1118. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 13 November 1805

1118. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 13 November 1805 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov. 13. 1805.

Dear Grosvenor

There has been as great a gap in our correspondence as I have seen in the seat of my brother Sir Domine’s pantaloons, after he has been sliding down Latrigg. [1]  Sir I shall be very happy to give you a slide down Latrigg also, if you will have the goodness to put it in my power so to do – & then you will understand the whole merits of the simily.

Sir there are many reasons to be assigned for the aforesaid gap in the correspondence on my part, whereas there are only two possible causes for that in the pantaloons. I have been to Edinburgh Sir, & have been doing half a thousand things since my return – but you – on your part have ————— upon which ————— in consequence ————— & thus ———— from which it appears undeniably that ——————————— & this I take it to have been the reason of your silence. There Sir is a Specimen of my skills in divination, – in return for which I shall be happy to receive from you Specimens [2]  of something else.

I inclosed to Rickman certain papers for your perusal sub sigillo, [3]  there was no reason why he should have been in any hurry to write, but as there is reason that you should tell me whether you really are aboveground or not – you may let me know that they have arrived safely. A second batch is ready tho not in exact sequence. I wish from you hints & emendations for what is done or what is yet to do. You cannot judge till the next importation arrives of the range & variety of the matter.

Will you Butlerize Mr Bedford. [4]  By the core of Williams heart, [5]  which I take to be the hardest of all oaths, & therefore the most impossible to break I will never cease presenting you with that question & that advice, till you actually set that good ship afloat, in which you are to make as fair a voyage to the port of Fame as ever Englishman accomplished. Mr Bedford it appears to me that Englishman accomplish that said expedition better by sea than by land – & that therefore the metaphor is a good one – A Sea-horse better than Pegasus. – Do do begin, & begin by writing letters to me which may be your first crude thoughts, & I will unpack my memory of all its out-of-the-way oddities & give them to you for cargo & ballast.

Elmsley will have told you of our adventures in Scotland, if the non-adventures of a journey in Great Britain at this age of the world can deserve that name. I am returned with much pleasant matter of remembrance well-pleased with Walter Scott, with Johnny Armstrongs Castle on the Esk [6]  with Xxxx pleasant Tiviotdale, with the Tweed & the Yarrow: [7]  astonished at Edinburgh, delighted with Melrose, [8]  sick of Presbyterianism, & above all things thankful that I am an Englishman & not a Scotchman. The Edinburgh reviewers I like well as companions, & think little of as any thing else. [9]  Elmsley has more knowledge & a sounder mind than any or all of them. I could learn more from him in a day than they could all teach me in a year – Therefore I saw them to disadvantage inasmuch as xxx xxx xxx xxxx I had xx better company at home. And in plain English, living as I have done & by Gods blessing xxx continue to do, in habits of intimate intercourse with such men as Rickman, William Taylor, Wordsworth & Coleridge, the Scotch men certainly did appear x to me very pigmies, – literatuli. [10] 

I go to Portugal next year, if politics permit me, – & expect to to take Edith & the Edithling with me for at least a two years residence, taking the voyage & the trouble of removal. this is a pleasant prospect. I love the country, & go well prepared to look for everything that I can want. My winter will be fully employed & hardly I am at my reviewing, [11]  of which this year I take my leave for ever. It is an irksome employment, over which I lose time because it does not interest me. A good exercise certainly is it, such I have found it, but it is to be hoped that the positive immorality of serving a literary apprenticeship xxx <in> censuring the works of others will not be imputed wholly to me. In the winter of 1797 when I was only twenty three & a half I was first applied to to undertake the office of a public critic! [12]  precious criticism! & thus it is that these things are done. I have acquired some knowledge, & much practice in prose at this work, which I can safely say I have ever executed with as much honesty as possible but on the whole I do & must regard it as an immoral occupation, xxx unless the reviewer has actually as much knowledge at least of the given subject as the author <upon> whom he undertakes to sit in judgment.

When will your worship call upon me for my Preface?  [13]  May I [MS torn] you – that my Patres nostri [14]  frequently reminds me that we are losing time thereby hinting that loss of time is loss of money.

What a death is Nelsons! [15]  it seems to me one of the characteristics of the sublime that its whole xxxx form is never perceived at once. the more it is contemplated the deeper is its effect. – When this war began, I began an ode which almost I feel more disposed to compleat – take the only stanza –

O dear England! O my mother Isle
There was a time, when, woe the while!
In thy proud triumphs I could take no part; –
And even the tale of thy defeat
In those unhappy days was doomed to meet
Unnatural welcome in an English heart –
For thou wert leagued in an accursed cause
O dear dear England! & thy holiest laws
Were trampled underfoot by insolent Power.
Dear as my own hearts-blood wert thou to me
But even Thou less dear than Liberty

I never ventured on – for fear lest what follows should fall flat in comparison. almost I could now venture, & try at a funeral hymn for Nelson [16] 

God bless you–



* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ NOV16/ 1805
Endorsement: 13. Novr 1805
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 350–353. BACK

[1] A fell overlooking the town of Keswick in the Lake District. BACK

[2] Southey is referring to entries for his and Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s jointly-compiled anthology Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[3] Meaning ‘under seal’. For the accompanying letter, see Southey to John Rickman, 27 October 1805, Letter 1115. BACK

[4] Southey often prompted Bedford to publish their comic inventions, which originated in schoolboy stories at Westminster. They were never published by Bedford, but provided the hint for Southey’s comic novel/miscellany The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[5] Possibly a reference to Southey’s uncle, William Hill (dates unknown), brother of his mother, Margaret Southey, as aspects of his character provided material for Southey’s own comic publication, The Doctor. BACK

[6] Gilnockie tower, built by John (or ‘Johnny’) Armstrong (d. 1530), an outlaw in the Scottish borders. BACK

[7] Rivers in the Scottish borders. BACK

[8] Melrose Abbey, founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks, is a picturesque ruin, near Walter Scott’s then home, Ashestiel, in the Scottish borders. BACK

[9] Writers for the Edinburgh Review such as Francis Jeffrey, John Playfair (1748–1819; DNB), and Walter Scott. BACK

[10] A diminutive form of literati, or men of letters, intended to be derogatory. BACK

[11] For the Annual Review. BACK

[12] As a reviewer for the Critical Review. BACK

[13] For the Specimens of the Later English Poets. BACK

[14] The Latin translates as ‘Our Fathers’ and is a reference to Longman, whose publishing house was in Paternoster Row, London. BACK

[15] Horatio, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté (1758–1805; DNB), who died at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. BACK

[16] Southey did not write this hymn. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Ashestiel (mentioned 1 time)