1190. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 17 June 1806

1190. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 17 June 1806 ⁠* 

17 June 1806.

Dear Grosvenor,

There are two poets who must come into our series & I do not remember their names in your list. [1]  Sir John or Sir anything else Moore – of whom the only poem which I have ever seen of him should be given – It is addressed to a lady, he himself being in a consumption [2]  – if you do not remember it, Wynn will, & I think can help you to it for it is very beautiful. The other poor rhymer is poor old Botch Botch Hayes, whom we are in duty bound not to forget, & of whom you may say what you will, only let it be in the best good humour, because poor Botchs heart was always in the right place, when tho <certainly> his wig was not. [3]  And you may say that though his talent at producing common place English verses was not very convenient for his competitors <at Cambridge> for the Setonian prize, [4]  that his talent of producing common place Latin ones was exceedingly so for his pupils at Westminster. I do’nt say that I would wish to plant a laurel upon old Hayes’s grave; but I could find in my heart to plant a vine <there> (if it would grow), as a more appropriate xx tree, & to pour a brimming libation of its juice, if we had any reason to think that the spirit of the grape could reach the spirit of <the> man. Poor fellow – that phrase of being no ones enemy but his own, is not admitted as a set-off on earth; but in the other world, Grosvenor, if they do not admit such men to pass thro St Peters Gate Great Gate, there must certainly be a little wicket xxxxxxx hard by where they lift up the latch for themselves, which the old Porter winks with the right eyex & scolds at them all the while to keep up appearances.

I have been from home these ten days – a reason for not referring to your last, farther than in saying that Mrs Robinson [5]  died in 1800 & that all the persons for whom you enquire departed about the same time or little earlier. I shall be at home again about the time that this reaches you. We are visiting Lloyd near Ambleside, at his house by Clappersgate, to which said house I shall take you, as to one of the prettiest places in this country.

I wanted your Frenchman xxxxx at Vauxhall – not in the Abbey – for this xxxx reason that the Abbey letter was written & only required certain insertions. I shall put in what of yours will fit. & insert your wig a-la Cheval elsewhere. but if you can write me one about Vauxhall I shall be glad, & the sooner it comes the better. [6]  And if you will send me any Memoranda for Letters & any stories suitable for them, they will set me thinking & recollecting, & may return to you in duodecimo with increase.

Our last month has been so unusually fine that the farmers want rain. July will probably give them enough. September & October are the safest months to come down in: tho if you consider Gooseberry Pie as partaking of the nature of the Summum Bonum [7]  (to speak modestly of it) about a fortnight hence will be the happiest time you can choose. If Tom & Harry should be with me in time for the feat, I have thoughts of challenging all England at a match of Gooseberry Pie; – barring Jack the Giganticides leathern bag, [8]  we are sure of the victory. – Four letters from Tom reached me the same evening with yours which told me of his return. he said he was coming home with the May convoy – which in the West Indies I suppose is the same as the June one in England, there named from the month in which it sets off, here from that in which it should arrive. Thank God he has escaped the yellow fever – & if ever he lives to be an Admiral, Grosvenor, as by Gods blessing he may, he shall give you & I a good dinner on board the flagship. We shall be so much the older by that time, that I fear good fortune would make neither of us much the happier.

On looking back I see I have spoken of October as a fit month for Laking. It is so; but will not be so for you to lake this year, inasmuch as in October I expect to be entitled to another drawback of five per cent upon my assessed taxes.

I have been inserting occasional rhymes in Kehama, [9]  & have in this way altered & amended about 600 lines. when what is already written shall be got thro in this manner I shall think the poem in a way of completion. indeed it will most likely supply my ways & means for the next winter instead of reviewing. Elmsley advised me to go on with it, & the truth is that my own likings & dislikings <to it> have been so much upon the weigh-jolt that xx I stood in need of somebodys encouragement to settle the balance. It gains by rhyme, – which is to passages of no inherent merit what rouge & candle light are to ordinary [MS torn] merely ornamental parts also are aided by it – as foil sets off paste. But where there is either passion or power, the plainer & more straight forward the language can be made the better. Now you will suppose that upon this system I am writing Kehama. My proceedings are not quite so systematical – but what with revising & rerevising over & over again they will amount to something like it at last.

God bless you


Tuesday June 17. 1806.


* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KENDAL/ 261
Postmark: E/ JUN20/ 1806
Endorsement: 17 June 1806
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 42–44 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey is instructing Bedford on texts for inclusion in their jointly edited anthology, Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[2] The Specimens, II, pp. 254–257 feature a poem of this description by Edward Moore (1712–1757; DNB), ‘The Lover and the Friend’. BACK

[3] ‘Botch Hayes’ was Samuel Hayes (d. c. 1795), a master at Westminster School during Southey’s time there. He was renowned for being lax on discipline, so much so that Southey later recorded that pupils used to ‘stick his wig full of paper darts’. Hayes was also a writer of poems and sermons, and co-author of a tragedy, Eugenia (1766). His work did not appear in the Specimens. BACK

[4] The Seatonian Prize, established by Thomas Seaton (1684–1741; DNB), a Church of England clergyman and religious writer, is awarded by the University of Cambridge for the best English poem on a sacred subject. BACK

[5] Mary Robinson (1757–1800; DNB): poet, novelist, woman of fashion, courtesan, who contributed poetry to the Morning Post. She is not included in the Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[6] Southey had asked Bedford for information about London locations for inclusion in Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella; Translated from the Spanish (1807); see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 May 1806, Letter 1183. Westminster Abbey is discussed in Letter 23, but Vauxhall Gardens, which was opened in 1661 and continued as a popular attraction until 1859, holding musical events and displays of artworks and performers, is not. BACK

[7] Meaning the ‘greatest good’. BACK

[8] According to the children’s fairy story, while eating porridge with a giant, Jack the Giant Killer filled a leather bag under his coat with the porridge rather than admit a lesser appetite than his adversary. BACK

[9] Southey’s poem, The Curse of Kehama, was published in 1810. BACK