187. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before 11 November 1796: continued 17 November 1796]

187. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before 11 November 1796; continued 17 November 1796] ⁠* 

Well Grosvenor we shall be settled when we get xx an apartment in the church yard however. so you too are about to waste the five best years of existence in acquiring a detestable jargon unpleasant to acquire, unprofitable to the head & the heart when obtained. why not physic? but you must know best, for were that useful science equally eligible as to worldly concerns you would certainly prefer it. allons! would the journey were over! — would it were begun!

You want me at London & I want to be there as much as you can wish to have me. what hinders? there needs no Oedipus to solve that question!  [1]  — nothing but the neighbourhood of you & Wynn could render a London residence bearable — I abhor that diabolical city!

have you seen Bob Banyards Review of Joan of Arc? [2] 

“a professional man must not step too much out of his way.” granted — ergo I abjure public poetry. but a professional man must have a house & furniture ergo I must write a book first. poor Madoc! if he will buy me chairs tables beds linen &c &c &c it will be worth more than an eternity of posthumous credit — xx is <it> not damnd hard Bedford that the booksellers should make so much of that poem when I am rotten, & that I should make so little? it will be in twenty books. a thirty shilling volume. the sale of one edition would make me happy. two hundred copies would indemnify the publication & the remaining three put me in possession of about three hundred guineas, which would furnish a house, & leave enough to risk in an octavo edition. a pretty scheme Grosvenor — & easy for one who has a wide circle of acquaintance. but I am — RS!

after all

Friday. I am just returned from Bath where I walked yesterday. you will not therefore <wonder> that the above “after all” appears as unconnected to me as to you. oh Grosvenor that your plan may be feasible — & you & I study together & break our meditations ever & anon by cursing the trash that employs them! I have a companion to cheer the hours of employment. ah BedfordCarlisle is in the right — we shall shame you into it — or more probably tempt you to make the experiment I have succeeded so well in. your worldly-wise resolutions — nonsense! go into company with the “parfaits aimable” & if you find her such — o one idea of money comes into your head — go cut it off — for it is not worth keeping upon your shoulders.

I wish much to see ——. if I were but intimate with her. — do you believe the persuadability of the Beast? of the better order I do. no more of this: your determination concerning your future life must be regulated by the choice you shall make between the high delights & many anxieties of marriage — xx negation of both in the heart

no more diseasd
By the quick ague fits of Hope & Fear,
Quietly cold.  [3] 

I have always followed my feelings instead of my judgement — & they have led me right.

Thursday. I have met with a Mr Losh. he carries with him one of the most open manly democratic faces I ever saw: he mentioned Carlisle. I enquired what were Carlisles opinions upon religious subjects: he told me atheistical. now Grosvenor who am I to believe? that his sentiments as given in conversation if not avowedly atheistical, lead immediately to atheism from the testimony of Allen & Losh appears certain; they are both accustomed to metaphysical reasonings & could hardly both be deceived. moreover, the part which Carlisle wrote in one of your letters to me, appeared most clearly to be the production of an Atheist. mark you — his speculative fancies <tenets> will neither make him rise or fall in the barometer of my opinion: but as you have so positively assured me that he thinks otherwise & as he is by others who know him, Christians as well as Atheists, considered as a disbeliever of Deity — you will do well. if you are right, in telling him how his opinions are mistaken, & warning him, if he be indeed a Theist, not to give his sanction to principles, which, to say the best of them, can produce no good. you may, if you like it, show him what I have written.

St Pierres book is entitled Etudes de la Nature. [4]  — the observations of a man of real genius & real piety upon the harmonies of nature. I hesitate not to pronounce it one of the most interesting works ever produced: & that heart must be a bad one that is not deeply delighted by the perusal.

I remove to Bath on Tuesday next, to remain with my Mother till I fix my tents among you. I do not expect to make any friends in London. & the fewer acquaintance the better. As I cannot cage the Beast I must cage myself. I think of your club with the determination of declining it. tell me Grosvenor — after nine hours law which will make me happiest — the company of half a dozen men — or the continuing Madoc? God bless you. direct your next to Westgate Buildings Bath

Yrs sincerely

R Southey.


* Address: For/ G C Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster.
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: ANO/ 18/ 96
Watermark: [Obscured by MS binding]
Endorsement: Recd. 18 Novr. 1796
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. 116–118. BACK

[1] In classical mythology, Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx. BACK

[2] ‘Banyard’ is possibly a nickname for Robert Nares. An anonymous review of Joan of Arc (1796) had appeared in the British Critic, 8 (October 1796), 393–396. BACK

[3] Southey’s ‘Sappho’, lines 11–13, published in his Poems (1797). BACK

[4] Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737–1814), Etudes de la Nature (1784). BACK

People mentioned