1073. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 June 1805

1073. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 June 1805 ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor –

Send me in your next the famous verse in Fields Bible which the Presbyterians altered, & the date of the Bible. [1]  I have a use for the story, & do not tell anybody that I have asked you for it – for a reason which if you come to the mountains to Garagantuafy, [2]  you will find worth knowing. [3] 

De Anonymis. To put them at the end would be out of chronology – if there are enough to make it worth while I could insert them every twenty years or at some such equal distance [4]  – introducing a half or whole sheet between Hopkins & Dryden as the first of the family. [5]  If this be done you have among the papers which I gave you a ballad upon one of P. Eugenes victories over the Turks – copied from the Europ. Magazine, which should go in as a good specimen of the ballads of that time – indeed I transcribed it for that purpose. [6]  The danger in taking any of these bastards is that they xxxx may have been fathered afterwards, & we not know it.

For Elkanah the Dragon [7]  you may easily find a song out of one of his plays, which to be sure Isaacus has. [8] 

Do not let Biggs spraddle his stanzas straddingly. he usually puts one less in a page than there ought to be. & dont let him stick in his crooked &cs – instead of Falalal–la–la. for they are very ugly & balk both ones eye & ones tongue. Tis a vile trick introduced by the laziness of printers.

Why need you transcribe when Hyems [9]  is at your service? – the Biography of blockheads is of little importance. ‘he published &c’ is enough for any of the obscuri viri [10]  & the articles may go in according to the date of the volume.

I wish Horaces appointment may take place for his own sake & for mine. [11]  it will be a much better shose to read in his rooms than in the public room, because there will be a seat by the fire, & one may chuse ones own time. And for our opus it will be excellent, inasmuch as Hyems may be admitted there.

I do not remember any thing about Nicholas Amhurst, except that he published the Terrae-Filius, which never fell my way. [12]  You may do what you please with all my jokes – Only dont let any stand against the Scotch, because one ought not to tho it is very amusing to make jokes upon Scotland & the Scotchman, one ought not to print them.

If the anonymous be inserted the Magazines should be inspected. that is such as lie in your way. – but there will be always the danger of not knowing that such pieces have been afterwards avowed. What an admirable poem is that Old Batchelor which I inserted in the Anthology! [13] 

Not a word about Butleriography [14]  in your letter! & I the while have dreamt about it both sleeping & waking, – & when broad awake with closed eyes. for alas my eyes are again diseased. I hoped the complaint was gone for ever, & now believe it will never be effectually cured.

I want an Act of Parliament passed. is that all? you say. the case is this. there is now a whole room full of folios, lying at Lisbon for me. collected wholly for my history [15]  & in great part consisting of monastic xxxx history & such things <as> are only of use in such researches as those on which I am employed. To pay sixpence per pound weight for all these is an expence far beyond what I can bear, – & in many instances more than the prime cost, or actual value of the books. – I do believe that a bill for repealing the duty on foreign books might would pass without opposition, – for the amount must be trifling, & it is a direct & cruel tax upon literature. The plea that it x relates to bound books is ridiculous. All old books are bound, you must buy them as you can get them. As it is I have no alternative but that of smuggling them in in small quantities at a time – which I shall do without the slightest scruple. but this is a very slow & tedious operation, & I cannot manage it at London where the greatest part ought to be landed at once.

You mention Tuffin in one of your letters. he is a clever man, very amusing, & one of the great Conversationists of this age. His acquaintance & his friend Sharpes are worth cultivating, – they both know something of every body & of every thing. I want to know the end & aim of this London Institution which Sharpe has been busy about, [16]  whether it has any reference to a project of mine which he & I talked over here last June.

Thank God the French are out of the WIndies. that uneasiness is over. – I am not well, – we have had winds from the E. & N.E. unremittingly for almost three months, & then I always wish myself at Lisbon. I would give up society & my mother tongue for the sake of climate, – ten years in Portugal – or perhaps half the time would give me a new constitution, & in all probability a new lease for my life. But it is no use to fret about ones latitude & longitude.

I have received another letter which was thrown overboard for me in the Atlantic. [17]  Oh for such luck in the lottery – which I am not likely to have – because I never try.

God bless you.


June 7. 1805. Keswick.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial, illegible]
Endorsement: 7 June 1805
MS: Bodleian Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] John Field (dates unknown) printed a pocket-sized edition of the Bible, known as the ‘Pearl Bible’ due to its diminutive size, but also referred to as ‘Field’s Bible of 10,000 Errors’ (1653) due to the amount of misprints in it. One of the most famous errors was in 1 Corinthians 6.9: ‘Know ye not that the unrighteous [instead of ‘righteous’] shall inherit the kingdom of God?’ Field was rumoured to have accepted a bribe from the Presbyterians to alter Acts 6.3 to read ‘Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we [instead of ‘ye’] may appoint over this business’, so that it confirmed men’s right to choose their own priests. BACK

[2] Southey refers to the working up of the amusing miscellany entitled ‘the Butler’ in the manner of La Vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel (1532–1552) by François Rabelais (c. 1494–1553). This was not written and Southey’s miscellany/ novel, The Doctor (1834–1847) superseded it. BACK

[3] Southey included information about misprinting the Bible in Letter 54 of his Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807), but there is no reference to Field’s Bible. BACK

[4] Southey is referring to his and Bedford’s jointly edited anthology, Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807), which did not include anonymous poems. BACK

[5] Charles Hopkins (1661?–1700; DNB), poet and playwright, features in Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. 78–80. Selections from the poetry of John Dryden (1631–1700; DNB) are included in the Specimens, I, pp. 80–85. BACK

[6] The German ballad of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736), celebrating his liberation of Belgrade from the Ottomans in 1672, was translated in the European Magazine, 39 (1801), 47–48. BACK

[7] Elkanah Settle (1648–1724; DNB), a poet and playwright, author of Cambyses, King of Persia (1667) and the Empress of Morocco (1673), who in his later years kept a booth at Bartholomew Fair, where he played the part of the dragon in a green leather suit of his own invention. Settle is represented in Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 250–252. BACK

[8] Isaac Reed (1742–1807; DNB) editor of Biographia Dramatica, or, a Companion to the Playhouse (1782) and the Plays of William Shakespeare (1803). BACK

[9] A Latin soubriquet of John Winter (dates unknown), a printer who frequently worked on books published by Longman. BACK

[10] Meaning ‘obscure men’. BACK

[11] Horace Bedford was appointed to a post at the British Museum. BACK

[12] Nicholas Amhurst (1697–1742; DNB), a poet and political writer, who published the satirical Terræ Filius; or, the Secret History of the University of Oxford (1726). A selection from his works is featured in the Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. 394–98. BACK

[13] ‘The Old Batchelor. After the Manner of Spenser’ appeared in the Annual Anthology, 2 (1800), 176–183, reprinted from the Town and Country Magazine, 3 (March 1771), 158–60. BACK

[14] The projected comic miscellany, to be entitled ‘the Butler’, was not written, and Southey’s The Doctor (1834–1847) superseded it. BACK

[15] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’, which was never completed. BACK

[16] In 1805 Sharp helped to plan the London Institution for the Improvement of Science and Literature. The Institution, founded 1806, offered education in arts and sciences and was open to those excluded by virtue of their religion from Oxford and Cambridge. BACK

[17] Thomas Southey periodically sent letters in bottles addressed to his brother; see Southey to the Editor of the Athenaeum, [April 1807] (Letter 1314) for an account of these. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)