3347. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 September 1819

3347. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 September 1819⁠* 

Inverness. 3 Sept. 1819

My dear G.

We arrived here this afternoon, tomorrow we move northward; – & having advanced as far as Dunrobin shall return to Dingwall, cross thence by one line of new road to the western sea, & come back by another to this place; – the work of eight days in all. I have had a surgeon [1]  to look at my volcano, the crater tho neither so deep as a well nor so wide as a church door, [2]  is quite wide & deep enough, – & in addition to its usual business of discharging, xxx it is now carrying on a laboratory of superb flesh. The surgeon therefore has changed the simple ointment for one which is to act as a slow caustic. I offered to lie by, – or to return home without delay, – but he says there is no occasion to do either & recommends me to proceed, regaling myself occasionally with – Epsom salts. [3] 

Were it not for this hole in my head, & for an ailment at the other end [4]  (which seems likely ere long to disable me from for long walking, & to be xx become an a life-long infirmity) – this journey would be a thoroughly delightful one. And even as it is, – with just a sense of something amiss – sufficient to remind me continually that the body is out of order, – I am making good use of good opportunities, & enjoying intervals of sunshine spirits. – I keep as full a journal as hunger & sleepiness will let me. [5]  It will amount to a pretty extensive tour in Scotland. – Some comical things have happened to me. – They sent me a diploma from Banff, making me an honorary member of a Literary Society, – the rules of which will amuse you much as a curious specimen of Scotch legislation. [6]  And last night I was kept awake till two o clock by the bustle & noise of a Grand Lodge who <were> busy in making Free Masons over my head. – My sides still ache with laughing at the uproar they made, while the poor aspirants were going thro their great & amazing trials at their initiation.

But it is too late for me to tell you the whole story, – & I am too sleepy. I must take my salts & go to bed.

God bless you



* Endorsement: 3 – Sept. 1819 –
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Fortunately for Southey, he was treated by one of the most eminent doctors in the north of Scotland: William Kennedy (c. 1761–1823), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, first President of the Medical Society of the North and one of the founders of the Royal Northern Infirmary, Inverness. BACK

[2] Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, scene 1, lines 96–97. BACK

[3] Magnesium sulfate, a common laxative. Here they are being used as a topical treatment for Southey’s skin problem. BACK

[4] Southey was suffering from a rectal prolapse; see Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 3 October 1819, Letter 3356. BACK

[5] Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (1929). BACK

[6] The Banff Literary Society had been instituted in 1810. Its objectives were to form a library and to hold meetings at which essays could be read aloud and literary topics discussed. Southey received news of his election, along with a diploma and pamphlet containing the Society’s rules and a catalogue of its library, on 2 September 1819; see Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (London, 1929), pp. 106–107. BACK