3304. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 May 1819

3304. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 May 1819⁠* 

Mrs Coleridge, I am going to write to Mr Bedford this evening: have you any message to send him?

Only my compliments.

What! nothing but dry – cold compliments!

I did not mean them to be cold.

That’s a kind speech, & therefore I’ll tell him what you say.

Tell him you’re a ridiculous creature yourself, – but I dare say he knows that already.

Lest however Mr Bedford should not know it, I have thus faithfully obeyed Mrs Coleridges instructions to the letter. Our dialogues frequently end in some such sort of x compliment to my creatureship, & would very well bear inkification xxx sometimes, if there were a faithful notary at hand, especially when your honour is the subject of discourse.

Thank you for the half notes, – & thank you for the almanacks, which found their way, I know not how, in a parcel from Longman’s, with sundry other small packets that had in like manner been transferred from the Court of Murraylemagne. I see the QR is announced. As for the Copy right paper, [1]  before the proofs came to me, the said Murraylemagne very properly submitted them to Sharon Turner, they were corrected according to his suggestions, & a little more added upon Murrays own case, by Murrays own desire, – willingly on my part because I thought he had been very ill used. [2]  I have heard nothing from Gifford except what you intimated to me, & from the Megistos I have had no communication for several months.

Edith is materially better, & yet far from well. Your godson looks about him with observant eyes, & if what goes on behind them in the way of reasoning could be drawn out, it would convict xxxxx xx most metaphysical treatises of absurdity & ignorance. I have my annual catarrh upon me, in full force, to the sore annoyance of eyes, nose & mouth, three considerable parts in a mans face. – Our weather is like Mrs C’s compliments to your honour, in their first delivery, – dry & cold. The potatoe tops last night were blackened by the frost, & a passing cloud has just powdered old Skiddaws foretop. You will see me I believe the end of June. I have printed x 75 pages of the concluding chapter, – it will take as many more to bring it to its finis, – but I am so near, that I am thinking of the finale with which to sum up & take my leave, in reference to the exordium. [3] 

Both sides of the house are agreed upon this money question, [4]  & I am clearly satisfied that both are wrong, – that ministers have built a wall for the purpose of running their heads against it, as wilfully as the Gregres (i.e the Greys & the Grenvilles) did in 1807 [5]  – that the immediate embarrassment of the commercial world, & the consequent loss of revenue which must ensue, are incurred merely to support a vain theory of statistics, xxxxx contradicted by plain & evident facts, & that this country would do perfectly well if there were not an ounce of gold in it; – for gold is not the standard of value, nor is there any such standard; – gold – paper, shells or wampum being <are> merely the medium by which barter is carried on, – barter & credit are the foundations of commerce, & it is of no sort of consequence of what the medium which represents them may be. – If you have a balance to pay in foreign markets, or armies to support in foreign countries, gold will be wanted there, – but it is absolutely useless at home.

Have you seen Nash in his new quarters? No 2. Dutchess Street. Portland Place.

God bless you


Keswick. 28 May. 1819

Does Henry try the warm bath?


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 31 MY 31/ 1819
Endorsements: 28 May 1819; 28 May 1819
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 196–213, published 4 June 1819. BACK

[2] ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 196–213 (209). Here Southey severely criticised Henry Hervey Baber (1775–1869; DNB), Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum 1812–1837, for serving a writ on Murray because his firm had been dilatory in sending copies of four books it had published to the British Museum, as the Copyright Act (1814) required. Southey made use of a good deal of material provided by Murray for this article, including Murray’s testimony to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Copyright Act (1818). BACK

[3] Southey was working on Chapter 44, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 696–879. The final paragraphs implicitly referred back to the themes outlined in History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, pp. 1–2, especially ‘the progress of Brazil from its feeble beginnings, to the importance it now possesses’ (p. 2). BACK

[4] The House of Commons was debating legislation to recommence the convertibility of paper currency to gold, which had been suspended since 1797. The legislation passed on 2 July 1819 and convertibility was restored on 1 May 1821, but the period 1819–1821 witnessed a fall in commodity prices and rising unemployment. BACK

[5] A Select Committee on the High Price of Gold Bullion (1807) had similarly recommended the restoration of convertibility when Lord Grenville was Prime Minister (1806–1807) and Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845; DNB) was Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons (1806–1807). BACK

Places mentioned

Skiddaw (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)