3. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 3 April 1792]

3. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 3 April 1792] ⁠* 

The Devil is undoubtedly in the Doctors & a damned contradictory Devil he is — I vindicated his honour & gave him all the merit which the pedagogues arrogate to themselves, & in return he persecutes me with every hatred malice & all uncharitableness  [1]  — would it be dangerous to see Prejudice Stupidity & their Reverencies sitting in judgement upon N 5 [2]  in a dream? — at any rate I will write the vision & lay it by till I am out of the clutches of the Inquisitors & then a fig for the Sultan & Sophy. [3]  you have seen the sky before a storm overspread with a dreadful lowering calm as a prelude to the coming tempest — it is like the silence of all these Demoniacs they are forging some infernal scheme & waiting in anxious silence for the event —

A soul prepard needs no delays
The summons come the Saint obey —
Swift was his flight & short the road
He closd his eyes & saw his God
The flesh rests here till Jesus come
And claim the treasure from the tomb [4] 

I studied this from the monument at Church & planned a paper upon Epitaps.

you say first Ginger refused to receive F.6 [5]  & at the end that he has got them at last — how do you reconcile this? you must be convinced that Egerton is an infamous fellow by his saying the F. was discontinued — he has certainly given up my name but is afraid to have it known & in consequence of his fear in all probability the manes of Gualbertus [6]  will be undisturbd —

you know the line in the next ode

Tho’ gloomy dark thy present doom [7] 

if you approve of the alteration make it

Tho dark & gloomy be thy present doom x
Whiter the thread &c &c —

O Plato Plato what a task for a philosopher! exclaimd Julian [8]  as he performd his military exercise awkwardly — o Patience Patience what a task for Gualbertus say I as I must restrain the pen from satire. I think I could kill the Reverend Doctor in a fortnight if I might but write at him — “figure to yourself a war desperate & mighty a war of the passions here Indignation & conscious merit oppose insensibility — dignity meaness — han Sensibility <feeling> apathy — figure thee o Peter [9]  & then behold Stupidity — Insolence Despotism & the Doctor triumphing over sense over modesty over liberty & over Basil  [10] 

the bell rings for dinner & I can only add

that I am sincerely yours


pray would not a list of literary martyrs at the shrine of power make a subject for a paper? Milton Spenser Ovid Wilkes [11]  Gualbert[MS torn]

the last not least —


* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Brixton Causeway/ Surry
Postmark: [partial] DAP/ 3
Watermark: Crest with fleur de lys
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 27. ALS; 4p.
Dating note: Dating from partial postmark and internal evidence (reference to issue 7 of The Flagellant, which appeared on 12 April 1792). BACK

[1] The reference is to William Vincent (1739–1815; DNB), who Southey blamed for his expulsion from Westminster School. BACK

[2] Southey’s authorship in the fifth issue of the schoolboy magazine, The Flagellant, 29 March 1792, of an essay 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

[3] Southey is paraphrasing William Congreve (1670–1729; DNB), The Way of the World (1700), Act 4, scene 1, line 426. BACK

[4] A widely-used memorial verse. BACK

[5] The sixth issue of The Flagellant, 5 April 1792. BACK

[6] John Gualbert (c. 995–1073), founder of the Vallombrosian order. The pseudonym ‘Gualbertus’ was used by Southey for his controversial attack on flogging as an invention of the devil in the fifth issue of The Flagellant (29 March 1792). Perhaps as an attempt to defuse the resulting controversy, the death of ‘Gualbertus’ was announced in the sixth issue, 5 April 1792. BACK

[7] The Flagellant, 7 (12 April 1792), 118. BACK

[8] Flavius Claudius Julianus, the Apostate (331–363; reigned 361–363), Roman emperor. See Edward Gibbon (1737–1794; DNB), History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 12 vols (London, 1788), II, p. 162. BACK

[9] Peter the Hermit (d. 1115), religious fanatic, instrumental in preaching the First Crusade. ‘Peter’ and ‘P.H.’ were pseudonyms used by Southey’s friend Grosvenor Charles Bedford. BACK

[10] St Basil (c. 330–379), founder of eastern monasticism. A pseudonym used by Southey when writing in The Flagellant (1792). BACK

[11] John Milton (1608–1674; DNB), republican poet, arrested and fined after the Restoration of Charles II (1630–1685; DNB) in 1660; Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–1599; DNB), his house in Ireland was burnt in a rising by the O’Neills in 1598 and he died in distress in London; Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC–AD 17), exiled by the Emperor Augustus in AD 8; John Wilkes (1725–1797; DNB), arrested for libel against the government in 1762. BACK