3255. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 February 1819

3255. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 February 1819 ⁠* 

Saturday 27 Feby.

My dear G.

All is going on well. – If you have any surplus money of mine after your large purchase in the stocks, let me have it. For the last three months I have been working hard & earning nothing; & it will be at least a month more before the Brazil is finished. [1]  But then I shall <have> accomplished my Opus Majus, [2]  – on which I might be contented to rest for reputation, tho every thing else which I have done should perish.

This has been a trying week to me. Both Mother & Child were in considerable peril, – & Edmondson absolutely despaired of saving the child, – but the Mother heard him say so, & that occasioned an extraordinary effort on her part, which was the human means of saving one life, & perhaps both. –

I intend to call him Cuthbert. If any one asks why, it is reason enough that I like genuine English names, & such as are peculiar without being fantastic. – But you may, for your own satisfaction, find the secret feeling that leads me to chuse it, in a legend which Wordsworth has versified, – as an inscription for St Herberts Island. [3]  So, if you do not like the name (which yet, for its own sake, deserves to be liked) – do not object to it.

I have seen Wilsons German-account of me in the newspapers. [4]  Can we wonder at the thunders & exaggerations with which the biography is filled! Much personal opportunity of see knowing me he has not had, – for I could not tolerate his manner of life enough to accept the advances which he made towards an intimacy. But he must heard enough of me from those who know my me & my habits well. And yet in all that he says about my allotment of time there is no other foundation of truth than that when I could not afford to write poetry at any other time, I wrote it before breakfast, and counted it as so much gained from sleep. [5]  You will easily suppose that neither flattery nor obloquy have much effect upon one who has been so much accustomed to both. I am only sorry that he has spoken in such absurd terms of my library: which is only extraordinarily good in relation to the circumstances of its possessor. [6]  – The letter is Germanish enough in all conscience; – but he forgets his assumed character when he represents me as making puns to a foreigner, – which would be throwing pearls before swine. [7] 

You mistake my case & therefore reason wrongly about my palliative experiment of the milk. I never had heart-burn but twice in my life. What I seek to mitigate is the pain occasioned in the throat by the discharge of the acrid matter from the stomach. & my intention is to assist the vomiting by draughts of warm milk & water, instead of warm water only, – merely to sheath the acid on its passage. But I hope the necessity will not recur soon. I shall be drawn out of doors when Tom makes his removal in March, – & my journey to London towards the end of April will shake me into order again.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 2 MR 2/ 1819
Endorsements: 27 Feby. 1819; 1819
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 123–124 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, p. 879, bore the final date ‘Keswick, June 23d, 1819.’ BACK

[2] ‘Major work’. BACK

[3] Wordsworth’s ‘Inscription: For the Spot where the Hermitage Stood on St. Herbert’s Island, Derwent-Water’ (1800). The poem recounts how St Herbert (d. 687; DNB) lived in seclusion, but prayed that he and his friend, St Cuthbert (c. 634–687; DNB), should die at the same time – a prayer that was granted. The name ‘Cuthbert’ indissolubly linked the new child to his dead older brother, Herbert, as did his other name, ‘Charles’, the name of both his godparents, Bedford and Wynn, who had also been Herbert’s godparents. BACK

[4] Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 4 (January 1819), 396–404, ‘Letters from the Lakes. (Translated from the German of Philip Kempferhausen – written in the Summer of 1818.)’, Letter II (400–404) described the author meeting Southey at Greta Hall. The author was actually John Wilson. BACK

[5] Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 4 (January 1819), 403: ‘His whole time was subdivided, he said, into distinct duties and tasks – and when the work of one was performed, he felt himself always ready for the new labour and delight of the next.’ BACK

[6] Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 4 (January 1819), 402: ‘I saw one of the noblest private libraries in England – certainly the richest of any in Spanish and Portuguese literature.’ BACK

[7] Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 4 (January 1819), 401, in which Southey is represented as beginning his conversation with the supposedly German author with ‘two of those little witticisms called puns’. BACK