134. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before and continued on] 1 September [1795]

134. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before and continued on] 1 September [1795] ⁠* 

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. [1]  said Solomon. Statius says

quâ non gravior mortalibus addita cura

Spes ubi longa venit [2] 

Grosvenor when you have lived upon that cameleon fare so long as I have done — you will acknowledge the wisdom of Solomon & feel the poetry of Statius.

I expect my Uncle daily. his determination is of such consequence to my immediate happiness or even comfort — that I feel heavings of heart strangely uncomfortable. yet have I little to fear. that he will enable me to study either law or physic is more than probable. Grosvenor I shall be happy. there is not one feeling in my heart that militates against happiness.

before Xmas. or a long long vagabond life. by the Lord I will disguise myself & turn butler or footman. if I am not settled & married before Xmas. this I will do. clean shoes — light fires & wait at table by day — by night — rise — or sink into Robert Southey.

If my Joan of Arc succeeds (— & my calm & sober judgement approves the poem—) whatever I write afterward will find a ready sale. the poems are delayed till January for my booksellers convenience. a most worthy little fellow Bedford — whom you must know & love. a poet himself [3]  — public too on Tuesday next hot pressd & fine paper — to be had at Robinsons  [4]  containing John the Baptist Monody on John Henderson &c — & if you buy the volume for the sake of the author — you will find an elegant volume quoad typography — & in the Monody at least some very beautiful lines, Cottle wrote them in the inspiration of friendship to the memory of one he loved [5]  — they are of such merit that I should not believe them written by the same person who wrote all the rest did I not positively know it. Coleridge has used the pruning knife with me over them — nil ultra. [6] 


September 1st. Tuesday.

Grosvenor I have quitted Bristol after lodging there seven months. I had determined on leaving it last night. Edith dined with me & my departure was fixed for five o clock. Mrs Sawier sent to desire our company to tea. I mentioned my intention of setting off — but her cheek was flushd with hope & she turned her head away to hide tears from me — I slept there last night. I do not think any circumstance ever affected me like those tears. it was not a painful sensation — but God preserve me from its repetition! — in the words of the Snorro Sturleson “do you or do you not understand this”? [7] 

oh for one of the Nourjahads naps! [8] 


Grosvenor I have a curiosity for you. two sonnets by James Jennings — seriously intended. upon Metaphor & Personification. [9]  he had personified a Catastrophe once & upon my noticing it as bold introduced it here.



When Earth was young & Nature Mans delight,
The Protean friend of Poesy arose.
His eyes around in wonder wild he throws
And soars a Mountain. high in æther bright
His summit nods. then as electric fire
With swift mutation, from the earth he rangd
To Heaven a massive pillar; soon he changd
To lion-fronted pard, growld & retird
An Ocean. nor remaind he Ocean long,
For loud in thunder roard his awful voice
With lightning instantaneous. as her choice
Sweet Poesy directs in numbers strong
Or soft or fluent, so he drives her car
And later Minstrels call him Metaphor.


Nor did sweet Poesy long time defer
To ask the aid of him who hand in hand
With Metaphor arose. at his command
Rocks mountains vallies living souls appeard:
Catastrophe his saddening front upreard.
And Virtue stood erect & Patience smild
And Joy Love Hope & Fear Amazement wild
And Heaven assumd a virile form, whilst stood
Ocean contracted to a man. the brood
Of Vice in black-browd frown, Revenge & Hate
Discord & Death & stern defying Fate
Walkd oer the earth destroying — such is Per
Sonification. he whom she employs
To deck her labors & increase her joys

poor Trauma is famous for Abbreviating words & actually wrote

Oh how my bosom glows with pathic fire

as a happy alternative for pathetic!

after these specimens — you will difficultly believe (what is really the case — that Jennings taken from poetry possesses more than common abilities. that he has without assistance acquired considerable information — learns Latin & a little Greek, & that I have always been pleased with his company & frequently instructed. he is foreman to a Chemist. about 23. — What is most valuable in him is the purity of his moral character.

direct to me Westgate Buildings.

my opinion of French politics.

Deputy Ruhl } — he shot himself.  [10] 
Was a very great fool }
NB. Delegate Rumps } in prison [11] 
not Delicate Rumps. Must be in the dumps }
And Jacobine Bo } he is denounced [12] 
Will very soon go. }


* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster./ Single
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: BSE/ 7/ 95
Watermarks: Figure of Britannia; G R
Endorsements: Recd. Septr. 5./ 1795; Ansd. Sept. 16. 1795; 5 Septr 1795
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. AL; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 98–100. BACK

[1] Proverbs 13: 12. BACK

[2] Publius Papinius Statius (c. AD 45–96), Thebaid, Book 2, lines 320–321. The Latin translates as: ‘hope, than which the heart can bear no heavier burden, when ’tis long deferred’. BACK

[3] Joseph Cottle, Poems, Containing John the Baptist. Sir Malcolm and Alla, A Tale, ... War a Fragment. With a Monody to John Henderson (1795). BACK

[4] Joseph Cottle’s Poems (1795) were published by Cottle and G. G. and J. Robinson of Paternoster Row in London. The Robinsons were a dynasty of booksellers, printers and publishers, at this time headed by George Robinson II (d. 1801; DNB), George Robinson III (d. 1811; DNB) and John Robinson (1753–1813; DNB). BACK

[5] John Henderson (1757–1788; DNB), student and eccentric, had known Cottle when the latter was a pupil at the school run by Henderson’s father, at Hanham, near Bristol. BACK

[6] The Latin translates as ‘nothing beyond’. BACK

[7] The Icelandic historian and antiquarian Snorri Sturluson (1178–1241), author of the prose Edda. Southey is quoting from an account of the Edda in Thomas Percy’s (1729–1811; DNB) translation of Paul Henri Mallet (1730–1807), Northern Antiquities: or, a Description of the Manners, Customs, Religion and Laws of the Ancient Danes, and Other Northern Nations, 2 vols (London, 1770), II, p. 50. BACK

[8] In Frances Sheridan (1724–1766: DNB), The History of Nourjahad (1767), the central character is gifted with a long life, but one interspersed with prolonged periods of sleep. BACK

[9] The sonnets appeared under the signature ‘J.J.’ in the first number of Southey’s Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1799), pp. 148–149. BACK

[10] Jacques-Philippe Ruhl (1737–1795), a deputy for Bas-Rhin to the National Convention, had recently committed suicide. BACK

[11] Pierre-Charles Ruamps (1751–1807), a Jacobin member of the Convention, was imprisoned on 21 May 1795. BACK

[12] Jean-Baptiste-Jerome Bo (1743–1814), a Jacobin member of the Convention, was denounced on 9 August 1795. BACK

People mentioned