3367. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before and continued on] 18 October 1819

3367. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before and continued on] 18 October 1819⁠* 

In nomine Diaboli [1] 

What is become of you?

I have a great mind to advertise you in the Hue & Cry, [2]  as lost, stolen or strayed, with a description of your person, taken from Nashs portrait downstairs & aided by Mrs Coleridge’s recollections.

Dumb beast is an expression of pity, – but dumb-dog is an appellation of reproach, of vituperation & of wrath, – & therefore do I dumb-dog thee!

I will abuse thee thro the whole Chriscross row –

Abominable Base Bedford; Careless Detestable Correspondent; Detestable Dapple; Evil Epistolist; False Fellow; Grievous Grosvenor; Hateful, Idle, Jackanapes; Killcrop; Lazy, Monster; Nasty, Obstinate, Pitiful, <Queer> Rascally, SCARECROW! Terrible Ugly Villain! Wicked Xecrable Ysacre & Zany!

I could find in my heart to send for Mrs Coleridge & ask her to help me to abuse you.

What? is the manufactory of paper at a stand, – are their no rags among the Radicals to supply the mills? has the dry season parched up all the ink in the south? – or have the Geese & Ganders entered into a resolution to grow no more quills, as the Reformers <have done> to drink no more gin? [3] 

Well, thought I at Glasgow, as there is no letter from Bedford here, I shall find one when I reach home. [4]  And I have been at home more than a fortnight, – & whether Bedford is above ground or below, in England or in France, or half-seas over, – I know no more than the Man in the Moon.


It happens oddly enough that I am as much in the dark about every body else in London, & all my own concerns there as about you, not having received a single letter from thence since my return. I found a parcel from Gifford which was a month old. The date gave me a good plea for declining to write a paper on the State of Affairs as he wished me to do. [5]  Of what use is it to prescribe drastics when a parcel of Old Women are afraid to administer them? – And as for alteratives they may be given with better effect thro another medium than in the QR. [6]  – However I have not been idle. Lord Lonsdale has been with me about an Address, [7]  – & I have endeavoured to impress upon him the necessity of two measures, – the repeal of Mr Fox’s law of libel, [8]  – & making transportation the punishment for sedition & blasphemy. I told him also that there would be no more difficulty in carrying whole measures than half ones; for the opposition will be just as violent against one as against the other. – The Address originated here with Calvert & myself, – but this is between you ourselves.


Monday 18 Oct.

I see by this days paper that Lord Somerville is dead. [9]  His life might have been thought a better one than mine. Some years ago he sold the property which is entailed upon me, – & I believe it is <not> worth the trouble of Litigation, – to say nothing of the expence. However I must enquire into it.

In justice to my daughter Bertha I must tell you that when she heard my alphabet Abecedarian vituperation of your Abominableness, she said it was a shame, & that I was not right to send it.

I cannot say that my head is perfectly as it should be, tho Edmondson dismissed me from under his hands some four or five days ago. There is still a little hole which does not appear to have skinned over.

Heaven knows what is become of my third volume! [10]  – I am now busy upon Wesley [11] xx of which there is half a volume to write, – & I must moreover work hard for ways & means. Gifford has a curious paper <(the Monastic Orders)> upon the insertion of which in the next number I depend, – as a matter of some consequence. [12]  I xxx shall review Marlboroughs Memoirs [13]  immediately, – & am about to write to Murraylemagne for certain books which will enable me to extend the paper upon the New Churches. [14] 

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ OC 21/ 1819
Endorsements: 18. Octr. 1819; 18. Octr. 18 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. 146–148 [in part]. BACK

[1] ‘In the name of the Devil’. BACK

[2] The Hue and Cry, and Police Gazette (1772–present) was a weekly magazine containing details of crimes, suspects and stolen property. BACK

[3] Radicals were urging their supporters to protest against the government by abstaining from buying taxed commodities, such as tea, coffee, tobacco and alcohol, so producing a decline in the State’s revenue; see Carlisle Patriot, 6 November 1819, for an account of a local meeting to promote this aim. BACK

[4] Southey had toured Scotland from 17 August until 1 October 1819. For his record of events, see Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (1929). BACK

[5] See Southey to William Gifford, 3 October 1819, Letter 3355. BACK

[6] Quarterly Review. BACK

[7] Following the ‘Peterloo’ Massacre of 16 August 1819, Whigs in Cumberland organised a County Meeting on 13 October 1819 to protest at the local authorities’ actions and send an Address to the Prince Regent. Southey drew up a conservative response – an Address to the Prince Regent denouncing the radicals and calling for curbs on the press. It was not proceeded with, and the government’s supporters in Cumberland produced a more moderate document. BACK

[8] See Southey to William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, [15 October 1819], Letter 3364. The Libel Act (1792), promoted by Charles James Fox, made juries, rather than judges, mainly responsible for determining whether a publication was libellous. BACK

[9] John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB), agricultural reformer and third cousin of Southey, had died on 5 October 1819. This produced a further round of legal tangles over the Fitzhead estate in Somerset, which Somerville had inherited from his great-uncle, John Cannon Southey (d. 1768). BACK

[10] The third volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819) had been delayed by a missing proof. BACK

[11] The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[12] Southey’s review of Thomas Fosbrooke (1770–1842; DNB), British Monachism; or, Manners and Customs of the Monks and Nuns of England (1817), Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 59–102. BACK

[13] Southey’s review of William Coxe, Memoirs of John Duke of Marlborough, with his Original Correspondence; Collected from the Family Records at Blenheim, and Other Authentic Sources. Illustrated with Portraits, Maps, and Military Plans (1818–1819) appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (May 1820), 1–73. BACK

[14] Southey’s review of Benjamin Haydon, New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818) appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591. BACK

People mentioned