1303. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [1 April 1807]

1303. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [1 April 1807] ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

It is of all odd things in this world the oddest – not excepting my pension –) that you will persist in complaining of the booksellers & looking to them to do what they have no more business to do, & are no more in the way of doing than the Man of <in> the Moon. Dear dear Grosvenor just recollect what the business of a publisher is – it is to buy & sell books – not to make them, – to keep an accounts with a paper makers another with a printers, – with country booksellers in almost every town throughout the Kingdom – with newspapers – with authors – with bookbinders – folders – stickers – &c &c &c &c – – how in the very Devils name do you suppose that they can find time to assist in making the book they publish? –

As for petty faults, such as making a man die before he was born, they are trifles, & must be let pass. Altering them with a pen would be absurd nobody ever does such a thing except some country clergyman who prints a volume of sermons & fancies every body will be interested in them – Let all these things alone – only out with the abominations, – they affect us, the blunders concern the printer & are after all of xx far less consequence. About Chesterfield there need be no trouble – I <have> remedied that, & also Buckingham. [1]  Hinchcliffe & Gildon [2]  are all that require any trouble – are they in the Museum? [3]  if not they will be in the Queenhithe collection, [4]  –& if you were at Queenhithe, half an hour would do the business, Zounds – if I had wings upon my shoulders & could perch in London I would do it in less time than it takes to plague you with a letter: Leave the petty errors alone, – cancel Chesterfield – Buckingham – & the Sonnet of which is twice printed – Joseph Warton [5]  works may be seen at any booksellers & this cannot take more time than is required for copying twenty verses. – if it be impossible to get the other abominations out why I suppose I must grin & endure it, being utterly unable to help myself.

The booksellers have determined upon a fourth volume in consequence of the complaints of omission [6]  – the main value of the book being as a work of bibliography, – & this value being materially lessened when it is known that are above 30 names omitted in the last volume. – They ask me to bring it down to the present day – which I accede to because I believe that without so doing there will not be enough for a volume: – now pray send me the papers, that my shoulder may without delay be set the wheel. If we can get to a second edition I will take care that the book shall be a good one – but if we do it will be so much more than we deserve that I shall be very greatly surprized. – And now no more about these unhappy volumes – you know what can be done without any trouble at all, – you know whether you can take the trouble to do what is troublesome & if not it must be left undone – you know that there must be no pen-work of alteration – but the errors which are not worthy of standing in a table of errors must be left in their beauty, – & I hope you understand that Rees must think it quite as unreasonable in you to apply to him for help – as you would think it if Hyde [7]  were to apply to you for buckram & stay tape, & ask you to thread his needle when he is making you a coat.


As you do not complain of the sale of the prints I trust they went as well as the books – I sent what I thought a valiant commission for old Jacob Cats [8]  – but conclude that Jacob was though knocked down to a more valiant bidder.

And so Mr Bedford I have a pension! – which some odd things have happened to me in the world, & this is one of them. – I am sorry however to hear that you are not punctual – for my expenditure is exceedingly so, & drives to the very nail – as you may suppose. Perhaps I could write a better practical treatise upon the art of economizing with perfect comfort than any man living, – but if once my incomings are irregular that comfort is at an end – at least till my books prove more productive than they <have> ever done yet. This I think will the case with my historical works – & so I live in hope. – Tell me if you can – when I am to expect payment & how it is made – the deduction I xxx suppose will be as Wynn says, xxxx a fifth, – xxx & so peace will be worth twenty pounds a year to me – Mr Canning  [9]  therefore had better begin to negociate

I am sorry sorry sorry to hear of your side & your shoulder, – & wish to God you would put yourself under Beddoes. If you do not I very seriously fear that you will go on from one attack to another, each worse than the last. The pain in the shoulder sufficiently shows that the liver is the part affected – & as plainly that all which has yet been done has only suspended the disease. If any man can cure it Beddoes is that man. I know that lodgings & physicians are dear – but life is dearer. Had I been at Bristol things might easily have been concerted – as it is by all means go as soon as you possibly can – & I will give you letters to Danvers – to King – & to Beddoes – the first will do for you all that a friend can do – the second all that a surgeon & a very pleasant acquaintance. —

God bless you




* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ APR 4/ 1807
Endorsement: 4 April 1807
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 428–431.
Dating note: The ‘Wednesday’ dated by Southey before 4 April 1807 (the date of the postmark) was 1 April. BACK

[1] Southey had removed from his and Bedford’s anthology Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807), at proof stage, what he viewed as immoral verse by Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773; DNB). Chesterfield was in the end represented only by one poem, ‘Advice to a Lady in Autumn’. Southey had also removed a poem from the selection of poetry by George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628–1687; DNB). For the text of the omitted 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

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

[3] The British Museum. BACK

[4] The book collection of Thomas Hill. BACK

[5] Bedford had misattributed a sonnet to Joseph Warton (1722–1800; DNB), including it under Warton’s name and elsewhere in the same volume. It was replaced by Warton’s ‘Ode to Content’. BACK

[6] A fourth volume was not forthcoming. BACK

[7] A London tailor frequented by Southey, his first name and dates are unknown. BACK

[8] Jacob Cats (1577–1660), a Dutch author of humorous and moralistic poems, renowned for his emblem books. BACK

[9] George Canning, Foreign Secretary in the new government. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Queen Hithe (mentioned 1 time)