1294. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 March 1807

1294. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 March 1807 ⁠* 

22 March 1807

Dear Grosvenor

All the copy which I want is that of the omitted authors, – not of any omitted pieces of those from whom Specimens [1]  are given. – i-e materials for a Supplement – if Our Fathers [2]  chuse to have one, – not for a second edition, – for that does not depend either upon them, or upon us. [3] 

Do not suppose that I have put down the Printers blunders to your account – they are such as he ought to have corrected before they came to you. My Espriella printer sends me proofs in which I have very seldom any errors to correct except my own. [4]  I have desired Longman not to let Hollingsworth [5]  print any more for me, his blunders are quite intolerable – there is scarcely one Latin word spelt aright.

The poem upon Felton may be reprinted, only saying – that it is curious such a poem upon the assassin of his father should be inserted among Buckinghams works – & that it is quite in the manner of its own time. [6]  – for the cancel from Chesterfield [7]  I supplied matter & sent to Longman, by more Cunningham – gladly getting rid thereby of a quotation from Anderson, who has neither merit nor reputation enough to render it reputable to quote him. [8]  Gildon & Hinchliffes [9]  will cost you no more time than is needful to look out any thing that will fit the gap – when you have have the book before you. Were I reprinting their works their coarseness should stand – but it is xxx a different thing to select such passages from their works, – & neither you nor the bookseller are probably aware (were there no higher considerations) how much the sale of the book would be affected by one whisper against it upon this score, – & on the contrary what a wide field of sale is opened to it should it be noticed as free from all such taint. Among the methodizing part of the reading world & among the Quakers, – a body of Xtians from whom in all important points, I feel little or no difference in my own state of mind

The remaining cancel is that sonnet under the head of J. Warton. [10] 

You judge very erroneously in slighting Russel [11]  merely because he wrote Sonnets – a class of poems in which there must be innumerables which are good for nothing because such numbers have been written – but their very number is an indication of something good in the afresh return of the species. As for my own, very few are of any merit – that upon Winter [12]  perhaps the only thoroughly good one. Russell is a name of great & deserved eminence – however the Supplement will remedy these omissions – for which (except in the case of Burns [13] ) want of room was evidently the cause.

Heres a kettle of fish about the Catholicks! & I am on the Kings side. Not an inch of ground is to be given them. [14] 

To return to our standing dish – be now as expeditious as possible with the cancels – because every days stoppage of the sale is an injury to it. I am sorry to say books like mackerel <not only> sell best when they are fresh, x <but> frequently do not sell afterwards. When they it is once more in sale I will take care that they shall send you copies.

You were to get some small Spanish folio books (poem about the Saints) bound for me – if they are done – send them by the first opportunity to Longman – to transmit them here in his next parcel.

I am very sorry that, because of your illness, I could not send my brother Henry to you when he was in town. You would have been well pleased with him, – perhaps you have never seen a young man more made by nature to please man, woman & child. He is gone for Lisbon. Tom is at sea in a frigate hardly half manned – when the whole weight of duty falls upon him, & he has almost killed himself with incessant exertion & anxiety. [15]  Wynn did mention him to his Uncle – but these hopes seem now to be over. [16]  I think if he had known how very very near my heart lies his promotion is, & how gladly I would forego any expectations of my own for it – he would have carried this little point. If he had been made I should have been well content that he has remained unemployed – till a ship could have been got for him than other interest – As for the change of ministry, except for Wynns own sake I care nothing about it, – the sooner the people of England can be convinced that there must always be a lack of talents in a house of commons so chosen, the better & God knows a dismal lack there is! Draw a Parliament by lot, & you could not by the any chance fail of a better. I have some faint hope that Tom may come in among the sort of legacy promotions of a dying first Lord – but it is a very faint one. There is not any circumstance which could give me so much pleasure.

I am very busy & wish I were less so – a few months will relieve me of good part – & then comes more – & so we go on – but withal, were you to xxxxxx see me in <during> my hybernation, when nobody sees me – I think it would almost surprize you to behold my uninterupted xxxxxxxx high temperature of even boyish good spirits. I go on steadily with the one object in view of making the best use of my talents, & thereby ripening myself for a better world, & leaving behind <me> an everlasting memorial in this: tho the ‘ways & means’ of life draw me aside & force me to unworthy work, still even that has some reference to the same object & I take it chearfully. I get miserably paid, but that is neither my fault, nor any body elses; it may not always be so, & if it should I am sure my children will receive full interest when I am gone – & so I am easy about that.

God bless you


March 22. 1807

Now pray be speedy with the cancels. On some such occasion Lamb gave G. Dyer the title of the Cancellarius Magnus. [17] 


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr
Endorsement: 22 March 1807
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 6p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 425–428. BACK

[1] Southey refers to amendments to the anthology jointly edited by himself and Bedford, the Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[2] The publishing firm of Longman, located in Paternoster Row (‘Paternoster’ meaning ‘our father’). BACK

[3] A supplementary volume to the Specimens was planned, but did not appear. There was no second edition. BACK

[4] Richard Taylor (1781–1858; DNB) was printing Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[5] Specimens of the Later English Poets were printed by S. Hollingsworth (first name and dates unknown), Crane Court, Fleet Street. BACK

[6] John Felton (c. 1595–1628), an army officer who stabbed George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628; DNB) to death in Portsmouth on 23 August 1628. In the Specimens, no poem about Felton was included in the selection of poetry by the son, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628–1687; DNB). For the text of the poem, see Poems and Songs Relating to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham; and his Assassination by John Felton, August 23, 1628, ed. Frederick W. Fairholt (London, 1850), pp. 77–78. BACK

[7] Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773; DNB); see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 14 March 1807, Letter 1286. BACK

[8] John Cunningham’s (1729–1773; DNB) poem ‘Evening’ did indeed replace Chesterfield. Dr. Robert Anderson (1749–1833; DNB) wrote of Chesterfield in his The Works of the British Poets, with Prefaces Biographical and Critical (1792–1795). BACK

[9] Charles Gildon (1665–1723; DNB); William Hinchcliffe (1692–1742). BACK

[10] As a result of this advice, Joseph Warton’s (1722–1800; DNB) ‘Ode to Content’ appeared in place of the sonnet. BACK

[11] George Russel (1728–1767; DNB), whose poetry did not feature in the Specimens. BACK

[12] ‘A wrinkled crabbed man they picture thee’, published in the Annual Anthology (1800) and Metrical Tales (1805); for the text see Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, vol. V, Selected Shorter Poems, ed. Lynda Pratt (London, 2004), p. 402. BACK

[13] Robert Burns (1759–1796; DNB). BACK

[14] The so-called Ministry of All the Talents, of which Wynn was a member, fell because the King would not accede to its plan to introduce an act emancipating Catholics from the civil penalties and restrictions placed upon them. BACK

[15] Thomas Southey was serving aboard the Pallas, a 32 gun fifth rate frigate, whose first captain was Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860; DNB), under whom she was involved in the capture of many French and Spanish warships. In 1807, command passed to Captain George Miller (dates unknown). BACK

[16] Lord Grenville, Wynn’s maternal uncle was Prime Minister until his administration fell in March 1807. BACK

[17] ‘The great canceller’: a pun on ‘great councillor’, or ‘Lord High Chancellor’. BACK

Places mentioned

Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)