257. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [16 September 1797]

257. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [16 September 1797] ⁠* 

Is not this beautiful Grosvenor? but it is a damned lying sheet of paper.

me voici then at Bath & why had not you your birth day poem? in plain downright sincere sincerity, as the man said who dedicated his book to God Almighty, [1]  I totally forgot it. till on the morning of the 11th Sept when I found myself on Poole-heath walking thro desolation, with that gloomy capability which my nativity caster marks as among the predominant features of my character. there I planned the history of the days expedition as an atonement & peace offering — & yet hope to present it.

We left Burton yesterday morning. the place was very quiet & I was very comfortable, nor know I where to expect again so pleasant a summer. We live in odd times Grosvenor — & even in the best periods of this bad society the straightest path is most cursedly crooked.

I shall be with you in November. send me my Coke [2]  I pray you. I want Law food — & tho not over hungry, yet must I eat & execrate like Pistol. [3] 

How does Godwin bear his loss? [4]  a man ought to repress painful feelings — or I would tell you my own upon this occasion. She has left no equal. The world can ill spare such a woman — but I am sometimes tempted to think that the best of us were designed for a better place, & dropt here by some unlucky mistake. if however this be not our punishment, a better world must be our reward. if mankind were all disbelievers in a hereafter the earth would soon be thinned by suicide.

Something odd came into my head a few hours since. I was feeling that the love of letter-writing had greatly gone from me & enquiring why. my mind is no longer agitated by hopes & fear, no longer doubtful, no longer possessed with such ardent enthusiasm. it is quiet — & repels all feelings that would disturb that state. when I write I have nothing to communicate — for you know all my opinions & feelings, & incidents none can occur to one settled as I am. what followed these reflections? I have long intended to write my own history — or rather to trace the development of my own character which I can accurately recollect. will you be my Confessor — & will you with most Catholic secresy receive the detail of the past? not that I have one sin to confess, tho follies enough — but I would not have such letters seen by persons who cannot understand them — perhaps by nobody save yourself.

Now Grosvenor here will be matter enough for me to write long letters & when I am dead — you will have a series more interesting then than now.

write to me.

Charles Lloyd is still my companion. I never expected [MS torn] another friend, & yet chance has birdlimed me to one in a most odd manner.

God bless you. have you received my parcel of Poems? do not delay Musæus. [5]  Toms stay is uncertain. he sends his remembrances & this beautiful paper.


Robert Southey

Saturday. like an idiot I forgot that the useless day following

What thinks Carlisle of Carnot? [6]  my love to him.


* Address: [deletion and readdress in another hand] G C Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard <Hastings> / Westminster <Sussex/ to be held at/ the Post Office>
Stamped: BATH; Bridge/ Street
Postmark: ASE/ 18/ 97
Endorsements: Recd 22 Septr 1797; Recd Septr. 22–97
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 322–323 [in part; misdated 22 September 1797]. BACK

[1] Unidentified. BACK

[2] Edward Coke (1552–1643; DNB), Commentarie upon Littleton (1628), the first part of his four part Institutes of the Laws of England (1628–1644). BACK

[3] A character in Henry IV, Part Two. BACK

[4] Mary Wollstonecraft, wife of William Godwin, had died on 10 September 1797. BACK

[5] Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s translation of Musæus (fl. c. early 6th century), The Loves of Hero and Leander (1797). BACK

[6] Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot (1753–1823), French military engineer and politician. A member of the Directory 1795–1797, he had recently been ousted by the Fructidor coup of 4 September 1797. BACK

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 1 time)