1098. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 26 August 1805

1098. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 26 August 1805 ⁠* 

Monday. Aug. 26. 1805


Many are the reasons, & as weighty as they are manifold which have prevented me from answering your letter. it may suffice to mention one – that within the last five weeks I have walked between 4 & 500 miles. I am in search of Relph, & have been disappointed in finding him where he ought to have been found, but now point by point to your letter. [1] 

Certainly I never saw the Topographica Britannica, [2]  but should conjecture that the specimen of Wesley [3]  would be found by referring there to the place of his birth – Epworth in Lincolnshire.

Millers specimen I myself looked out at Hills, from some satire published separately & bound up with other miscellanies. [4] 

And for Sheffields Epitaph – do you suppose that I wanted to give it as he wrote it? or as the Dean thought proper to correct it? The words omitted are precisely those which mark the Dukes sentiment & character of mind. [5] 

Send me the names of the 80 because it is very likely that I may be shortly at Edinburgh, & there I would look for them.

Perhaps I may get Relph to day – at least there is now a person seeking it for me in Keswick. As soon as it comes I shall transcribe the extract, & you may correct the press from it confidently, because as the it will be in the Cumbrian dialect I shall take especial care to be accurate. Add any thing you like to his biography, his religion was of too ascetic a cast certainly – but he was a good & an interesting man – The book is come – I fell to & have transcribed without a minutes delay <a full> xxx sheet xxx xxxxxx Add to the account that the character as well as the imagery of the Cumbrian pastorals were from real life – there was hardly a person in the village who could not point out those who had sate for his Cursty & Peggy. [6]  The Amorous Maiden was well known, & died a few years ago at a very advanced age. [7]  – You may remark if you please that his poems have not the slightest indication of his ascetic disposition, [8]  – & you may insert the epigrams or not, according as there shall be room or not in the last page. [9] 

Mr Bedford – look at p236. & tell me whether the name on the top is an error – or the whole page out of place? – what a beautiful extract is that from the Countess of Winchelsea! [10] 


Little did you think when you spoke so freely of the Colonel in your letter that the Colonel himself was to frank it! – I never had the pleasure of receiving his superscription before.

Government have thought proper to appropriate all the Spanish prizes taken before a certain day to indemnify the merchants whose property has been confiscated in Spain. I am trying to make a noise about this in the Courier, – because by this xxxx unprecedented measure my brother Tom loses 2000£, a tax a little too hard upon an individual. [11]  It is not impossible but the measure may be given up if the matter be taken up strongly & decorously in the newspapers. I beg you will admire my policy in chusing a ministerial paper – & allow that I am beginning to know something of the way of the world.

Did you ever discover the cause of the Butlers prolapsus? [12]  – Nature instead of a colon, had only given him a comma, & that stop was not long enough.

I want to frank up the Relphian sheet. x how is this to be done? for Wynn is God knows where & so is Rickman & the Emperor of the Franks. [13] 

I have a world of business to do, – & my time day after day is taken up by some dropper in or other, – for every body seems to come to Keswick. my review-shelf is so full that I groan in spirit at the prospect of so much labour. The life of Leo is among them [14]  – I have just found time to read it – with sufficient pleasure. Roscoes mind is xx truly pure & all his feelings xxx instinctively right. his chapters on the Reformation are therefore the finest that I have yet seen on that subject. The literary chapters are rather curious & useful than interesting. mere critical characters in general language lay little hold on the memory. analysis & specimens are wanting – & for these there was not room.

As for seeing me in London – if I come it will be your fault, & I shall be sorry for it, neither liking the trouble nor the expence of the journey nor the fatigue of seeing my thousand & one acquaintances. Neither in fact can I without great – a really serious inconvenience, spare the time – for my sixth journey with Elmsley will leave me little time enough for all that I have to do. My removal seems adjourned sine die, [15]  – unless I can recover Toms prize money.

My eyes are miserably weak.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G.C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ AUG29/ 1805
Endorsement: 26 Aug 1805
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Josiah Relph (1712–1743; DNB): a Cumberland poet who published A Miscellany of Poems (1747; 2nd edn 1798). He features in Southey’s Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. 418–429. In his letter Southey is advising Bedford on the collection and transcription of texts for inclusion in this jointly edited publication. BACK

[2] Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica appeared in fifty-two numbers between 1780 and 1790. It was a collaborative publishing project undertaken by the antiquarian Richard Gough (1735–1809; DNB), and the printer and publisher, John Nichols (1745–1826; DNB), to publicize antiquities and sites of historic interest. BACK

[3] Samuel Wesley (‘the younger’) (1690/91–1739; DNB) was a Church of England clergyman and poet. His poetry is included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 369–375. BACK

[4] James Miller (1704–1744; DNB), playwright and satirist who features in the Specimens, II, pp. 21–33. BACK

[5] John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby (1647–1721; DNB), politician and author who is included in the Specimens, I, 219–222. Southey is complaining that Bedford has omitted, from the Duke’s epitaph for his own tomb, the words ‘Christum adveneror’ (‘venerator of Christ’); see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 26 July 1805, Letter 1086. Bedford had copied the inscription as it appeared on Buckingham’s monument, rather than as originally written. According to William Betham, The Baronetage of England: or The History of the English Baronets, 5 vols (London, 1801–1805), III, 251, ‘the words, “Christum adveneror,” are omitted, at the desire, as is said, of bishop Atterbury, who thought the verb adveneror not full enough, as applied to Christ. Great clamours were raised against this epitaph, many asserting that it proved the Duke a sceptic; and as great a trifle as it may seem, his grace’s orthodoxy became the subject of a controversy: it was, however, defended in form by Dr. Fiddes, in “A Letter to a Freethinker,” 1721’. BACK

[6] Characters in Relph’s poem ‘Hay-time, or the Constant Lovers’, Specimens, I, pp. 420–424. BACK

[7] The subject of Relph’s poem ‘St. Agnes’s Fast, or the Amorous Maiden’, Specimens, I, 424–427. BACK

[8] Southey’s additions to Relph’s biography were included, see Specimens, I, p. 419. BACK

[9] An epigram was included. See Specimens, I, p. 429. BACK

[10] Anne Finch (née Kingsmill), Countess of Winchilsea (1661–1720), courtier and poet who features in the Specimens, I, pp. 223–226. BACK

[11] In December 1804, the naval ship HMS Amelia, of which Thomas Southey was a lieutenant, had captured the Spanish brig Isabella and the ship Conception, both laden with wine and brandy, and the ship Commerce, laden with cotton. It was customary for naval officers to be allotted a share of the value of ships and cargo captured in armed conflict, but this award of prize money was contested because it was claimed that the ships were captured before war was officially declared. Southey took up his brother’s cause to have his share reinstated. It was presumably Southey’s influence that caused The Courier to publish a paragraph supporting the sailors’ claim to the prize-money on Saturday 24 August 1805. This was followed by a longer defence of their position in The Courier on 31 August 1805 under the title ‘Indemnification to the Spanish Merchants’. BACK

[12] There are several jokey references to ‘Butler’ in Southey’s letters to Bedford. These comic inventions, originating in schoolboy stories at Westminster, were never published by Bedford but provided the hint for Southey’s comic novel/miscellany The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[13] The Speaker of the House of Commons, Charles Abbott, who had the power to frank mail, a power Rickman, his secretary, used on Southey’s behalf. BACK

[14] Southey reviewed in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), William Roscoe, The Life of Pope Leo X, Son of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1805), 449–467. BACK

[15] Meaning ‘without a date’. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)