66. Robert Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 3[-4] November 1793

66. Robert Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 3[–4] November 1793 ⁠* 

Sunday. November 3rd. 1793. ½ past seven. College Green Bristol. a wet cold evening & an excellent fire.

Farewell to Fear. thy chilling sway
Pale palsied Genius rives no more my breast
Thy terrors load no more the lingering day
Or fill with agony the hour for rest
No more thy fancied ills can scare
With causeless dread & groundless care
No more the haggard eye balls roll
Around in earnestness of soul
No more from broken dreams thy slave shall start
Or force the unreal smile whilst thou shalt gnaw the heart.

Genius abhorrd farewell
Farewell too flattering Hope for I remain
No more the willing slave that hugs thy chain.
No more shall Fancys eye
Paint the gay prospect of the distant scene
And seek the far off cot
The humblest happiest lot
Regardless of the rocks & floods between
And desert wastes that intermediate lie
And barriers stern & strong impassable.

Farewell to Hope — her anchor weak to stay
The crazy vessel tossing on the wave
Instinctive Nature taught to save.
I dashd amid the sea & cleavd my way
With sinewy arm to Apathys cold shore.
Farewell to Hope for I can fear no more.

Yes many a weary hour of anguish past
I reach the barren lonely shore at last
Scaped from the waves of strife
I dread no more the tempests roar
Nor the black clouds that Heavens wide face deform
And big with ruin bear the embryo storm
To heave the billows on the sea of life.

Yes I am safe & here serene can view
The driving tempest & the billowing wave
That seemd so late to yawn my destind grave
And I can see serene the distant blue
Where gilds the sun each object far & near
Can see the happier realm & yet restrain the tear
And I can see the happier vessels course
Speed thro the waves with mightier force
And bear the seaman to the destind shore.
Then in my lone hut sit serene & hear
The wild blasts howling rend my ear
And the stern tempests desolating roar

My dear Horace, Hopes is a damnd crazy boat
As eer on the ocean of life was afloat
As it scuds with the gale all appears right & tight
The nail flies the plank starts & the ship sinks to night
False vessel false pilot, false all thats in view
More ticklish & fearful than Oxford canoe.
Tis well I could swim to the shore I got clear
And adieu to false Hope & adieu to false Fear.
And adieu to my BOTT but for him twill be better
All alone to himself to have Grosvenors next letter
So to Grosvenor say this which shall not be forgot
I will write him a letter to eternize my BOTT.

Adieu my BOOTS. when at last
My baggage came to Bristol
My baggage then I kist all
My bosom so glad is
I ran from the Ladies
Fell down on my knees
And took out my keys
For my sorrow & trouble were past
I caperd as glad
As if I was mad
And lit up the tapers
To look over my papers
And when I came to Joan [1] 
It would have moved a heart of stone.

But adieu my BOOTS — adieu
For I could not find you.
But adieu my IVORY COMB
Which I want very bad at home
The one I have not being half so good
But adieu adieu my COMB BRUSH
For which I do not care a rush
As I have as many brushes as I would

But adieu my dear OLD BEAR —
For I alas must wear
A little coat for want of a great one.
And trudging along
Must sing the old song
“Back & sides go bare” [2] 
To solace my care
Whilst the rain shall so pityless wet one.

Boots — Ivory Comb — Comb Brush — Great Coat adieu —
What the Devil am I to do
Without you?
Upon my word dear Horace I dont know.
But an excellent fire in a very cold night
Warms my brain & excites me thus oddly to write
Besides I have transcribd the first book of Joan
And more<over> a story shall now be made known.
Of a plot so bad
Laid by me & Shad
To catch a rat
In a gin
By the shin
And he did not like that.

You’ve heard of Valenciennes [3]  I suppose reason
(And of Dunkirk too I suppose
And Maubeuge — but God know
I must not talk T—— reason
So we’ll take Valenciennes by the way
And from Dunkirk — run away.

There underground the miners workd their way
Like moles at length to reach the light of day
To take the town
And batter the walls down.

God forbid on subjects like these
I should compare the Duke [4] 
Giving Valenciennes a puke
To make her vomit her guts up
With gunpowder filling the ruts up
To a rat
Mining the cellar to get at my toasting cheese.

Or that my soul
Should compare the French to the gin at the hole
And my cheese should work
Till I thought of Dunkirk.

All that I mean on themes like these
Is that the rat had smelt my toasted cheese
And stranger whim
SHAD & I smelt him.

The committee of public safety
(Remember the caution I gave t’ye)
Saw the siege of the toasted cheese
And (“gently as we please”)
Put the gin
To catch the Hungary rat in.

As usual dear Horace I soon went to bed
And snug on the pillow lay down my warm head
Just fell into a nap & a dream most delightful
When I was awakened by screaming most frightful
Cant you guess
From whence the sounds proceed
Before you read?
Yes yes.
Our plan was ratified
It was the Rat that cried.

I jumpd up in bed
And cockd up my head
To listen in the dark
I heard Shad run
And pleasd at the fun
The democrat Phillis [5]  bark

The hungary rat was guillottined — & then
I laid me down to sleep again
And so I will now
When my Aunt will allow
For my eyes aches sadly
And my hand badly — they do indeed. good night [6] 

Monday night. seven o clock

Ecce iterum — not Crispinus [7]  my friend — no nor Juvenal neither, but RS descended from Pegasus mounted on a great chair & writing prose.

you say in your letter, you was on the point of requesting what would be too much for you to ask. my dear friend ask freely — if I have ability to perform it you know I have will & if I have neither I will freely say so. that you have relinquishd our plan does not surprize me — for myself I have employment enough with Joan & the Library. how your employments should take up so much time I know not — I read & write till my eyes ache & still have Time hanging as heavy as a stone round the neck of a drowning dog. probably I may visit Devonshire soon & see Lightfoot. he is a good fellow & will be without the Pot — this place strange as it may sound is to me most unpleasant — omne solum forti &c [8]  — I think of the sentiment & America obtrudes itself forcibly on my melancholy hours.

We live in a vile world — the good things are so badly distributed that Frederics [9]  & fools have crowns, boobies large estates & good fortunes — perhaps Nature thought good sense a handsome dower — but good sense in dependance is like a chef d oeuvres of Raffaelle [10]  in a bog house. if the savages of America have fewer luxuries than the slaves of Europe they have fewer miseries — the artificial distinctions of birth & fortune are unknown — distinctions which though the Philosopher must despise, he must want. on the banks of the Oronoko when the young savages is born — his infancy is neither embitterd by fashionable nursing his puberty by absurd education or his life by the anxieties so frequent & indeed unavoidable in civilized society. his bow & arrows furnish him with food — he gives the pipe of peace to the stranger & lives free as the game he pursues — teach him the value of money & the no-value of every thing else & he becomes miserable

perhaps ten years hence I may laugh at my rhapsodies — when time has annihilated my feelings & hardend my heart. they wish me at home to be like other young men — whilst I am ready in the words of the Pharisee to exclaim ‘I thank thee o God that I am not as other men are. [11]  to please the million I should dress my hair & fall into the fashionable follies of youth. two bottles a day — a tail — a pudding — & a quarterly surgeons bill would fit me for society — if ever I was allowed to write — it must be a loyal song or one in humble imitation of Captain Morris & Jack the second [12]  — so when I was grown compleatly contemptible — I might be fit for genteel company! were society what it ought beings like this (& such there are) would be hooted from all sides — if the Fox was contemptible without his tail what should man be without his reasons!

nineteen years have elapsed since I set sail upon the ocean of life — in an ill provided boat — the vessel weatherd many a storm & I took every distant cloud for land — still pushing forward for the Fortunate Islands till I discoverd that they existed not for me & that like many others wiser xxx better than myself I must be content to wander about & never gain the port. nineteen years — certainly a fourth part of my life — perhaps how great a part! & yet I have been of no service to society — why the clown who scares crows for two pence a day is a more useful member of society — he preserves the corn which I eat in indolence —

these damned dumps will one day drive me mad & draw the trigger — I have done. send me an account of Hyders [13]  death write soon & tell me you are going to enter at Balliol. it depends upon yourself — & delicacy would be criminal. all happiness is comparative — I would gladly change my future prospects for yours — I hope to hear congratulate you as a fellow collegian very shortly. yesterday is just one year since I enterd my name in the Vice Chancellors book — it is a year of which I would wish to forget <the> transactions could I only remember their effect. my mind has been very much expanded — my hopes I trust extinguishd — so adieu to Hope Fear but not to Folly — I must trifle away time.

I shall soon write to Grosvenor. remember me to Harry when you see him & to Kate — never tell me that Man is naturally vicious look at children & see how easily kindness begets esteem & love — but — why will it not when the child is grown up — God bless you.

yours sincerely.


I have half a letter written to C Collins.

I am reading Adam Smith on the Wealth of Nations. [14] 


* Address: Horace Walpole Bedford Esqr/ Old Palace Yard/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: NO/ 7/ 93
Seal: Red wax; design illegible
Endorsement: Recd. Nov. 7th. 1793 BC
MS: Bristol Reference Library, B28505. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 190–191 [in part; 1 paragraph].
Dating note: The letter is possibly written over several days from 3–7 November. BACK

[1] The manuscript of the first version of his epic Joan of Arc, now in the Houghton Library, MS Eng 265. BACK

[2] The popular ballad ‘Let your back and sides go bare’. BACK

[3] Allied forces had defeated France at the battle of Valenciennes, 23 May 1793, but subsequent French victories had forced the allies to lift the sieges of Dunkirk in September 1793 and Maubeuge in October 1793. BACK

[4] Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), son of George III (1738–1820; reigned 1760–1820; DNB) and commander of the allied forces in the Low Countries. BACK

[5] Southey’s spaniel. BACK

[6] they do ... night: Enclosed by Southey in a box. BACK

[7] A jokey paraphrase of Juvenal’s (fl. AD late C1 and early C2), ‘Ecce iterum Crispinus’ (‘Here’s Crispinus again’), Satire 4, line 1. Rufrius Crispinus (d. AD 66) was also the butt of Juvenal’s Satire 1. BACK

[8] A paraphrase of Ovid (43 BC–AD 17), Fasti, line 493, ‘Omne solum forti patria est’, ‘Every land is a homeland for the brave’. A favourite quotation, it formed the epigraph to Southey’s Madoc, first published in 1805. BACK

[9] Frederick William II (1744–1797; reigned 1786–1797), King of Prussia. BACK

[10] The painter Raffaelo Sanzio (or Santi) (1483–1520). BACK

[11] Luke 18: 11. BACK

[12] Works by either of the popular satirical song-writers and army officers, Charles Morris (1745–1838; DNB) and his brother Thomas Morris (c. 1732–1818). Johannes Secundus (1511–1536), poet. BACK

[13] The Bedfords’ dog. BACK

[14] Adam Smith (c. 1723–1790; DNB), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 2 vols (1776). Southey borrowed volume one from the Bristol Library Society between 4 and 18 November 1793 and volume two between 18 and 25 November 1793. BACK

Places mentioned

College Green, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)
Balliol (mentioned 1 time)