17. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 9 July 1792]

17. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 9 July 1792] ⁠* 

Oh tell it in Askalon tell it in Gath [1] 
And send a description & drawing to Bath
Oer Europes wide realm let the tidings prevail
That the great Doctor Johnson has got a pig tail!!!
Let Echo repeat & divulge thro the air
That the great Doctor Johnson has turnd up his hair!
Let Bunbury [2]  paint & engrave a vast store
Let the world see a sight it has neer seen before
The Hibernian giant [3]  must now the day yield
The monstrous Craws quit to the Doctor the field
Not one person shall go to see Count Borowlask’ [4] 
To see Ouran Outangs no stranger will ask —
All the beasts in the strand may be put up to sale [5] 
For the great Doctor Johnson has got a pig tail!
Oh tell it in Askalon — tell it in Gath
And send a description & drawing to Bath.

Not such was the wonder America found
When first men & horses disbarkd on their ground
Not such when Æneas that pious old sinner
Saw the harpies fly off with his ready dressd dinner [6] 
Nor when Nebuchadnezzar was turnd out to grass [7] 
When the Barber found Midas had ears of an ass [8] 
Not such when old Bunbury went sober to bed
Or young Wynn washd his hands or combd out his pigs head
Not such when by chance Truth was spoken by Dodd
Not such when the Flagellant cut up the rod —  [9] 
When three armaments rose at one ministers call
When three armaments ended in nothing at all
When the old pair of breeches were smelt — or who’d think
That a parliament breeches should happen to stink —
When first in balloon durst a lunatic sail
As now that the Doctor has got a pigtail!

Let the newspapers now no more talk of Tippoo [10] 
Of the fine fighting Christian or pugilist Jew. [11] 
Let them publish no more Jemmy Boswells [12]  Scotch wit
Or the faith of Dundas or the wisdom of Pitt [13] 

Or Merrys [14]  bright verse like a bubble of air
Search for substance alas & no substance is there —
No more let Religion most mildly desire
To see Priestly as well as his house in the fire [15] 
No more Common Sense [16]  with astonishment look
At the see given Horsely for Badcocks bought book —  [17] 
No more let Servility fancy he can
Suppress by a bull like the Pope rights of man. [18] 
No more Common Sense puzzle over that work
The romantic reflections of Knight erring Burke —  [19] 
No more Freedom wonder at votes held for sale
For — the great Dr Johnson has got a pig tail.

Oh had Gray now been living — no more his Bards hair [20] 
Like a meteor had streamd to the wild streaming <troubled> air
The Doctors example would surely prevail
And Gray draw his Bard with a streaming pig tail!!

Take your pencil dear Bedford I beg & I pray
Draw the Doctor & send without any delay
Draw this Doctor Adonis [21]  & paint if you can
The bloom of the youth with the firmness of man
Or on horseback or foot or with fine bow & arrow
Equippd like Apollo [22]  to shoot at a sparrow

Oh tell it in Akalon tell it in Gath
And s[MS obscured] scription & drawing to Bath [23] 

so much my dear Bedford for the Drs tail. & now in plain sober prose I am much obliged to you for your ode which I like very much. but why will you translate? it is a servile employment & not worthy of you. you want a metre you say for your next. you know Parnells Fairy tale? [24]  but I am the worst person to apply to as all my odes are irregular except Ignorance [25]  which you have. Grays Spring & drownd cat [26]  are pretty I think — but I am not regular myself & detest regularity.

I hope all your friends are well. make my compliments & thank Mr Reed. [27]  remember <me> to little Joseph. I wrote him a serious epistle the other day & desir’d an English answer — do make him write — I fear after all he will sink into an editor like Brunck [28]  unless you can find some means to rowse him — is it not horrible that such a Genius should do nothing but write Latin? if you see Lamb remember me to him & his Majesty I shall write them soon. but my time is much taken up. since ten this morning I have never laid the pen down & it is now past one. this is not idle — but Vincent would say so as all my writings are English. write soon.


* Address: G C Bedford Esqr/ Old Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: BJY/ 9/ 92
Watermark: [Obscured by MS binding; possibly W S]
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. AL; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] 2 Samuel 1: 20. BACK

[2] The artist and caricaturist Henry William Bunbury (1750–1811; DNB), father of Southey’s school friend Charles John Bunbury. BACK

[3] Charles Byrne (known as O’Brien) (1761–1783; DNB) was 8 feet and 4 inches tall. BACK

[4] Joseph Boruwlaski (styled Count Boruwlaski) (1739–1837; DNB), travelling performer and memoirist. He was 3 feet 3 inches tall. BACK

[5] Exeter Change in the Strand, London, where the public could pay to see a menagerie. BACK

[6] Virgil (70–19 BC), Aeneid, Book 3, lines 219–258. BACK

[7] Daniel 4: 32 relates how Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon 605–562 BC, received the prophecy that his kingdom would fall and he would ‘eat grass as oxen’. BACK

[8] In legend, King Midas was given the ears of an ass after offending the god Apollo. BACK

[9] Southey’s authorship of the fifth issue of The Flagellant (29 March 1792), which claimed flogging was an invention of the devil and parodied the Athanasian creed, caused a scandal and led ultimately to his expulsion from Westminster School. BACK

[10] Tippu Sultan (1750–1799), Sultan of Mysore 1782–1799, defeated by the East India Company and killed at the battle of Seringapatam, 1799. BACK

[11] Daniel Mendoza (1763–1836; DNB), famous English boxer. BACK

[12] James Boswell (1740–1795; DNB), biographer of Samuel Johnson (1709–1784; DNB). BACK

[13] Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742–1811; DNB), Home Secretary 1791–1794, and political ally of the Prime Minister, William Pitt, the Younger (1759–1806; DNB). BACK

[14] Robert Merry (1755–1798; DNB), poet whose work had been parodied by Southey in a letter to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 31 May 1792] (see Letter 11). BACK

[15] The house, laboratory and library of the scientist and philosopher Joseph Priestley (1733–1804; DNB) were destroyed during the Birmingham riots, July 1791. BACK

[16] Thomas Paine (1737–1809; DNB), Common Sense (1776), a key tract in support of the American Revolution. BACK

[17] In 1788, Samuel Horsley (1733–1806; DNB) was appointed Bishop of St David’s. The theologian Samuel Badcock (1747–1788; DNB) had not been paid to write for Horsley, but was reputed to have accepted £500 from Joseph White (c. 1746–1814; DNB) for writing White’s Bampton lectures on Christianity and Islam. BACK

[18] Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man (1791–1792), had been suppressed by the government earlier in 1792. BACK

[19] Edmund Burke (1729/30–1797; DNB), politician and author of Reflections Upon the Revolution in France (1790) which had lamented the passing of the age of chivalry. BACK

[20] Thomas Gray (1716–1771; DNB), ‘The Bard’ (1757). BACK

[21] In Greek mythology, a handsome young god. BACK

[22] In Greek mythology, Apollo was, amongst many things, the god of archery. BACK

[23] These two lines written up the right hand margin of fol. 2 r. BACK

[24] Thomas Parnell (1679–1718; DNB), ‘A Fairy Tale, in the Ancient English Style’ (1722). It is written in sestets of iambic tetrameter and trimeter. BACK

[25] Southey’s ode ‘To Ignorance’ was sent to Charles Collins, 16 April 1792 (see Letter 6). BACK

[26] Thomas Gray (1716–1771; DNB), ‘Ode on the Spring’ (1748) and ‘Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes’ (1748). BACK

[27] Isaac Reed (1742–1807; DNB), literary scholar and editor of Shakespeare, tried — and failed — to prevent Egerton, the printer of The Flagellant, from revealing Southey’s name to the Westminster School authorities. BACK

[28] Richard François Philippe Brunck (1729–1803), a French classical scholar notorious for cavalier handling of the texts he edited. BACK