3747. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 November 1821

3747. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 November 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 11 Nov. 1821

My dear Grosvenor

Lakers & visitors have now disappeared for the season, like the swallows & other birds who are lucky enough to have better winter quarters allotted them than this island affords. – The woodcocks & snipes have arrived, by this token that my bookbinder here sent me a brace of the latter last week. [1]  And this reminds me to tell you that if you ever have an owl drest for dinner, you had better have it boiled & smothered with onions, for it x is not good roasted. Experto crede Roberto. [2] 

Two or three weeks ago calling at Calverts I learnt that Raisley C. [3]  had committed the great sin of shooting an owl. The criminality of the act was qualified by an ingenious confession that he did not know what it was when he fired at it, xx the bird was brought in to show us, & then given me that I might show it to your godson. oodle-oos & muckens (πιθηκοι) [4]  being of all created beings those for which he has acquired the greatest liking from his graphic studies. Home I came with the oodleoo in my hand: & in the morning you would have been well pleased had you seen Cupn’s joy at recognizing for the first time the reality of what he sees daily in Bewick, [5]  or in some other of his books. Wordsworth & his wife were here, & as there was no sin in eating the owl xxxx xx xxxxxxxxx I ordered it to be drest & brought in in the place of game that day for dinner. It was served up without the head, & a squat-looking fellow it was, about the size of a large wild pigeon but broader in proportion to its length. The meat was more like bad mutton than any thing else. Wordsworth was not valiant enough to taste it. Mrs W. did. & we agreed that there could be no pretext for making owls game, & killing them as delicacies. But if ever you eat one, by all means try it boiled, & with onion sauce.

I asked your opinion a good while since concerning a dedication for the Peninsular war, [6]  & hitherto you have not opined upon the subject in reply. It has this moment, while I am writing, occurred to me that I could with sincere satisfaction in so doing, inscribe it to Lord Sidmouth. [7]  I have always felt thankful to him for the Peace of Amiens & should like to tell him so in public, as I once did vivâ voce. And I should do it the more willingly, if he is going out of office – which I rather think he is. Some of his colleagues wish to get rid of him, & he would willingly retire, but the King wishes to keep him. I told you what had past with Lord Grenville concerning Wynn. [8] Wynn has never hinted it to me. But I can tell you that xx the Kings <on his> return from Ireland – xx was spoken to upon the propriety of strengthening administration, & deferr he desired it might be deferred till he came back from Hanover. [9]  It is that connection to which they look for strength.

Gifford will have a paper upon Dobrizhoffer from me for this next number. [10]  Will you tell him that in a volume of travels of at Lowther of Charles the firsts time, [11]  I found a life of Sejanus [12]  by P.M. by which <initials> some hand, apparently as old as the book, had written Philip Massinger [13]  I did not read the tract, being too keenly in pursuit of other game, – but I believe it had a covert aim at Buckingham. [14]  I have not his Massinger [15]  & therefore do not know whether he is aware that one such this was ever ascribed to that author; – if he is not, he will be interested in the circumstance, & may think it worthy of farther enquiry.

My history is in good progress. I am finishing the longest chapter in the volume, & one of the most interesting: – it contains the events in Portugal from the commencement of the insurrection in Spain, till the arrival of our expedition. [16]  The first proof of this chapter I expect daily.

God bless you. Remember me to your fire side



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer
Endorsement: 11 Novr. 1821/ Owl – Dedn. Of Peninsr/ War – Massingers Se-/ janus
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 26. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), V, pp. 98–100 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s bookbinder was based in Ulverston; he possibly used John Soulby (b. 1795), who succeeded his father, John Soulby (1771–1817), in the business. BACK

[2] ‘Trust in Robert, one who is experienced’. BACK

[3] William Calvert’s second son, Raisley Calvert (1803–1838), later a clergyman. BACK

[4] ‘Monkeys’. BACK

[5] Southey is probably referring to Thomas Bewick’s (1753–1828; DNB) The Fables of Aesop and Others (1818), which he had ordered a copy of from Longman on 19 February 1819 (Letter 3249). BACK

[6] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832) was dedicated to George IV. BACK

[7] Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844; DNB), Prime Minister 1801–1804, Home Secretary 1812–1822. Sidmouth was Prime Minister at the time of the Treaty of Amiens (15 March 1802), which ended the war between France and Britain until May 1803. Southey had met Sidmouth on 26 April 1817, just before leaving for a continental tour. BACK

[8] The possibility of Lord Grenville’s followers joining the government had been under discussion since June 1821, with Wynn receiving a Cabinet post. BACK

[9] George IV’s visit to Ireland ended on 3 September 1821, and he had then proceeded to Hanover, of which British sovereigns were also rulers, on 27 September, not returning until 8 November 1821. BACK

[10] Southey reviewed Sara Coleridge’s An Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of Paraguay (1822) in Quarterly Review, 26 (January 1822), 277–323. The book was a translation of Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784). BACK

[11] Charles I (1600–1649; King of Great Britain 1625–1649; DNB). BACK

[12] Pierre Mathieu (1563–1621), Histoire d’Aelius Sejanus (1617), translated as The Powerfull Favourite, or the Life of Aelius Sejanus (1628). The book was a biography of Lucius Aelius Sejanus (20 BC–AD 31), commander of the Praetorian Guard AD 14–31. BACK

[13] Philip Massinger (1583–1640; DNB), dramatist. BACK

[14] George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628; DNB), royal favourite and politician. The translation of Mathieu’s work was indeed an attack on Buckingham. BACK

[15] William Gifford, The Plays of Philip Massinger (1805); it did not mention this attribution of Mathieu’s work. BACK

[16] Chapter 10, History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), I, pp. 425–525, on events in Portugal June–August 1808. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Lowther estate (mentioned 1 time)