115. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [22 November 1794]

115. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [22 November 1794] ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor

thank you for remembering me of the respect I owe to Mr Reed. [1]  ignorance of his direction makes me send the volume to you. I am ill at writing notes & believe it is not customary on these occasions. Lovell gave you his full direction. No 14 Old Market Bristol. I have read your letter. heigh ho! there must be one standard of truth & sorry am I that so difficult is it to be discoverd that we have ranged under different banners.

with respect to Joan of Arc. in dedicating it to you my only motive was to give a public testimony of private friendship. from what Wynn has said I conclude it is not agreable & may be prejudicial. I will relinquish my intention. the copy right of the poem will I believe soon be sold for fifty guineas & fifty copies. [2]  in so doing I think I shall do well as the printing will come to £200 pounds — these cursed politics you say absorb every thing. my soul Bedford sickens at the prospect they hold out — how is it that you are caught in their vortex? had we been more together we must have agreed — we are now in our detestation of the calamities they are inflicting on mankind. I shall be soon beyond the sphere of their destruction — would that I did not feel a selfish terror at the coming storm for my friends. Bedford when the storm breaks — I earnestly adjure you to avoid its fury. this is not the vain prophesy of a distemperd brain — it will break. there are bad men & mistaken men in England who do not know that revolutions should take place in mind. let the violence of either party prevail & the moderate will be equally proscribd. death is no mans duty while his life can be of service. be not offended my dear Grosvenor tho this should seem premature — but if disturbances arises come with your family to us. if you do not like our mode of living — you can remain there till you find one more agreable — for it will be the only land at peace.

be good enough to send me your Witch of Endor. I have a volume of poems [3]  — & my Botany Bay Eclogues in the Booksellers hands at London [4]  — but doubt their success. “these cursed politics absorb every thing!” [5]  my time is short & to print them on my own account too hazardous. America is a better market for literature.

Grosvenor earnestly as I wish for March my heart seems to palpitate at its approach — parting with “the friends we hold most dear” [6]  perhaps for ever is a hard lesson to learn. is it paradoxical to say that I hope you will see me embark?

I have experienced the evils of the establishd system most forcibly — & expect tranquillity in the calm of a different one — & happiness in the performance of what appears my duty.

fare thee well.

remember me to Mr & Mrs B respectfully. & to Harry remember me likewise. Bedford I envy you that brother.

sincerely yours



I have elegized the gallant Kosciusko. [7] 


* Address: G C Bedford Esqr
Watermark: Crown and anchor with G R underneath
Endorsements: Recd. Novr. 23d. 1794 —/ with a book for Mr Reed; Ansd same day
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 4p.
Dating note: Dating from the mention of ‘Saturday’ at the end of the letter; the endorsement suggests this probably refers to Saturday, 22 November 1794. BACK

[1] Isaac Reed (1742–1807; DNB), literary scholar and editor of Shakespeare. In 1792, he tried (and failed) to prevent Egerton, the printer of the schoolboy magazine The Flagellant, from revealing Southey as the author of a controversial essay on flogging to the Westminster School authorities. BACK

[2] Southey had by this time abandoned his earlier plan of publishing his epic in a subscription edition with the Bath publisher Richard Cruttwell (c. 1747–1799; DNB), and was in negotiations to sell the copyright of Joan of Arc to Joseph Cottle. BACK

[3] Possibly a reference to Southey’s collaboration with Robert Lovell on a collection of poems to be published under the pseudonyms of ‘Orson’ and ‘Valentine’. BACK

[4] There is evidence that Samuel Taylor Coleridge took a manuscript of Southey’s ‘Botany-Bay Eclogues’ to London in September 1794, offering the poems to Joseph Johnson (1738–1809; DNB). One of the eclogues, ‘Elinor’, appeared anonymously in the Morning Chronicle, 18 September 1794, probably on Coleridge’s initiative. Three more were published (alongside a revised version of ‘Elinor’) in Southey’s Poems (1797), and a fifth in the Monthly Magazine, 5 (January 1798). BACK

[5] Southey is quoting Bedford’s own words back at him. BACK

[6] A quotation from Southey’s sonnet, ‘Bedford — My Kalendar Shall Mark This Day’, sent to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 10 September 1794 (Letter 104). BACK

[7] Thaddeus Kosciusko (1746–1817), Polish patriot, whose actions in the causes of American and Polish independence made him a radical hero. Samuel Taylor Coleridge published a sonnet on Kosciusko in the Morning Chronicle, 16 December 1794. BACK