131. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [12 July 1795]

131. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [12 July 1795] ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

I have forgotten Duppas number in Newman Street. do send him on the enclosed. it is concerning the frontispiece, [1]  & contains in it some lines which you have not seen. if Loutherbourg [2]  can be got to design it it will make a very wild piece.

Drydens denunciation of Time & Space [3]  is by no means so ridiculous as Critics have pretended — I cry out against them most heartily.

Sunday Morning

it is now nearly two years since I sojournd at Brixton. during this period how strange an alteration is there in all my views of life! I am afraid Grosvenor it is with xx life as with a days journey. the prospect looks lovely in the morning — every object glitters in the sun & the birds sing cheerily, as the traveller advances the rough road wearies him & when the evenings mists shadow over the solitary landscape. he comforts himself with the reflection that he shall soon be at the journeys end. but when <of> the companions of our journey some strike off into different paths & some die by the way — when the noon is comfortless & cloudy & the traveller scarcely sees a step forwards — it is better to contemplate the white side of the shield.

I shall soon be with you. perhaps I never spent three months happier than at Brixton — tis a period I love to think of. the wasps — Mr Coyte [4]  — & the imminent danger from my republican neighbour in the ditch , in which <when> I wrote Joan of Arc. — therefore Grosvenor is it a misfortune to love — because he who loves is restless in every company but that of one — oh I could xxxxxxxxxx however I mean to leave care behind me at Bristol — or if I carry the burthen with it will drop off like Christians in the Pilgrims Progress [5]  when I see you.

Whatever the Lady might say (was it Mrs D?) in opposition to early marriages I see but little danger arising. either from the chance of inconsistency — the false judgment of youth — or the want of knowledge of the world. affection is gained by the wish to gain it — & how marriage that ought to strengthen that wish can possibly destroy it is perfectly paradoxical to a mind regulated like mine. — by the by I am teaching my Edith — Greek. you will not laugh at me & yet the idea will raise a smile. it is in my opinion better to learn Greek before Latin — if the Lexicon was in English — however a walking Lexicon will remove that difficulty. a man of the world would stare could he hear us tete a tete — αγαθος — αγαθη — αγαθον. [6] 

Your receipt for melancholy — probatum est. [7]  a wooden bridge near a church about ten o clock on Sunday morning would make an admirable picture of the happiest idleness. now mark the strange concatenation of ideas — thinking of a bridge reminded me of water — of the water where Horace took me to bathe at Carshalton — that walk led to one when you & I saw a fine generous mastiff at Dulwich — & this dog put me in mind of — a little whelp whom I have accepted that he may not be drowned — of the rough black brindled dandy-grey-russet colour — & his name is Cupid.

how wonderfully must the brain be organized to form all these sensations in a twentieth part of the time I wrote them in. how can motion be thought? & yet how can thought be any thing else? is it not as difficult to conceive colour as nothing but motion — & this is demonstrated by Darwin. [8]  — & what consequence is it what it is! all useful knowledge is easily acquired.

I have desired Duppa to get a vignette designed from Elinor. [9] 

farewell. remember me to your father & mother affectionately — & give my love to Harry.

write to me. I never hear either of or from Horace.


Robert Southey.


* Address: G C Bedford Esqr./ New Palace Yard/ Westminster./ Only Double
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: CJY/ 13/ 95
Watermarks: Figure of Britannia; COLES/ 1794
Endorsements: Recd 13. July/ 1795; Ansd. & sent same/ day; 13 July 1795
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s proposed frontispiece to the first edition of Joan of Arc did not materialise, though the poem’s second edition did have a frontispiece. BACK

[2] Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg (1740–1812; DNB), landscape painter and scene designer. BACK

[3] John Dryden (1631–1700; DNB), Of Dramatick Poesie, an Essay (1668). BACK

[4] Unidentified, but the context suggests he was a friend of the Bedford family and that Southey had met Coyte during his stay at Brixton in 1793. BACK

[5] John Bunyan (1628–1688; DNB), The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678–1684). BACK

[6] The phrases are the equivalent in Greek of the Latin ‘bonus, bona, bonum’ (or in English, ‘good’, ‘better’, ‘best’). A schoolboy learning the language would recite the adjective in all its forms. BACK

[7] The Latin translates as ‘it is proved’. BACK

[8] See the first volume of Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802; DNB), Zoonomia; or, the Laws of Organic Life (1794–1796). BACK

[9] Southey’s ‘Botany-Bay Eclogue’ ‘Elinor’ had first been published anonymously in the Morning Chronicle on 18 September 1794. Richard Duppa did not illustrate the poem. BACK

People mentioned

Duppa, Richard (c. 1768–1831) (mentioned 2 times)
Deacon, Mr and Mrs (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Bedford family (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned