3424. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 January 1820

3424. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 January 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 21 Jan. 1820.

My dear Grosvenor

Of all frail things the life of an infant is the frailest, – & it seems to be ascertained by observation that the more intellectualized the race in the human species, (as the more acutely sensitive among brutes) the less chance has the individual for being reared. This godson of yours makes me more continually anxious than I ought to be, – for that anxiety can do him no good, & certainly does me none. He is now just eleven months old, & being as you may suppose a sort of pet & play thing for every body, has been brought more forward than I could have wished, or would have permitted if I could have prevented it; – better would it have been to have left him to his mere animal functions as far as possible. The consequence is that he is far more forward in intellect than any of my other children have been at the same age: & this is by no means desirable. He is very subject to bilious affections – nothing worse as yet, – but these come frequently, & when they begin there is no knowing how they may end. But enough of this.

When you have received the next payment, will you take the trouble of discharging Hyde’s bill, [1]  & also the shoemakers (Dunt, [2]  opposite the Admiralty) – if you have not done this before, which upon recollection I think you have not.

Murray has no reason to be hurt by my continuing to publish with Longman. Longman having had reason to expect every work that has been given him since my first engagement with Murray some how or other, – e-g- the Tale of Paraguay [3]  & Oliver Newman [4]  have been on the anvil for years & years, to Longmans knowledge, who procured books for the purpose of the latter from America, – & Wesleys life [5]  was his proposal, in consequence of the paper upon that subject which appeared in the Correspondent. [6]  About three years ago M. offerd me 1000£ for a long poem. [7]  That offer was not sufficient to make me forsake my old publishers & promise to pr engage to produce one. I am contented to take my chance for profit as I have been used to do, be that as little as it may. But if I x sell the copy right of a poem I am entitled to expect as high a price as a much higher price. & had he offered me such a price as it would have been becoming in me to accept, I would have closed with him at once, & gone set about the undertaking in good earnest.

With regard to this series of Dialogues [8]  I consider him as the proper publisher, because I should not have made the book had not the QR. been the means of directing my thoughts in that course. It will however be some time before the thing will be sufficiently advanced to talk with him concerning it. I am in no hurry to bring forward opinions which will do their work slowly, – & I am very desirous of producing something which may be not unworthy to rank with xxx finished compositions of this kind. I have a notion also of relieving it by a few local descriptions & circumstances which may be naturally introduced, – & by help of Nash & Westall, getting some views to accompany it, which may make it a beautiful little book, & give some interest to the scenes which it describes. [9]  I have no objection to your telling him that I have begun such a work, & that I look to his publishing it. There will be no dispute about terms between us – I shall be satisfied with the half profits, – knowing how unlikely it is that he would offer, or in other words that he could afford to give me a sum which it would not be beneath my dignity to take. So that matter is easily settled. I have not written to him since I received his stately note with the draft. [10]  Nor shall I till occasion requires, – the least that is said, you know, being the soonest mended, – & silence a very proudest mode of expression denoting displeasure. Displeased I am, & justly so.

I expect to finish Marlborough [11]  on Monday & Wesley in about a fortnight or little more, – being far ahead of the printer. That word reminds me of Wm Nicol. [12]  – My case with the printers stands thus. Longman has married his daughter to a nephew & partner of Strahans, [13]  & when I sent up Wesley to him, intending it for poor Pople, he made it his particular & personal request on this ground, that I would allow it to be printed by Strahan. [14]  Of course I could not refuse this, tho I was very sorry for it. I must serve Pople however where I can, because every little is of consequence to a man who has not much to do, – & he is a worthy man, who knows that I wish him well, & would feel more as a man than as a tradesman if I were to leave off employing xxx <him> when it might be in my power so to do. I am sure you will understand this. – Now on the other hand, the management of my Hist. of the War [15]  belongs to Murray not to Artaxerxes; & if Murray will give this to Nicol, there may be a great convenience in so doing. Because there will be some parts in this work which I should wish to be seen by persons capable of pointing out any error in matters of fact, when such error may be corrected, & you could help me in this if a set of proofs were sent to you as well as to me. For instance there will be some parts which I should like Herries to see in the proof, – & the xx chapter which relates to Sir John Moores retreat [16]  should be shown to Courtenay, [17]  – this you could manage for me, & much more conveniently if the book were printed by Nicol. There is a great fitness in this. & it shall not be my fault if the matter is not thus arranged. You know this will be my main business as soon as I return from London.

God bless you


If Green [18]  means his guide to the Lakes, the book is not dear. It has been spoilt by Wordsworth, – in what manner Westall will tell you. [19] 


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ [deletion, readdress and note in Rickman’s hand] Exchequer/ <Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ Pimlico>; <I am just arrived in Town, & find/ this arrived before me,/ two or three days since perhaps/ JR.>
Postmarks: [partial] Two Py Post; 8 o’Clock/ 26 JA/ 1820 Mn
Endorsement: 21 Janry 1820
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Hyde (d. 1820) was Southey’s London tailor. BACK

[2] Unidentified beyond the information here. BACK

[3] A Tale of Paraguay (1825). BACK

[4] Southey’s unfinished epic set in New England. The completed sections were published after Southey’s death in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 1–90. BACK

[5] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[6] In 1817 a new journal was launched, edited by John Stoddart (1773–1856; DNB): The Correspondent; Consisting of Letters, Moral, Political, and Literary, between Eminent Writers in France and England; and designed by presenting to each Nation a Faithful Picture of the Other, to Enlighten both to their True Interests, promote a Mutual Good Understanding between them, and render Peace the Source of a Common Prosperity. Southey had contributed a sketch of the life of John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB) to the first two issues (26–48, 157–176). BACK

[7] Southey began, but did not finish, such a poem, entitled ‘Consolation’. Sections were published after his death as ‘Fragmentary Thoughts Occasioned by his Son’s Death’ in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 93–95 and ‘Additional Fragment, Occasioned by the Death of his Son’, Poetical Works of Robert Southey. Complete in One Volume (London, 1850), p. 815. BACK

[8] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829), published by Murray. BACK

[9] Sir Thomas More (1829) contained a frontispiece of More and six engravings of scenes in the Lake District taken from drawings by Westall. BACK

[10] Southey had been displeased not to receive his customary £100 for his 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, published 11 December 1819. He had complained to Murray, who had relented. BACK

[11] 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

[12] William Nicol (d. c. 1855), printer and bookseller, and friend of Grosvenor Charles Bedford. BACK

[13] Andrew Strahan (1749–1831; DNB) was MP for various constituencies 1796–1820 and ran a highly successful printing business. His nephew and co-heir was Andrew Spottiswoode (1787–1866), later himself MP for Saltash 1826–1830, MP for Colchester 1830–1831. On 16 March 1819 he married Mary Longman (1801–1870), daughter of Thomas Norton Longman. BACK

[14] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). It was indeed printed by Strahan and Spottiswoode’s firm. BACK

[15] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). The book was published by Murray and printed by his regular collaborator, Thomas Davison (1766–1831), not by William Nicol. BACK

[16] In the face of superior French forces, the British Army had retreated to Corunna in north-western Spain, where they embarked for England 16–18 January 1809. Their commander was Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB). Southey dealt with these events in Chapter 15, History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), I, pp. 757–806. BACK

[17] Thomas Peregrine Courtenay had been Deputy Paymaster-General 1807–1811 and had been on the retreat to Corunna. BACK

[18] William Green (1760–1823; DNB), The Tourist’s New Guide to the Lake District (1819). Copies could be bought from the author at his home in Ambleside. He sold two versions of the book, a larger one for two guineas and a smaller one for one guinea. BACK

[19] Wordsworth had just published the second edition of his A Guide through the District of the Lakes (1820). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)