us? I want sadly to converse with you. I must see you. but how to quit the circle where I dispense a gaiety & happiness which I cannot feel! yet I will soon come to London. you shall soon see me. in the interim write. my heart feels very warmly towards you. next March! would to God I were arrived. I will convince you that it is my duty to emigrate when we meet. but what is your duty? tis a question I cannot answer.

farewell. remember me to your parents. they have been very friendly to me & my heart never forgets the kindnesses it has received. to Harry too. would he were my brother — I love that boy with astonishment — what a Pantisocrat he would make. an aristocratic! an engineer! — oh what a mind to be oerthrown!

Robert Southey.

Westgate Buildings. Nov. 12th. 1794

omit the Esqr — or Mr. direct to plain RS. I put Esqr to please you please me by omitting it.


* Address: H W Bedford Esq/ Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: ANO/ 14/ 94
Watermark: Crown and anchor with G R underneath
Endorsement: Recd. Novr. 14th. 1794
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 86–87. BACK

[1] Poem by William Langland (c. 1325–c. 1390; DNB). BACK

[2] The London bookseller, Charles Dilly (1739–1807; DNB). BACK

[3] ‘The Retrospect’ was the opening piece in Southey and Lovell’s Poems (1795). BACK

[4] The sonnet, revised and retitled ‘To a Brook near the Village of Corston’, was published in Southey’s Poems (1797). For the incident which led to this poem, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 13 April 1794 (Letter 86). BACK

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